Telluride Film Festival 2022 Highlights | Festivals & Awards

ytsfreeSeptember 8, 2022

For me, the most revealing conversations at the festival’s recently wrapped and surprisingly austere 49th edition didn’t unfold during a gondola ride towards the Chuck Jones theater, Telluride’s only screening venue up at Mountain Village, or one of the various dinners or parties I was lucky to attend, witnessing the likes of Chloé Zhao and Alejandro González Iñárritu lost in discussion. Instead, they happened almost simultaneously before an early Labor Day screening of first-time-filmmaker Charlotte Wells’ haunting father-daughter memory piece “Aftersun,” a splendid film that gently radiates echoes of Sofia Coppola’s “Somewhere,” with Telluride regular Barry Jenkins among its producers.

Behind me, a young viewer in their 20s (refreshingly in abundance this year at a festival that tends to skew older) was enthusiastically praising Luca Guadagnino’s sizzling standout “Bones and All,” starring Timothée Chalamet, “Waves” breakthrough Taylor Russell and Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as … well … cannibals, to put it as glibly as possible. “It was so insane and f*cked up,” they exuberantly said, adding in panic, “in the BEST possible way,” so that their praise wouldn’t be misconstrued. I giggled because I agreed: “Bones and All” is so insane and f*cked up in the best possible way, in its fearless exploration of on-the-fringes Reagan-era Americans, starved and invisible to anyone other than each other. Gritty, lush, sensual (this is Guadagnino after all) and deeply cinematic, “Bones and All” is the kind of film you hope to discover if you’re going through the trouble of traveling thousands of miles to a film festival.

Meanwhile in front of me, two viewers who were, let’s say, more or less Telluride’s usual demographic were praising Sam Mendes’ well-meaning, love-of-movies-themed “Empire of Light” as the best film they’d seen at the festival. I giggled once again, because I disagreed about Mendes’ at-best-naïve attempt to dig into his memories of the early ‘80s England, a formative time for him in terms of music, culture and cinema, as Mendes put it at the film’s world premiere. He admitted that he’s never felt this vulnerable standing in front of an audience prior to the screening, with his most personal project to date. He was so genuine that I actually felt a little guilty for not loving, or even liking his film better. But then again, if only the coy “Empire of Light” didn’t mishandle themes like racism, mental illness, and nostalgia so toothlessly; if only it didn’t have a misguided structure with several endings … 

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