We’re off to the races! At least at this altitude, getting between venues feels like running a marathon. But usually, the films that you get to see are worth the time to catch your breath before they take your breath away. And this year has been no exception.
So, in my usual tradition of repeating and embellishing my first impression, short TweeView Twitter posts after seeing each film of the day, here’s what it was like if you were following me on my journey through the first day of the 2022 Telluride Film Festival.
First film: The Méliès Mystery
The film fest has developed a kind of rolling start, with a few venues starting to show films before the main festival rush of films and programs. This year the smallest venue, The Backlot, a conversion of one of the rooms of the town library, had one of the earliest start times. The movie shown was a one hour documentary by Serge Bromberg, The Méliès Mystery.
With a sufficient but brief introduction of Méliès' place in film history the doc lays the ground work for the start of the adventure. In a fit of depression Méliès had all of the over 500 original film negatives of his entire career destroyed by burning them. It was an irreversable decision he regretted almost immediately and for the rest of his life. It was believed they were lost forever, with only fragmented and damaged, lower quality prints remaining of some of his works surviving. But recently some unexpected original film negatives were found in an unlikely place and through mysterious circumstances.
Since the discovery is still new, the restoration work has a lot to still be done and uncovering the mystery of how they got to where they were and why may take even more hard work and longer still. The film lays the ground work for the presentation on Monday of some of the restored works in a presentation that only the festival regular and highly entertaining film restoration advocate Bromberg would be able to pull off. I can't wait.
Next, Icarus: The Aftermath
Bryan Fogel has stumbled upon a genre of documentary filmmaking where politically embattled heroic figures are humanized and made somehow even more heroic in the telling. In this film he returns to the main character from his Oscar winning, sports doping film Icarus and finishes telling the story of what happened to the whistle-blower pivotal to the story, Grigory Rodchenkov. He’s able to make this larger than life character, a man who took on a corrupt system and an entire country’s government to get the truth out, and realize his humanity without diminishing the monumental efforts and threats he had to overcome.
You can tell the director and subject really cared for each other’s well being and that makes this documentary heartfelt. It may not have as much story substance as other documentaries of its kind, but, you’ll have a place in your heart for everyone involved.
Ending on the highest of notes, Women Talking
Sarah Polley has turned in some out of the box style filmmaking in previous forays with her works so I was prepared for anything, most likely good in her latest. And boy, was I not disappointed.
Truly stellar on every level. I was talking to other audience attendees after the showing and they agree that we couldn’t find a fault on any level. The cast was perfect, with a mix of consummate character actors and bright, fresh newcomers all mixing perfectly in sync. The unique creative style of telling the story might have been jarring at first but was perfectly suited to the unusual but highly relatable story being told.
By using the “allegorical storytelling” she is able to lift a story above just a realistic portrayal of female subjugation fears and helplessness into an almost parable out of time but also timeless and current. A consummate feat by an extremely talented filmmaker. You can tell by the loving support of everyone involved with the film, this one is special and they know it.
I say this film definitely deserves to be in the awards discussions. There are some that won’t get all the levels Polley is working on here. That’s an unfortunate reality. But I hope she continues to branch out in unexpected, new directions with her works and I get to see many more films from this out of the box filmmaker.
After that experience it was time to call an end to day 1 at Telluride. What will day 2 bring? It depends.