TELLURIDE FILM FEST
There's a surprisingly charming, crowd-pleasing Indian film playing the festival circuit right now that I had the pleasure of catching at the Telluride Film Festival. The feature debut of writer/director Ritesh Batra, the film is titled The Lunchbox and tells a heartfelt story of an aging, grumpy widower and his connection with a beautiful but neglected housewife through the food she makes for him. Before arriving at the festival I hadn't even heard of this film, and I met the director while attending a different screening before seeing his film. What I discovered was a gem, a delightful, heartwarming, smile-evoking film representing India well.
"We are far, far from home... But we're so happy..." After spending five days in the mountains, the 2013 Telluride Film Festival has come to an end. Marking their 40th anniversary (and my 6th year attending), there was something special in the Colorado air this year (and not just all the marijuana now that it's legal in the state), something about the selection of films and filmmakers that may have made this one of the most memorable Tellurides I've ever been to. I believe it has something to do with the people I got to spend my time around, and the moments of pure cinematic joy I got to experience. What a year. What a film festival. If there is any fest that truly embraces the love for cinema (not celebs, not red carpets, not industry) this is it.
A new crime thriller in the pantheon of acclaimed favorites like Zodiac, Se7en and even Silence of the Lambs has arrived. And it's surprisingly as great as those films. It has been a few years since Aaron Guzikowski's kidnapping screenplay Prisoners earned a top spot on the industry Black List. After changing different director's hands for years in development, French-Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (of Incendies) got the job to bring the story to life and has delivered a very chilling, Fincher-esque, visually sleek mystery-suspense-thriller. Boasting one hell of an ensemble cast, and running over two hours long, the riveting plot in Prisoners deserves the adjective brilliant for all the twists and turns that lead lead to the final moment.
Cinema is a very personal experience. Every movie connects with every person individually, and there are the exceptional films that seem to connect to our own lives in the way they somehow reach deep into our persona. Every once in a long while I'll come across a film that seems to be the culmination of everything in my life that I've been waiting and wanting to see. Usually these films become my all-time favorites. Tonight, I had another one of those experiences - seeing Alfonso Cuarón's space survival movie Gravity in 3D at the Telluride Film Festival. It is a visually groundbreaking, epic cinematic experience unlike any in film history.
Now there are two iconic Steve McQueens in Hollywood history. The actor, and the director. The latest film from Steve McQueen, the director of Hunger and Shame, titled 12 Years a Slave just premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and it is a profound cinematic achievement on every level. A phenomenal work that, while incredibly heavy to watch and brutally honest in its depiction of slavery, is filmmaking at its finest. More than anything, this film is one of the finest accomplishments for actor Chiwetel Ejiofor, who (I must say) deserves to finally take home the Oscar for this after so many years of fine performances. What a film.
Can I man who has never painted before duplicate one of the most famous Johannes Vermeer paintings? That's the mystery, the great challenge presented to Tim Jenison, the titular "Tim" of the documentary Tim's Vermeer. Produced by Penn Jillette and directed by Teller of Penn & Teller, Tim's Vermeer is a doc following Tim as he invents and attempts to paint and recreate the "The Music Lesson" painting from the 17th Century in the same way Vermeer did. The big problem is that no one knows how Vermeer painted such immaculate art, but this documentary might just solve the 350 year old mystery. And it's utterly fascinating.
It's not often I see a film that leaves me speechless - truly and utterly incapable of forming thoughts because my own mind is still swirling, still full of emotion. Yet there I sat, as the credits rolled on Jason Reitman's latest film Labor Day, and I didn't know what to say. Aside from "floored." It left me in such an interesting state-of-mind, endlessly processing all the emotions I just experienced and how beautifully it was handled. And it's not just that I was blown away or impressed, as I love Reitman's filmmaking, but also because I was so affected, so emotionally wrapped up in the story and the characters, that I'm still having trouble putting together the right words to explain my feelings on this masterful film. Is it Reitman's best work? I think so.
Back to Colorado. Back into the mountains, for my sixth year. Back to the Telluride Film Festival I go. This year, the festival celebrates its 40th anniversary and is throwing quite a party, adding one extra day of screenings (instead of four days it's five in total running from Thursday to Monday) and programming many special tributes, including one for Robert Redford highlighting his latest film All is Lost (which I saw in Cannes and loved). Telluride just announced their line-up of films for 2013 and it looks like it might be one of the best years since I've been attending. I can't wait to fall in love with movies again up in the mountains.