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TELLURIDE ’99: Smiling Telluride, Sony Classics Sneaks in Woody World Premiere

TELLURIDE '99: Smiling Telluride, Sony Classics Sneaks in Woody World Premiere

TELLURIDE '99: Smiling Telluride, Sony Classics Sneaks in Woody World Premiere

Anthony Kaufman

Around the corner from Main Street in Telluride lies The Free Box, a
collection of deposit boxes for old clothes. “A Telluride Tradition,”
reads a placard beside the boxes. “So Telluride residents and workers
can recycle usable clothing and household items.” The charity of The
Free Box is emblematic of a wider good-spiritedness fostered at the
Telluride Film Festival. Whether it’s the 40% less oxygen in the air or
the fact that Friday was the first sunny day the little town has had in
weeks, everyone seemed to be in good cheer.

“We want a relaxed, laid back atmosphere,” says press office head Kathy
at an orientation for the handful of reporters, critics and
journalists, gathered at Telluride’s central Courthouse yesterday. It’s
the key to the success of the festival, no doubt. Where else can you
find a journalist who shows up with no lodging, simply hoping to find a
place to stay along a path up the mountain?

Though the festival really kicks into high gear today (Saturday) with a
full day of screenings starting at 8:30 am with a repeat screening of
Adrienne Shelly‘s world premiere “I’ll Take You There” and finishing up
with a midnight screening of 70’s French sex farce “La Grande Bouffe,”
the mood of the festival is already taking shape. At the Opening Night
Feed on Main Street late Friday afternoon, Middle Eastern food was
served to the roughly 2,000 pass holders in one big, smiling mishmash.
One could as easily bump into Guest Director Peter Sellars while reaching
for some humus as say, stumble into Werner Herzog drinking a glass of
red wine and speaking with documentary filmmaker and fellow Telluride
regular Ken Burns.

Categorizing the festival, one industry vet-attendee noted, “It’s not a
feeding frenzy. That’s we like to show our movies here each year.”
Anyone will tell you that Telluride is the anti-Sundance, trying to
maintain its degree of dignity, joviality, and equanimity. Everyone has
to wait in the same line for theater tickets. There are no press hordes,
no masses of photographers. There are few publicists, if any at all.
Catherine Deneuve and David Lynch walk down the streets with ease. It’s
a celebrity’s dream.

And for film executives, too. Telluride is not especially an industry
event, but the executives are here anyway, seeing movies, old friends,
and maybe considering an acquisition or two. But above all, the cliche
that Telluride is for cinema lovers is unabashedly true. Sony Pictures
Classics heads Michael Barker and Tom Bernard are in town per usual,
ever faithful devotees to Telluride, with their Berlin acquisition
Mifune” and their Cannes pick-up “Me Myself I.” Though no Telluride
schedules reflect it as of Friday night, the distributors have also
slipped in a special screening of Woody Allen‘s new film “Sweet and Lowdown,” just a day in advance of its (no longer) world premiere at the
Venice Film Festival, running simultaneous with Telluride. Tricky
stuff, guys.

For all the love of film here, there is at least one person in Telluride
who’s still thinking about business as much as art, producer Jim Stark
(“Cold Fever,” “Down by Law,” “Mystery Train.” The indie insider’s here
with Shelly’s film and not sure what to expect from buyers. Between a
rock and hard place, Stark told indieWIRE he gives the distributors more
arty films and they say they’re not commercial enough and when he gives
them more conventional films, they tell him, “Where’s the niche?” If
there’s anywhere in the world that question shouldn’t matter, it’s here
in Telluride where Philip Glass, Buster Keaton, and an 8-year-old
African film seem to be put on the same level. More on Shelly’s world
premiere and the first big day of the fest in tomorrow’s report.

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