Love, Marilyn


Love, Marilyn

“Love, Marilyn”

The Telluride Film Festival, per Buck Henry, “Valhalla for film folk,” is an equal opportunity venue, known for giving documentaries as much prominence as features. Ditto for special programs that often showcase films that don’t quite make it by conventional standards: read Big Box Office.This year’s mix totals about 100 films in all, including 25 movies in the main program, 12 in the Backlot, plus revivals, shorts, animations, Guest Director picks and promising works by new directors.

Born Norma Jean Mortenson on June 1, 1926, the actress who adopted the stage name “Marilyn Monroe” overcame a difficult childhood, including abandonment and rape, to become one of the biggest stars in the world and an enduring sex symbol. Monroe died August 5, 1962 of a drug overdose at only 36 years old.

Among the featured documentaries at the Telluride Film Festival 2012 is director Liz Garbus’s “Love, Marilyn.” Actresses Elizabeth Banks, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei, Lili Taylor, Lindsay Lohan, Evan Rachel Ward, Glenn Close and Ellen Burstyn perform excerpts that reveal the superstar’s depth of intellectual and creative curiosity, her ongoing self-improvement program, and her battle with 20th Century Fox for creative control , also her struggles with tranquilizers. The documentary also includes never-before-seen footage from the estates of Arthur Miller and Truman Capote.

In 2010, Israel was seen through the lens of director Shlomi Eldar, whose memorable, heartwarming and hopeful documentary, “A Precious Life,” told a story of hope in the midst of the ongoing Israeli/Palestine maelstrom. This year, the perspective shifts considerably to Israel’s shadow side: the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet is a network of intelligence operators, informants, interrogators, assassins, who make up the “Gatekeepers,” in Dror Moreh’s documentary about Israel’s internal security organization. In the film, the director interviews six former directors, who riff on the hair-raising details about how the little country in the middle of the desert became and remains so powerful and successful – despite leaders whom these outspoken directors say dumped the Jewish state in a cesspool of perpetual occupation and looming conflict.

“The Central Park Five,” based on a book written by the daughter of Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, who also directed, tells the true story of an investment banker who is assaulted and raped allegedly by a gang of five teenage boys in New York’s Central Park while out jogging. The investigation, trial and aftermath of the event describes  a tragic story of a compromised justice and persistent racism, fueled by a rabid media. “Central Park” has already got the buzz machine buzzing on the Internet.

Accused rapist Yusef Salaam is escorted by policein "The Central Park Five"

Accused rapist Yusef Salaam is escorted by police in “The Central Park Five”

“Marilyn,” “Gatekeepers” and “Central Park” are three of the documentaries at the 39th annual Telluride Film Festival.

Guest director Geoff Dyer’s selections include six films even most film buffs never heard of: Andrei Tarkovsky’s “The Stalker”; Claire Denis’ “Beau Travail,” a daring version of Melville’s “Billy Budd”; Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson’s “Together,” a send up of a Swedish commune in the 1970s; “Werner x 2,” a doc about blazing oil wells of Kuwait after the first Gulf War; “Baraka” is a visual poem made by cinematographer Ron Fricke, DP of the classic “Koyaannisqatsi”; and “Unrelated,” by Joanna Hogg’s, presenting the bourgeoisie with “lyrical but devastating precision.”

Two works by filmmaker Jack Garfein wind up in the TFF’s “Spotlight”: “Something Wild,” the anatomy of a rape seen through the troubled eyes of the victim and “The Strange One,” featuring Ben Gazzara as a major bully in his film debut.

The films on the Backlot, aka, Telluride’s Wilkinson Public Library, showcase behind-the scenes movies and portraits of artists, musicians, and filmmakers. These screenings are among the many ways the Film Fest gives back to the community: they are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Classic cartoons of Chuck Jones, artist-animator and creator of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd, received his first retrospective back in 1976 at the Telluride Film Festival. Jones’s centenary is celebrated with screenings of his work Saturday, Sunday and Monday in the Open Air Theatre in Elks Park and with his bon mots prior to all screening at the theatre in Mountain Village named in his honor/

To learn more about the program beyond the features, click the “play” button and listen to my interview with director Gary Meyer.

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