It has been a minute and about a month since I came back to the Telluride Film Festival. 2022 was another fun year at the Film Festival, reconnecting with cinephiles and soaking up the mountain air and crisp weather. There’s nothing like a film festival like the one during Labor Day weekend in Telluride. It is a relaxed environment. After taking a week or so to think about the movies I watched, here are the highlight of this year’s film festival.
Everyone was chatting about Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, and for good reason. The themes resonated with the audience, and the film was a rather faithful adaptation of the book, which I had read before the festival. It is poised to be one of the best ensemble showcases of the year. The best performances were from the always fantastic Jesse Buckley, followed by the quiet moments from Sheila McCarthy as the wise Greta.
I watched several Alfred Hitchcock movies in 2022, so My Name is Alfred Hitchcock was a feast to reflect on the legendary director. Documentary filmmaker Mark Cousins actually one-upped me. He watched every Hitchcock movie in 2020 during the height of Covid. He analyzed different films with precise insight and connected them in ways I never considered in ways many moviegoers may not expect. And kudos for avoiding the “Hitchcock Blonde” trope that film bros latch onto.
Despite the first-class pedigree involved, Sam Mendes’ Empire of Light was a gentle letdown. It feels tailor-made for cinephiles with the nostalgia of going to the cinema. Olivia Colman delivers a sensational performance. Mendes processes multiple issues at once with mixed results. I could see older awards voters eating this up more than critics will.
Todd Fields’ Tar is a movie I keep returning to even if I didn’t love it but rather just admired it. Cate Blanchett was stunning, on a whole other level than usual. There are about 7-8 scenes I keep returning to, including a soon-to-be controversial scene where she yells at a student. The end haunts me, and I question her reality and even my recounting of what happened.
I’ve thought about Hlynur Pálmason’s Godland, which provided deep reflection long after the film festival ended. A low-key Kierkegaardian epic that masterfully conveys its dark themes with poignancy. It gets weird in the best way, too. The shot showing the changing seasons perfectly encompasses the themes and still haunts me.
Here are four films from the festival that didn’t have much in common but reminded me of connections, family, and the human spirit:
- Lukas Dhont’s somber and poignant Close, Belgium’s official Oscar selection, felt like a discovery of the festival that highlights bigger Oscar contenders. Words were rarely spoken during its more impactful moments. The winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, Close was devastating but very moving. Tears were shed, and the tender drama reflected the vulnerability of real-life childhood.
- Also from A24 and just as an authentic portrayal of family relationships was the Cannes award-winning Aftersun. The striking debut feature from Charlotte Wells contains strong performances from Paul Mescal and newcomer Frankie Core. It’s a low-key miracle of a movie with a confident direction and a tender tone.
- I strongly connected with the documentary Wildcat, about a veteran overcoming PTSD by raising baby tigers in the jungle. This was about a man confronting his past demons, anxiety, and isolation. Having a conversation with the subject after the screening was a highlight. Wildcat hasn’t received the fall festival coverage it deserves, so don’t miss it when it launches on Amazon Prime on December 30th.
- Finally, Netflix recently acquired the Robert Downey Jr. documentary, SR., about his father. This film focused on RDJ’s dad’s career and their relationship. It was very good, humorous, and heartfelt, as expected from the Iron Man actor.
Finally, Telluride always had special treats and rate opportunities for film fans. One of those events that couldn’t be replicated elsewhere, The Melies American Negatives Screening 3D presentation was the event highlight for me. It was a curated presentation and performance led by Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange, highlighting the work of filmmaker-magician Georges Méliès (He was known as the creator of the special effects shot, the sci-fi genre, and time travel in movies).
Viewers were entertained by an engaging assortment of clips and discussions about the work on display. Many of the clips were partially restored due to the Academy of Motion Pictures, the Library of Congress, the CNC, and the Cinémathèque française. The documentary The Melies Mystery, currently streaming on HBO Max, highlights their journey in finding these clips. This screening affirms that Telluride is a world-class destination for cinephiles.