By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 8, 2009 at 5:17AM
It was a solid if not stellar year at Telluride. Co-directors Tom Luddy and Gary Meyer persevered through the crazy economy by cutting back their budget (due to sponsor fall-offs) without sacrificing their high programming standards. "We made a commitment to figure out how to do more with less," says Meyer. After the well-publicized Into the Wild/Juno year of 2007, festival attendance broke records in 2008 but fell off slightly this year; passes sold more slowly, and absent sponsors didn't import the usual squads of corporate clients.
Films that emerged from Telluride with significant Oscar buzz include Sundance holdover An Education, Jason Reitman's Up in the Air and John Hillcoat's The Road, mainly for tributee Viggo Mortensen's raw performance. (A list of post-Variety reviews are on the jump.) Jane Campion's Bright Star and Michael Haneke's White Ribbon, which is Germany's Oscar submission, earned mixed reaction. (Austria wanted to submit the Cannes film as well, but Germany filed their application first.) UPDATE: Here's a new Up in the Air Apple clip.
Popular new film faves were Up in the Air, Bad Lieutenant, Life During Wartime and The Last Station, which was in play with attending distributors. Last minute booking Paranormal Activity, a low-budget horror flick, scored with Telluride crowds. Also well-received were A Prophet, Coco Before Chanel, Farewell, Fish Tank, Gigante, Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno, Room and a Half, The Jazz Baroness, Waking Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding trilogy and Vincere. And Telluride audiences welcomed the rich selection of classics, especially a series of jazz films. A tribute to French archivist Serge Bromberg included rare footage of Stephane Grappelli playing with Django Reinhardt.
Here's a snippet of folks arranging themselves for the annual group photo shot:
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[Top, group photo; Scherfig and Mulligan; Luddy with Taylor Hackford and The Last Station's Helen Mirren]
The programmers leaned on more Cannes holdovers than usual, seven. They brought in three from Berlin (London River, Gigante, Terra Madre). And they broke their "no-Sundance" policy after falling in love with An Education at Berlin. Director Lone Scherfig and breakout star Carey Mulligan charmed the festival. Among the press covering this year were print outlets the LA Times, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, plus online outfits IndieWIRE, The Huffington Post, Slashfilm, aint-it-cool-news, In Contention and First Showing.
When Telluride couldn't get filmmakers to attend with Looking for Eric and Vincere, they allowed the latter to come to Telluride unattended, because it needed more attention. (Marco Bellocchio sent a four-minute intro, as did Jane Campion, although Paul Schneider accompanied Bright Star.) Oddly, this year Telluride wound up with five Werner Herzog movies: two features (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? plus one Herzog short (La Boheme) and another that Herzog narrated, Ramin Bahrani's Plastic Bag. The prolific Herzog arrived in Telluride from Venice Sunday, but he and Bad Lieutenant star Nic Cage did not appear at any events together.
The festival went to great lengths to encourage the addition of subtitles (IFC's Red Riding) or to add them themselves. Five and 1/4 films had subtitles, some translated by Telluride's multi-lingual interns. One particularly complex job for Bernhard Wicki's Miracle of Malachias wasn't completed in time. Someone had to read the dialogue in English over the film. "You've got to move quickly," says Meyer.
Here are The Road reviews. While I admire Variety's Todd McCarthy, who delivered this film a kick in the teeth, let's get real folks: he is not all-powerful.
[Photo: Michael Haneke and SPC's Michael Barker; Jason Reitman with aicn's Eric Vespe, First Showing's Alex Billington and Slashfilm's Peter Sciretta]