Telluride Film Festival 2013

August 29, 2013

This is home base for my reviews and notes from the 2013 Telluride Film Festival — a day longer this year, and with a spectacular line-up. Since so much of the festival is constantly in flux, due to the way it’s run, posting a schedule in advance is difficult, so I will update as I go along.

Thursday, August 29

Labor Day (Jason Reitman) C+

Starred Up (David Mackenzie) B-

Gloria (Sebastian Lelio) B+ [Took about 30 seconds of post-film discussion to realize that this movie is a honking Rorscharch test: it’s a character study of a lonely middle-aged woman, but what you think of her depends on how you read the merciless, darkly funny film. I’m convinced that Gloria is a fundamentally selfish, unkind person, and that the movie is about the universe repeatedly signaling that she needs to change that before she dies alone, unneeded, and unloved. Could list a litany of supporting evidence, but I’ll settle for the second restaurant scene, in which she drops Rodolfo’s phone in the soup and proposes a 10-day Cuban vacation — immediately after he learns that his ex-wife is in the hospital with a serious injury. Anyone who faults Rodolfo for what he does next is a crazy person. Gloria is remarkable for how relatable and familiar it makes its protagonist while laying bare her faults in ways incisive and subtle.]

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer) A-

 

Friday, August 30

Palo Alto (Gia Coppola) B-

Blue is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche) B [Sort of a saner, more fleshed-out Goodbye, First Love, examining the blossoming of a young woman’s sexual identity and the course of her formative relationship with an older, wiser, more confident woman. Admirably detailed and complex, with all sorts of elaborate parallelisms and a clear sense of who these people are; Adèle Exarchopoulos brings a remarkable amount of substance to a young woman trying desperately to figure out what her substance is. Her eventual realization that what she mostly has to offer in this particular relationship is great sex is pretty powerful stuff. The scenes depicting said sex are as graphic and sustained as advertised, and while I wish I could say I have no issues with them being shot by a straight guy (the film includes a lengthy conversation about male depictions of female pleasure, presumably to deflect criticism), I’d unfortunately be lying.]

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen) B [Not sure I have a ton to add to the discourse on this after one viewing. Wowed, as always, by the Coens’ ability to define their characters via a collection of pitch-perfect little details (my favorite: the Chicago manager’s shoes slurping as he walks), and their ability to conjure unforgettable gems out of thin air (“Please Mr. Kennedy”).  For the first 45 minutes, as we watch Llewyn grapple with the sorry state of his career, it’s sheer genius; deflated for me a little once it becames a (very, very Coen-y) road movie, and I’m not sure there was much point to [SPOILER FORMAL GIMMICK]. Les frères seem incapable of making a bad film (y’all are still wrong about The Ladykillers), and this is sort of a par-for-the-course delight, if that makes sense.]

12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen) B

The Lunchbox (Ritesh Batra) C- [This year’s designated Sony Classics snoozer. A widower and a neglected housewife who don’t know each other communicate via a misdirected lunchbox delivery; movie offers wan sitcomy laughs amid vague ruminations about how people are unhappy in this brave new world, etc. The ending is admirably restrained, in the unlikely event you get that far.]

 

Saturday, August 31

All is Lost (JC Chandor) B+

Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski) [I like Pawlikowski, but this is a slog, contrived for maximum Art Film Seriousness. Black-and-white? Check. Academy ratio? Check. Nun struggling with her faith? Check. Guilt concerning Holocaust-related family secrets? Check. I promise I’ll eat my veggies, just please make it stop.]

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron) B-

Nebraska (Alexander Payne) B

 

Sunday, September 1

Tracks (John Curran) [Mystified, but I guess not surprised, that someone thought there was a movie here; yo, just because someone decided to do something dangerous and arguably crazy doesn’t mean that production on a narrative feature should immediately commence. The comparisons to Into the Wild insult a great film: instead of a compelling main character who lives out a philosophical commitment and learns that he was tragically misguided, Tracks provides endless camel reaction shots, sage-like aborigines, and a protagonist who wants to trek across the Australian outback solo and then gets cranky when it turns out to be harder than she thought.]

Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve) B

The Past (Asghar Farhadi) [I have yet to see any of Farhadi’s pre-Separation work, but it seems like his bag is basically-good people who get twisted into angry, angsty knots by fate and circumstance — or, in this case, by a complicated history that’s actively preventing them from making decisions that might make them happy in the future. More self-contained and less vital-feeling than A Separation, but Farhadi’s continued focus on children caught in the crossfire of adult cruelty makes for potent drama.]

The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki) C+ 

 

Monday, September 2

Portrait of Jennie (William Dieterle, 1948) B

Burning Bush (Agnieszka Holland) B- [Starts out, in Part 1, as a very competent historical thriller, sketching the simmering threat of a revolution from the points of view of a few key characters. Then, in Parts 2 and 3, it weirdly turns into a courtroom drama about peripheral legal proceedings against a Communist Party apparatchnik for libel. The point is to demonstrate the extent of government corruption in Warsaw Pact-era eastern Europe, as well as the courage of those who put themselves at risk to try to stand up to petty tyrants, even if only symbolically. Holland’s film is fast-paced and engaging, with the rhythms of good TV (it was commissioned by HBO Europe), but a chronicle of grim-faced government officials’ nefarious misdeeds isn’t as interesting as a country on the brink of explosion.]

 

Seeking in movies meaning and reflection in real-time. On the look out for biography, thriller & drama best pieces.

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