Telluride 2012: Day One – ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’ and ‘The Masque of the Red Death’

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The Telluride Film Festival is the start of my new year, when everything becomes new and exciting again. There is promise in the air and I tell myself to be completely open to any film. It’s easier said than done to put cynicism aside but TFF truly puts on a grand show- conjuring theaters from public spaces and decorating them entrancingly with constellations or remote cinematic references. For 3 and a half days I venture into an celluloid driven trance of swirling thoughts. This is my 7th year in attendance and 6th year working to help build up theaters in the month before the Labor Day weekend festivities. I’ll be coming back for the rest of my life. It’s a cinephilic Shangri-La, where people come to fully immerse themselves in the grandeur of the mountains while taking in what could (and often are) the best movies of the year.

Kicking off the festival at the end of the day was “The Feed” – a catered dinner for staff, stars, filmmakers and patrons that shuts down main street. The free food and drink sets a happy and receptive tone for the festival that lays down the law that you are amongst friends. It encourages everyone to talk, relax and above all to be receptive to one another and the films. Everything is casual and there are no flash-bulbs of the paparazzi. We are all here to talk seriously about film and how it affects us.

Hyde Park on Hudson, starring Bill Murray and local Laura Linney (she fell for her festival driver the year she was a tributee here) premiered in Elks Park last night, a free outdoor cinema framed by the silhouette of the box canyon mountains. Everyone huddled close in the cold to be charmed and swept away. The story follows the long unknown story of a love affair between an ailing FDR and a distant cousin as he prepares to entertain the British monarchy on their trip to America. Unfortunately, while Murray and Linney give nuanced, clearly well researched performances, the movie is underwhelming. It is so quiet with the treatment of its relationships that it is difficult to get worked up about FDR’s complicated love life. Where last year’s The King’s Speech (which premiered here) got to let go of some of it’s built up tension through cussing and a restrained impoliteness, Hyde Park seems to tip-toe around really letting itself go and become something people can get emotionally invested in.

Next in the park was prolific director/producer extraordinaire Roger Corman’s (one of this year’s tributees) The Masque of the Red Death – not his strongest Poe adaptation, but still entertaining, with its vivid colors and Vincent Price’s mesmerizing control of dialogue. His facial contortions alone can carry me through a middling movie. Corman’s other Poe movies- The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum and The House of Usher (all also starring the one and only Price) all have much more of a touch of comedy to them and take pretty strong diversions from the material. This one from 1964 more or less treats the subject of madness and devotion to Satan seriously, but in Corman fashion there are low cut dresses and some seriously uncouth shots that predict how exploitative he would go with his low budget features in the following years.

Today I hope to see the conversation in the local court house of documentarian Errol Morris and the guest director of the festival Mr. Geoff Dyer, who is renowned for his book Zona in which he analyzes Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Additionally I’m going to try my best to get into Ben Affleck’s new directorial effort Argo.

Lane Scarberry

 

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