TELLURIDE, Colo. — In a year more laden with popular audience pleasers than with notable artistic achievements, the 26th edition of the Telluride Film Festival unspooled over Labor Day weekend with its patented combo of world premieres, recent hits from the fest circuit, special tributes and outstanding revival programs.
Back down to four days after having expanded to five for its 25th anniversary outing last year, but with the addition of a new venue, the Chuck Jones Cinema (reachable by mountain gondola), the eclectic festival kicked off with an enjoyable in-person tribute to French icon Catherine Deneuve, and followed early the next morning with the world premiere of Rick Schmidlin’s four-hour restoration of Erich von Stroheim’s 1924 silent classic, “Greed.”
Among the new films, Pip Karmel’s Aussie romantic comedy-drama “Me Myself I,” with Rachel Griffiths, was a big audience hit, as were Carlos Diegues’ “Orfeu” from Brazil and Woody Allen’s “Sweet and Lowdown,” notable for Sean Penn’s delightfully raffish performance as a ’30s jazz guitarist.
James Toback’s hip-hop meller “Black and White” divided audiences, with some finding it a stimulating and fresh-flavored look at interracial relations, and others feeling it didn’t quite deliver on the expectations it sets up. Adrienne Shelly’s second feature, “I’ll Take You There,” proved a lightweight but rather likable romantic comedy-drama, while another indie, New Zealander Alison Maclean’s “Jesus’ Son,” also a second feature, was appreciated for Billy Crudup’s sweet lead performance and startling comic moments, but was deemed somewhat overlong.
Best-received of the numerous films from Euro fests making their North American debuts in Telluride was undoubtedly Soren Kragh-Jacobsen’s “Mifune” from Denmark, but also generating considerable enthusiasm were French helmer Patrice Leconte’s stylish black-and-white romance “The Girl on the Bridge”; Raul Ruiz’s “Time Regained”; Amos Gitai’s powerful study of sexual relations among the Jewish Orthodoxy, “Kadosh”; Yesim Ustaoglu’s arresting “Journey to the Sun” from Turkey; and “The Straight Story” from David Lynch, who also received a full-scale tribute, as did composer Philip Glass.
Docu selections were generally quite disappointing, but the revivals provided constant sources of pleasure. In addition to “Greed,” William Wyler’s recently rediscovered 1928 melodrama “The Shakedown” was wonderful, the first-ever U.S. screenings of French master Jacques Becker’s 1944 “Falbalas” was a treat for the intelligentsia, and a showing of Tod Browning’s “Dracula,” with live musical accompaniment by Glass, was a great success.
Also making its Yank debut was the English-dubbed version of the Japanese monster animated hit “Princess Mononoke,” which went down very well.
Peter Sellers was the guest director this year, helping fest co-directors Bill Pence and Tom Luddy with the always imaginative selections.