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The 36th Annual Telluride Film Festival

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The 36th Annual Telluride Film Festival

Scene from Marcel L’Herbier’s film L’Argent

Milos Stehlik is the Director of Facets Multimedia and Worldview's film contributor.  He just returned from the Telluride Film Festival and fills us in on the festival highlights. 

In Jason Reitman's new film, Up in the Air, George Clooney plays the downsizing road warrior obsessed with reaching a 10-million mile goal. The film had its sneak preview screening at the Telluride Film Festival over the Labor Day weekend.
Clooney's obsession was mirrored by the attendees at the Telluride Film Festival, who chalked up five or six films every day, with non-stop movie watching from 9 a.m. until well past midnight. Telluride is a gourmet film feast. It is the world's best film festival.

What makes Telluride the best is a combination of the improbable. Nestled in a beautiful canyon in Colorado's San Juan mountains, it's hard-to-get-to. The film schedule is a closely guarded secret, and not revealed until the festival's first day. There's only one small theatre in Telluride. All the other state-of-the-art facilities are created each year from such unlikely venues as the high school gym or the Masons Hall. Because it takes place over just 4 days, slots are limited. This enforces strict discipline, resulting in a highly selective program.  

Co-programmed by Festival Co-founder Tom Luddy and Gary Meyer, the Telluride Film Festival is squeezed between high-powered film mega-markets in the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals. But what makes Telluride so special and unique is in steadfastly avoiding what other festivals crave: the phony lure of celebrity hype and the hustle of filmmakers and producers trying to strike deals. The only deal at Telluride is between the audience and great films.

This year, Telluride's tribute to French film star Anouk Aimee – the star of  films like Claude Lelouch's A Man and a Woman and Fellini's La Dolce Vita and 8 ½ - revealed a 77-year veteran actress committed to her craft and full of energy. In an interview at the festival, Aimee was said she'd rather make a film that had only two lines of dialogue with a great director than have a leading role in a film made by a hack.

One revelation of Telluride this year was the North American premiere of Thornton Warwick's Samson and Delilah. Set in the Australian outback, this penetrating and moving story of love and redemption is the first feature by a young aboriginal filmmaker who is the filmmaker to watch. The film is quiet, powerful and unforgettable.

One thing that makes Telluride unique is that it's a film celebration of not only what's new, but also of the old. Each year, a guest director helps select this program. This year, some of the older treasures – like Leo McCarey's ultimate tear jerker, the 1937 film Make Way for Tomorrow or Luis Berlanga's Franco-era black comedy  El Verdurgo, were programmed by Alexander Payne, the director of  Sideways, Election and About Schmidt.

Nicolas Cage and Werner Herzog were on hand for Herzog's new feature, Bad Lieutenant: New Orleans Port of Call- an interesting departure for Herzog into a pulp fiction genre, in which he acquits himself very well.

But the great treasure of this year's Telluride was the nearly 3-hour 1928 silent film L'Argent, directed by the now-neglected French director Marcel L'Herbier. Magnificently restored — accompanied by a new musical score, written and performed by the Mont Alto Picture Orchestra, this brilliantly stylized film, set in the world of financial speculation, where greed and romance co-exist, reaches the epic heights of great classics like Greed or Sunrise. The film is truly a revelation and even if Telluride were below the altitude of 8,500 feet above sea level, you'd still get high watching this film…
Milos Stehlik's commentaries reflect his own views and not necessarily those of Facets Multimedia, Worldview or 91.5 WBEZ.

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