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Telluride Report: Frears’ Tamara Drewe, Morris’s Tabloid

Telluride Report: Frears' Tamara Drewe, Morris's Tabloid

Meredith Brody reports from the ground in Telluride on Stephen Frears’ Tamara Drewe and Errol Morris’s doc Tabloid.

The best food I’ll eat during the Festival is the amazing spread laid on for the opening day Patron’s Brunch, a Colorado-sourced locavore feast of smoked trout, wild mushroom quiche, pork sausage, corn fritters, and golden-yolked eggs cooked to order. It’s a beautiful sight, rivaled only by the dazzling view over flowery meadows of the Rockies, and the glimpses you catch everywhere of starry Telluride attendees and regulars, including Claudia Cardinale, Ed Harris, Geoffrey Rush, Peter Weir, Werner Herzog, and Ken Burns. And I’m pleased to see that Alexander Payne, last year’s excellent Guest Director, has caught the Telluride fever and is in attendance once again, this time as a filmgoer.

I sit with Olivier Assayas and Denis Lenoir, as well as the silent-film titans Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, in town to present a program of rare 3-D films, and Paolo Cherchi Usai, who chose Rotaie from the Pordenone Silent Film Festival to screen at Telluride.

I ride down the mountain with Mark Cousins, whose name I have misheard as “my cousin” over several days of conversation with Tom Luddy about his Iraq-set film The First Movie. Luddy insists Irish-born Cousins will be dressed in a kilt, but it turns out he hasn’t brought any with him – although, he says, three days in a row wearing trousers is something of an anomaly. I offer him the use of one of the two skirts I packed, a black-and-white dotted Swiss number or a black pencil skirt (neither of which, as it turns out, I will wear at Telluride, and both of which I’m sure would look better on Mark).

At the early-afternoon press conference held in the New Sheridan Hotel, Luddy leads by mentioning three of his personal favorites: a new short film by Errol Morris about Dennis Jacobs, legendary film buff extraordinaire, to be shown with The First Movie; the rediscovery of Stanton Kaye’s 1968 Brandy in the Wilderness; and the animated Afro-Cuban jazz film Chico and Rita.

We’re urged to try to fit in some revivals, including Fat City (Leonard Gardner, who wrote the novel, is in attendance). A dizzying number of films are touched upon, with equal enthusiasm, whether it’s a new hit that won a prize at Cannes or an unheralded short. The best line of the meeting is a quote whose origin I missed: that Charles Ferguson’s documentary about the global financial meltdown (Inside Job) is “the best gangster film since The Godfather”!

Afterwards I take the 12-minute gondola ride up the mountain to see Fernando Trueba (Ocar winner for Belle Epoque) and Javier Mariscal’s Chico and Rita, an easy way to slip into Fest mode. It’s a lushly-animated story – of the star-crossed love affair of two Cuban musicians, a pianist and a singer – ranging from Havana to Paris to Hollywood to Las Vegas, with “appearances” by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Pure pleasure.

The Opening Night Feed, held on Telluride’s picture-perfect main street, Colorado Avenue, arrives all-too-soon, especially for those of us still stuffed from brunch. I load up a plate with salad, pilaf, stewed chicken, and pork kebabs, anyway, and stroll the party with Phillip Lopate, whose 1979 production of Uncle Vanya, enacted by 5th and 6th graders, appears in the documentary Chekov for Children. We pass a tower of miniature cupcakes – the food fad of 2001 (via Sex and the City) reaches the Rockies!

I’m headed with all deliberate speed to the first Telluride screening of Tamara Drewe, armed with the knowledge that its director Stephen Frears is leaving Telluride on the morrow, for its London premiere (and “much more important,” Frears insists, a screening in the Dorset village where he has a country home – coincidentally the film is also Dorset-set, pun not intended).

I LOVE it, or, per Woody Allen in Annie Hall, I luurve it, I loave it, I luff it, two F’s. love is too weak a word for what I feel. It’s perfectly cast. Frears loves to relate that when Gemma Arterton walked in the room to audition for the title role, he turned to the casting director and asked “Is she any good?”, and when the response was yes, Frears said “Let’s book her.” Nobody who saw Prince of Persia would know she had this witty, saucy performance in her. And she’s surrounded by the cream of British acting talent (“I can’t do this with big names,” Frears says he told the producers): Roger Allam, Tamsin Greig, Dominic Cooper, Luke Evans, the American Bill Camp, and two teenagers, Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie, who put much of the farcical plot in action.

I nip out to the Palm to see an 11:15 p.m. screening of Errol Morris’s newest, Tabloid, a truth-is-stranger-than-fiction tale of a 30-year-old sex scandal (the kidnapping and rape of a Mormon boy by an American beauty queen, as played out in British newspapers).

I’m reminded of what we saw on the caravan driving to Telluride as we stopped in a supermarket in Columbus City, Arizona, conveniently situated near the Utah border, occupied by polygamist sects since Utah became a state – a condition of statehood was that polygamy became illegal. So they got the hell out of Dodge – some of them, anyway. Inside the store, the women were dressed in high-collared, long calico dresses from another century, with their long hair pulled up in braids and trailing down their backs, and the young boys in dark blue jeans and long-sleeved shirts despite the desert heat. “NO CAMERAS,” read a sign above the store’s entrance.

I ask Morris how he found the story. He says he read an article in his hometown paper, The Boston Globe, about a woman who had her beloved pitbull Booger cloned in Korea, and that there was a single sentence near the end of the piece that mentioned that she’d been involved in a sex scandal decades earler.

When I get back to my room, I Google around and find that Joyce McKinney had called herself Bernann McKinney in the dog-cloning stories that initially denied that she was the same woman of British tabloid fame. I still wonder how Morris convinced her to appear on screen, bubbly, vivacious, and seemingly happy to revisit the events of 1977 and beyond. Everybody’s favorite Joyce quote in Tabloid, re: the impossibility of raping a man: “It’d be like squeezing a marshmallow into a parking meter.”

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