One of my other favorite films was Errol Morris’ “Fog Of War” (****), a superb documentary about Robert McNamara, which proved extremely divisive amongst the filmgoers, depending on their own personal opinions about the former secretary of defense. Regardless of your feelings about its subject and Morris’ decision not to feature any of his detractors, it’s an exceptionally well-realized and visually stunning look back at a time many of us would rather forget. However, the film proves remarkably timely and, downright, prescient in exploring many parallels with contemporary military conflicts, a subject McNamara briefly addressed during a conversation after the film. It’s an interesting counterpoint with last year’s “Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary,” which also focused on one subject, but made the less wise decision to focus solely on its subject to the exclusion of any period footage.
“Dogville” (*) proved to be an even more polarizing film and, for my money, the most excruciating movie watching experience with its three hour plus running time and minimalist production design. Aping the storytelling structure of “Barry Lyndon,” without its charm, wit or style, “Dogville” proved just that to me, a total dog. Another Cannes film that was met with an equally lukewarm response was Palm D’Or winner, “Elephant,” the new film from Gus Van Sant who may be back to remaking “Psycho II” shot-for-shot based on the reaction of many in the crowd to this Columbine-inspired cinema verite.
This year’s guest director, Steven Sondheim, was far less ubiquitous than Peter Sellars, Peter Bogdonovich, B. Ruby Rich and many other directors of years past, but did bring one gem with him, the 1943 film, “The More, The Merrier,” a wonderfully witty screwball comedy featuring former fest honoree Joel McCrea and the ever-reliable Charles Coburn. This 60-year-old film had far more life and contemporary kick to it than most of the more recent fare that it unspooled against.
Amongst the beautiful sunsets, magnificent splendor and slow meal service, one thing proved abundantly clear this year. Telluride is at a cross-roads, caught between the indie Hollywood world biz and buzz of Sundance and a world of post Cannes castaways, Telluride needs to come back next year, redefining its mission statement with a blend of compelling contemporary films, old, unheralded classics and a few unexpected surprises. With continued funding continuing to be an ever-growing source of concern in today’s battered economy, one can only hope that Telluride’s next 30 years will continue to live up to the promise of the first three decades and the fest will continue to thrive and grow without losing its own quirky identity that has made it the true crown jewel of American film festivals. Viva la Telluride!
Mark A. Altman is the co-publisher of Cinefantastique and Femme Fatales Magazines as well as the writer/producer of Free Enterprise and the forthcoming House of the Dead, which will be released theatrically from Artisan on October 10th. Don’t expect to see this one at any film festivals.

Posted on September 24, 2003 in Festivals by

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