I look forward to the one-two punch of my favorite fall film festivals (say that five times fast), Telluride and Toronto, all year long, but this year I feel woefully unprepared for the two orgies. Telluride, a cinephile's dream, haven for the film obsessive, an overstuffed four-day weekend designed to be shorter and more focused than the ten-day or longer omnibus festivals, but this year a whole day longer in celebration of its 40th anniversary. And Toronto, a gluttonous banquet of over 370 films, spread out over ten days, evolving over the years into a whirlwind of hype and celebrity, much less user-friendly than in years past, but still an excellent place to take the pulse of just what's going on in world cinema.
I don't feel ready, physically or psychically. I remember how I reacted with surprise, naively, many years ago when I read an interview with Mick Jagger in which he talked about how he had to work out for strength and stamina in preparation for an upcoming Stones tour. I guess I thought dancing and running across stages was enough exercise in itself. For at least a few days before a film festival, I've learned over the years, it's a good idea to take care of yourself. And I've been sleeping badly: I wake the day I leave early enough to watch the last two hours of the entirely enjoyable BBC America adaptation of Alan Furst's "Spies of Warsaw," and then a brisk 82-minute 1947 film noir, "Framed," starring Glenn Ford, Janis Carter, Barry Sullivan, and Karen Morley, before the taxi arrives at 7:30 a.m. to take me to the Oakland airport to catch the Telluride charter flight.
If I hadn't been surprised to find a list of Telluride's feature films in my emails -- usually I don't find out the Telluride schedule until the little SHOW booklets are handed out, mid-morning, the day after I arrive -- I would have been able to make a few deductions from glimpsing some of the flight's passengers. Seeing documentary filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller means their new film, "The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden," will be shown. Joyce Maynard -- her novel, "Labor Day," is the basis for the new film by Jason Reitman, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. The culinary gang -- Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Dieter Kosslick, whose Berlinale festival proudly features a section called "Culinary Cinema" -- reminds me that they're showing "Slow Food Story," about Carlo Petrini, the founder of the Slow Food movement.
I end up sitting on both the two-hour plane ride to Montrose and the ensuing two-hour bus ride to Telluride with the wonderful San Francisco-based film polymath (scholar, curator, author, professor, and now editor of "Film Quarterly") B. Ruby Rich, who's en route because she's one of the six Guest Directors from the past who each get to present a film this year (usually the Guest Director has a slate of a half-dozen). The others are Don DeLillo, Buck Henry, Phillip Lopate, Michael Ondaatje, and Salman Rushdie), and Ruby, author of "Chick Flicks," is the only one showing a film directed by a woman. Ruby tells me she's showing "One Way or Another," a 1974 film by a young Afro-Cuban filmmaker named Sara Gomez. She shows me the paragraph she wrote about it for Telluride's catalogue, and I ask why it says she died (right after making the movie) of an "alleged asthma attack." Whereupon I learn that in mystical santeria circles, it's thought that Gomez died so that her extremely ill young daughter would live.