Telluride Film Festival 2023 Highlights | Festivals & Awards

September 7, 2023 - Movies

“A Tribute to Wim Wenders” was held in the Chuck Jones Theater and began with a retrospective short film of his work. His photography and unique filming style were presented in a series of films, “Paris Texas” (1984), “Wings of Desire” (1987), “Pina” (2011) and “Buena Vista Social Club” (1989), and “Salt of the Earth” (2014). Next, his new film “Perfect Days” screened with lead Koji Yakusho, this year’s Cannes Best Actor winner, in attendance. Koji won his award by portraying a dedicated toilet cleaner who spends his free time listening to cassette-made tapes and staring into the sun while enjoying the beauty of nature. The “day-in-the-life” film offers an in-depth look at the pride and care in one’s daily life, even though the job brings an invisible presence to most. The cinematic poetry of Wenders’ observations is a sublime experience, an elevation almost beyond human comprehension. Its immense reflective and calming emotions make “Perfect Days” worth the time. 

The Q&A with director Wim Wenders and actor Koji Yakusho shed light on his performance and Wenders’ remarkable film career as a former artist who enjoyed painting. However, he desired to make his paintings come alive through film. The minute details of daily routine, the environmental factors that flood our senses, and the suggestion of patterning one’s life with personal joy were explored.

Telluride also had the world premiere of “Janet Planet” by director Annie Baker, (the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner for her play The Flick). It’s Baker’s directorial debut, which has shades of The Flick in the easygoing pacing and natural dialogue. The story focuses on an 11-year-old child who lives in a fantasy world and learns about life through her mother’s bad choices in boyfriends and cult associations.

Baker introduced the film and talked about her desire to become a director at a very young age. Completing her film is a tremendous personal accomplishment, as she learned so much from the process. The film’s performances are spot-on, mainly due to the heartwarming enactments by Janet (Julianne Nicholson), the single mom of the title, and Lacy (Zoe Ziegler), her daughter. The story unfolds in 1991 in rural Massachusetts through the socially awkward and needy Lacy’s attentive eyes.

“Daddio,” starring Sean Penn and Dakota Johnson, is writer/director Christy Hall’s debut film; it’s incredible as the duo of taxicab driver Penn and his passenger Johnson are the sole focus for the duration of the film—her taxi fare from New York’s JFK’s airport until the final destination in mid-town Manhattan. Told through her backseat texting and Penn’s observant nature, they both deliver nuanced and steady performances. Penn’s stellar turn as Clark reminded me of his Academy Award-nominated role in “Dead Man Walking” (1995), as the film’s set has similar restrictions in terms of physical space. Johnson’s performance garners compassion and empathy for her character, a woman emotionally scarred by the lack of a loving father in her life.

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