Firstly, I should add a vital — totally Telluride — detail to yesterday’s post. By choosing to watch Rust & Bone and the Marion Cotillard Tribute I missed the first indoor screening of Hyde Park on Hudson and therefore a rare live appearance by Bill Murray at the Q&A. Regret is an emotion reserved for those who only look backwards but — damn!
Back to the show. Sunday was always likely to be a very full day and — with my new found confidence in the “system” I was determined to take full advantage. I once begged the New Zealand Film Festival to let me watch a screener of Ramin Bahrani’s Man Push Cart, even though they had chosen not to programme it because I loved the idea so much and because Roger Ebert has been championing the talented young director for years. In fact, they have only screened one of his three films to date: Goodbye Solo in 2009.
Seeing that his first major production, At Any Price, was one of the headliners I was happy to get to the Galaxy and queue for an hour for a ticket to the 9.30am premiere. Director Bahrani introduced star Dennis Quaid and both complimented each other fulsomely. Bahrani mentioned how happy he was to have a legend like Quaid in the lead and felt like all he had to do with such an experienced actor was to roll the camera. And there, ladies and gents is the root of the problem with his film.
At Any Price is about an Iowa farmer and seed merchant who has been re-using GM seeds — and selling them — and is in danger of losing everything. Meanwhile, one son has fled to South America and is nowhere to be seen and the other (a credible Zac Efron) would rather follow his NASCAR dream rather than takeover the family business. This is a film that has a lot on its mind and insists on sharing it all. It gets better when the characters don’t feel the need to verbalise everything but the dramatic final third tries to cash a cheque that the first two acts haven’t even written.
Disappointed, I chose not to stay for the Q&A and headed for the Palm, passing Quaid outside the theatre on the way out. For some reason, my best tweet of the weekend (“AT ANY PRICE: Why didn’t Quaid’s character think of building a baseball diamond? It’s worked before. #tff39 #telluride”) got no response.
At the Palm, I saw the new Michael Winterbottom — Everyday — an experiment as all of Winterbottom’s best films are. About five years ago he was wondering if there was a better, truer, way to show the passage of time on screen and came up with the wheeze of shooting a film in bits over five years, so the audience can watch the subtle changes in the adult actors and the not-so-subtle changes in the children.
The film is about a family coping while their father (John Simm) is in prison for an unspecified crime. The mother, played by Winterbottom regular Shirley Henderson, wrangles her four kids through prison visits, first days at school, emotional troubles, etc. as well as trying to keep her own life in track. This pushed quite a few buttons for me and I’m not ashamed to say I was dabbing away at tears more than once. Looking forward to seeing it get a local release — whether it will or not, who knows.
After Everyday, I had time to get a copy of Zona signed by author and Guest Director Geoff Dyer before heading back to the Galaxy for the 70mm screening of Baraka that he had selected. (incidentally, another Telluride story — I was standing behind Midnight’s Children director Deepa Mehta in the book signing queue.)
Baraka started a little late for technical reasons (“rectifier crapout” we were told, and fixing one of those in 30 minutes is a stupendous achievement) but we were treated to a lovely introduction from Dyer and a film that has lost none of its power to hypnotise and enchant in the 20 years since it was first released.
Another brisk walk later and I was back at the Palm for the Mads Mikkelsen Tribute. Having already seen The Hunt at NZFF, I found myself a seat on the side so I could make a quick getaway once the opening credits started, after the presentation and Q&A. I found myself sitting next to a distinguished older gentleman (with a walking stick) and made a wisecrack about my desire to escape before the feature. Oh really, he said, why?
So, I told him that I hadn’t bought the premise of the picture, hadn’t been able to believe that a modern male kindergarten teacher wouldn’t already be aware of how to protect himself against accusations of abuse, wouldn’t allow himself to be abused in that way.
He smiled at me and said, I edited the film.
Oh, your work was absolutely outstanding, I backtracked. But it couldn’t have been if you didn’t believe in our story, he replied. What followed was a stimulating and even-handed conversation with Janus Billeskov Jansen (who edited Pelle the Conqueror and Smilla’s Sense of Snow) about The Hunt, Peter Ellis, Joe Paterno and Jerry Sandusky, and the Catholic Church, ending with the question: as child sexual abuse is still so pervasive, is it acceptable that occasionally false accusations will occur if we are to aggressively pursue the the genuine perpetrators?
It was an excellent fifteen minutes conversation — followed by another well-handled Scott Foundas Q&A — and we then both left the venue before the feature started. Although his excuse for leaving was probably better than mine.
After a quick bite to eat, it was back to the Sheridan Opera House for The Iceman, a mob thriller based on a true story and starring the almost impossibly intense Michael Shannon. Director Ariel Vroman apologised that Shannon wasn’t present (rehearsing a Broadway play) but did introduce co-star Ray Liotta who waved but said nothing.
This was the only film I saw in the programme that I couldn’t believe was actually a Telluride film. Adding nothing to the genre, nothing to the careers of any of the cast, I came away thinking that no film with fake facial hair that bad should be considered for any awards anywhere. Goodfellas-lite. If I was a NZ distributor this would be straight-to-DVD at best. Watch me get proved wrong…
By the way, here’s a free idea Hollywood: one day someone is going to make one of these nostalgic mob tales from the point of view of the wife, rather than simply trotting out the same old clichés.