Telluride Notebook

The festival featured discovery and more stimulation for one weekend than even the most ardent film buff could handle.

As always, Telluride provided the sort of casual encounters that happen at no other festival, due to its small size, lack of boundary lines between talent and viewers, and the setting's congeniality. There was Ben Affleck, with wife Jennifer Garner and baby in tow, mentioning that if it had not been for Joel Silver pointing out that the Warner Bros. Studios water tower said "The Burbank Studios" at the time of Affleck's film, there would have been a period detail mistake in Argo; Marion Cotillard, in town for a career tribute and screenings of Rust & Bone, noting that she is taking her first time off since having her baby, during which time she had made four films; and 86-year-old Roger Corman, also present for a tribute, turning up everywhere with the enthusiasm and endurance of a 30-year-old.

In any case, this year a couple of new heavy hitters mixed with some fine American independents and strong foreign entries to create a festival of exceptional balance. On the high-profile side, Affleck's first-rate political thriller delivered all the goods. An even more hot-button political film that fired up everyone who saw it was Dror Moreh's extraordinary documentary The Gatekeepers, in which six former heads of Israel's Shin Bet intelligence agency speak with extraordinary bluntness about the country's past and present. Sony Pictures Classics isn't planning to release the film until next year, but this is a work of exceptional urgency that inspired more excited and passionate talk than anything else at Telluride.

On the indie front, Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha was an undisputed success, its seriocomic buoyancy and black-and-white images of New York (and, briefly, Paris and Sacramento) providing a wonderful tonic. There was unconditional praise for Elle Fanning's remarkable performance in Sally Potter's very fine Ginger & Rosa as a teenager in 1962 London beset with concern over the A-bomb threat and disarray with her parents and best friend. Also widely and deeply admired was Sarah Polley's distinctive personal documentary Stories We Tell.

Roger Michell's Hyde Park on Hudson was a genial, middleweight divertissement highlighted by Bill Murray's enjoyable turn as FDR. Among the other English-language features, there was appreciation for Ramin Bahrani's At Any Price, starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, and Ariel Vromen's violent hitman drama The Iceman , with Michael Shannon. Michael Winterbottom's Everyday, a drama about a Norfolk, Va., family shot over a five-year period, has points of interest but was dramatically flat.

The only complaint, as usual, was having missed certain must-see films; as usual for Telluride, so many films, so little time.

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