As Always, a Deep Program
TELLURIDE – Films often last a few hours, film festivals a few days. But both can resonate far beyond their temporal limits.
History and time play central roles in how Telluride Film Festival officials put together the festival this year – and every year.
Julie Huntsinger and Gary Meyer, the festival directors along with Tom Luddy, said they chose this year’s lineup from hundreds of films submitted, making what they said were difficult choices.
“We reflect what’s out there. There was a ton of good films this year,” Huntsinger said.
“It’s almost like it’s too good,” Meyer said. “We could program next weekend with all new films. There is so much good filmmaking being done all over the world.”
Highlights of the 39th Telluride Film Festival include Deepa Mehta’s adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children (Rushdie, a former guest director, is expected to attend the festival); Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price (starring Dennis Quaid); Noah Baumbach’s new film Frances Ha; the Bill Murray/Laura Linney FDR film Hyde Park on Hudson; director Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa; and Ken Burns’, Sarah Burns’, and David McMahon’s The Central Park Five.
But as festivalgoers know, the festival goes far beyond the new films – in both depth and time – through its regularly appearing features. Every year, a guest director, this year English novelist Geoff Dyer, scans film history for films that move him or her. And the festival always has tributes to celebrate the different stages of filmmakers’ and actors’ careers. Meyer said the festival likes to honor a rising star, an established, usually mid-career performer or filmmaker, and one whose impact has stretched over time.
In the first category, the festival this year honors Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen (perhaps best known for his turn as the Bond villain in Casino Royale). Mikkelson is in two films on the program: The Hunt, a movie where Mikkelsen plays a falsely-accused teacher, and A Royal Affair, in which he plays a power-hungry royal physician.
“He is one of those actors – it doesn’t matter what language he is performing. His performance is so riveting, you’re thinking in whatever language he’s talking,” Huntsinger said.
Another tributee, French actress Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner for La Vie en Rose as well as a part in this year’s The Dark Knight Rises) arrives with a compilation reel of highlights from her career, as well as her new film, the compelling Rust and Bone.
The festival also honors with a tribute film giant Roger Corman, who wrote, directed and produced hundreds of movies, and contributed to the festival with his influence on industry, Meyer said. Directors such as Francis Ford Coppola and Jonathan Demme and screenwriters Robert Towne and John Sayles got their start with him, and so did actors like William Shatner, who appears in The Intruder, one of two Corman movies showing at the festival, the other being a specially restored version of The Masque of the Red Death. Alex Stapleton’s documentary, Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, will also be screened.
“He shouldn’t only be remembered as the b-movie king,” Huntsinger said.
The festival will also celebrate the 100th birthday of filmmaker/animator Chuck Jones, auteur of Looney Toons and beyond, with a special tribute in every theater Friday night, cartoons before feature films, as well as a program dedicated to him.
This year’s feature from the Pordenone Film Festival – a silent film with live music – is Hands Up!, one of a few movies that festival directors Huntsinger and Meyer hoped would not be overlooked in the bounty of excellent movies. The picture features silent movie star Raymond Griffith, now forgotten, but dynamic in this role.
They also cited Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda, the first movie filmed on location in Saudi Arabia; The Act of Killing, a documentary about homicidal film lovers; Superstar, a movie about unexpected and undeserved celebrity; The Attack, about the mystery behind a suicide bomber; Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday; Paradise: Love, a movie about a woman’s erotic journey to Africa; and Amour, a devastating film about aging.
Movies that play at the Telluride Film Festival have often had successful runs beyond the few days in September. Last year’s Oscar winner The Artist and critical darling The Descendants, are just two examples of movies that have reached large, adoring audiences after screening in Telluride.
Meyer and Huntsinger say they don’t think about the critical impact that movies might have after the festival, though they do recognize that being chosen by the festival can help a film’s chances.
“The Telluride Film Festival and people who put it together have created a very credible stamp of approval,” Huntsinger said. The fact that people who come to the festival show up without knowing what is going to be playing testifies to that credibility, she said.
“People spend so much money to come here, [and] they have no idea what we’re showing,” she said. “That’s trust, and that trust has been earned.”
Meyer and Huntsinger also talked about how the festival prides itself on staying current on move-theater technology, working with sponsors to insure that festivalgoers get the best possible film-watching experience, something they say filmmakers and patrons alike have come to expect. This remains an ongoing challenge, they say, because of how rapidly digital projection is changing.
At the same time, the festival continues to invest in traditional or vintage technology, including a new 70mm projection technology introduced this year, they said, specifically to the benefit of the audiences who will see Ron Fricke’s Baraka. All this is only possible through sponsor support, they say, and through companies like Boston Light and Sound, an industry leader in project technology being honored this year for its contributions to the festival over the years.While Meyer and Huntsinger say they are very excited about this year’s festival, they also have an eye toward next year’s festival, the 40th. As it did for the 25th, the festival will add an extra day to next year’s event.
“Stay tuned for next year – it will be very special,” Huntsinger said.
As Always, a Deep Program