People who attend the Telluride Film Festival for the first time are overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of this historic Colorado town. Filmmakers are impressed by the friendly reception they receive from the worldwide gathering of movie lovers. My family and I love our annual trip to the Rockies and feel fortunate to attend. The jam-packed schedule over Labor Day weekend is an embarrassment of riches. The lineup ranges from rare silent films (The Marvelous Life of Joan of Arc) to cutting-edge cinema from all corners of the globe (Amour from France, The Hunt from Denmark, Wadja from Saudi Arabia, Barbara from Germany, Midnight’s Children from Canada and Sri Lanka, Ginger and Rosa from England, and The Attack from Lebanon and France, to name just a few.)
It’s impossible to see all the films one might like to, and this year my moviegoing was interrupted (happily) by a wedding party one evening and a celebration on closing night for the festival’s unsung hero, director of operations Chapin Cutler of Boston Light & Sound. He and his dedicated team of projectionists and sound experts transform a junior high school gymnasium into a world-class movie house called The Galaxy, and a modern conference center into the whimsically decorated Chuck Jones Cinema. Still, I got in a fair number of screenings and special events.
Legendary cartoon director Jones was a familiar presence at Telluride in his later years and even designed several festival posters, so it was only fitting that the festival mark his centennial year. His daughter Linda was present to celebrate her father’s life, and I was pleased to conduct a casual conversation with her and two talented young animators (Ethan Clarke and Sara Gunnarsdóttir) in the lobby of the theater that bears Chuck’s name.
I also enjoyed interviewing veteran producer-director Roger Corman following a screening of Alex Stapleton’s entertaining 2011 documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. Corman is as enthusiastic about moviemaking as ever, and the audience relished his colorful stories and observations. (My daughter sat slack-jawed at the opening-day brunch as he and author Salman Rushdie fell into a deep conversation. Corman may have made films like Monster From the Ocean Floor, but he’s a graduate of Stanford University and a highly articulate fellow.)
As usual, as the event wound down on Monday I was frustrated to hear positive buzz about some of the films I missed, many of which will be shown at the Toronto International Film Festival, starting this weekend. The best films I saw this year were Ben Affleck’s latest effort as director and star, the real-life suspense thriller Argo, about the Hollywood connection that played a vital role in the Iran hostage crisis of thirty years ago…the compelling Israeli documentary The Gatekeepers, featuring interviews with former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s secret police… Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, a spirited showcase for actress and co-writer Greta Gerwig, who plays a free spirit trying to find her niche in New York City…and Sarah Polley’s remarkably candid documentary Stories We Tell, in which she chronicles family members’ memories of her mother, who died when she was 11. It’s an unusual, multi-layered film that I found quite moving.
I should also mention a sneak preview of Hyde Park on Hudson, an entertaining period piece about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s relationship with his distant cousin Daisy Stuckley. Telluride regular Laura Linney is excellent, as usual, while Bill Murray delivers a subtle performance that sneaks up on you. It isn’t an outright imitation, but he captures the attitude and certain mannerisms of the President so well that before long you forget you’re watching Murray and believe that he is F.D.R.
For the fourth year in a row, French film archivist Serge Bromberg presented a compilation of rare silent and early-sound films under the umbrella title Retour de Flamme (Saved from the Flames). Serge is a great showman whose charming introductions build interest and anticipation for even the most obscure silent shorts. He also presented the world premiere of a long-lost Walt Disney cartoon featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Hungry Hobos. The Disney company purchased the rare print at a London auction not long ago.
Once again, festival co-directors Gary Meyer, Tom Luddy, and Julie Huntsinger provided a veritable feast in the most beautiful setting imaginable. My family and I call the Telluride Film Festival a spoiler: it’s hard to top.