By Telluride’s end it was two sneak films that had audiences talking the most – Jason Reitman’s buoyant comedy “Juno” and Brian De Palma’s highly polarizing “Redacted.” De Palma’s embellished Iraq war drama, inspired by the recent rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by US soldiers, sparked heated arguments in gondolas and is already bringing hate mail, according to the film’s distrib Magnolia Pictures. By extreme contrast, talking about Reitman’s and writer Diablo Cody’s smart and hilarious teen pregnancy story was a refresh-ing relief among the long lines here.
Another successful sneak screening of Tamara Jenkins’ “The Savages” effectively paired Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as rival siblings caring for their dying father. Sean Penn’s anticipated adaptation of “Into the Wild” had mixed reactions, as did Noah Baumbach’s second film “Margot at the Wedding,” starring Nicole Kidman. Wayne Wang’s “The Princess of Nebraska” was also added, described as the “untold umbilical film” to the helmer’s other film here, “A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.” Both were adapted from stories by Yiyun Li.
New co-director Gary Meyer, who stepped into the big shoes of retired co-founders Bill and Stella Pence, seemed honestly thrilled with his new job even while extinguishing the inevitable small fires around sound or projection issues.
Attendees had a hard time finding this year’s “The Lives of Others,” the specialty success born at last year’s event. Award season should be kind to a number of Telluride standouts including Cate Blanchett, who expertly donned Bob Dylan’s skin in Todd Haynes’ “I’m Not There,” and Daniel Day-Lewis. Though only 20 minutes of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” unspooled, starring Day-Lewis as an obsessed oil prospector, the film’s epic scope combined with the Academy Award-winning actor’s intensity guarantees it serious consideration come Oscar time.
Other notables from a Cannes-heavy lineup include Julian Schnabel’s “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Cristian Mungiu’s Palm-winning “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days,” and Eran Kolirin’s deadpan “The Band’s Visit.” Ecstatic tour guide Werner Herzog hypnotized his audience with his latest science-fiction docu “Encounters at the End of the World,” a view of eccentric characters above the ice and the stunning “cathedral” below.
Fest tributes went to Day-Lewis, composer Michel Legrand, and Indian helmer Shyam Benegal, who received his Silver Medallion after a screening of his 1974 drama “Ankur.” Other honors went to Telluride vet and film critic/historian Leonard Maltin. Renown curator Edith Kramer, serving as guest director, brought a program of George Kuchar films spanning the director’s still-active career. Also screening was a new, restored print of King Vidor’s 1925 war film, “The Big Parade,” created from a long-lost negative recently found at the George Eastman House.
Established as a mining town in the late 1800s with only two roads in, Telluride’s festival shares something else with Park City’s big January event: long lines of disgruntled badge holders. Many complained that Telluride’s famous even-playing field, where even reporters pay for their badges, was skewing more toward the upper level Patron and Sponsor badgers – the first to be let into the theaters. At many screenings they filled the seats, leaving sometimes hundreds of angry fest traditionalists outside. Despite the complaints, the affectionate, clubby atmosphere surrounding the festival’s mysterious sideshow feel still marks it as one of the greatest film shows on earth.