Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dinosaur, Colorado

Friends: After a month in Telluride it’s back to the bike, a perfect decompression after all the socializing and movies. My twentieth annual visit to Telluride has become as much a family reunion as an immersion into the world of cinema. There are hundreds of us who converge upon Telluride from all over the world year after year for its second to none celebration of cinema, and I count dozens of them as kindred spirits and bosom buddies.

As I've been bicycling through the rugged and largely uninhabited desert scenery of northwestern Colorado the past four days, my mind has been dwelling as much upon the many great friends I have made over the years as upon the great cinema I was treated to. It is always a thrill to renew acquaintances and difficult to say goodbye. Ringmaster Doug, one of my roommates and long-time friend, summed up the great bond many of us feel when he commented as we gave each other a farewell hug, "There are some people I hate to say goodbye to, and you are one of them." There were no more words to say, as our eyes crinkled.

The film festival wins undying loyalty from filmmakers as well as pass holders and staff. Ken Burns has attended the festival for more than two decades and gives an inspiring address to the staff every year. In the past year he said he became a father for the fourth time--another daughter. It occurred to him after he named her that the first initial of his four daughters spell out SLOW. He said he nearly named his second daughter Hannah. If he had, instead of SLOW, their initials would have spelled out SHOW, the slogan of the film festival.

Opera director Peter Sellars, a man of boundless energy and the world's most unrestrained hugger, is also a film festival regular. He too shares a few words with the staff. He fully recognizes the great spirit of those putting on the festival, saying how rare it is in these times to find a group of people who unselfishly give of themselves for a higher cause. "It seems everyone these days is looking for their cut. There is none of that here."

Another of the many noted figures of cinema who are part of the Telluride family is Godfrey Reggio, director of the seminal film Koyaanisqatsi. He is one of the resident curators of the festival overseeing the shorts program. He observed that each of us attending the four-day festival is exposed to more images during the festival than everyone in the Middle Ages combined. It is a lot to process. But I have had the perfect tableau to do it, as I pedaled through a fabulous canyon for 44 miles from Gateway to just before Grand Junction on the lightly traveled route 141 climbing 2,500 feet and then 72 miles from Loma to Rangely without any services on Route 139 gaining 3,700 feet with even less traffic.

George Clooney and Tilda Swinton, two of the festival's three tributees, dominated the festival, but there were many other highlights as well. The tribute to Pierre Etaix, a French director and actor from the 1960s and 1970s, was one of those typical Telluride rediscoveries. Etaix was a more subtle and refined Tati. It was a thrill to sit in the Opera House at his tribute sharing in his pride at hearing everyone laugh during the screening of clips from his films.

It was also a most inspiring hour listening to George Harrison's widow, Olivia, talk about the making of the three-and-a-half hour Martin Scorcese documentary "Living in the Material World" on "the quiet Beatle" in the intimacy of the County Courthouse with 80 other devotees. She said that everyone interviewed for the documentary at one point broke into tears talking about George. Watching the film in the outdoor theater with hundreds of others bundled up in winter gear will be one of those great memories of Telluride. Greil Marcus, rock critic and scholar extraordinaire and another Telluride regular, introduced the film and also presided over Olivia's conversation in the courthouse.

I saw quite a few other documentaries on exemplary figures. The most stirring was "Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel." Vreeland was fashion editor for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. She was a most outspoken and original figure with an opinion on everything. Though she died a few years ago there is considerable footage of her to draw upon, including interviews with George Plimpton and Dick Cavett.

There was also a fascinating documentary on fashion photographer Bert Stern, "Becoming Bert Stern," by a former model of his. Both were in attendance. He had a several day shoot with Marilyn Monroe just before she committed suicide. He began photographing when it was illegal for women to appear in liquor ads. He caused quite a stir when a photograph of his showing a woman with her mouth open made the cover of a fashion magazine back in the '60s.

My days will be filled with much reminiscing of films and friends as I head to Missoula, about 1,000 miles from Telluride, to pay homage to the bicycle of Ian Hibbel at the Adventure Cycling headquarters. Hibbel was a legendary English touring cyclist who died at the age of 74 riding his bike in Greece in 2008. The Economist gave him a full-page obituary. He was the first person I knew of to travel by bicycle.

I am also eager to meet Greg Siple, one of the co-founders of the Bikecentenial Organization that was renamed Adventure Cycling a few years ago. He helped establish the Bikecentennial Trail across the US in 1976 to commemorate the Bicentennial. Two years ago I met the other co-founder, Dan Burden. Siple and his wife June were the first people I knew of to ride the Tour de France route as touring cyclists. I have been aware of them both since they co-authored a May 1973 National Geographic cover story on bicycling from Alaska to Mexico.

Later, George

No comments: