Telluride Film Fest 2022: Strong Edition of Features and Documentaries

There were countless movies that had viewers fuming (e.g. Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s semi-autobiographical epic Bardo), arguing (e.g. Sarah Polley’s novel adaptation Women Talking) and covering their eyes in horror (Luca Guadagnino’s cannibal drama Bones and All)

Several movies generated passionate fans, but only a few were crowd pleasers.

My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock

Ryan White’s space exploration documentary Good Night Oppy (Amazon). With its NASA bona fides and E.T.-like sense of awe (Spielberg’s company Amblin is producer), Oppy seemed to be a tonal respite for many from some of the political or harrowing films that screened here.

Oscar Contenders:

Olivia Colman in Empire of Light (Searchlight), written and directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes.

Colman said that Mendes is now her favorite director). Colman, playing a troubled woman who enters into romance with a much younger colleague at the cinema where she has long overseen operations, is riveting, as always, and could earn the actress her fourth nominations in five years (she won for the 2018 The Favourite).

Blanchett, who received career tribute during the fest, projects intelligence and gravitas. She also worked her ass off — she learned German, conducting and high-level piano-playing — and it’s unimaginable that she won’t pick up Oscar nom #8, and quite possible that she will become only the fourth actress to ever rack up a third win.

Great Actresses

The memorable ensemble cast of Women Talking (UAR), which includes Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, Claire Foy and Frances McDormand.

Polley said they were “like a delegation,” with 12 people at the fest, including producer Dede Gardner.

Best actress frontrunner, Michelle Yeoh for Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24), who was in Telluride to attend a screening of 2000’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as part of festival tribute to Sony Classics on its 30th birthday.

But the presence of Yeoh, who is 60 and has never won or even been nominated for an Oscar, served as reminder to the press and Academy members.

She will remain on the circuit, when she heads to Toronto to accept the inaugural Share Her Journey Groundbreaker Award at the TIFF Tribute Awards gala on September 11.

Bardo: Dividing Critics and Viewers
A younger generation of filmmakers in Telluride–Chloe ZhaoBarry Jenkins and Lulu Wang — rallied for Iñárritu.  A screening after which Zhao moderated a Q&A with him and enthusiastically told him that she connected with the ideas in the movie about being an immigrant and “belonging to two places.”  He suggested in Los Angeles Times interview that the harsh reactions to the film are “racist.”

Iñárritu’s film isn’t hitting theaters until Nov. 18 or Netflix until Dec. 16, so he has time to go to the editing room.

Each of his prior features was well-reviewed and Oscar-nominated.

Netflix presence:

Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, which opened the Venice Film Festival on Aug. 31, and the Ana de Armas-as-Marilyn Monroe vehicle Blonde, which will premiere there on Thursday.

Two other films that impressed at Telluride: Sebastián Lelio’s The Wonder and Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Two that will premiere in Toronto, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out sequel Glass Onion, with Daniel Craig, and The Good Nurse, starring Oscar winners Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain.

James Gray’s Armageddon Time (Focus), which played stronger here than it did in Cannes, perhaps in part because the coastal American audiences who come to Telluride saw something of themselves in Gray’s depiction of his youth  in 1980s New York.
Lukas Dhont’s heartrending Close (which tied for the Grand Prix in Cannes but, in my humble opinion, should have won the Palme d’Or.

Also maintaining momentum was another Belgian film, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne’s Tori and Lokita (for which the Dardenne brothers received a special Cannes award),

Hirokazu Koreeda’s Broker (which brought Song Kang-Ho, who is best known for Parasite, Cannes’ best actor prize)

Mia Hansen-Løve’s One Fine Morning (which features yet another great Léa Seydoux performance)

 Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider (for which Zar Amir Ebrahimi won best actress in Cannes)

Hlynur Pálmason’s Godland (Pálmason’s follow-up to his acclaimed A White, White Day)

Charlotte Wells’s Aftersun.

Old-fashioned but crowd-pleasing title that came to Telluride via Sundance and Venice: Living, Oliver Hermanus’s reimagining of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru, anchored by an understated Bill Nighy.

Films that Premiered at Venice Fest

Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin (Searchlight), which stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, got the longest applause at 12 minutes.

Also voluminously applauded were Guadagnino’s Bones and All (UAR);

Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale (A24), which marks a comeback for Brendan Fraser, who was moved to tears.

Documentaries:

This year’s Telluride lineup featured more docus than any previous one.
In addition to Good Night Oppy, standouts included Retrograde (Nat Geo), the portrait of America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.
It is directed by Matthew Heineman, who put his life on the line to make this doc just as he did to make prior docs about Mexican cartels, ISIS and the early days of COVID; Icarus The Aftermath still seeking U.S. distribution
Bryan Fogel’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning 2017 doc IcarusLast Flight Home (MTV), in which Ondi Timoner chronicles her elderly father’s quest to end his life.
The Return of Tanya Tucker (Sony Classics), Kathlyn Horan’s portrait of an aging country singer’s creative rebirth.

Telluride, like Venice, marks just the beginning of the awards season, and that attention will next turn to Toronto where some of the same films will screen alongside new batch of awards hopefuls:

Spielberg’s The Fabelmans (Universal);

Gina Prince-Bythewood’s The Woman King (Sony), starring Viola Davis;

Reginald Hudlin’s Poitier documentary Sidney (Apple).