Telluride Film Festival Favorites

An Aside – Courtesy of Gretchen Koitz, Downtown Bethesda Resident who chose Slumdog Millionaire as her Top Pick in 2008…so pay attention 🙂 There’s nothing like a summer week in Telluride, Colorado (which, over Labor Day weekend, includes 3 fulls days of The Telluride Film Festival) to let one know that life is truly good!! Located in a box canyon, literally surrounded by majestic peaks, this little town has found a place in my heart. I believe that this is the 6th time that I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the film festival, and I wanted to share my thoughts with other movie buffs. Enjoy!! After seeing a dozen films, here are some of my favorites:

1. A Separation – This Iranian gem may or may not make its way to local theatres, but you should hope that it does. We were lucky enough to not only see this film, but also to hear a Q & A with the director — who is a wonderful human being. The “separation” is manifested on many levels. On surface, this is the story of a woman who is seeking a divorce from her husband because she has an opportunity to take their daughter out of the country for a better education…and the husband refuses to go. So, it is a separation of two people. As the story unfolds, we also see a class separation, religious separation and gender separation. The Iranian justice system comes off as very primative — although the “judge” in this particular case seems to be kind and caring. The acting is superb and I believe that both the lead actor and actress were award winners at the Berlin Film Festival.

2. The Descendants – This one you will have no trouble seeing at a local theatre, thanks in great part to the fact that the lead role is played by George Clooney (who was at Telluride!!!). In this film, which will have you laughing and crying practically at the same time, George (we’re on a first name basis since I was in the same theatre as him 🙂 plays a flawed dad (he works all the time and is pretty distant from his two daughters) who has to step up to the plate after his wife has a tragic accident. Again, our experience was heightened by a Q & A with Clooney and a young actress, Shailene Woodley, who plays his older daugher. Definitely a “must see.”

3. The Artist — Ok…this is one of those films that I was sure wasn’t going to interest me when I read the synopsis. Among other things, it is silent!! Yes, this 2011 production about a silent movie matinee idol is shot in black and white and is without spoken dialogue. It does, however, have a wonderful score and you soon “forget” that the spoken word is missing. My husband likened it to watching a good foreign film that has subtitles. The more you get into the move, the more the subtitles “disappear” — and the same thing happens with the lack of sound. The acting is so wonderful that you are able to get all the emotions and it is great fun!! The lead female role is played by an Argentinian actress, Berenice Bejo, and she is absolutely gorgeous!!

4. We Need to Talk About Kevin — This is a tough movie. If you haven’t read the book, I’d highly recommend that you do so. It is a beautifully written piece about a hauntingly horrible story. The movie, starring Tilda Swinton (who was also at Telluride), follows the book as closely as it can in the time allotted…but you’ll get more questions answered if you read the book first. In a nutshell, it’s about a woman who is ambivalent about becoming a mother and her son, who turns against her almost from the moment he is born. You don’t exactly come away singing (!), but it is extremely well done and opened the doors for hours of conversation.

5. In Darkness — As the name implies, this one is also not a real upper…but, again, beautifully done and worth seeing. It is based on a true story of a small group of Polish Jews who hide in the sewers of the city of Lvov during World War II. This extremely suspenseful movie was, at times, hard to watch — and I was anxious for the survivors to be able to see the light!!

6. The Kid With a Bike — This hopeful film centers on an 11 year old boy who has been abandoned by his father (we never see of hear of his mother) and placed in a children’s home. He “escapes” from the home and, during futile attempts to reunite with his deadbeat Dad, he meets a young woman who agrees to become his weekend guardian. But even his beloved bike and his new guardian can’t keep him out of trouble as he continues his journey. In the end, we definitely see the kid with a bike headed in the right direction. This one is endearing.

7. Albert Nobbs — In this period piece (1890s Dublin), Glenn Close plays the role of Albert, a woman who has lived for many years as a man in order to be gainfully employed as a butler/server in a hotel. Painfully shy and totally removed from any sense of identity, Albert is a timid character who does his/her job and hides his/her earnings with the hope of eventually being able to buy a tobacco shop. We watch Albert as s/he tries to find companionship and a better life. Totally recommend!!

8. A Dangerous Method — I’m putting this one in because I saw it…and you will have an opportunity to see it, too. The great thing about movies is that, like wine, there’s something that pleases everyone …and we don’t all have to like the same thing. Having said that, we walked out of this one. It’s based on a true story about a young woman (played by Keira Knightley) who is diagnosed with acute hysteria and her doctor, Carl Jung. Jung consults with Sigmund Freud and the two end up at odds over the care of the patient — at least in part because of Jung’s growing passion for this young woman. To me, Knightley overplays the character so much that it was distracting and this psychological drama lost me completely!!

9: Recommended by others, but not seen by me:

a. The Island President — a documentary about the Maldives, a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, that are threatened by climate change. Everyone loved this!!

b. Footnote – Described as “painfully funny”, this is a story about father and son Talmudic scholars, their relationship (flawed) and their attempts at reconciliation. Again, highly recommended by most everyone who saw it.