Telluride Survival Guide

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Telluride is such a lovely festival, located in the most spectacularly beautiful place I’ve ever been — as Ferris Bueller says, “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.”

Such a place shouldn’t really require a survival guide, and indeed it doesn’t — it’s Cannes that you have to watch out for — Cannes wants you dead — but I thought that in the guise of such a guide I could get away with waxing lyrical about my six days of cinematic bliss —

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The weather guide for the place told us it’d be warm, but that it could be cold at night. That’s true as far as it goes, as was my friend and editor Timo’s description of “proper shorts weather,” but you had best bring an umbrella too, or acquire one (the Festival’s own official umbrella is $30 but the design is beautiful). We had thunderstorms every day but one, I think, and corruscating hail that bounced down the street after you like Rover from The Prisoner only 80,000 times faster. None of this spoiled the pleasure, indeed the distant rumbles from the mountains added a touch of Tolkein. I was in La Pierre waiting for a screening and so missed the week’s most acclaimed meteorological event — a rainbow across the mountains bisected by a lightning bolt — but I certainly saw plenty of raw-nature-as-backdrop. I didn’t go trekking because I fear bears. It’s the cuddly killers you have to watch out for in this life.

The hell of every film fest is that as you see one movie you’re probably missing four more. You just have to relax, target things you fancy that might not get a release, but mix it up with things everybody’s excited about, and see live stuff that’ll never come back too.

Godfrey Reggio, no less, described Telluride as like an ocean liner — you walk up, then down, and meet the same people three or four times a day. Although sometimes you miss them because you’re in films when they’re out and about, and vice versa.

The festival feeds its guests once a day, and well. A spectacular brunch in the mountains, a picnic in the park (“It was no more a picnic than he was a man,” as Welles says in LADY FROM SHANGHAI — what I mean is that this is a huge outdoor banquet with marquees and movie stars and people congratulating you on your film (which you had best get used to if you go with one), parties at fabulous houses. Go to any of these you get invited to, each is memorable and unmissable.

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If, like me, you have a certain level of vertigo, journeying from your hotel to the town, or from the town to the Chuck Jones Theater, may prove emotionally taxing. You are dangled on a wire in a little booth seating six, and trundled through the sky above the treetops. The ominous drone of the machinery occasionally varies as the contraption pauses for no discernible reason (a delay caused by someone having difficulty dismounting at the other end, apparently).

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In daylight the view is so incredible it serves to distract nicely: I likened the resulting combination of beauty and terror to having Halle Berry come at you with an axe. At night the gondolas are pitch black, though the starscapes, fuzzed by perspex, still add awe. I recommend Diazepam if you think you may need it, but don’t hide on the floor: the scenery is your best tonic/distraction/sedative.

The gondolas are also the best place to practice your pitch. Tell people about your film and they will go. I couldn’t believe this at first, and missed many chances to persuade people to attend. By the end I had it down cold and managed to nearly pack our cinema for a last-minute bonus screening at 9am on a Monday morning. Telluride is a word-of-mouth film festival — there’s been very little press about our film, but people seemed to hear about it alright.

Leave the brunch early to avoid a huge wait. But stay and enjoy it and you can find yourself chatting to interesting people in line. It’s win-win, like so much at Telluride.

See the smaller films: MUSIDORA: THE TENTH MUSE by Patrick Cazals studied the life and work of Feuillade’s great star, revealing much I hadn’t known: did you know Musidora directed several films? Now I want to see them, as they look very good, and as star she is always compelling. I left with even more respect for her acting, which magnetically pulls focus from her co-stars without any visible effort, and runs the gamut from startling naturalism to savage pantomime. This ran alongside NATAN at the bonus screening and made a perfect mate for it (almost too perfect: it uses all the same techniques, only better — apart from not having a papier mache main character). Cazals has made docs on figures as diverse as Paradjanov and Mamoulian, which I now crave to see.

Coppola was in attendance with RUMBLE FISH, subject of a new doc (LOCATIONS: SEARCHING FOR RUSTY JAMES) — Paul Duane approached him at a party to voice his admiration: “He didn’t look very interested, but the acoustics weren’t good at that party, so while I was telling him that RUMBLE FISH had always been a great cult film in Ireland, he was probably hearing ‘Blah blah blah I’m a boring cunt.'”

Festival co-founder Tom Luddy informed us that Chris Marker actually shot background plates for RUMBLE FISH — some of that time-lapse stuff — which raised our eyebrows. Also that Marker’s last major work was on Second Life. He wasn’t interested in spending time restoring his earlier films as he was too excited by new media. “I can’t waste time on that — the tools I need are finally here!”

Be sociable! I regret not telling Coppola what a big cult item RUMBLE FISH always was in Scotland, but I had great chats with Philip Kaufman, John Ptak, Patrick Cazals, and formed the kind of intense friendships with fellow filmmakers that festivals are really good for. I want to see Esther Julie-Anne, Battiste Fenwick and Dario Naldi again soon. Dario takes a good picture —

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9 Responses to “Telluride Survival Guide”

  1. Coppola has gone from the apex of Hollywood to the ragged margins of indie filmmaking in record time. Rumble Fish is marvelous — particularly for Matt Damon’s “out of body flotation” sequence.

    But the Coppola film for which I have the greatest affection is THIS

  2. Dillon! I always get those two mixed up myself, and Mark Damon doesn’t help.

    Coppola certainly used the most beautiful weapons with which to destroy his industry clout.

  3. I think he was always an outsider. He stumbled into The Godfather almost by accident. Paramount didn’t want him, but Robert Evans did. Evans was right about Polanski with Rosemary’s Baby and he was right about Coppola — and not just with The Godfather

  4. David Boxwell Says:

    Rocky Mountain High: Telluride is located at 8700 feet above sea level–is there another major film festival in the world any higher? It’s easy to get dizzy and dazed there.

    Colorado summer days inevitably build up to intense and short thunderstorms in the late afternoon, with clearing evenings.

  5. Some guests have had ill effects from the altitude — I was a little exhausted by it but no real problems. More than made up for by the stunning beauty and atmosphere of bliss among the guests.

  6. Rumble Fish is an incredible film. On the commentary, Coppola talks about how the film was based on his worship of his elder brother and he also mentions Chris Marker. Apparently Marker was on the set and Coppola tried to interest him in something but Marker hated Oklahoma which Coppola found beautiful.

    His recent film TETRO, also beautiful and haunting, is kind of a sequel to RUMBLE FISH, though it has this edge, this twist(no other word for it) that makes the theme richer. Also shot in neo-expressionist black-and-white.

  7. I watched some of the Rumble Fish documentary Looking for Rusty James, which was screened in the open air in the Abel Gance cinema, and I’m sorry to say I found it self-indulgent & disappointing. However, when Rumble Fish itself came on, I thought I’d only stay for a few minutes – I pretty much know the film by heart – however, I stayed til the end, unable to tear myself away. It doesn’t just hold up well, it seems to have improved with age.

  8. If the doc attracts any fresh attention to the film, fair enough. Weird how The Outsiders, a big hit in the US, didn’t seem to have much impact here, but Rumble Fish became instantly a classic for the ages.

    I must catch up on Coppola’s recent films, the very fact of him turning away from tedious work-for-hire is hugely encouraging.

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