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Telluride, Colorado September 2011

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Post by Admin on Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:41 am

Posted: Mon., Sep. 5, 2011, 4:02pm PT
Telluride packs punch with indie picks
Fest balances buzzy showcase slots with cinephile fare
By Peter Debruge
Stars George Clooney and Shailene Woodley talk up Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” at the Telluride fest on Saturday.

Like Sundance without the snow, the Telluride Film Festival cherry-picked some of the fall's most anticipated indies over Labor Day weekend -- among them "The Descendants" and "We Need to Talk About Kevin," showcasing career-high work from honorees George Clooney and Tilda Swinton, respectively.

It also delivered well-received, psychologically rich dramas "A Dangerous Method" and "Shame," both starring Michael Fassbender; a Victorian gender study called "Albert Nobbs," featuring Glenn Close as you've never seen her before; and "Into the Abyss," the latest rumination from Werner Herzog, who holds the record for the most films screened in Telluride (estimated at 35). Though the Colorado fest's programmers invite films with their cinephile auds in mind, distribs have learned how to use the fest to their advantage -- the Weinstein Co. and Fox Searchlight in particular. Searchlight, which previously launched "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Black Swan" here, brought just one title: Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" -- a consensus favorite among auds polled riding the gondola to screenings.

Back in Telluride two years after serving as the fest's guest director, Payne appeared emotional as he introduced the film's world premiere: "It is amazing how long one can go in one's life before realizing one's true destiny -- which is to be a part of this festival," said the director, who spent his weekend trying to squeeze rare-treat screenings into a publicity-oriented schedule.

Following on last year's success (in which "The King's Speech" began its Oscar journey), Weinstein Co. bowed Toronto-bound crowdpleaser "Butter" and hosted an ideal North American premiere for Michel Hazanavicius' Cannes hit "The Artist" -- a love letter to silent cinema that felt right at home at a fest where nearly half the program consists of restorations and retrospectives (French prankster Pierre Etaix was among this year's special guests).

Compared with other festivals, Telluride draws only a fraction of the press and industry attendees, not counting the filmmakers themselves, who mingle among appreciative moviegoers at screenings and special educational events hosted by the fest. (This year marked a new partnership with UCLA, giving 15 grad students intimate access to film pros.) The rest are film lovers who travel from all over the country to discover gems of world cinema, past and present -- cinephiles who will sit through a 3 1/2-hour portrait of George Harrison (Martin Scorsese's "Living in the Material World" world preemed here) or a 15-hour history lesson ("The Story of Film").

The fest kicked off with Hungarian arthouse legend Bela Tarr's long, black-and-white "The Turin Horse" -- a challenging sit for nearly any moviegoer. For one local, however, it was an exhilarating way to start the fest. "That movie was rad," he told me. "When you consider 'Horrible Bosses' and 'Smurfs' were the only two movies playing in town before the fest started, it felt like a palate cleanser."

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Post by Admin on Tue Sep 06, 2011 12:45 am

Hiding Up in Telluride, Silver on Screens
Merie Wallace/Fox Searchlight Pictures

Published: September 5, 2011

TELLURIDE, Colo. — In the local vernacular, the Telluride Film Festival is known as The Show. Each screening — of an Oscar aspirant, a restored classic, a provocative documentary, a slow and quiet piece of cinematic art — is its own show, but so is this town itself, a silver-mining outpost high in the San Juan Mountains long ago converted to an oasis of western-bohemian chic. The Show, which occurs every Labor Day weekend (this is the 38th edition), evokes the eager, collective do-it-yourself spirit of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland musicals, as a school gymnasium, a restored opera house and a pocket-size park on the main street are converted into movie theaters. There is also plenty of the business of show, manifested in the names of sponsors read out before every screening, and in the presence of renowned filmmakers and big movie stars on the streets.
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Ren Mendelson/Sony Pictures Classics

Shlomo Bar Aba in "Footnote," directed by Joseph Cedar.
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Patrick Redmond

Mia Wasikowska and Glenn Close in “Albert Nobbs.”
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Liam Daniel/Sony Pictures Classics

Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung and Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud in “A Dangerous Method,” directed by David Cronenberg.

