In 1989, I was invited to the Telluride Film Festival to present my short film "How to Kiss". Even back then, over 20 years ago, it was a prestigious film festival. I have vivid memories of watching Louis Malle at a restaurant after the premiere of his new film "Au Revoir les Enfants". And surrounding his table were 8 other tables occupied by the heads of the top distribution companies. Miramax, Samuel Goldwyn, Lionsgate, etc. each waiting their turn to be invited to join Louis as he consumed his gespacha and make a juicy offer to the U.S. rights of his new film.
As I sat at the bar drinking my house wine, I thought to myself, "That's what I want."
But unfortunately, I'd never been invited back to Telluride. Even though for many years they had Chuck Jones as an icon of the festival, they never really liked my films. That is, until this year.
They just invited my new short, "The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger" to be the film playing before Errol Morrise's whacky new documentary, "Tabloid".
Telluride is an ex-silver mining town – that used to be occupied by the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid—and when skiing became the fashionable sport the once-dying town became the St. Moritz of the Rockies.
Then in the 70's, Bill and Stella Pense and Tom Luddy decided it would be the perfectly isolated place to hold a film festival.
The drama of the very majestic San Juan Mountains makes for a visually awesome backdrop to the Labor Day weekend event.
And because it's so awesome, it draws some of the most important film personalities in the world: Ken Burns, Alexander Payne, and Leonard Malton.
Also because of its prestige, the organizers, Tom Luddy, Gary Meyer, and Julie Huntsinger are able to attract world premieres of some of the most important films of the year.
I was able to see the premiere of Darren Aranofsky's "Black Swan" starring the electric Natalie Portman. To me it was like "The Red Shoes" made by Alfred Hitchcock, Tim Burton, and John Waters. The film was very polarizing—the women hated it and the men loved it. I don't know what kind of release it will get, but Natalie certainly deserves an Oscar.
Another high profile film starring Colin Firth and Jeffrey Rush was called "The King's Speech", a very moving account of Queen Elizabeth's father (George the Sixth)'s speech therapist. I know that sounds like a terrible idea for a film, but trust me, it's a glorious film.
One of the films I wasn't able to see but it created quite a buzz was Danny Boyles' "127 Hours". James Franco plays the mountain climber who has to amputate his own arm when it becomes trapped under a very heavy rock.
I heard that this is a very hardcore film and in each screening, one person fainted and they had to evacuate the person to the hospital. Now, I don't know if that was a William Castle type stunt, but it sure made the screening popular.
I was able to see two animated features there, one was "The Illusionist", Sylvain Chomet's beautiful realization of a very old scipt by Jacques Tati. I already saw the film in Annecy and was disappointed by the script/story. I felt it had no tension or drama and very little humor. But since then I heard from many people who loved the film—so I wanted to see it again to see if I was clouded by my overly high expectations. I was left with the same impressions and its too bad, because I think Sylvain Chomet is a genius and the film is so damn beautiful to look at.
The other was Chico and Rita, a Cuban/Spanish animation, by Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal, about two Cuban musicians and lovers who are always at odds. It's a lovely Rotoscoped film with gorgeous colors and a wonderful recreation of long-ago Cuba. But again, for me, the story was not that strong.
However, the main reason I was there was to promote "Idiots and Angels". I believe that since this is one of the premiere festivals of the fall, it would be mobbed with press—well, guess again. It's such an exclusive event that there were very few press people there, so I hardly handed out any press kits and did absolutely no interviews. But hey, that's okay. I had a ball hanging out with Ralph Eggelston (Pixar designer and director of Oscar-winning For the Birds) and Annecy artistic director Serge Bromberg—so it was a very happy time. But now I'm back in the city and in the middle of Idiots and Angels press.