Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Fallon, Nevada

Friends: After a month in the cozy confines of Telluride's box canyon high in the Rockies working for its renowned film festival, I have been enjoying the past ten days crossing the expansive deserts of Utah and Nevada with vistas that go on for miles and miles, as I pedal my way to visit friends in northern California, as I have done the past two years. This 1,250 mile ride is almost becoming a commute. I feel as if I know every turn and rise in the road. Though I have yet to camp in the same spot twice, I have stopped at most of the same restaurants and markets, as they come along only every 70 miles or so.

Telluride left me with the usual swirl of exemplary moments to reflect on as I ride along. I'd already seen about a quarter of the movies at Cannes. There were those I was delighted to see again and others I didn't need to. Having seen so many of them left me time for other fare and events, such as the thee-and-a-half hour documentary on Bob Dylan by Martin Scorcese that will air on PBS this month. Seeing it on a big screen at the festival's largest venue and having it introduced by Dylan expert Griel Marcus made it the optimum experience. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, who appears several times in the movie, was also in attendance as was Roger Ebert and his wife. The following day Griel Marcus and Don Delillo, who was Telluride's guest director this year, spent an hour discussing it at the county court house before a standing room only crowd of 80.

The day before the court house was packed to hear William Macy and Philip Seymour Hoffman go at it one-on-one. Macy was there with the film "Edmonds" and Hoffman with "Capote." They were pals having appeared in "Magnolia" and "Boogie Nights" together. They told of seeing each other give awesome performances on the set, blowing everyone away. When it happens, everyone remembers, as it happens so rarely.

Joan and I lined up 45 minutes before the program was to start and were the last ones to get seats. Anyone who had seen them in the afternoon seminar the day before on a panel with Aaron Eckhardt and Helena Bonham Carter hosted by Columbia Film Professor Annette Insdorf would have wanted to be there. They were both out-spoken and lively discussing their many roles. The panel of actors at the seminar all spoke of their relationship with directors and how they are as demanding of directors as directors are of actors. They lamented the pain of working with ill-prepared directors, as happens all too often, particularly on independent films with young directors. Too many takes are all their bane. Macy in particular derided directors who kept actors late trying to do something fresh and original. "'Make art on your own time,' I tell them," he said.

I ran into Aaron Eckhardt at a pre-festival brunch not even knowing he was to be there. I congratulated him for the best performance of the '90s as Chad in "In the Company of Men." He said, "Thanks for remembering." I didn't even know I was a few feet from tributee Charlotte Rampling talking in the middle of Main Street one afternoon until I noticed she was with a friend who frequently escorts actors and directors. One has to be close and in the direct line of her legendary piercing eyes to know it is her. Another friend reprimanded her for smoking on school grounds more brusquely than he would have, if he had recognized her. Even though she has appeared in some sixty films, this was her first tribute and the first time she had sat through a series of clips from her career. "It wasn't so horrible seeing my face age over the years," she commented.

As always, Telluride delivered a slate of the year's best films and those responsible for their creation. In the intimacy of this picturesque former mining town of 1,500 with the nearest traffic light 40 miles away, one has the opportunity to get to know them beyond their screen image. It is four days of film euphoria over the long Labor Day weekend. It is no wonder so many film lovers and film scholars return year after year.

Later, George

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