Telluride 2016: Getting Serious....

Submitted 2 years ago
Created by
Robert Wetzel

Sunday, September 4

Sunday was a perfect day in the little paradise that is Telluride, Colorado -- bright blue skies, puffy clouds and sun scaring away the cool breezes.  It seemed as though much of the state was strolling the streets on Labor Day weekend, since Telluride attracts tourists of all types in addition to the influx of festival goers.  Such lovey conditions were welcome.  Without them, I might have fallen into a rabbit hole of depression and gloom, as the films on my list took a turn for the serious -- VERY serious.

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As some of you may have noted if you checked my Instagram, Rooney Mara was in town with her new film 'Una'.  This strong -- in all senses of the word -- film has Mara portraying a young woman who was sexually abused as a child by a neighbor.  Fifteen years on she confronts the abuser, who has now moved on to a new life with a new name following several years in jail for his acts. Presented as one day in the life of the two characters, 'Una' is an outstanding drama about a very difficult subject.  Showing the actual relationship and culminating event in the abuse in flashback, director Benedict Andrews creates a suspenseful balance of past impacting present.

Mara is an excellent actress and continues her string of performances as tragic heroine in this film, but one almost fears for her personal sanity as she takes on these roles.  Her descent into the inner mind of her character is scary-good; and her fearlessness in confronting all of the issues drive the film.  As her abuser, Ben Mendelsohn is a worthy foil.  We can see him transition from hunter to hunted, from predator to prey, and ultimately -- we hope -- from winner to loser.  'Una' is VERY tough stuff -- but so is life.

Next was another 'uncomfortable', but highly enjoyable film starring one of the most recognizable faces in film in an almost unrecognizable role.  'Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer' is a fascinating film with Richard Gere as you have never seen him before.  Starring in a 'small' film by Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar, Gere is Norman Oppenheimer, a striving 'consultant' to New York (primarily) Jewish investors.  Norman sees himself as the connection between the players, and seeks to profit by putting people with information or influence next to people with money and power.  But Norman is more a compulsive liar who sees his hopes and dreams as reality, when they are really only hopes and dreams.  Suffice it to say that Norman comes to a heartbreaking -- but strangely satisfying -- end when his dreams come to naught.  

The joys in this film are several, starting with Gere.  Moving seamlessly from comedy  to tragedy; from vanity to clarity; and from garrulous mensch to tragic loser, Gere is outstanding in the role.  Here is the marquee idol of the past three decades turned into a schlub -- but a lovable schlub with whom we ultimately identify.  Another joy is a supporting cast of excellent recognizable, and not so recognizable, actors who fill the film with wit, warmth and wonder.  And further joy is found in realizing that you KNOW this man: that he is someone you have experienced in your life.  'Norman' is a film that will make you laugh and make you cry -- both at the screen and at yourself.

We ended the day with a highly regarded film starring one of France's iconic actresses, Isabelle Huppert as a woman of a certain age about whom you are led to believe everything is perfect -- until it is not.  I am just not going to dance around this one: 'Things to Come' is two hours of my life that I will never get back and I have nothing to show for the time spent.  Huppert is still lovely and yes, she suffers a few setbacks: her husband leaves her for a younger woman; her aging mother must be admitted to a care center and passes away; and her scholarship begins to fall from favor in the arcane world of academia.  But seriously: welcome to the real world.  Huppert drifts through the film with little to say or do; the supporting actors are, to put it mildly, boring; and the plot is what a vast majority of real people live through every day -- but with more grace and dignity.  All I can say is, "get a life", because you have stolen two hours of mine!

And with that, I headed for the New Sheridan Hotel bar, where the likes of miners, cowboys, bandits (there is a photo of Butch Cassidy and the boys on the wall) and movie stars have been drinking since 1895.  I desperately needed one of their amazing Black Manhattans.


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