Telluride 2015


Tomorrow TCM hosts its yearly salute to the Telluride Film Festival with 24-hours of TFF-related programming. TCM kicks things off with The Lion in Winter (Anthony Harvey, 1968) and wraps up with China 9, Liberty 37 (Monte Hellman, 1978). I’m between film screenings at Telluride now, where the fest is marking its 42nd year as one of the more prestigious film festivals in the nation, and feel obliged to remind readers that one of the reasons TFF is so unique among a mushroom-like proliferation of other movie festivals resides in their dedication to highlighting the legacy of film (with archive prints, restorations of classics – also the reason I’m so fond of the TCM Classic Film Festival) as well as the liberties they afford their guest programmers, who are tasked with selecting overlooked films.  


This year the guest director is author Rachel Kushner, who picked two films by Jean Eustache (The Mother and the Whore, Mes Petites Amoureuses), a pairing up of Jean Renoir and Agnès Varda (A Day in the Country and Uncle Yanco, respectively), Ted Kotcheff’s masterpiece (the boozy Wake in Fright), the rarely screened Rolling Stones doc by artist Robert Frank (y’know, the one whose title sounds like Socksucking Shoes), and a new restoration of the film that won Francesco Rosi the 1972 Palme d’Or (The Mattei Affair, which remains relevant, timely, and has been criminally overlooked over time).

One of my first screenings (done in partnership with TCM) was with Serge Bromberg at the Sheridan Opera House. Bromberg (“the Indiana Jones of classic cinema”) is the French film director, producer and historian behind Lobster Films, and yesterday he held the world premiere of the restoration of John Ford’s favorite film, a Laurel and Hardy picture from 1928 called Battle of the Century. The film lives up to its name with a near-apocalyptic “schadenfreude smorgasbord” (to quote a colleague) involving some 3,000 custard pies – all of which start flying in reel 2, which had been missing until now.

Above was preceded by a restoration of a Charlie Chaplin short from 1915 (The Bank), cobbled together using four different prints sourced from MoMA, the Library of Congress, Russia, and the shrunken original camera negative from the UCLA archive. Similarly, a Buster Keaton short from 1932 called Daydreams was assembled from various unusual European sources – including one that was in 24mm. (Yes, we’ve all heard of 35mm, 16mm, 8mm, … but 24?)

I’d write about some of the other films screened so far, but that would put me late for the next “painstakingly restored” offering from Lobster Films, L’Inhumain (Marcel L’Herbier, 1924), which comes with live musical accompaniment by The Alloy Orchestra. After several rainy days today finally brought some beautiful weather, but it’s now competing with another cinematic extravaganza and that means the mountains will have to wait.


2 Responses Telluride 2015
Posted By swac44 : September 9, 2015 11:25 am

So glad to see a proper widescreen copy of China 9, Liberty 37 on TCM, after years of dodgy, cut and/or pan & scan public domain editions. Sadly, I don’t have TCM HD, but even zoomed in to fill the plasma screen it still surpassed my “best of a bad lot” PD DVD. With luck a proper release can’t be far behind.

You can add 9.5mm to the list of oddball film gauges, from the once-popular Baby Pathe line of show-at-home film releases. Kind of the Betamax of the home movie world, the film was 9.5mm across, but the sprocket hole was actually in the middle of the film, between the frames, rather than on each side, so a decent 9.5mm print is just a notch below 16mm in terms of picture quality. Or so I’ve been led to believe, I’ve never seen one projected, but I’ve seen a few video transfers, although I doubt they were done on top flight equipment, due to the obscurity of the format. I have a few Baby Pathe reels (including a cut-down version of Safety Last) but have never been able to screen them. There is one Baby Pathe projector that I know of in my city, at the local public archives, but I’ve been told it’s for staff/in-house use only.

Posted By doug n : September 12, 2015 7:33 pm

Keaton’s “Daydreams” was made in 1922 or 23, not the next decade.

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