Days four and five marked the culmination of the 50th Telluride Film Festival. During these final two days, the atmosphere was more relaxed, with an emphasis on spending time with friends and attending studio events rather than focusing solely on film screenings. On the fourth day, I chose to indulge in just one movie – the exceptional Palme d’Or winner, Anatomy of a Fall, directed by Justine Triet.
Sandra Hüller takes on the role of Sandra Voyter, a grieving widow whose husband, Samuel (Samuel Theis), tragically met his end while working in the attic of their chalet in a remote French Alps town. Their 11-year-old son, left partially sighted due to a devastating accident at the age of four, was the only other person present at the time. This unfortunate incident had strained Sandra and Samuel’s relationship over the past seven years, leaving behind a trail of evidence suggesting their marriage was far from happy. When the coroner cannot rule out the possibility of third-party involvement due to inconsistencies in the head trauma Samuel sustained, Sandra finds herself the prime suspect in a potential murder case. The film transitions seamlessly from being a gripping courtroom drama to a psychological exploration of the complexities within their marriage.
Sandra Hüller’s performance is nothing short of riveting, exuding a chilling yet subtly provocative aura that keeps you guessing her innocence or guilt throughout the film. Her portrayal of such a multifaceted character ensures her performance will linger in your thoughts long after the credits roll.
Director and co-writer Justine Triet has skillfully concocted an expansive and beguiling cinematic pressure cooker that will leave you breathless. The script is meticulously crafted, providing the characters with profound depth and affording the actors the room to grow and completely immerse themselves in their roles. The end product is a resounding triumph that will keep you engrossed and pondering its conclusion long into the hours that follow.
That evening, I attended a delicious dinner event celebrating the George C. Wolfe film, Rustin. The event, put together by Netflix, was a delicious steak dinner with wine and good friends, old and new. Wolfe was present and spoke to the historical significance of Bayard Rustin, and his gratitude for those who stood up in the face of injustices.
The following day, I had the opportunity to watch Pablo Larraín’s latest dark comedy, El Conde. The film revolves around Augusto Pinochet, the notorious Chilean general and dictator who held power in Chile for nearly two decades. This historical figure is given a rather intriguing twist in the film – he is portrayed as a vampire who, after almost 250 years, yearns to die.
El Conde is a bloody good time, a delightfully macabre experience, but the true standout is cinematographer Edward Lachman, whose unparalleled vision consistently delivers a succession of breathtaking shots. It’s an aesthetically intoxicating film.
The last film of the festival that I had the pleasure of watching was Kitty Green’s The Royal Hotel, featuring Julia Garner and Jessica Henwick as two friends who decide to embark on a work and travel program as a way to escape their everyday lives. Their adventure leads them to take on the role of bartenders at a remote Australian mining town pub, managed by the perpetually inebriated Billy (Hugo Weaving). However, their plans take a chaotic turn when a group of unruly locals stir up trouble.
The Royal Hotel is a sharp and intense slow-burning thriller that never seems to reach a full boil. Kitty Green methodically unravels the complex dynamics of gender and power and challenges our expectations of what might come up in a typical film with this setup. Julia Garner, who previously collaborated with Green on the great film The Assistant, delivers a compelling performance. However, it’s newcomer Toby Wallace – also featured in another Telluride film, Jeff Nichols’ The Bikeriders – who truly steals the spotlight. With his standout performances in these two films, Wallace has transformed from an unknown talent to someone I eagerly anticipate seeing more of. Keep an eye out for him in my year-end Breakthrough Performances list.
And there you have it. In total, I had the opportunity to view twelve films during the festival. I now have a substantial task ahead of me: revising my Oscar predictions. Be on the lookout for an upcoming post where I’ll share my updated insights and thoughts on the potential contenders.
Here is how I would breakdown the twelve films, each of which I enjoyed:
- Poor Things
- Anatomy of a Fall
- The Holdovers
- The Bikeriders
- The Zone of Interest
- All of Us Strangers
- The Royal Hotel
- El Conde
Ask me to do the same list tomorrow, and I might give you an entirely different order.
Thanks for following along with my adventures. Returning to Telluride for the seventh time was truly a joy. Reconnecting with friends, savoring delicious cuisine, and immersing myself in exceptional films is something that will never grow old for me at Telluride. Each year, as I depart, I can’t help but feel incredibly fortunate for this incredible journey. I’ve always treasured this opportunity and, God willing, I’ll be back again next year.