By James Hancock September 4th, 2015
My brain and eyeballs are completely fried but I refuse to crash before I throw down my first impressions of the Telluride Film Festival. This is the most laid-back, friendly film festival I have ever attended. The town can be crossed in about ten minutes on foot and nestles between some of the steepest and most beautiful mountains you’ve ever seen. In typical Colorado fashion the weather here swings constantly between cold and rainy to beautiful and sunny. The town proudly advertises their three recreational marijuana dispensaries and I felt it was my patriotic duty to throw some business their way (yet another reason why I am eager to wrap up this post and sign off for the day). What is so incredibly disarming about this festival is the low-key vibe. There are no velvet ropes preventing entry into bars and restaurants, sponsors do not garishly pronounce their affiliation with the festival over every available foot of real estate, and the attendees are not mobbing the filmmakers and movie stars trying to grab a quick selfie. There seems to be a unwritten rule that is everyone is happy to follow where acting like a typical celebrity-obsessed American has no place here. The town has almost a hippie vibe and the people attending the festival that I have spoken to thus far are refreshingly rabid in their film connoisseurship. Basically this is my kind of place and I hope the next three days are just as satisfying as the one I just experienced.
Looking through the program I saw a variety of big movies that will likely dominate the festival such as Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs and Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation but these are the types of movies that I know I’ll have no trouble catching in New York. So for my first movie I decided to geek out in the extreme by attending a screening Fritz Lang’s mythological epic Die Nibelungen (1924) at the brand new Werner Herzog Theatre. This was no ordinary screening. This was a masterfully restored copy of the film which included Part I: Siegfried and Part II: Kriemhild’s Revenge. With all the introductions to the movie as well as the 45 minute intermission to serve German beer and brats, I was at the venue from 1 pm to 6:30 pm. This was some iron man movie watching and not every attendee was prepared. I saw many people tap out after they got their first taste of alcohol.
For me, the screening was the cinematic equivalent of nirvana. I’m obsessed with mythology and fantasy epics both in literature and in film and with this movie director Fritz Lang set the bar so high I’m not entirely sure if it has ever again been equaled. Every frame of film just explodes off the screen with some of the most stunning imagery Lang ever achieved. The score is awe-inspiring but most impressive is the incredibly rich story that has all the thrilling and tragic dimensions of the best legends ever conceived by mankind. Between Siegfried and Kriemhild’s Revenge I lean toward the former as my favorite in that the film contains so many more fantasy elements such as duels with dragons, the acquisition of magical items and performing great feats of strength to win the hearts of indomitable women. I rarely have the chance to see silent movies in this format and without question this screening was one of the most enjoyable moviegoing experiences I’ve ever had.
After my 5 1/2 hour immersion into German legends I hightailed back to my hotel for about 5 minutes before heading to my next screening, Mom and Me from Irish director Ken Wardrop. This documentary is an incredibly moving film reminiscent of the early work by Errol Morris. The doc follows a large cast of characters focusing on the relationships between adult men and their aging mothers in a somewhat rural part of Oklahoma, according to the film, the most masculine state in America. The film has no shortage of heart and should appeal to a wide variety of viewers if it finds distribution in the US. Ordinarily this is not necessarily the type of movie I would go out of my way to see but playing right before the film was The Loneliest Stoplight, a short film I recently produced with Adam Rackoff. The film was directed by Indie Animation icon Bill Plympton and stars the voice talents of Patton Oswalt. The crowd seemed to genuinely enjoy the flick and lined up for the free drawings that Bill always offers after every screening. We have two more screenings coming up over the next few days.
That’s all I have for now. I am falling asleep at my keyboard and I have to get up obscenely early to try and get into the documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut, a film I desperately want to see. Stay tuned for more tales from Telluride in the days to come.
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