×

Telluride buzzing over ‘Slumdog’

'Benjamin' clip pushes the right buttons

The Telluride Film Festival has always celebrated cinema’s past as much as its present, and the old mostly looked better than the new at the mountain fest’s 35th edition.

In terms of new titles and industry excitement, the runaway smash was Danny Boyle’s exhilarating, madly entertaining drama “Slumdog Millionaire.” There was also much discussion generated by helmer David Fincher’s screening of a tantalizing 20 minutes from his impressive-looking Brad Pitt starrer “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

The screening of “Button” footage — snippets of various scenes from a big-budget pic that clocks in at more than 2½ hours — came as part of the fest’s tribute to Fincher. The footage looked artistically and technically impeccable, and quite different in style from Fincher’s previous work. The ambitious aging technique, employed to tell the story of a man who is born with the features of an old man and gradually grows bigger and younger, was seamless in the footage Fincher presented.

“Slumdog” offers a vivid snapshot of modern India through the prism of a teenager’s appearance on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” The film, which moves on to the Toronto Film Festival next weekend, provided much grist for the trade mill, as it had just been handed off by Warner Bros. to Fox Searchlight as the fest began.

Telluride also put its spotlight on a filmmaker who can be counted this year as both a discovery and a rediscovery. The great Swedish veteran Jan Troell received a full-on tribute at Telluride, accompanied by restored director’s cuts of “Here Is Your Life” and the full-length “The Emigrants” and “The New Land,” which were released only in shorter versions in the U.S., albeit to considerable acclaim.

The 77-year-old director also presented his latest feature, “Everlasting Moments,” which repped Telluride’s other world preem highlight and is fully on a level with the helmer’s best work. A richly rendered look at a working-class woman a century ago who slowly discovers her talent for photography while raising a brood of children and tolerating an abusive husband, the episodic drama has a soul, a conscience and a wise awareness of humanity in all its manifestations. It is also astonishingly beautiful. If it were only for putting the spotlight back on this too-long-overlooked filmmaker, this year’s fest could be considered a significant success.

Also returned to public view this year was Jean Simmons, who received a warm and humorous tribute to her long career, which began more than six decades ago in David Lean’s “Great Expectations.” Another highlight of the weekend was the rare look at the underappreciated, little-known 1950 Terence Fischer suspenser “So Long at the Fair.”

Of the dozen-plus world premieres, only a few stood out as being of serious quality. Ole Christian Madsen’s “Flame & Citron,” a large-scaled drama about Danish resistance to the Nazis, is solid and strong, and Kimberly Reed’s docu “Prodigal Sons” galvanized audiences with its unique look at three siblings — one gay, one (Reed herself) a transsexual and the other the adopted grandson of Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth.

Paul Schrader’s “Adam Resurrected” provides a lucid rendering of the themes of Yoram Kaniuk’s revered novel, as well as a tour-de-force performance from Jeff Goldblum, but its grim focus on Holocaust guilt will see the public looking elsewhere. Tim Disney’s “American Violet” — based on a true story about racial targeting of blacks by Texas law enforcement — is a social-issues picture far more in the mainstream, but as a film, it is without surprise and little more at home at a festival like this one than Marc Abraham’s lackluster “Flash of Genius.” Telluride, which is in a position to pick and choose from among the best films out there, has no need to show pictures like this just because they’re in the prestige fall rollout parade.

Other preems of varying quality were Indian thesp Nandita Das’ first feature, “Firaaq”; Francois Dupeyron’s look at the tempestuous lives of an African-French family, “With a Little Help From Myself”; Cathal Black’s docu “Learning Gravity”; Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s music docu “Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love” and Ron Colby’s ecological docu “Pirate for the Sea.”

Mike Leigh was much in evidence, attending every Troell screening as well as those of his own new feature, “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Six films from Cannes received their U.S. preems here. Lance Daly’s fresh-from-Ireland “Kisses” was well received, as were two recent features from Romanian director Nae Caranfil, “Philanthropy” and “The Rest Is Silence.”

Archival treasures included the restored “Lola Montes,” the silent programs of “The Last Command” and four hilarious shorts presented by the Pordenone Festival under the banner “Laugh ’Til It Hurts,” as well as “The Italian Straw Hat” and two rarities picked by guest director Slavoj Zizek, Veit Harlan’s ultimate Nazi melodrama, “The Great Sacrifice,” and Mikhail Chiaureli’s gargantuan 1949 Soviet war epic, “The Fall of Berlin.”

Richard Schickel received a special medallion and presented significant portions of his sweeping Warner Bros. docu “You Must Remember This.”

More Film

  • Disney Movies

    Why Audiences Are Only Going to Disney Movies

    Julie Bikhman of Manhattan might buy the tickets, but when it comes to deciding what movie to see, her three young children are the ones calling the shots. “We pick them,” her 11-year-old daughter Annie declares before heading into a screening of Disney’s live-action “The Lion King.” “If it’s a Marvel movie, we know it’s [...]

  • Rob Schneider'The Week Of' film premiere,

    Rob Schneider Running for SAG-AFTRA Board, Supporting Matthew Modine

    Rob Schneider is running for a SAG-AFTRA national board seat as a member of presidential candidate Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate and as a representative of the union’s San Francisco branch. Schneider is a former cast member on “Saturday Night Live” with movie credits on “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,” “The Hot Chick,” “The Benchwarmers,” [...]

  • The Lion King

    'Lion King' VFX Supervisor Rob Legato to Keynote at the 2019 View Conference

    Rob Legato, visual effects supervisor of “The Lion King,” “The Addams Family” co-director Conrad Vernon and Baobab Studios’ co-founder and chief creative officer Eric Darnell, director of the VR studio’s Emmy- and Annie-winning VR short “Crow: The Legend,” are rounding out the keynote speakers at this fall’s 20th edition of the View Conference in Turin, [...]

  • A woman prays at a makeshift

    Japan Expresses Its Grief Over Deadly Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Fellow animators and others in the Japanese entertainment industry have expressed their sorrow and solidarity with Kyoto Animation, the well-respected anime studio that suffered a horrific arson attack and the deaths of dozens of staffers. “We are all fellows in the same boat. If we continue to create without being afraid, we will find solace [...]

  • For Lineup Story

    Billie Piper's Directorial Debut, 'Rare Beasts,' to Bow in Venice Critics' Week

    “Rare Beasts,” the directorial debut of British stage and screen actress Billie Piper (“Doctor Who,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Collateral”) is set to premiere at the Venice Film Festival’s Critics’ Week, which has unveiled its lineup of nine first works, four of them from female filmmakers. Produced by Vaughan Sivell of Western Edge Pictures in association with [...]

  • 'Mientras dure la guerra' -Rodaje Modmedia-

    Alejandro Amenabar, Ricardo Darin, Paco Cabezas Bound for San Sebastian

    MADRID  –  Alejandro Amenábar, Ricardo Darín and Paco Cabezas, director of episodes from “Peaky Blinders” and “American Gods,” look set to join Penelope Cruz, already confirmed as a Donostia Award winner, at this year’s 67th San Sebastian Intl. Film Festival. The biggest movie event in the Spanish-speaking world, this year’s San Sebastian runs Sept.20-28. Amenábar’s [...]

  • Pinewood Studios James Bond

    Netflix's Shepperton Studios Deal Is Stretching the U.K.'s Production Limits

    Netflix’s huge new hub at Shepperton Studios outside London is a further fillip for Britain’s booming production sector. Amid jitters over Brexit and its effects on the economy, the streaming giant’s commitment is a vote of confidence in the U.K. entertainment industry and a continuing source of local jobs. But the decision by Netflix to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content