Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Truth-Seeking at Telluride ; Film Festival's Subjects Range from FDR to Marilyn to Shin Bet

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Truth-Seeking at Telluride ; Film Festival's Subjects Range from FDR to Marilyn to Shin Bet

Article excerpt

This year at the festival subjects range from FDR to Marilyn to Shin Bet.

A film festival held in a mountain setting on a holiday weekend may not be the likeliest setting for philosophical speculation, but for the past four days the Telluride Film Festival has offered something like a seminar on the nature of truth. In an age of reality television, journalistic fakery and political mendacity, everyone knows that words and images can distort and mislead. And film is a particularly unstable medium, alluring us with a promise of honesty while it feeds us ever more elaborate fantasies.

So we could start our local inquiry with movies that, while clearly fictional, have that elusive, bracing feeling of realness. A movie like Jacques Audiard's tough and tender melodrama "Rust and Bone," with its workaday French setting and its restless hand-held camera. Or Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha," a fleet-footed, black-and- white New York story about a young woman in crisis (Greta Gerwig, Mr. Baumbach's companion and co-writer) that turns self- consciousness into an exalted form of authenticity. Or Michael Haneke's "Amour," a work of impeccable formal control that captures, remorselessly but also tenderly, the agony of a long-married couple facing death.

Or else we might start with movies that are obviously about real people and events and just as obviously works of entertaining make- believe. In Roger Michell's "Hyde Park on Hudson," for example, the role of Franklin D. Roosevelt is played by Bill Murray, who noted at a post-screening Q. and A. session Saturday that he had previously been asked only to portray presidents in comedy sketches, and that Roosevelt was a very big historical deal. "He's on the dime," Mr. Murray reminded the audience. "You know what a dime is, right?" he asked Mr. Michell, who is British but who nonetheless seemed to have some notion.

Speaking of dimes, "Hyde Park on Hudson" is perhaps a bit shiny and thin, emphasizing Roosevelt's playful charm and his sexual appetites rather than his political achievements. Taking place in and around his mother's rural New York estate, the film explores his relationship with Daisy Suckley (Laura Linney), a distant cousin of Roosevelt's who was also his lover, during a visit in 1939 from the king and queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman). Those two -- the characters, not the actors -- are the same stuttering Bertie and supportive Elizabeth who popped up on Telluride screens two years ago in "The King's Speech" and went on to win a bunch of Academy Awards.

But we are philosophizing here, not buzzing about prizes. So we will refrain from handicapping the Oscar chances of Ben Affleck's "Argo," which arrived in Telluride as a semi-surprise sneak preview and provided a jolt of swift and slick entertainment. We will note, though, that Mr. Affleck's film, in which he plays a C.I.A. operative trying to rescue Americans trapped in revolutionary Iran, is very much rooted in actual events. Like "Hyde Park on Hudson" it looks at a well-known story (in this case the 1979 seizure of the American Embassy in Tehran) from a new angle.

Both movies take advantage of information that was made public years after the fact and use the standard tools of period filmmaking to reopen the past. The German film "Barbara" (winner of the top prize in Berlin this year) and "No," from Chile, are more modest with respect to production design but in other ways more ambitious than their American counterparts, revisiting painful moments from recent history and trying to drag suppressed or dissembled truths into the light.

"Barbara," directed by Christian Petzold, is a quiet, tense drama set in East Germany in 1980 and stars the remarkable Nina Hoss as a doctor struggling to preserve a sense of autonomy and dignity in a society predicated on lies, treachery and paranoia. …

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