TELLURIDE: ‘The Illusionist,’ ‘Another Year’

Posted by · 11:00 am · September 6th, 2010

The final trio of films I caught at this year’s Telluride fest, which is slowly winding down this holiday, were a bit of Cannes catch-up.  The first, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Biutiful,” I responded to yesterday.  The other two come from Sony Pictures Classics, which has a whopping five films in play here, and will have nine at Toronto later in the week.

Before getting to those reactions, though, I have to say that this year’s program has been absolutely wonderful.  I’m only on my second year, but long-timers seem to concur that festival directors Tom Luddy, Gary Meyer and Julie Huntsinger really outdid themselves this time.

I’ll talk more in the way of wrapping things up sometime later tonight or tomorrow.  For now, I have just enough time to offer up these capsules, update the predictions sidebar and contenders section, hopefully make it to an interview with Darren Aronofsky (which may have to wait until post-fest) and prepare for a 3:30 departure.  The latest Off the Carpet column will come later.

Let’s get on with it…

“The Illusionist” (***1/2)

I came away from Sylvain Chomet’s “The Illusionist” wanting desperately to do one thing: visit Edinburgh.  The auteur and his animators have beautifully crafted the cityscape in such a way to suck you into its architecture while dishing a narrative that lands a solid emotional punch by film’s end.  You might recall Guy’s breathless enthusiasm from Berlinale way back in February.

Based on a previously unproduced screenplay by Jacques Tati, the film is obviously a love letter to the French comedic filmmaker.  Chomet shares comedic sensibilities with Tati, yes, but Tati’s own work on 1958’s “Mon Oncle” evenshows up on a theater screen in bold black and white live action glory.

That sense of showmanship is certainly lingering in the film, which tells the story of a magician searching for an appreciative outlet to perform his art.  But the more apparent tale of two souls moving slowly and inevitably apart couldn’t be more affecting.  I imagine Chomet’s contemporaries will make room for the film in this year’s animated feature contenders (less they look absolutely foolish), but it would be very impressive and heartening if the music branch would take notice of Chomet’s talents as a composer as well.  I won’t hold my breath on that.

“Another Year” (****)

Mike Leigh’s latest, “Another Year,” couldn’t have been a better punctuation on Telluride 2010 for me.  I saw it bright and early this morning and was moved from fade in to fade out, taken completely in by the talent on display and a narrative with a potency that couldn’t possibly be conveyed in this short space.

The film is a master class in every element of filmmaking.  What Leigh does on the page, every screenwriter should emulate.  What actors Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, Peter Wight, David Bradley, Imelda Staunton and, absolutely, Lesley Manville accomplish on the screen ought to be the envy of any studying (or indeed working) thespian.  Dick Pope’s photography is quietly exquisite (containing one shot that’s sure to appear in a favorite end-of-year column).  Jon Gregory’s editing is perfectly timed, seamlessly resolute and only helps to tell this poignant story with the grace it deserves.

I honestly can’t say enough about it.  Guy was a big fan at Cannes (though perhaps not quite as enthusiastic as me), but for me, of the 2010 Sony Classics titles I’ve seen, this one is their gem.  It falls in line with the best the studio has offered this decade: “A Prophet,” “Synecdoche, New York,” “Talk to Her,” etc.  And to say the least, it’s Leigh’s finest hour in years.

More to come as we wind down.

→ 13 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Reviews

13 responses so far

  • 1 9-06-2010 at 11:42 am

    Mr. F said...

    I don’t think I’ll be able to wait until January/February when both of these are likely to be shown in my town. I want them now!

  • 2 9-06-2010 at 11:57 am

    Marc R. said...

    So many films, so little money :( . i need to start saving for college, but these films are gonna be calling to me. What to do, what to do.

  • 3 9-06-2010 at 12:05 pm

    JJ said...

    Geez, Kris.

    You, Guy, Anne, & others have me salivating for so, so many of these films. I can’t wait for the Fall/Winter titles to come to my town.

    Have you been surprised by the high level of films you’ve seen in the past week or 2?

    Ohh, and did you see Secretariat? (I may have missed you commenting on it).

  • 4 9-06-2010 at 12:09 pm

    Michael said...

    Well it is confirmed, both of this films are obviously two of the best films of the year. When both of you agree (or at least mostly agree) on the same film it definitely means that the movie is something special. Like Mr. F said above, it is just annoying that it is likely going to be early next year before they get a “wide” enough limited release to be seen in theaters near me. I will be waiting patiently for what I know is going to just blow my mind.

    p.s. – Glad you had such a wonderful time in Telluride! I have no idea how so many wonderful films are shown in such a small span of time in addition to all the other activities that seem pretty amazing during the weekend. I would never be able to decide what to do, but it is pretty clear that you seemed to have made all the right choices and I thank you again for the wonderful coverage. This Oscar season is finally beginning to heat up!

  • 5 9-06-2010 at 12:14 pm

    Ryan said...

    Excited to see the updated predictions…looks like supp. actress is in for a revamp.

  • 6 9-06-2010 at 1:44 pm

    JR said...

    Wow, Kris, to say that this is Leigh’s finest in years is huge… Though I was not a fan of Happy Go-Lucky, I loved Vera Drake and Topsy-Turvy. Now I certainly can’t wait for Another Year…

  • 7 9-06-2010 at 1:48 pm

    IMJ said...

    I may not have been completely overwhelmed by The Illusionist, Kris, but as an Edinburgh resident I whole-heartedly approve of your desire to visit this amazing city and I’m glad that the film managed to inspire you in such a way. It really managed to capture the unique beauty of Edinburgh in fascinating detail and I was amazed at how accurate it all was. I live just round the corner from the Barony bar and believe me, it looks almost exactly as it does in the film.

  • 8 9-06-2010 at 1:57 pm

    The Other James D. said...

    I’ve seen people predict Manville in both leading and supporting. After seeing AY, which do you presume she’ll be campaigned in?

  • 9 9-06-2010 at 5:32 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    In line with A Prophet and Talk to Her…..

    On top of that I love Vera Drake and Happy Go Lucky.

    I better check this out at NYFF.

  • 10 9-06-2010 at 8:37 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    I know they’re aiming for lead at the moment, James. I suppose they’ll watch the tide like the rest of us, though.

  • 11 9-06-2010 at 9:15 pm

    Matt King said...

    Both The Illusionist and Another Year are playing at my local film fest, but unfortunately they are scheduled for the same time. I’ll be seeing Another Year, definitely, but I hope that The Illusionist comes to Edmonton some time this year.