Thursday, October 25, 2007

Telluride Film Festival 2007: Chapter 1

Best Laid Plans

After a night’s sleep in the altitude it was tour and breakfast time. Jana led us on a stroll of the picaresque former mining town and from Smuggler Road to Brigadoon, the festival’s central tent, pointing out the venues and other places of interest. We walked through the town park (the plaque at the front says that this was the former working class area of the town in mining times – I found it funny that they made the ghetto a huge park with skate ramps.) We had breakfast at a nice little kitchen and collected the swag that was due us as a festival goers (3 cds that I have yet to listen to, a copy of Variety, coupons for Omaha Steaks, gum, mints, spice packets, info on whatever) and waited for high noon when the official program and schedule was released. We tried sitting on a bench/wall thing just outside the tent but that became difficult and it was right in the sun. We decided to go to the park – though Jana meant a different (and closer) park than the large one at the end of town. Oh well. So we had our schedules complete and got back together to discuss. I had an ambitious slate of 18 films, a discussion, and a poster signing set for the weekend – some of these I actually got to. Upon comparison Jana was nuts…but I will let her explain her opening night feat.

Almost forgot to mention that in there somewhere we strolled through the open air market and were completely enamored with a booth called Telluride Truffles. This woman makes what I can only call a ganache made from blends of chocolate and liquor. Some of the flavors were stunningly good: White Chocolate + Meyer’s Rum, Dark Chocolate + Chambord. Others were interesting but not in an awful way: Dark Chocolate + Jack Daniels, Dark Chocolate + Tequila…with rock salt. These are available in jars of as the fillings in said truffles. And of course the pieces of chocolate are shaped like mountain peaks with snow caps or ski trails…sweet…literally.


I slated 3 for Friday night and made all of them easily – lulling me into a false sense of security. Ian and & both selected to start with Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, so I had a chance to ask him more about the festival whilst waiting in line.

The program description really does it justice as it is “like nothing else you’ve ever seen”. Haynes takes the biopic and shakes off the cobwebs while also infusing it with an experimental auteur’s singular vision. The title can be taken literally – it is a film about Dylan in which Dylan is not. Instead he is played both as person and persona by a series of avatars which represent the different periods of his life. Totally non-linear, the bits jump around like firecrackers while the film itself maintains a consistent emotional arc. A young boy named Marcus Carl Franklin is a find in his first film roll as the early Dylan’s Woody Guthrie persona. In his story he travels round the country on the rails as a vagabond singing about the working man and living off the kindness of strangers. He also sings a few tracks of his own and they sound great. Other pieces of the life and times of Bob Dylan include Heath Ledger as film star and estranged husband who is charged with handling the emotional relationship issues and does amicably but doesn’t stand out. Christian Bale plays the early folk Dylan and the later born again Dylan and is one of the stronger avatars. Ben Whishaw (who has also played Keith Richards and most recently stared as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume) as Arthur Rimbaud who always appeared in a static shot talking to camera in front of a white background – this and Blanchtte’s bits were mostly in black and white while the other segments are in color. Which brings me to Cate, wow, one of the best performances of the festival. You even forget that it is a woman playing a man and that she is 15 years older than the Dylan she is playing. It’s the attitude that makes this performance. She takes over from the infamous Newport Jazz & Folk Festival gig through Dylan’s tour of England as documented in D.A. Pennebacker’s Don’t Look Back. Granted this is the showiest portion of the story but she is simply electric in her time on screen. Finally if Richard Gere in the segment I found the most confusing – he plays the Billy the Kid of legend who was left to live by Pat Garrett and is just trying to live in solitude in what amounts to a land of circus folk. If you have seen what Haynes did with Velvet Goldmine and the story of Iggy Pop and David Bowie you can get a sense of what is happening here, even so, this is on a whole other level.

Slideshow of actors as Dylan

This was easily the most polarizing film of the festival and thus the most talked about. It seemed that people who did know more about Dylan were less into the film than I and others who knew very little of his life were. Odd that.

Unfortunately I followed this up with my least favorite film of the Festival. Cargo 200 is a Russian film set in 1984 the period before Glasnost and one of the darkest times for the Soviet people. It attempts to cinematically reproduce the decay of the empire and show the systemic corruption through the story of a Police Captain who moonlights as a vodka bootlegger and kidnaps a girl who he calls his wife, keeping her chained to a bed in the block he shares with his mother. What he does to her is depraved and shocking and the ignorance the mother shows not only to the girl but later to the death of her son is evidence of a crumbling soulless state. There are debates between a state Atheist teacher and another poor vodka bootlegger about this very subject – the fact that no god = no soul. Frankly I get what the film was saying and I still hated watching it. It was like watching death, drug out. There was a short before this film though that I really liked. The Pearce Sisters is a cartoon from the same studio and producers that created the Wallace & Gromit series. It is also depraved – but comedic-ly so and such was an amusing look at the live of two weathered and companionship-starved spinsters who live on an Island off the coast of Scotland and how they treat the occasion shipwrecked man who stumbles upon their stretch of the world.

The late film of the first night was the Icelandic thriller Jar City. The drab atmosphere really sets off this old school thriller with a futurist bent. With the help of a newly created private DNA database (based on an actual company in Iceland) a hardened detective with personal problems of his own tracks down a series of events spanning 30 years to solve the case… and there’s a young roguish sidekick to boot!! If you have seen Red Road (David I think you’re the only one) this film seems to be in a very similar vein minus the full frontal male nudity. Its deliberate, suspenseful and totally engrossing.

Preceding this film was a short that continued to get raves the whole weekend and a producer who was in attendance was claimed to have demanded the info on the director right away in order to sign him onto some project. It was called Spider and you can actually see it here.

So finally we all made it back to homestead and I found out that my Saturday schedule would already need to be changed to accommodate a surprise sneak. This was a sign of things to come as the hours of though put into the original schedule were disrupted time and time again. Good thing I’m cool under pressure.

In the next chapter we move...occasionally

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