Telluride’s mix of glamour and rusticity has a special charm. The selection of films tends to be eclectic and surprising, and the small size, short duration and remote location of the festival combine to give it a relaxed, informal atmosphere. The festival headquarters is called Brigadoon, and the event has an ephemeral, miragelike quality. For four days we’re all hanging out watching movies and comparing notes on them. You, me, my teenage son, the visiting film students with wide eyes and orange badges, the nice couple from Tucson, Werner Herzog, George Clooney, Glenn Close ... .

Ms. Close was in attendance because of “Albert Nobbs,” a lovely and surprising movie directed by Rodrigo García (“Mother and Child”). Introducing a screening on Friday night, Ms. Close, who is a producer and writer of the film, said that for 20 years she had tried to bring the project of adapting the Irish writer George Moore’s short story to fruition. (She appeared in a stage version in 1982.) The title character, played by Ms. Close, is a woman who has spent her adult life passing as a man, and who works as a waiter in a turn-of-the-20th-century Dublin hotel. It was hard to believe that the radiant blond movie star at the microphone and the taciturn, red-haired, slightly Chaplin-esque figure in the movie were the same person, but such incredulity is part of the delight we take in great acting.

And there has been a lot of that here. Mr. Clooney arrived, via an almost inconceivable but not all that uncommon feat of logistics, from Venice, where he had shown “Ides of March,” a political drama he has directed. Here he was attached to “The Descendants,” a winning hybrid of domestic comedy and midlife melodrama directed by Alexander Payne. At a postscreening Q-and-A on Friday afternoon, director and star engaged in a genial tournament of self-deprecation. “I pay myself very few compliments as a filmmaker,” Mr. Payne said. “But one thing I think I’m good at is casting.”

Mr. Clooney, for his part, insisted that his performance owed everything to Mr. Payne’s writing and direction. When asked how he managed to cry in a particularly emotional scene, he said he recalled how Mr. Payne had turned him down for a part in “Sideways” “and the tears just flowed.” The actor described his character, Matt King, as a “schlub,” and while this seems a bit harsh, Matt is certainly the kind of middle-aged guy — a doughy, distracted dad — that middle-aged guys who are not George Clooney may be able to relate to.

Speaking of illusions, the tendency to find themes in film festivals probably belongs in that category, along with the notion of Mr. Clooney as a schlub. But when you see a lot of movies in a short span of time, a kind of mental word cloud starts to form. This year there seemed to be a lot of movies about parents and children, actual and symbolic.

This may not be surprising given that one of the most anticipated and talked-about movies here is “A Dangerous Method.” In it the director, David Cronenberg, and the writer, Christopher Hampton, anatomize the Oedipal drama between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), as triangulated through their relationship with Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), a troubled young Russian woman with daddy issues of her own. In the guise of a costume drama — a very handsome one, by the way — “A Dangerous Method” is an intellectually vigorous, occasionally kinky term paper on the riddle of sexual desire and the dangers of scientific ambition.

Fathers, sons and the pursuit of truth: those are the terms of Mr. Cronenberg’s film and also of Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote,” which is my favorite movie of the festival. Instead of the still-young field of psychoanalysis, Mr. Cedar’s film takes place in the world of Hebrew philology and Talmudic scholarship, where exalted scholarly ideals coexist with venality, backstabbing and long-simmering vendettas. Mr. Cedar, aided by a brilliant cast (notably Shlomo Bar-Aba and Lior Ashkenazi as professors in furious competition who happen to be father and son), blends academic satire, classic Jewish humor and an almost Shakespearean sense of the tragic potential of the paternal bond.

Not that all the suffering parents here have been fathers. In “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” Tilda Swinton plays a tormented mother facing a nightmare of almost unimaginable horror. (Ms. Swinton, like Mr. Clooney, was honored with one of the festival’s tributes.) This film, directed by Lynne Ramsay (“Morvern Callar,” “Ratcatcher”), uses fractured chronology and haunting images to delve into the terrifying mystery of a child gone wrong. Kevin, a fussy baby and a sullen toddler, grows up into a sociopathic school shooter, and Ms. Ramsay deals with both the prehistory and the aftermath of his crime, offering clues and patterns instead of explanations.

