Rumors are swirling that Brad Pitt is in town. A middle-aged woman swore to me that she saw him walking down the street, wearing a straw hat and munching on an ice cream cone. She knew it was him, she said, because every hair on her arm stood on end.
Goosebumps notwithstanding, this isn't a looky-loo type of event, and the reason for the excitement is mostly the possibility that Pitt is here with Terrence Malick's long-awaited Tree of Life, which its distributor has sworn up and down isn't ready to be shown. There was some speculation that it might show up as a Sunday TBA nonetheless.
It didn't – hey, Brad Pitt is allowed to come watch movies just like everyone else. But there are enough high-profile premieres here to do without The Tree of Life. Danny Boyle's 127 Hours was an early favorite, though the first Saturday screening resulted in a fainting and the paramedics were called. (There was apparently some sort of medical emergency at the second screening as well, though I wasn't there and have only heard rumors.) That's great publicity for Fox Searchlight, though the movie isn't really that extreme – it's rough, for sure, but most folks reading this have seen "worse."
My favorite film of the festival so far is Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go, which we'll review in a few days. It's a wonderful version of Kazuo Ishiguro's masterpiece, and it does what all adaptations should do: it focuses on the story, strips it down, and zeroes in on its themes. It brings plenty of its own to the table, too, most notably Mark Romanek's tender, lyrical direction, and a pair of heartbreaking, achingly beautiful performances from Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. They're two of the best actors of their generation; I could watch them all day.
I also dug Darren Aronofsky's eagerly awaited Black Swan, which Eric Snider will be reviewing. I won't say much about it, except that: (a) Darren Aronofsky introduced the film by saying "I apologize for what's about to happen; I didn't know what I was doing"; (b) it's very similar to The Wrestler in several ways; and (c) a lot of people who go see it on the strength of The Wrestler will be seriously freaked out. It is a pitch-black horror film about the price of being an artist. And yes, there is another gorgeous Clint Mansell musical score.
The festival's best-received film, going by line chatter and gondola conversations, is Stephen Frears' Tamara Drewe, and no surprise: it's a witty, literate delight, and a great lighthearted break from the physical and psychological torture that seems to feature prominently in every other high-profile movie here.
Festival favorites that didn't do much for me: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Biutiful, which struck me as the same garish miserabilism Innaritu unveiled in 21 Grams, Babel, etc., without the grand thematic sweep, and with a truly moronic supernatural angle. Justin Chadwick's The First Grader, which is the sort of noble, well-intentioned, politically unassailable middlebrow drama whose sole purpose is to make audiences feel good about themselves. (There seems to be one such movie at Telluride every year.) The animated film Chico and Rita, which is pleasant enough, but so undistinguished that it's clearly only here due to its soundtrack, which is filled with gorgeous 40s and 50s jazz.
Still on my to-see list: Mike Leigh's Another Year, Tom Hooper's The King's Speech, and – if I work up the courage to commit five-and-a-half hours of my Monday – Olivier Assayas' epic Carlos the Jackal biopic Carlos.