Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Telluride 1990

Twenty years ago today [and to the hour of this post] the above photo was taken [by my dad] at the Telluride Film Festival. On the left is Annette Insdorf who hosts the seminars and on the right is film critic Roger Ebert. This particular panel [called 'noon seminars'] was about film critics. The highlight of the discussion was Ebert taking on Richard Corliss who had written a critical article in Film Comment about the thumbs up and thumbs down culture of film criticism. Also on the panel were Manny Farber and Paul Schrader. Manny Farber, known for his cantankerous nature, was in fine form taking on everyone including people who asked simplistic questions as well as Premiere Magazine, which was hosting the event. It was really rather enjoyable to sit in the park, feel the high altitude sun, look up at the high peaks surrounding the town and listen to the discussions echo through the speakers.

The four day festival was special for me in part because it was the first festival I had ever attended. But too because I was there with family and friends. The previous spring I had graduated from college and with a friend had gone to the East coast for the summer. There we met a young French couple who we became friends with and by summer's end had convinced to drive back to Colorado with us. They came along and loved the trip. As their vacation was coming to an end my dad and I told them we were going to attend the film festival in Telluride and they decided to come along. We drove up in my dad's green VW. Upon arriving we got a camp spot just outside of town and prepared for the nights first films. The French couple were particulary excited because they had learned that Gerard Depardieu was there; something they could not really believe since they were in this small Colorado mountain town.

Before the festival started I managed to sneak into the student program intro, which was being held in an old school house. The host that day was Bertrand Tavernier, who was the festivals' guest director that year. I had no idea who he was but was amazed at his knowledge of old Hollywood. Thereafter he became a frequent Telluride attendee.

That evening the festival began with the opening night party [they call it the 'feed']. Back then the feed was not held on the main street but was held in a courtyard that was part of the New Sheridon hotel. We looked on as the passholders mingled with the festival guests. All of a sudden my dad and I saw the French couple among the crowd. They had simply gone into the Sheridan lobby and snuck in through a side door. We decided to do the same.

Telluride is a very small town. And back in 1990 some of the streets were still unpaved. At that time the festival too was still generally small and the lines for each movie were relatively short. There were five film venues all within short walking distance of each other. The biggest venue was in a quonset hut [called The Community Center] located next to an old school building, one was in an old opera house, one was in the Mason's hall, one was outdoors, and one was an actual movie theater. The quonset hut has since been torn down and replaced by an auditorium but the other venues are all still used today.

Highlights that year were tributes to Clint Eastwood [White Hunter Black Heart], Gerard Depardieu [Cyrano de Bergerac] and director John Berry [He Ran All The Way].

Other films of note shown were:
Archangel - Surreal and funny early film by Guy Madden.
The Civil War - Ken Burns' most celebrated documentary.
The Comfort of Strangers - Paul Schrader film set in creepy but beautiful Venice.
Reversal of Fortune - Barbet Schroeder fillm about Claus von Bülow.
King of New York - An early Abel Ferrara movie with Christopher Walken.
L'Atalante - A definitive restored version of the Jean Vigo masterpeice.
The Nasty Girl - Inventive, thought provoking German film by Micheel Verhoeven.
Freeze - Die - Come to Life - A stark film by Pavel Nazarov about two kids in Siberia.
Ju Dou - Zhang Zimou's first real international hit.
All The Vermeers of New York - Jon Jost's beguiling film about art and love.

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