The best movies pursue an impulse to understand the complexities of human life without settling for easy answers. “Into the Abyss,” Mr. Herzog’s latest extraordinary documentary, looks at first like the kind of true-crime shocker you can easily find on cable television. It explores a particularly senseless triple homicide that took place in Conroe, Tex., a decade ago, and consists almost entirely of conversations with people close to the killings, including Michael Perry, who was convicted of killing one of the victims. He is interviewed as he awaits execution, and the ethics of the death penalty, which Mr. Herzog avowedly opposes, is among the film’s concerns. But “Into the Abyss” — which, Mr. Herzog noted as he introduced a screening of it, “could be the title of quite a few of my films” — is less a piece of political advocacy than a somber inquiry into familiar Herzogian themes of death, violence and time.

It is also a story of shattered families. Mr. Herzog talks with a brother of one of the victims, the sister and daughter of the other two, and with the father of one of the killers, himself serving a long prison sentence. His confession of failure is an especially heartbreaking moment in a movie that is full of them.

We sometimes go to the movies to be confronted with painful facts of life. We also go for the pleasure of spectacle and the satisfaction in the accomplishments of craft. The sublime puzzlement I felt at the end of “Target,” an astonishing piece of visionary futurism from the Russian director Alexander Zeldovich, was complemented by the childlike delight that attends nearly every moment of “The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius’s witty and touching silent film about a silent-film star. “Target,” with its slow pace, allegorical implications and shocking sex scenes, was one of the most polarizing films of the festival while “The Artist,” a celebration of the legacy of popular art, was a consensus favorite. A festival with room for both — to say nothing of Sigmund Freud, battling Talmudists and George Clooney, George Harrison (in a documentary by Martin Scorsese) and Georges Méliès (thanks to a dazzling restoration of his 1902 masterpiece, “Le Voyage Dans la Lune”) — is a pretty good Show.
A version of this article appeared in print on September 6, 2011,

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Post by Admin on Tue Sep 06, 2011 1:25 am

HAMMOND: Controversial ‘Shame’ Arrives, Stirring Telluride Talk And Scaring Distribs; David Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’
By PETE HAMMOND | Monday September 5, 2011 @ 2:20am PDT

On the heels of their world premieres at the Venice Film Festival, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Steve McQueen’s Shame had their North American premieres at Telluride on Sunday. Both films star Michael Fassbender, and in the controversial latter film, he really reveals all as does co-star Carey Mulligan. The sexually provocative scenes were enough to guarantee an NC-17 rating, which made at least three potential distributors who saw it here skittish. One told me that without the 55-plus crowd this art picture will die and the potential NC-17 will drive them away. But McQueen isn’t editing it even if distribs suggest cuts. (For instance, Mulligan who plays a night club singer does a rendition of New York, New York that lasted longer than the Spanish Civil War.) Despite the film’s attributes, Shame will be a very tough sell even with sex scenes as marketing bait. McQueen was still in Venice and couldn’t make it to the Rockies. But he sent a video introduction. Reaction among the packed audiences for the first two showings of Shame today were mixed. Some hated it and some appreciated it, but no seemed to be doing cartwheels except critics in Venice.

One thing is clear, however: Fassbender is a definite star, not only in McQueen’s film but also in A Dangerous Method, playing Swiss doctor Carl Jung opposite his intellectual equal, Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). He keeps his clothes on in this one. A Dangerous Method is a film of ideas, and those are rare. It’s also a film of words. Lots of them. Cronenberg was still in Venice, but screenwriter Christopher Hampton was here explaining how he came full circle from writing a screenplay based on the John Kerr book, turning it into a play, and then back again after Cronenberg expressed interest. The play was called The Talking Cure, but apparently no one got the cure because these guys just keep talking. Fortunately, Hampton’s dialogue is in the hands of skilled actors and a filmmaker who knows how to get nice visuals on the screen. Method goes out via Sony Classics on November 23. I ran into SPC President Michael Barker, who flew in from Venice on Friday night. He told me he thinks he can get Oscar nominations for all the stars of the film.

