TELLURIDE, Colo. — The Telluride Film Festival, the annual smalltown Colorado mountain event dedicated to a love of cinema old and new, celebrated its 25th anniversary over the Labor Day weekend with a glittering array of in-person talent and a lineup of films that was often as grim and disturbing as the weather was brilliant and warm.
For the silver anni, fest co-directors Tom Luddy and Bill Pence extended the fest’s normal four-day run by a day and presented a greater-than-usual number of classics, all introduced by knowledgeable filmmakers and critics. Aided by this year’s guest director, Peter Bogdanovich, organizers came up with the usual eclectic and stimulating program, although the preponderance of works that were predominantly despairing, even among the older films, made for a fair amount of head-shaking and post-screening trips to the nearest bar.
In this category were Todd Solondz’s “Happiness,” received here with properly shaken enthusiasm in its U.S. preem, as well as such other Cannes favorites as “The Dreamlife of Angels,” “I Stand Alone” (“Seul Contre Tous”), John Boorman’s “The General,” Rolf de Heer’s “Dance Me to My Song,” Denis Villeneuve’s “August 32nd on Earth” and Lodge Kerrigan’s “Claire Dolan.”
Among the new films contributing to a sobering view of life were Pat O’Connor’s adaptation of Brian Frield’s hit play “Dancing at Lughnasa” and Bruce Wagner’s debut with “I’m Losing You,” both of which received mixed responses. Premiere of Eric Rohmer’s latest, “Autumn Tale,” served as a welcome tonic, but providing the most buoyant antidote of all was the surprise addition of Wes Anderson’s exceptionally fresh, off-the-wall “Rushmore,” a decidedly different high school comedy starring Bill Murray and newcomer Jason Schwartzman that is now headed for the Toronto and New York fests.
Also seen here for the first time were: Leslie Woodhead’s elaborate docudrama about Olympic gold medal winner Haile Gebrselassie, “Endurance”; Maro Chermayeff’s powerful docu about organ transplant recipients and donors, “The Kindness of Strangers”; and the much-ballyhooed refitting of Orson Welles’ 1958 “Touch of Evil,” which was accompanied by Bogdanovich and the film’s co-star Janet Leigh.
Not only were virtually all the films accompanied by their directors, but numerous other noteworthy personalities could be found introing programs or hanging out on the main drag of Colorado Avenue.
Meryl Streep, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and Japanese helmer Susumu Hani were honored with silver medallions. Clint Eastwood appeared with Bogdanovich at a John Ford tribute and gave a warm introduction of the omnipresent Pierre Rissient, who brought along a rare print of Joseph Losey’s “M,” which was well received, and even had the unique distinction of finding his picture on a Telluride anniversary T-shirt.
Ken Burns, Bertrand Tavernier, Kevin Brownlow, the French Cinematheque’s Dominique Paini and honoree critic Stanley Kauffmann added immeasurably to the heightened sense of cinephilia to be found everywhere.
Among the most popular revivals were Eisenstein’s “Strike,” Paul Leni’s “The Man Who Laughed,” Louis Malle’s “The Fire Within” and a history of 3-D. Among the other rarities were a collection of French avant-garde shorts, Arthur Robison’s 1929 version of “The Informer,” Edmond T. Greville’s 1934 “Remous,” Max Ophuls’ “The Reckless Moment” and Brownlow’s long-unseen 1964 feature “It Happened Here.”