Just taking the charter flight from LAX to Montrose, Colorado, then the hour-plus shuttle bus from there to Telluride, provides more direct and relaxed interchange with filmmakers than two weeks in Cannes, Sundance or Toronto, where the talent is always courdoned off in hotels or surrounded by publicists and minders. At LAX, I immediately ran into Olivier Assayas and Edgar Ramirez, the director and star just beginning their North American tour with the great “Carlos.” I first met Olivier when he was a babyfaced 20-year-old come to L.A. to interview filmmakers for Cahiers du Cinema, so it’s very moving for me to see how far he’s come to be able to create a work as extraordinary as “Carlos.”
Two nights ago I did a q&a with Ramirez at the first L.A. screening of the film, for the Screen Actors Guild, and he could not have been more affable. A Venezuelan like the man he plays, he spoke at length about learning as much as he could about the charismatic international terroristist from former cohorts and lovers; about how, after complaints from the man himself prior to the film’s release in France, Ramirez interprets the subsequent silence from Carlos’ prison cell as tacit approval; about the extraordinary seven-month shoot in eight countries that felt like a long rock ‘n’ roll tour, and about the difficult withdrawal period of leaving the character behind once production ended. Ramirez has taken no subsequent work yet–wisely, I believe, as once people begin seeing his performance, which recalls Brando in his prime, some choice roles will be his for the taking. His English is very softly accented and he speaks five languages fluently (the film calls for him to speak them all, although he had to learn Arabic phoenetically).
Sitting one seat in front of me on the plane was Carey Mulligan, with whom I had dinner here last year when she was a new girl in town, before the release of “An Education.” Seeing her again was a sharp reminder of what a difference a year makes; she now has an Oscar nomination under her belt and two films about to come out, “Wall Street 2” (she was in the middle of rehearsals for that this time last year) and “Never Let Me Go,” Mark Romanek’s adapation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, which is at Telluride.
Two seats over was Colin Firth, here with “The King’s Speech,” about the verbally maladroit King George VI. Seeing Peter Weir on the plane provided a little jolt, in that he directed the most terrifyingly realistic rendition of a plane crash from the inside of a cabin in “Fearless.” He’s at the festival for the world premiere of his gulag prison break drama “The Way Back.” I spoke with Peter Sellars, in attendance as he almost always is and erudite as ever on every possible subject, and Stanton Kaye, here for the showing of his recovered and restored 1968 “diary” feature “Brandy in the Wilderness,” recalling the extraordinary directing classes he took at UCLA in the early ’60s taught by Jean Renoir and Josef von Sternberg who, he stated, could not have been more dissimilar.