On this page I have film reviews or other film-related comments, which I will blog before they become Sprint Reviews on the s2c database. I would love to hear any comments you might have.
Water, horses, insults and lost children are what I remember most after another wonderful Labor Day weekend spent watching film after film at the 44th Telluride Film Festival. 13 films later, I found myself in a daze driving back to Denver under a full moon Labor Day midnight. I love the drive back to Denver after the festival because I reflect on each film in the order I watched them during the four fantasy days in movie heaven at nearly 9000 feet above sea level.
The water in The Shape of Water is as much a character as the actors. The "leading man," as director, Guillermo Del Toro, calls the creature from the black lagoon, which he remembers as a child, and was 3 years in the making, needs water to survive. Eliza, played by Sally Hawkins in an assuredly Oscar-nominated role, also needs water, not only to begin her day with a treat, but to enjoy romantic encounters with her leading man. Water is essentially taking on many shapes throughout the film. The dark humor in Foxtrot really works well when the soldiers trudge through the muddy pond, which reflects their sinking dwelling, when changing shifts at the Israeli/Palestinian border and when the deluge of rain drenches a Palestinian couple and Israeli guard while they wait to be cleared to enter Israel. (SPOILER ALERT Reza’s life changes in A Man of Integrity when his fish pond is poisoned by his unfriendly neighbors. Seeing him standing in the water surrounded by his dead fish still makes me angry. He also escapes to his private, "think tank" cave at least 3 or 4 times when needing a good soak in a hot spring. SPOILER ALERT) In Downsizing, I’m still confused. Were they in a downsized version of the Norwegian fjord in their downsized boat, or in the normal sized fjord navigating to the downsized town? Hostages begins with young adults swimming in the Black Sea in Batumi, Georgia. When the Georgian authorities show up to ruin their fun, one of the swimmers jokingly says to a guard, "are you afraid we will swim to Turkey?" As we are about to find out, maybe that wasn't a bad idea. Finally, how can we forget the haunting image of the river in Loveless, which frames the tragic story we just witnessed by beginning and ending there?
The Rider is mostly about the relationship between man and his horse, whether it be in the rodeo ring, or horse training, or just riding the range. The Rider was my Moonlight this year. Like Moonlight last year, it is a film with so much heart, unexpectedly moving me up to the very last shot. Beijing-born director, Chloé Zhao, and first-time actor, Brady Jandreau, have successfully presented a fresh slice of American pie, which, I believe, once it is distributed will be so uplifting for audiences needing a break from the depressing, daily headlines. Lean on Pete, which I was disappointed to not see, is also about a man and his horse. I heard from other cinephiles while waiting in line that it was a very dark story. Hostiles is essentially a Western road trip on horses during a time when the West is trying to change its attitude towards how to treat the Native Americans. After watching Jandreau train a horse in The Rider, I thought of the horses in Hostiles more than just animals, but as humble actors participating in the making of a narrative film, much like those Japanese actors who can be seen in the background in Noh theatre playing a tree or rock.
In the film, The Insult, an insult over an apartment gutter almost starts another war in Lebanon. This insult eventually lands in court, covered by the media, which causes violent protests. Loveless is filled with jabbing insults between a divorced couple, which deeply affect their sensitive son who they sadly ignore. One jealous, unforgettable insult coming from Gloria Grahame’s sister in Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, unfortunately sticks with me as much as the beautiful love story. Insults are hard to forget. Michael Shannon nails it as Strickland, the McCarthy-like boss, in The Shape of Water, who incessantly insults both Eliza, Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and the "leading man" without fail. Who can forget the insults the Native Americans have learned to live with to survive in Hostiles? As Chief Yellow Hawk, Wes Studi’s stoic, statuesque stare says it all.
Finally, lost children are adrift in three films. I am still in awe of Sareum Srey Moch’s performance in First They Killed My Father. At 8 years old, the first-time Cambodian actor has the burden of carrying the film. Boy, does she deliver, thanks mainly to Angelina Jolie’s probable Oscar nominated direction. Through her eyes, we witness how the Khmer Rouge entirely changes her life, her family’s and millions of other Cambodians. In Wonderstruck, two children are trying to find their way in parallel stories told 50 years apart. It takes a long, long while for the stories to connect, but what a connection it is. I am still reeling at the very last image we see of Alyosha in Loveless, as he listens to his mother and father argue right before he goes lost.
There are usually about 35 feature films in the main program. No one can see them all in 4 days. This year I was disappointed that I did not see any documentaries. It is just how it played out. It really is a fun game we all play for four glorious days in this beautiful, mountain town in Colorado. On Friday, I always think, let the games begin and bring on the Game of Shows. Each one of us has a unique strategy, which we all plan once we get our program, and alter as each day surprises us with surmountable challenges, most of which become our favorite memories of the festival experience.
Once I catch up on my sleep, I’ll be adding the credits to the Swimming to Casablanca database of all the above-mentioned films and, when it moves me, some reviews. Check back for endorphin ratings. There will be several beta endorphin ratings. It was another very good year in the mountains.