The 2007 Telluride Film Festival, rated by many as one of the top ten film festivals in the world and one of the top 3 in the United States (wikipedia), wrapped up the night of Monday, September 3rd. I was lucky enough to be hired on as staff this year, serving concessions.
Telluride is notorious for selecting movies which go on to huge acclaim and big time awards. Last year saw the premier of The Last King of Scotland and a selection of films that also included Babel, Volver, and The Lives of Others. Clearly, TFF has a knack for selecting major Oscar contending films. I’m sure that this year saw many powerhouse films yet again. While TFF does not give any awards to the films screened, merely being chosen for this festival is a great honor.
This year again saw a focus on independent films, and here are some of the ones that I think you’ll be hearing a lot about in the near future.
Into the Wild
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see this one, because it was sold out everytime I tried to go. This film is the adaptation of the popular Jon Krakaeur novel. Sean Penn directed this 2 ½ hour movie about a man seeking the refuge of nature. Sean Penn was in Telluride to promote the film, which is due to be released on September 21st. This could mark a major transition for Penn, and will surely garner a lot of attention for his directing talent. Into the Wild was one of the biggest buzz movies around town.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby, the former publisher of Elle, suffered a sudden, massive stroke which left him incapable of any movement outside of one eye. With help, he was able to compose a memoir of his paralyzed life using an interesting technique, which I do not want to ruin for anyone. This film is not only the adaptation of that memoir, but an intimate look inside the life of a man whose mind remains active despite his extreme disability.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was directed by Julian Schnabel, a well known modern artist and director of previous critical sensations Basqiuat, and Before Night Falls. Julian was also in Telluride to promote the film, and I must say this was probably the best film I saw over the weekend. It is unique, inventive, and utterly moving. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one gets a Best Picture nomination, and at the least wins an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The Diving Bell… is due for limited release in December.
4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
From Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu come this controversial film following the struggles of a young woman under the rule of communism and her decision to receive an illegal abortion.
4 Months attacks the communist regime of the late 80s, near the collapse of the USSR, while telling the story of only a few individuals. This film will surely cause a lot of controversy, and at the same time will garner a lot of attention from the media due to its subject matter. The film succeeds in reserving judgment on the actions performed by the characters, and instead gives us a brilliant performance by lead actress Anamaria Marinca. Marinca’s performance is not melodramatic or intended to make a social statement – rather, she provides us with a complete sense of realism.
Again, this film will by far not be ok for a lot of viewers, but it is a great insight into what it was like to live under the political framework of the USSR. You will surely be hearing a lot about this movie over the next few months. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
The Counterfeiters is a German film from director Stefan Ruzowitzky, and was a surprise hit of the Telluride Film Festival. The film follows the story of a German criminal (Karl Markovics) who’s special skills are put to use in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. I know what you’re thinking, another holocaust movie that has again Hollywood-ized a harrowing story. What I loved about this film is that it is a unique telling of a little known holocaust story, and it shows us that we still have a long ways to go before we can ever understand the lives and stories that were effected by WWII. The Counterfeiters, like The Lives of Others from last year, has the potential to gain the attention of the Oscar committee.
Margot At the Wedding
Noah Baumbach, director of the critical and indie hit The Squid and the Whale, visited Telluride along with Jennifer Jason Leigh to screen his newest film. Nicole Kidman stars alongside Leigh in a wonderful cast that also includes Jack Black and John Turturo. True to the style of Baumback’s first film, Margot focuses on the awkward and strained relationships between Margot (Kidman) and her son, and her sister Pauline (Leigh), as Pauline readies to marry her slacker fiancé Maurice. Kidman’s performance is almost too convincing, and Baumbach gives the film an improvisational feel. The dysfunctional family comes across as very real, and we see the absurdity in some of our own neurosis. Somehow, in the midst of all the chaos, Baumbach gives the tiniest sense of hope for growth.
I’m Not There
Todd Haynes (Velvet Goldmine) directs this part fiction, part fact bio-pic of Bob Dylan. Haynes delivers his fresh take on Dylan’s music by inventing six distinct personalities, all of which represent different times and aspects of Dylan’s life. Haynes is a master of using music in film, and what a library he has to choose from for this film. He has chosen well, and the audience even applauded for several of the songs.
Haynes weaves together several genres seamlessly while telling a story about Bob Dylan that seems to tap into something that is even beyond the iconic songwriter. Music video, biography, and A Hard Day’s Night are all important pieces of I’m Not There’s success. This film will garner a lot of attention, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets nominated for Best Picture. Cate Blanchett is almost assured of an Oscar nod for her incredible performance. I didn’t even know it was her until someone told me after the film.
That’s a Wrap
These are just a few of the films that showed this year in Telluride, and I guarantee that you will be hearing a lot about these films in the next few months. Also keep your eyes out for Juno from Director Jason Reitman which should be out very soon. Other highlights of the Film Festival included tributes to Daniel Day-Lewis, Michele Legrand, and Leonard Maltin.
I hope the film lovers out there get out and see some of these films. Look for another review of the Telluride Film Festival next year.
Telluride Film Festival Program, 2007