Saturday, September 02, 2006

TFF Posting 1: Hamming it up

This year's Telluride Film Festival has finally gotten underway, so I am now free to talk about some of the films involved. As it turns out, I will probably be seeing a whole bunch of films... but those films will largely be ones shown at my own theater, given that my new job entails me making sure things run smoothly and emceeing every show. I am what is called a "ringmaster," and so far things have run smoothly. We'll see what happens this afternoon, however, and whether I'll be able to keep it together when introducing one Laura Linney in a couple hours. (Woohoo!)

Some quick takes on what I've seen:

  • Dodsworth -- This 1936 William Wyler comedy opened our house and I'll be surprised if I'm tickled by anything else to quite such an extent. This failed box-office chamber piece follows Walter Huston as he gets old and realizes that the woman he loves is an absolute twit. The come-uppance is priceless and had the audience cheering. Sam Goldwyn, Jr. was lovely and had some wonderful bon mots about his father and"Willie" (and he insisted to me that the VHS transfer is quite good), while I finally was able to place TCM's Robert Osbourne not by his face but by his voice. This only proves that sometimes the most fabulous things at this festival are the old ones with restored prints.
  • Ghosts of Cite Soleil -- This was a riveting documentary about rival gangs led by brothers in Haiti during the tumultuous time in Haiti when Aristide was on the outs. I say "riveting" precisely because I desperately needed to drink some water about an hour into it and didn't reach for my bottle because I was afraid I would miss something. I actually liked this (mainly because it's very stylish and keeps the adrenaline going), but I also think it's a wee bit too long and not exactly the best doc I've seen of late.
  • Babel -- I loved this, precisely because it's a multi-layered, difficult film that everyone should really watch. Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu brings another fractured narrative that is ultimately quite satisfying. Oddly enough, I found the film most connected with his short film from the collection 11'09"01 (and I wish I could find him to ask about it), but I'm also noticing that his films seem to be very stark, very bleak... and yet feature a glimmer of hope right at the end. (I have not seen 21 Grams to see whether this theory hold up, but if it does, it's a cinematic mindset I very much like.) I added Amores perros at the very last minute to my film class syllabus for this semester with the idea that Babel might be released right when their final project will be assigned. I think I made a good call there.
  • Day Night Day Night -- A tense, brilliant debut about a girl preparing for a moment. (To say more would be giving quite a bit away.) Director Julia Loktev's camera work is stunning -- formal, cold, gorgeous -- and the debut performance by Luisa Williams (whose work here reminded me of Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria FUll of Grace) was luminous. They also happen to be raelly nice, very genuine folks and I had a blast chatting with them afterwards.

Next up, two biggies: Jindabyne with Laura Linney, and The Last King of Scotland with Forrest Whitaker. Both sold out earlier today. We may be swamped. Viva la cinema!

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