Saturday, August 4- Day 2
An old timer volunteer complains to me that it use to be easier to see films at the Festival and I tell her I’m surprised that volunteers can even catch a film, and while on shift and for free to boot. During my morning shift on Saturday I go in to see the 11am Werner Herzog presentation called HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA. A more affable than expected Werner explains by way of introduction he was taken by the existing four hour part tv documentary series about hunters in the Siberian tundra, the film is based on. He took and made it into a 2 hour international feature version of it, slapping on his voice over on it and this was the result. It’s an ethnographic study of the traditional hunter way of life. It follows a couple hunters through the seasons who use primitive tools to make traps, hunt and build shelter. The men evidently choose this lifestyle of survival while their families stay in the villages. Witnessing their preparations against the severely cold, long arctic winters and wild beasts, the tone is quite glorified, and all is captured with mad respect. Meanwhile I can’t help think how this hunter’s hands look like they’ve been dipped in toxic waste as he fishes his net out of the icy waters without reacting to the cold. But also, I find myself judging this self centered prick for choosing to lead this humble solitary life when he’s got kids in the village he only sees 2x a year.
My next film is Stanton Kaye’s 1967 BRANDY IN THE WILDERNESS. It was brought to my attention by this experimental film geek Adam who tells me the story of how Stanton Kaye is one of 12 people who made up a now famous inaugural AFI class which included Paul Schrader, David Lynch and the dude who directed Heathers among others. Tom Luddy introduces the flick and his old friend Stanton, a rotund unkempt gray long hair and matching beard. Stanton admits he really didn’t know what he was doing at the time but he knew he wanted to prove or do something about the term documentary narrative. He cryptically says before the lights go down he was trying to solve the problem of the aestheric. (?) I’m so glad to have seen this film as it is undoubtedly been the influence of many American independent films. The perfection of the film comes from its imperfections. The risky adventurous try anything vibe is my favorite aspect of it. I don’t know what its called but it uses what may have been back then experimental, that sound trick where an actor is on camera in action and the narration dialogue comes from them but off camera relating to the present. Eugene Hernandez who I run into after the film calls it the original mumblecore. The next film I see blows me away, the French film, OF GODS AND MEN. It won a grand jury prize at Cannes, directed by Xavier Beuvais. It was a slow burn start but then I was completely gripped within the austere, formalistic story about French monks in Algeria under siege by the tumultous Algerian civil war being waged in the village they protect. Their faith is severely tested. The steadfast camera and sparse dialogue give great weight to the biggest universal themes and philosophies about humankind, tolerance and love. It was humbling, so goddamn effective. Granted I was an exhausted hungry and cold mess but this spiritual film elicited the strongest emotional impact I’ve had in a while.
I’m still in a state when the film finishes and I go to the Sheridan Bar to meet with Daniela, and Mara whose twin sister runs the Diego Luna, Gael Garcia Mexican traveling doc fest, Ambulante. I get to introduce Sarah Pierce to Daniela and then I almost mistake Julie Huntslinger, one of the directors of Telluride, with Dawn Hudson, the Film Independent director who has similar face and loopy manner. After a drink we head over to see Sylvain Chomet’s THE ILLUSIONIST. Chomet is not present but the producer Jake Eberts is there and before getting into the Jacque Tati based film, he admits its his first Telluride experience. “As a long sufferer of Festivals” he says, his experience at Telluride has been extraordinarily refreshing (um, isnt he on the board at Sundance?). The animation is fine, colored in pencil drawn with large canvass like opaque backgrounds. To me it wasn’t as exciting as the animation of Chico and Rita. Midway through I become disinterested in this tale about a magician and the daughter he adopts. The unique conceit is that there is no coherent dialogue but rather a quiet mutter. I’m a big fan of The Triplets of Belleville which also does this. But here I think it doesn’t sustain the conceit throughout because I felt the narrative drive slow to a halt until I didn’t care for it anymore. After the film I walked across the street at the Starz party and have a couple free drinks with Adam, Rebecca and I see Geoffrey Rush smoking a cigarette outside, pretty sauced up. I couldnt think of anything to say to him so I just walk past.