The 41st Telluride Film Festival – Summary of Day 3
The 41st Telluride Film Festival – Summary of Day 3 (8/31/14)
– Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) completely blew me away! This film by Alejandro González Iñárritu (Biutiful- 2010, Babel – 2006, 21 Grams – 2003) is the most exciting example of film direction I have ever seen.
In 1948 in Rope Hitchcock used long (10 minutes) takes and clever transitions to build a film that looked like it was filmed in one continuous take. In Birdman Iñárritu takes this concept to unimagined levels. He not only uses long takes, but his transitions between takes are so seamless as to be virtually invisible. And, where as in Rope the film played out in one location, Birdman moves through place and time effortlessly (with some CGI included as well). To this the director also adds a camera that moves around the actors continuously so that you get an incredibly immersive experience. If this effort does not at get Iñárritu the Oscar nomination for Best Director, if not the actual award, I will be greatly disappointed.
Of course, all of the director’s expertise would go to waste if the story and cast were not also excellent. And in Birdman we have the best of both. I have always been a great fan of Michael Keaton, who in this movie plays the fading, Hollywood action star Riggan Thomson who is pursuing Broadway redemption. I cannot imagine any other actor who could work so well with the constant movement and pacing changes that are integral to this film. He is both funny and sad at the same time. This certainly should garner him at least an Oscar Best Actor nomination.
And the supporting cast is equally as strong as Keaton. Ed Norton is the manic over-confident co-star that is a perfect foil to Keaton’s fragile Riggan. Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Ryan all provide the strong performances that the director needed in this Hyper-Real, Jazz paced film.
– California Split is a 1974 Robert Altman film about two gambling addicts played by Elliot Gould and George Segal. Considered by some to be one of Altman’s best films it follows the off-kilter adventures of Bill (Segal) and Charlie (Gould) who are so natural together that you immediately understand why they are drawn to each other. This is a sad film that gives you reason to hope and cheer for the characters.
The film was followed by a Q & A session with the producer/screen writer Joe Walsh and George Segal.
Joe told a story that apparently even George hadn’t heard. Because George had a scene in the film where he had to play a high stakes poker game, Joe, as the producer, wanted his actor George some real life poker experience. So, he told George that he had set up a real game that George would play in using his own money. In reality Joe had stacked the game with real poker pros, like Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts. Joe expected the novice George to lose maybe $2000-3000 in the game but George ended up being the big winner!
- Rosewater is the directorial debut for The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart. Stewart introduced this film himself and it is based on the true story of the Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari who was arrested as a “CIA-Zionist” spy while covering 2009 Iranian presidential elections. Gael Garcia Bernal gives an engaging performance as the imprisoned and tortured Bahari. I was impressed that Jon Stewart as a first time director was able to craft a tense and occasionally funny look at an important subject.
– The Price of Fame is a French comedy by director Xavier Beauvois. The film is loosely based on the true story about two struggling emigrant workers in Switzerland. Eddy and Osman upon hearing about Charlie Chaplin’s death develop a plan to kidnaps the body for ransom. This was a cute film but not something I would recommend.
Additional interesting people seen/met:
- Laura Linney
- Ken Burns
- Daniel – An intelligent 10th grader and cinephile from New York who has agreed to be a contributor to this site. Please look for his Guest Review of the movie ’71 in a couple of days.