Telluride 2012: Michael Haneke's 'Amour' High on Everyone's Must-See List


Riva, known to French film fans for movies like "Hiroshima Mon Amour," capped a 55-year career with "Amour."

TELLURIDE, Colo. -- As the 39th Telluride Film Festival got underway Friday, Michael Haneke’s Amour was high atop many of the festival-goers’ must-see list. Winner of the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the sensitively observed drama about an older couple facing the ravages of age has already attracted a big following.

I polled some of the big-name festivalgoers this morning at the Land Rover-sponsored patron's brunch that opens the four-day event each year. They were among 600 people who boarded shuttles and SUVs for a 20-minute drive to Grey Head, a private residence high above the village of Telluride, where attendees enjoy a catered meal -- put together in consultation with noted chef Alice Waters, the proprietor of Chez Panisse and a longtime friend of festival co-director Tom Luddy -- and mingle before the first screenings.

“I hope to see Amour again. I saw that at Cannes, and I think that’s a very special film,” said director Alexander Payne, whose film The Descendants premiered here last year, but who came this year just to watch films. Gael Garcia Bernal, the star of this year's festival entry No, also caught the movie back in May and seconded that opinion, saying, “It’s fantastic, of course, needless to say.”

Those who singled it out as one of the fest films they most look forward to seeing for the first time include Deepa Mehta, whose film Midnight's Children is premiering here, who said, "I'm looking forward to [it], as everybody in the world is." Actress Greta Gerwig, here for the first time with Frances Ha, said, “I’m really excited for the Haneke movie. I’ve tried to not read anything about it because I love his movies and I just want to go experience it.” Fellow thesp Laura Dern, who is at this year's fest as a fan after coming on behalf of films several times in the past, also included it on her list.

FILM REVIEW: Michael Haneke's 'Amour'

Payne's visit to this year's fest will involve at least one little bit of "work": presenting Antonio Pietrangeli’s 1965 film I Knew Her Well, of which he is a great admirer. As far the films he plans to check out? “[Andrei] Tarkovsky’s Stalker -- I’ve never seen it," he says. "And Baraka in 70mm; I’ve never seen that. My friends can’t believe I’ve never seen Baraka.”

He had at least one taker for the Pietrangeli screening in Garcia Bernal, here for his new movie No. “I want to see also the one that Alexander Payne is presenting, I Knew Her Well, the Italian movie, ’cause I don’t think I’ll ever get a chance to see it again in a cinema,” the actor said.

Gerwig, Mehta, and Liz Garbus, who is here to premiere her new doc Love, Marilyn, all mentioned Sally Potter's Ginger & Rosa as another title that they would be seeking out.

Dern took time out from a chat with Payne, who directed her in 1996’s Citizen Ruth, to offer her credentials as a Telluride vet. “I’ve come a number of years in a row," she said. "I try to when I can because I just love it; it’s my favorite festival. I was here with two David Lynch films and Rambling Rose and a film called Smooth Talk, so I’ve been here a number of times."

On the other hand, Gerwig admitted to being a Telluride newbie: “I’ve never been here, but I always wanted to come. My boyfriend in college came here for the student symposium, so I’ve always wanted to come. It just seemed so awesome. … So this is kind of a dream fulfilled.” She added that her first visit is extra special because of the film she is here to promote: "I love it probably more than anything I’ve made."

PHOTOS: Cannes Day 5: 'Amour' Premiere, 'Sapphires' Photo Call 

Ben Affleck was also at the fest for the first time, accompanied by his wife Jennifer Garner and their kids, and was just hours away from presenting his new film Argo when I caught up with him. “I’ll be nervous, you know,” he confessed, “sort of sitting there and hoping that people are holding their breaths at the right places and laughing at the right places. It’s just a thrill.”

Affleck added, “I really wanted to come here with Gone Baby Gone, but it wasn’t sort of the right fit for the festival -- which is a nice way of saying they told me it wasn’t that good of a movie,” he laughed. He hard no hard feelings, though. Acknowledging the beautiful scenery, he said: “I expect the Von Trapps to come around the corner at any moment. It’s so idyllic that you can’t even believe it. It’s a less commercialized Sundance. It doesn’t have all the commercial sponsorships, so it really feels more purely about movies themselves. It feels like the kind of film festival where people actually watch movies. There’s a lot of festivals that you go to where it’s about, you know, talking about the movies, but it’s rare where you run into anyone who’s seen them. So it’s really, really nice. I’ve been really looking forward to it. It’s everything that I expected. I brought my whole family, and all they want to do is ride the gondola. I hope they don’t charge for riding the gondola. Otherwise I’m gonna be broke.”