Telluride Film Festival 2011: Tributees and Special Medallion

Telluride Film Festival 2011: Tributees and Special Medallion

click “Play” to hear Gary Meyer talk with Susan about this year’s tributees at TFF]


The Descendants
“The Descendants”

Every year, since the event got off the ground in 1974, The Telluride Film Festival, known locally as The SHOW, paid tribute to artists whose contributions resonate throughout the medium. Thirty-eight years ago, the first tributees were Gloria Swanson, Francis Ford Coppola, and Leni Riefenstahl.

The list of Telluride Film Festival honored actors swelled over the years to include Jack Nicholson, Gerard Depardieu, Clint Eastwood, Isabelle Huppert, Jodie Foster, Klaus Kinski, Shirley MacLaine, Toni Collette, Daniel Day Lewis, Viggo Mortensen, and part-time local (she met her husband Marc Schauer, her V.I.P host, when she was honored in 2004), Laura Linney.

Directors who have been Film Festival tributees include Werner Herzog, Chuck Jones, Robert Altman, Pedro Almodovar, Ken Burns and Neil Jordan.

Festival co-director Gary Meyer once observed a pattern in the way Telluride Film Festival tributees are selected: someone quite well known, a great artist whose work is not so well known in America, and someone who has operated quietly but very effectively behind the scenes. Does the pattern hold up in 2011?

That’s “Up in the Air.”

The tributes for the 2011 are Pierre Etaix, described by Paris-Match as “the French Buster Keaton,” an Oscar-winning director and actor. Etaix is favored actor of directors such as Fellini, Robert Bresson and Louis Malle, who performed on screen with actor/clowns Jacques Tati and Jerry Lewis. Etaix made a series of acclaimed short- and long feature films in the 1960s, many co-written by the influential screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere. A legal dispute with a distribution company kept his films out of circulation, but they are available once again. Etaix is featured at the 2011 Festival in Aki Kaurismaki’s “Le Havre.”

Superstar George Clooney is  honored this year. Clooney, nephew of the famous Rosemary, failed to join the Cincinnati Reds baseball team and came to acting when his cousin Miguel Ferrer got him a bit part in a feature. After years of struggle (including bunking in a friend’s closet), Clooney became an overnight star thanks to television and the role of Dr. Doug Ross on “ER.” Last year, Clooney’s “Up in the Air” was at Telluride. This year, the actor joins director Alan Payne to bring “The Descendants” to town.

The iconoclastic  and visually striking Scottish actress,Tilda Swinton, is also a tributee. Swinton, who graduated Cambridge with a degree in English literature, has always had a taste for the bizarre and unique, including a spate of gender-bending roles. Swinton is famous for her partnership with gay experimental director Derek Jarman, with whom she lived for nine years and developed seven critically acclaimed films. Swinton successfully navigates the terrain between left-field art-house films and high-quality Hollywood blockbusters. Her “Orlando” continues to enjoy an international fan base. Swinton brings Lynne Ramsey’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin” to The SHOW.

The Telluride Film Festival’s special medallion is given to a “hero of cinema,” an organization or individual who preserves, honors and presents great movies. Past special medallion winners have included the Criterion Collection, HBO, Ted Turner, Leonard Maltin and Pierre Riessent. This year the honor goes to Sight & Sound, an 80-year-old magazine whose current editor Nick James is in town. Sight & Sound has brought Alan Clarke’s 1974 made-for-TV film “Penda’s Fen” to The SHOW.

Click the “play” button to listen to Gary Meyer talk about this year’s honored trio and the special medallion winner, Sight & Sound.

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