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Telluride XL Day 2: 'Ida,' 'Labor Day,' Coens Music Tribute, 'Natan'

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood August 31, 2013 at 2:05PM

Here's my recap of a long and rather unbelievably rich festival day at Telluride.
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Jason Reitman on the set of "Labor Day"
Dale Robinette Jason Reitman on the set of "Labor Day"

6:30 p.m. tribute to the music in the Coen Brothers films, where an attractive group of four young men called the Americans from Los Angeles, in the all-American uniform of white t-shirts and blue jeans, play a retro set -- guitar, cello, violin, drums, harmonica, jug, washboard -- that wakes me up, as I hoped it would. Then we see a snappy, exhilarating half-hour of clips from "The Big Lebowski," "O Brother, Where Art Thou?," "The Ladykillers," and the new "Inside Llewyn Davis," which I have yet to see.  Then T-Bone Burnett and Joel and Ethan Coen ("all Telluride virgins," the reason I was dubious that they'd be here this year!) get their silver medallions handed to them by Barry Sonnenfeld, who says he worked with them on their "early, funnier movies."  Todd McCarthy then leads the onstage discussion, with Joel and Ethan typically modest and charming ("Can you guys remember the first time you collaborated on something creative?"  "I'm not sure we have," before mentioning the ten-minute Super 8 versions of "The Naked Prey" and "Advise and Consent" they'd gin up as children the day after seeing the movies), and T-Bone erudite about musical choices.

9 p.m.: "Labor Day," charmingly introduced by its director, Jason Reitman, who, it turns out, stepped in at the last minute and replaced Leonard Maltin as the leader of the Q & A with Alexander Payne ("my cinematic hero") after "Nebraska," twelve hours ago in this same venue. I am a fan of Reitman's, not just his movies but the staged readings of screenplays he directs in Los Angeles and Toronto -- I'm looking forward to seeing his staging of  "Boogie Nights" there next week -- but, although I cannot fault the acting or any of the technical work in "Labor Day" ("all tech credits pro," as "Variety" would have it), its plot seems straight out of a cheesy romance novel: what do women want?  A guy who can clean out rain gutters, change tires, teach a boy to throw a baseball, and, oh yes, cook chili, biscuits, and peach pie.  Even a guy who has just escaped from prison. Kinda Warner Bros. in the 40s (though definitely not the one with Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan).  

11:45 p.m: "Fifi Howls from Happiness." I am cheered to see now-Angelenos Tim Appelo and Tori Ellison in the short line. We sit together, and we are all also cheered that we love the movie, a quirky documentary by the young, beautiful Iranian filmmaker Mitra Farhani, made in concert with the Iranian artist Bahman Mohasses, long-exiled and living in a Roman hotel. At first I don't respond to his paintings or combative persona -- but then I find myself liking his sculptures, then his collages, and then the man himself.  Amazingly Farhani finds him two young artists, residents in Dubai, who commission a new work, giving the seriously ill Mohasses new friends and a new goal.  Another spoiler alert: again amazingly, Farhani is present at the artist's final moments -- and beyond.  I find myself as moved by the sight of the blank canvas he didn't get to anoint as I was at the end of another great film about a painter, Bertrand Tavernier's "Sunday in the Country."  As Tim, Tori, and I walk away from the theater, we chatter away about the film we've just seen, and then others -- "The Leopard," which Mohasses watches with Farhani and the two artist-collectors, and then the many movies we still hope to catch here in Telluride.  


This article is related to: Festivals, Telluride Film Festival, Telluride, Reviews, Coens, IDA, Labor Day, Jason Reitman, Jason Reitman, Jason Reitman


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