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Telluride Film Festival, Diary One: Big Anticipation for the 40th Anniversary

Photo of Meredith Brody By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood August 29, 2013 at 3:03PM

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.
Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake in "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Oscar Isaac and Justin Timberlake in "Inside Llewyn Davis"

It's been a long day, and I'm dropped off after four at the place I've stayed at for many years, the House of Women as I think of it fondly -- six of us will be there for the long weekend, but I'm the only one there at the moment.  It's lovely, returning, but bittersweet -- the owner has put it on the market, so this is probably the last time we'll all be together.  I rush off to the Press Office, but it's closed, so I walk towards the Telluride Town Park, which I usually visit just once at the end of the festival for the Labor Day picnic, but tonight is the site for a free concert featuring the Punch Brothers, whose music, produced by T-Bone Burnett, is featured in "Inside Llewyn Davis," the Coen brothers' film that was a big hit at Cannes, nominated for the Palme d'Or and winning the Grand Prize of the Jury.

En route I run into Geoff Dyer, last year's Guest Director, and Gary Meyer, co-director of Telluride. "I was wishing you were one of the six Guest Directors coming back," I told Dyer. "Well," he said cheerfully, "here I am."

At the concert, I run into Variety's Scott Foundas, director Allan Arkush, and screenwriter Larry Lasker, Telluride regulars, all. I'm thrilled that Geoff Dyer joins me, and we have a nice chat -- he's here to interview Ralph Fiennes onstage, at screenings of "The Invisible Woman," which Fiennes directed and stars in as Charles Dickens. (And have a good time.) I'm less thrilled when he calls me by a name not my own, but, hey, it started with "M," so that's close enough for jazz. 

We're both thrilled by the five Punch Brothers (unrelated) -- guitar, cello, violin, banjo, and (wait for it) mandolin -- are all dressed nicely, mostly in unironic retro suits and ties, and seemed as thrilled to be in Telluride, playing for us, as we are to be hearing their set of bluegrass, both contemporary (their own songs) and classic (Jimmie Rodgers' "The Brakeman's Blues," "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," familiar from the Coens' "O Brother, Where Art Thou?", and still vivid in my memory after more than a dozen years).

There's an extra bass present, in rumbling thunder that follows occasional flashes of lightning, which presage the heavens opening. Many leave, but stalwarts, me among them, stay for three last songs in ever-increasing, eventually torrential, rain.

I stagger home, drenched but happy. After a two-hour nap, it's time to seriously deconstruct the program book, cross-reference it against what's showing in Toronto, and weigh my options. And get some more sleep. It's going to be a long weekend.

This article is related to: Festivals, Telluride Film Festival, Telluride

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.