Telluride Film Festival: Part 2 - Where Have All the Good Films Gone?

September 3, 2008

Telluride Film Festival

Telluride has all the makings of a truly unforgettable film festival, but it's missing one thing - a great line-up of films. As the first leg of my whirlwind film festival tour comes to an end, I'm already looking forward to the next trip and more great films, but it's not without getting some of the less interesting flicks out of the way and out of my mind. I had a fantastic time at Telluride, met some wonderful people, and enjoyed every last minute in the small mountain town, but the films never got any better. Luckily I was cable to catch roughly four exceptional films: Flame and Citron, Slumdog Millionaire, Flash of Genius, and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird. There's no denying that I absolutely love film festivals, but it was a bit of a challenge to remain excited at Telluride when the selection was so bad.

In comparison to other big film festivals, Telluride has really nailed down the whole fest process. Their tickets and badge system is perfectly coordinated and balanced for all attendees, they've got seating and rain protection for the lines at every single venue, one of the best line queueing systems that is interconnected via Dell projectors stationed outside every venue, and an overall exceptional level of quality in every aspect from atmosphere to staff. And that gondola that we mentioned last time - I really can't get enough of it! It's such a mesmerizing experience riding over the mountain every morning to get into town for the first screening of the day. If only Sundance had a gondola to ride in every morning as well, then it would be the untouchable film festival, but I guess that's what makes Telluride so unique.

But getting back to the film selection, since that's what everyone probably wants to hear about that the most, I'll admit that I was disappointed. I'm not sure whether to simply let this year slide as a bad year or whether this is just what the programmer's at Telluride typically choose. With exception to those four aforementioned films, the line-up at Telluride featured nearly all international films that lacked the substance that I usually enjoy. While they're all very well-made films with admirable aspects, they were all either way too boring or just not films that I could get into. And a few of them, like Steve McQueen's Hunger and Paul Schrader's Adam Resurrected, were off-the-wall weird or shockingly artistic in nature. The choices this year at the fest have made me question whether it's worth returning again next year.

Let me reiterate - I did love the atmosphere and everything about the festival, and can say I loved at least four films, but the bad ones outweigh the good ones. And that's a bit depressing when you're in such a beautiful place, but that's how Telluride seems to work. On a separate note, I did get the opportunity to chat with and interview Danny Boyle, who directed Slumdog Millionaire, and that was another delight. Boyle incredibly cheerful and an immense delight to chat with - he's one of the most down-to-earth director's I've met, which amazes me because he makes such sensational movies. In retrospect, I saw a total of 9 films at Telluride and only really liked 4 of them, which isn't the best ratio. The fest has a packed schedule spread out over 9 venues, but I just didn't have the effort to pack so many in over 4 days.

It's time to wrap up my coverage of this fest and move on from one to the another. I definitely know I won't quickly forget Telluride, but I might not remember all of the films I saw there. It's a rather quiet and charming festival without all the crowds, but with all the technical excellence that other big fests provide. I'll hopefully be able look past the poor line-up of films this year and at the finer aspects of the fest over the next few months. I've published reviews of Flame and Citron, O'Horten, Slumdog Millionaire, Hunger, Helen, and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird. There's quite a bit of discussion going on about David Fincher's Curious Case of Benjamin Button footage too, which was my most highly anticipated debut at the fest. But now it's time to head north to Toronto. Maybe we'll see you again next year Telluride?

I'll leave you with Telluride's annual photo that they shoot during the fest with all of the filmmakers in attendance. I can spot Danny Boyle smiling, both Greg Kinnear and Lauren Graham, and many more.

Telluride Film Festival

Find more posts: Opinions, Telluride 08



What did you think you were going to see at Telluride? Watchmen? What do you think you would have seen in 2007 or 2006 or 2005 that would have made your experience any different? Its not Comic Con.

Epon on Sep 3, 2008


No, Epon, I was not expecting Watchmen. I attend a lot of film festivals, from Sundance to SXSW and so on. I see and appreciate a lot of indie, foreign, and experimental films. And I went to Telluride to find some more great indie flicks, but alas, their selection was not something that I could get into. They were certainly very fine films, but I just can't love every movie I ever see - and at Telluride, it seemed their selection wasn't the best it's been previously. I don't know what I would have seen the other years. It just felt this year's line-up dragged and that's my personal opinion, nothing more.

Alex Billington on Sep 3, 2008


I go to Telluride each year for the film fest (this was my 19th), and I have to say that the line up this year was pretty good, and much like years past. I really hate when there are films coming out in a month or two that show up on the schedule, or as 'sneak previews', so I was quite pleased with what I saw. I don't really see the point of going all the way to Telluride to see a film coming to a theater near everyone, and soon. Of course there are some films with bigs names and possibly Oscar potential this year, but I go for the smaller, uncommon films so I am never disappointed. I agree with you on Flame and Citron, it was one of my favorites in the line up, but there were some other gems as well. Did you catch Revanche (played in tiny theaters but should have had a larger venue)? Or Kisses? Both are foreign films, but far from boring and they both had some remarkable performances from the leads. I do have to say that the accents in Kisses were tough for some people to understand though, which I guess could make it boring. The silents are always a great choice, this year there were three and The Last Command was just fantastic, one of the best I've seen. The Alloy Orchestra often plays with the silents in Telluride and they are just amazing, they always make the film just a bit better. This film was exceptional as silents go and I doubt many people have access to see something like this outside of a film festival. I suppose I could go on and on about what I enjoyed, but my point is that this film fest is what you make of it, I make it the rare/silent/foreign film fest, but it can be a big name fest if you like, Danny Boyle, Mike Leigh, Paul Schrader, etc. It's also not really an indie film fest like Sundance , it has always had a lot of foreign and older films with some indies thrown in. Or maybe indie foreign films if you like Guy Maddin (and who doesn't, I love his films!). This year may have been different than years past because two of the three directors stepped down and so there was a new guy added. This did have an effect on the types of films in the line up I suspect, there were more silents than in years past and a few more older films like Nightmare Alley and The Great Sacrifice (both which I enjoyed seeing in a theater). I saw 13 films, 3 that were great (and new), 4 older/silents that I am happy that I saw and I enjoyed, and a few others that stand out for one or two specific reasons but weren't the best films ever (I love Mike Leigh films regardless, it is a weakness, Jeff Goldblum gave a remarkable performance in an okay film, The Good The Bad and The Weird was visually amazing but there was no story). All I can say is don't give up, go next year and see what kind of fest you can make of it!

Jilyb on Sep 3, 2008

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