But beyond the newest films, what has always made Telluride consistently stand above and beyond the ever-growing glut of international festivals as the jewel of the movie festival scene is the programmer’s ability to consistently offer superb retrospective programming. In years past, it ranged from overviews of 3-D Films to Hidden Disney Gems. And while there were no great rediscoveries as with the silent films “Lonesome,” Peter Bogdonovich’s Tribute to 1928, the Lumiere Brothers retrospective or last year’s Budd Boetticher classic “Seven Men From Now,” the festival did unveil a spectacular tribute to Cinerama, the late and sadly unlamented, widescreen technology whereby different projectors display three separate images to create a massive and remarkable image on the curved Cinerama screen. The technical wizards at Telluride literally recreated the Cinerama experience, preceding it with a fascinating documentary “CINERAMA ADVENTURE” (***) which served as a wonderful primer in what went right…and wrong…with this groundbreaking technology. This was followed by excerpts of the film “This Is Cinerama” and the trailer for MGM’s “How The West Was Won,” one of the only film’s to actually be shot in true Cinerama before Cinerama simply came to be a moniker applied to movies shot in anamorphic 70mm. Equally enchanting was a 50th anniversary presentation of SINGING IN THE RAIN (****) followed by Elvis Mitchell interviewing “Singing” screenwriter Betty Comden who shared numerous witty bon mots with the audience and seemed as enchanted by the honor as audiences have been with her film for the last five decades.
Receiving tributes this year were the aforementioned Paul Schrader, documentarian D.A. Pennebaker and, in one of the most remarkable of tributes yet given at Telluride, Peter O’Toole, celebrating his 70th birthday. Lured to Telluride thanks to the fest’s sterling reputation, O’Toole regaled audiences with amazing anecdotes and recollections of his five decades in film. Regrettably, “Caligula” and “Supergirl” remained sadly unmentioned. “I’m having the greatest time, when I’m not fainting,” said O’Toole, acknowledging Telluride’s high altitude which has felled heartier souls.
Among other films that I regrettably missed during the fest due to the impossibility of seeing everything the fest had to offer was “Cuckoo,” which seemed as close as the festival had to a breakout hit and “Irreversible” which proved bold and satisfying cinema to those who could endure the film’s brutal rape sequence.
The Telluride Film Festival takes place annually over Labor Day Weekend and is a special weekend treasured by all who attend (and attend they do, many of its loyal patrons have been coming for over two decades), but don’t even think of coming next year unless you plan on waiting on long lines, are willing to be congenial to those around you, don’t anxiously await the next Adam Sandler movie and can function without oxygen. In the hills around Telluride last Monday night, the only sound you’d hear, other than gasps for air, were audiences bemoaning that it’s another year before we get to do it all over again next year.
MARK A. ALTMAN is a writer/producer in Hollywood and a devoted 11 year veteran of the Telluride Film Festival. He has written for numerous magazines about film and television, including Le’Cinefage, Cinefantastique and Sci-Fi Universe, and continues to write a column for Cinescape about the movies. His next film “The House of the Dead,” based on the Sega video game, will definitely NOT be at Telluride.
Posted on September 13, 2002 in Festivals by Mark A. Altman
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