He’s also very high on his other three Telluride debuts, Agnieszka Holland’s Polish Oscar entry, In Darkness, Cannes Best Screenplay winner Footnote from Israel, and the Iranian film A Separation, which won raves from the fest-goers I polled as they exited the film’s first showing this morning. The provocative film should be a contender for Iran in the Foreign Language Oscar competition, barring internal politics — which is one reason the Academy should change the rules that allow each country to choose it’s entry.

Barker also was still talking up Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which became the second-most-successful film in SPC history (after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). The film has been playing since May and was re-released on several hundred screens last weekend, just in time for Hurricane Irene which Barker admitted killed business. But he said the movie shot up dramatically this weekend, making the decision to expand more viable for SPC. The company is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and in honor of that, Barker and co-president Tom Bernard threw a dinner Saturday night at La Marmotte. However, Bernard was a no-show as other commitments kept him from Telluride for the first time in about three decades, and he reportedly was very upset having to miss it.

Another company throwing a party (Sunday afternoon) was Oscilloscope in honor of the Telluride tribute to Tilda Swinton. She stars in their post-Cannes pickup We Need to Talk About Kevin, which started screening here today. How Swinton lost the Cannes Best Actress award is still a head-scratcher. In Cannes I suggested to Swinton that she bring the film to Telluride, and then I tracked down fest co-directors Tom Luddy and Gary Meyer to tell them she was interested. Lo and behold, she’s here getting toasted. But even though she says she’s trying to see other movies, she’s busy with her own and wants to come back as a guest director maybe as soon as next year.

She’s very proud of her Oscar-winning performance in Michael Clayton (she gave the statuette to her agent WME’s Brian Swardstrom, and it is still his, she says). The film has been prominent here. It screened in Elks Park on Thursday night, and clips were included in both her tribute and George Clooney’s. She also praised one of the few films she has seen here, Clooney’s The Descendants. She told me it makes her want to go to the less-traveled parts of Hawaii that the film shows. She also said she recalls the ovation of several minutes that her film got in Cannes. That’s par for the course for Cannes, but Swinton says it is even more pronounced in Italy. She participated in the first of her two tributes here Sunday night and will do another Monday morning. (There are always two complete tributes for each person at Telluride for some reason.) Kevin director Lynne Ramsey made the trip to Telluride, too, and told me she loves it so much she wants to skip Cannes from now on and only come to Telluride.

Oscilloscope has big Oscar campaign plans for Swinton and Kevin, and have kept their relationship with awards maven Cynthia Swartz, who just ankled 42 West for her own company, Strategy PR/Consulting. Two years ago, Swartz cooked up a campaign that landed Oscilloscope’s underdog, The Messenger, two major Oscar nominations. Exec David Finkel told me they plan to do a one-week run on December 4 in Los Angeles and then reopen at the end of January when nominations are announced. Swinton plans to be in Los Angeles doing appearances with the film for much of November. That’s a good thing because many Academy members might want to avoid the searing subject matter of this uncompromising movie. Finkel said the company has the money for the campaign and plans to spend it to secure awards recognition. He said they were smitten with the dark, tough film from the moment they saw it in Cannes.

Meanwhile, on Day 4 of our Telluride George Clooney Watch, George did the second of his tributes this morning and was in rare comic form. Having just turned 50, he described himself as “AARP’s Sexiest Man still alive”. He also is pretty savvy about the longevity of careers in show business these days, saying his Aunt Rosemary’s up-and-down career taught him a valuable lesson. “I knew you weren’t gonna be in front for very long. There is a sell-by date,” he said. He added that he always thought of himself as a film actor even when he was only appearing on the sitcom The Facts of Life. “Film actors look down on TV actors, and TV actors look down on reality fuckers,” is how he described the pecking order in Hollywood. Words to live by. And with that he was off to the airport, but not before asking me if I was going to be at the Toronto Film Festival next week. The answer is “yes” as the fall fest madness continues.

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