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Telluride Wrap: Pina, La Luna, Alice and Tilda

Thompson on Hollywood By Meredith Brody | Thompson on Hollywood September 8, 2011 at 2:04AM

Meredith Brody wraps up Telluride--and heads for Toronto, which opens Thursday. Finally, Wim Wenders’ Pina, at 9:15 a.m. in the lovely Galaxy theater, which has been specially fitted out with not only top-of-the-line 3-D projection, but a brand-new sound system by Meyer Sound, the best there is.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Meredith Brody wraps up Telluride--and heads for Toronto, which opens Thursday.

Finally, Wim Wenders’ Pina, at 9:15 a.m. in the lovely Galaxy theater, which has been specially fitted out with not only top-of-the-line 3-D projection, but a brand-new sound system by Meyer Sound, the best there is.

I run into screenwriter Larry Gross, one of the best talkers I know, so I accompany him to his essential aisle seat, in a rather crowded theater. So we end up further to the right and closer than I think optimum for a 3-D viewing experience. There’s a tiny opening surprise: a charming 3-D animated short called La Luna from Pixar, in which grandpa, papa, and son climb a ladder from fishing boat to the moon in order to sweep the stars it is littered with back into the night sky. Larry thinks it’s based on an Italo Calvino short story (he would – he’s toting a Gilles Deleuze tome called What is Philosophy, whereas my movie line reading is the New York magazine fashion issue), but when I look it up online I think it’s another story with the same title. Anyway, Pixar doesn’t credit Calvino.

Thompson on Hollywood

Wim, introduced by the always gracious and ebullient Peter Sellars, says he was friends with Pina Bausch for 25 years, and that they always talked about him making a movie with her, but that he never felt ready or knew how to do it until he saw U2 3D at Cannes in May 2007. And then Pina died, suddenly, two months before they were to start filming.

OK. He can’t go on, he goes on. And the result is a film that justifies and honors the overused, much-maligned 3-D process itself – odd that the two best uses 3-D has been put to in its recent renaissance are two documentaries by two German filmmakers, this one and Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Most of Bausch’s dances were evening-long affairs, but somehow the relative snippets that Wenders shows of four pieces over 90 minutes feel full and rich. He takes several out of the studio or the theater and places them in nature -- or on or near the amazing hanging tramway that is one of the major attractions of Wuppertal, where Bausch’s Danztheatre was based. I’d always thought the tram was modern, but afterwards Wenders says it dates to the same time as the Eiffel tower – somewhat romanticized, because it was constructed about a dozen years later.

Sellars thanks him for liberating dance from the black box theater is trapped in. (There’s one astonishing sequence where the camera swoops in to a model of the set for “Café Müller” and ends up on live dancers on a full-sized set – the shots made only guessing at the proper angle, due to technical problems, and working perfectly.)

Wenders says he’s never heard the movie sound as good, a triumph due to the careful installation of a new sound system in the Galaxy by world-famous Meyer Sound.

Afterwards I say to Larry that I guess I’ll see him back in the Galaxy in a couple of hours for The House on Trubnaya Square, a 1928 Russian silent by Boris Barnet, since he always goes to Telluride’s silents with live musical accompaniment. I’m surprised when he says “No, I’m taking my son to see The Apartment,” because I know Julian is the same age – ten! – as my nephew Ben. And although Ben is one of my favorite and most frequent movie-going companions (and therefore is the kid who tells his friends that “black and white movies are cool!”), I would hesitate to expose him to Wilderian cynicism (and themes of adultery, betrayal, and attempted suicide) at this point. But, hey, I think back to my own reading material at that age and The Apartment seems tame.

I love the symphony-of-a-city aspects of The House on Trubnaya Square, as well as the rather dazzling several-story set of the apartment building.

I stick around the Galaxy and see Albert Nobbs, in which Glenn Close, in a spare and restrained performance, nobly, generously, hands over the movie to her esteemed English, Irish, and Australian colleagues, notably Janet McTeer as a fellow f-to-m transvestite (who knew McTeer had such magnificent breasts, unless, as a friend slyly suggested, they were a special effect?)

A hard choice: I would love to stay in the same venue to see master showman Serge Bromberg show his fresh restoration of George Melies’ A Trip to the Moon in color, along with “San Francisco the day before the 1906 earthquake, the first hand-colored films, Japanese acrobats, and Buster Keaton going nowhere, plus other surprises gleaned from attics and flea markets,” all accompanied by Serge himself on the piano. But it’s programmed opposite the tribute to Tilda Swinton, with clip reel, onstage conversaton with Hilton Als, and a screening of Lynn Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. I head over to the Sheridan Opera House, same vintage as both the period of A. Nobbs and the hand-tinted films of S. Bromberg.

Tilda, however, in a sharp cream pantsuit that matches her severe cream-colored angled short haircut, is as modern as can be. (Davia Nelson, preparing for her own onstage conversation with Swinton when the program repeats early the next day, whispers to me – accurately – that she looks like a combination of Greta Garbo and David Bowie). The clip reel traces her evolution from arty collaborator with Derek Jarman to Oscar winner for Michael Clayton and blockbuster fodder for The Chronicles of Narnia.

We Need to Talk About Kevin explores the life of a family before and after a tragic, shocking, and brutal event (is that obscure enough? I hate to give away plot points, especially for a movie that does its best to reveal itself slowly.)

Afterwards I attached myself to Davia like a limpet, knowing that she was staying with Alice Waters and that Alice no doubt would be fixing a small collation in honor of her friend Tilda, with whom she served on the jury of the 2009 Berlin International Film Festival. Tilda was the head of the jury, and every day she appeared in astonishing designer ensembles matched with astonishing skyscraper designer heels, somehow arriving immaculate and intact despite the crummy muddy drifts of snow everywhere during one of Germany’s worst winters. Here I see her every day in the same cream pantsuit. And also Wim Wenders’ chic three-piece gray-green linen suit gets more crumpled daily.

Up at Alice’s I am pressed into service to cut and grill bread for bruschetta, which Davia oils, rubs with garlic, and stacks with heirloom tomatoes and arugula from the Telluride farmers’ market, with religious concentration. Bowls of figs, tiny fraises des bois, local goat cheeses, and the like cover a big wooden table dotted with candles. It feels like a Pagnolesque south-of-France feast, appropriate because Alice has introduced the screenings of Marcel Pagnol’s Merlusse and Harvest alongside Pagnol’s charming grandson Nicholas.

Eventually I tear myself away, earlier than I’d like, and stroll down the hill to do a little work and sleep, perchance to dream of the many TBAs to be announced for tomorrow. But Telluride has one magic special effect left for me. At 8750 feet, on a clear night, on a dark street, the sky fills with so many stars that I wish I had been here in mid-August for the Pleiades meteor shower. Ah well. After MGM, it’s Telluride that has more stars than there are in the heavens.

This article is related to: Festivals, Genres, Telluride, Independents, Documentaries, Foreign


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