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

The festival organizers long ago realized that the best festivals find things to offer to the broadest film related interests. Besides great films, there are book signings at the local bookstore, art gallery showings of filmmaker or film related works and other things to inform, entertain and be an alternative to just sitting in the dark staring at a screen. But I did a bit of that too.
Morning sunrise over main street at the Telluride Film Festival

Morning sunrise at the 2022 Telluride Film Festival

Mornings in Telluride are spectacular regardless of what you’re doing. So, even though I took some time to write up day 2’s report before heading out later than I planned, I knew whatever was to happen was going to at least be an experience. I left too late to make it to the morning line of film starts so I had a couple of hours before the next things I could do movie wise. But the festival organizers long ago realized that the best festivals find things to offer to the broadest film related interests. Besides great films, there are book signings at the local bookstore, art gallery showings of filmmaker or film related works and other things to inform, entertain and be an alternative to just sitting in the dark staring at a screen.

Conversations

This morning I took the opportunity presented to attend one of my favorite traditions TFF has to offer. The Conversations is a forum that has been offered by the fest for a long time and seems to be unique from all other fests I’ve been to. Other fests offer moderated panels, inviting filmmakers to talk about their films or their careers with a directed discussion on a singular topic. The Conversations are not that. Imagine you get invited to an intimate cocktail party and among the guests are two or more great filmmakers who may have never met each other but admire each others’ work. If you could listen in on them talking about whatever strikes their fancy, even chiming in with your own questions at times, what kind of memories would you take away from that. That’s exactly what the Conversations in Telluride strive to be.

Audience attending Conversation at 2022 Telluride Film Festival

Usually held in the close quarters of a courtroom in the town courthouse, occasionally the guests invited to the party are too numerous or interesting to too many people for such a small room and the Conversation is moved to the open air park. This morning the conversation was between all of the actresses and producers of Women Talking, aptly titled, “Women REALLY Talking.” So I was able to settle in and listen to a wide-ranging conversation on various topics for a while in the picturesque mountain backdrop. What was said? I’m sorry, you had to be there. I’m glad I was.

First film of the day, The Wonder

Eventually, I got to start seeing movies again. I’ve always been a big Sebastián Lelio fan and so went into this one with high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed.

Lelio has always had a handle on telling female lead-focused stories. Unblinking portrayals of strong women, standing on their own two feet regardless of what’s confronting them is his hallmark. In The Wonder, he doesn’t slack on that skill but builds in greater nuance and polish to his filmmaking kit. It doesn’t hurt that he was blessed with a dominating performance by Florence Pugh. In typical Lelio style, Pugh is nearly never off-screen and the heart-wrenching, emotional turmoil her character goes through shows through every look, every quiver, even in every spoonful of food she scoops into her mouth. A riveting performance supported stellarly by a strong cast and visually bleak and still picturesque cinematography. This is a powerful piece, not only for the strong themes that run through the story but for the impressive cinematic mastery by all those involved in the film. Well worth seeing.

Last film of the day, Empire of Light

It may seem a no-brainer for this last film of my day to play a film festival. A film set in a seaside movie palace on the coast of England is a film fest attendees easy choice. But I was attracted to see the film for much more than surface reasons, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Sam Mendes’ memory-inspired scenes are both vivid and entertaining. He was able to take his cherished recollections of working in a beachside theater in his hometown in the 80s and weave them into a complex “found family” relationship experience.

He built a construct within which Olivia Coleman was able to fully inhabit a complicated, fractured woman, a feat she accomplishes beautifully. Her ability to express so much thought and emotion in the mild movements of her face and body astounds me every time. And Mendes knows how to set things up to allow great acting to come to the fore.

The cast was stellar all around. Standout newish comer Micheal Ward and stalwart character actor Toby Jones anchor a great ensemble of support. And the art direction and cinematography by Roger Deakins gave the real, derelict theater location they refurbished just for the film an almost dreamy visage. With superb use of light and shadow, you really felt every emotion in the place.

Though the realistic look included the peeling paint and “pigeon coop” disused upper floors were almost tactile, I can find no fault with the achievement in cinema this film is. It’s a great film, heading to well-deserved accolades soon.

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


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