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2022 Telluride Film Festival Report– Day 4 and Conclusions

Labor Day is the last day of the Telluride Film Festival and so both still exciting yet bittersweet. This festival has just too many jewels and so little time to squeeze everything in. I reflect on how my anticipations resolved into realizations and what else I might have gleaned from these whirlwind four days.

Labor Day is the last day of the Telluride Film Festival and so both still exciting yet bittersweet. I got to see some of the films I had been looking forward to all weekend and yet, solidly realize that quite a few films I’d love to see will as yet slip through my fingers. Inevitable as always. This festival has just too many jewels and so little time to squeeze everything in. But I WILL see them, in time. In the meantime I can reflect on how my anticipations resolved into realizations and what else I might have gleaned from these whirlwind four days.

First “Film”: The Méliès American Negatives: World Premiere 3-D Screenings

I started my last morning in line to see the “event” I had been looking forward to immediately after finding out it was on the lineup. In the category of “why go to Telluride instead of (insert your alternate film festival here)?” reply, there are some things that are an only-in-Telluride experience. One of these is the treatment of early days of cinema, silent films as they were originally intended. Thankfully there are a few festivals that aim for this goal, namely high-quality visuals and live musical accompaniment.

But Telluride tends to swing for the fences. First, every year there is at least one restored silent that they present with live musical accompaniment, sometimes with a full (yet small) orchestra. And usually, these are presented as only Telluride can, in the original “New” Sheridan Opera House. (New as of 1913) where the film may have once played in its original release. These are always special, you had to be there, events. And they’re made even better by the enthusiastic restoration professionals that bring these precious finds back to life.

One of these doggedly determined archivists is Serge Bromberg. Bromberg is an unstoppable force. Whether he’s tracking down leads to find lost films in dusty attics or damp basements or celebrating the finds that are restored and once again available to the world, he’s a whirlwind and you can’t help but get caught up in his excitement.

Extremely entertaining as well as deeply educational, his presentations are usually a blast. In this one he even outdid his usual self, rushing between being the piano accompanist to the just off-stage narrator (and humorous embellisher) as originally intended for these wonders of celluloid. Not only are these elements so rare to be seen again as originally intended, but in this case they could be presented in a manner the original filmmakers never imagined and couldn’t have succeeded in when they were created.

Because of a quirk of international laws and production limitations, Méliès shot a small number of his films with two cameras strapped together and synchronized. One camera negative was then sent off to his brother in New York to make the North American prints while the other remained in France (and eventually suffered the fate of all of Méliès’ French camera negatives, burned to ash.) Because of this rare set of circumstances, Bromberg and his gang were able to actually create 3D scenes of these works using the existing French prints and the American negatives side by side. And boy, was he excited about sharing it! It was a wonderful event, full of wonder, laughter, and excitement.

Final film, My Name is Alfred Hitchcock

My Name is Alfred Hitchcock, a film by Mark Cousins

My Name is Alfred Hitchcock, a film by Mark Cousins

To finish out my festival I was happy I was able to catch at least one of the two Mark Cousins films. Cousins is a documentarian who is no stranger to Telluride. And he is prolific, often finishing multiple documentaries in a single year, often on wildly varied topics. He has a way of finding a unique perspective on his subjects and executing the works with an encyclopedic yet conversational style. I really enjoy his films on filmmaking subjects and so was pleased to sit down to watch his take on Alfred Hitchcock.

Cousins was asked to consider doing something on Alfred Hitchcock for his upcoming 100th anniversary of Hitch’s first feature. Leary to tackle well-known subjects unless he can find something new to say, soon Cousins was able to hone in on an idea, have Hitchcock narrate his own story. In Cousins’ inimitable style, he threads ideas of commonality among Hitchcock’s well-known and lesser-known works, finding themes and patterns that even a discerning fan of the master may have missed. With the artifice of self-revealing the man’s approaches, Cousins not only sheds new light on the potential intentions in some of ways of working and opens the door to revisiting these masterworks with a new idea into the details. So, I think Cousins managed to find something new to say after all.

Reflections and Conclusions

I started this week reflecting back on the changes that have happened in the year since I last attended this festival. Our world has tentatively moved along. Last year, everyone was masked and cautious wondering whether we could ever have film festivals like we used to. A full year later and masks were much, much less in evidence (I still wore mine inside the theaters, but, I definitely wasn’t in the majority,) and there was a much more comfortable seeming attitude in the air. I guess, like with every crisis suffered for long enough, you grow accustomed to the new normal and adjust. I have to admit, even I was relaxing, albeit, tentatively and with reservation. But we move on.

As for the movies, of course, the festival never looks for or intends themes in their selections, but, when one looks you nearly always can find them popping up. This year was a big one for dealing with death and dying, and the relations of families (real or constructed,) dealing with them. So somber a theme isn’t unusual here. So much so that when Julie Huntsinger, the Festival’s Director was asked by one of her staff if one movie shouldn’t come with a trigger warning her reply was, “No. The entire festival is always a trigger warning. Everyone should know that by now going in.” Strong, adult themes and subject matter has always been a mainstay of Telluride. That’s likely why it always seems to have quite a lot of awards contenders shown here. There’s a corollary there.

A wonderful trend you can notice if you look for it was the number of very strong female centric characters being portrayed. Whether they’re internally tortured by mental impairments (e.g. Empire of Light) or duty (e.g. The Wonder) or caught up in their own bloated arrogance (e.g. TÁR) or make up nearly the entirety of the cast (see Women Talking) strong females roles were prominent. Even Good Night Oppyi, a doc I, unfortunately, wasn’t able to see, used female pronouns to refer to the Mars robot.

Going into the fest I mused about no films being highly touted going into this week. Now that I’ve seen a fair share, I feel like there are quite a lot of very worthy performances heading that way. Still, I think the initial assessment of whole films having everything it takes was mostly accurate. Aside from Living, a film with everything you would want from the old style, headed to the Oscar stage on nearly every level, there were flaws or limitations in much of the fare that wouldn’t surprise me if they get tripped up on the way to the podiums. So, it’s going to be an interesting year to watch what happens, who emerges in the lead heading into the awards season and who falls by the wayside. As always, it depends.

thin black line

2022 Telluride Film Festival Report – A Different Kind of Day – Day 3

2022 Telluride Film Festival Report – A Long Mixed Bag - Day 2

2022 Telluride Film Festival Report – Day 1

2022 Telluride Film Festival Report – The Films and Programs

2022 Telluride Film Festival Pre-Report – What a Difference a Year Makes

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