Cineniche's editors were given the opportunity this year to invade the Telluride Film Festival. It was a week of celebrity sightings, immense beauty, intense hiking, and film premieres.
We have close friends who have given up on the modern hustle that city life can be. It has been to their benefit, we have never seen the couple more at rest. They moved out to the tiny village nearly a year ago and now live in the serenity of a mountain paradise.
Telluride, CO is a mountain town nestled in the middle of nowhere. It sits at an elevation of 8,750 feet and boasts a population of around 2,500. Originally established as a mining town, it has now become the alternative to Aspen. Seeing a ski resort during the summer is odd because you see all the paths that lay in wait of that first snow. Besides the great slopes, Telluride is also a host to countless festivals. This brings us to the film fest.
Each year as film festivals gear up for their time to shine, they release program guides and issue press releases that entice the film community to make the trek. Telluride on the other hand, has a long running tradition of secrecy. We spent nearly a month digging around for any news on what to expect, but found nothing. Not even a forum with inside info. You go in blind but come out enlightened. The passes were sold out five months prior to the event. We knew without these sacred passes we would be limited in what we could see, but that didn't stop us.
The fest offers free films, films in the park, open lectures, and conversations. This was our gold. The first thing we witnessed was a discussion panel that included our idol Werner Herzog. He was just as amazing in person. He was asked if putting himself in life threatening situations made him feel more alive, to which he replied, “I feel most alive when I'm eating a good steak.” After this we popped on over to the courthouse where Leonard Maltin was interviewing Bruce Dern about his role in Nebraska. We ended the first day by seeing a free screening of Jodorowsky's Dune.
Early reviews have promoted the film as a documentary about the greatest film never made. This really sums it up. After El Topo and Holy Mountain, Alexandro was given carte blanche on his next project. He chose the drug-addled characters that populated Frank Herbert's sci-fi epic Dune. He came so close to making his concept a reality. He hired artists to help shape his vision and created a comprehensive visual screenplay. He avidly worked in pre-production and the finish line of production was in sight. Unfortunately, it came down to a lack of a mere five million dollars. All the other funds were raised, but no one would back the little that was left. Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, and Gloria Swanson were signed on. Pink Floyd was tapped to do the soundtrack and H.R. Giger was designing the creatures. Even if it all would have ended up as a mess of a film, it already had a built in cult status.
The influence of Jodorowsky's Dune reached far beyond its limited confines. Without Jodorowsky spending all his time and money attempting to create his masterpiece there would be no Alien (1979). Dan O'Bannon and H.R. Giger met for the first time as hand picked artists for Dune.
Frank Pavich's documentary allows Jodorowsky to tell the story in his own words and by doing so the film becomes an exploration of the filmmaker's life and work. By diving into the director's greatest failure you don't find a man mourning the way things could have been, instead we see someone sharing the excitement of the creative process.
The next day we found a free showing of Milius, another documentary about a filmmaker. John Milius was the inspiration for Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in The Big Lebowsky. This gives you an overall image of the man. He was big, burly, militaristic, loud and stubborn. We didn't know much about him prior to the film, but walked out with a girth of knowledge. Milius is good friends with Spielberg and Lucas – they were in the same film classes. Once out of school John became the go-to writer. He mainly did rewrites, but his words were believed to be gold. A key monologue in Jaws is the work of Milius. He was unaccredited for the best scenes in Dirty Harry, but co-wrote the sequel. He went on to write Apocalypse Now, Conan, and Red Dawn (he also directed the latter two).
Milius was constantly criticized for his right wing beliefs, and this documentary showcases everyone he's worked with. They all stand up for him and his brilliance.
Later that day we caught another discussion panel, this time for Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave. Michael Fassbinder was intelligent and respectful of the subject matter even when harassed by the Q&A. Someone asked why Hollywood continues to make sub-par films? The resounding answer from the panel was: because people go see them.
That night we were treated to an outdoor projection of Death Rides A Horse, an under-seen spaghetti western from 1967 with The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly's Lee Van Cleef. Though the lawn was a bit muddy from the day's rain and we were all uncomfortable and tired it was still great to see.
The following morning we skipped the festival to take in the scenery. We went hiking, and it made us regret every cigarette that had ever polluted our lungs. That day our friends found us free passes which were good for any film at the fest. It was a difficult decision. Do we see Gravity, Palo Alto, or Inside Llewyn Davis? Being lifelong Coen brothers fans and seeing them outside a restaurant while we were trying to decide helped seal the deal.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
It is with a heavy heart that we cannot give the Coen's latest effort our ultimate praise. It may take another viewing to fully understand our feelings toward the film. The cinematography is spot on, everything feels like a drab version of the sixties. Oscar Issac's performance is perfect, and John Goodman's ten minutes is unforgettable. It is difficult to say what is missing.
We would recommend the film to everyone, but provide a warning for your expectations. Do not expect any of the quirkiness of Coen comedies or character revelations that can occur in their dramas. Do not expect to love the protagonist since he is also the antagonist; Llewyn's choices and who he is as a person are the reasons he cannot progress. The music is fantastic, and it shows the depth of Llewyn, while his actions are in constant battle with the beauty he is able to produce.
Leaving the utopia of Telluride and our closest friends may have been the most difficult thing we've ever had to do. Cineniche may have to unshackle its Chicago chains and flee to the land that feels like a permanent vacation.
We would like to thank Megan and everyone over at The Steaming Bean for providing all of our caffeine needs during our 5 day stay.
The Steaming Bean
221 W Colorado Ave
Telluride, Co 81435