Silent Film Music and other Sounding Off

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Report from the Telluride Film Festival

Hi all, just back from my 5th trip to Telluride, what a great festival! The intermittent rain stopped by midday Saturday and we had a lovely three days after that. Here’s what I did…

Day 1. After the delicious morning brunch in the spectacular mountain and ranch scenery, with our wonderful friends Richie Meyer and Susan Harmon, I went to the sound check for my film the next day, see below. You can watch the entire 2hr. 20 with my score if you sign up for a free trial on In the evening I saw a riveting doc, End of Eden by Angus MacQueen, which explores different facets of the last remaining tribes in the far reaches of the Amazon who have remained isolated from the rest of the world. What happens when cameras and medicine come to their villages? Very thought-provoking. Also saw Louis Malle's visually ravishing but thematically depressing 60's drama of a alcoholic's slow slide into suicide, Le Feu Follet.

Day 2: Got to the queue too late to get into Sully, so went instead to Into the Inferno. Telluride regular Werner Herzog teams up with British volcanologist to stare into a number of active volcanoes, including one in North Korea, which sparks a mini-digression on the curious culture of that country. Stunning cinematography and sometimes typically-Herzogian wackiness emerges, such as a scene in Africa when Californian paleontologist Tim White explains with vigor the ins and outs of brushing the ancient soil for bits and pieces of bones. And an encounter with a South Sea tribal chief whose people have created a cult around a mythical GI, John Frum, who will one day descend from the sky to save them.

My film this year: Spies, the ur-crimi that got Fritz Lang back on his feet after the financially disastrous Metropolis. Volker Schlöndorff had programmed it and the Sheraton Opera House was packed to the rafters with a VIP crowd including Bertrand Tavernier, Werner Herzog, also Peter Sellars and Tom Luddy, both of whom, along with Schlöndorff, told me how much they had enjoyed the music. Got one of Sellars’ famous hugs. What a gas. In the evening I went to a tribute to Amy Adams, with clips from half a dozen of her films, including the great Central park scene in Enchanted. Then the premiere of her new sci-fi film Arrival, which I adored.

Day 3. Toni Erdmann, a 162 min. German film about an eccentric, practical joking father and his consultant daughter who is trying to do deals in Romania but Daddy keeps getting in the way. Very funny and touching. Great, great acting by German stage veterans Peter Simonischek (I met him, what fun) and Sandra Hüller. La La Land, by the director of Whiplash. A musical fantasy set all over LA with singing and dancing by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling playing young hopefuls in the entertainment biz. Fun, corny and I cried a lot. Justin Hurwitz's songs are effective but not his orchestrations, unfortunately. Rather clumsy in many places. Then Things to Come, a sensitive French drama starring a fabulous Isabelle Huppert as a philosophy teacher facing multiple family crises all at once.

Day 4: Kasper Collin’s brilliant doc I Called Him Morgan about the life and death of trumpet genius Lee Morgan and his wife Helen, who shot him in February 1972 in a NY club. Superb footage, interviews, editing, music. After the annual Labor Day picnic in the park I went to: Moonlight, a beautiful and poignant drama about a black boy in Miami and his coming to manhood in the midst of the drug culture. Then at last to Sully, Clint Eastwood’s paean to the US Airways pilot who saved his planeload of 155. Tom Hanks is fine and the structure of the film keeps things on edge despite having seen it on the news.  Finally, a truly wacky and delightful comedy by a Belgian couple, Lost in Paris. Shades of Tati and Keaton but with lots of original zaniness. Great fun to watch and a big audience hit.

Look for these films at your local theaters, you will enjoy! Some of the docs will be on Netflix…


  • At 5:19 PM , Blogger Murray Spiegel said...

    Welcome back from Telluride!

    On an old program, I saw your name associated with a catch sung by the Univ of Michigan Glee Club. The catch - "We took off our ugly clothes" - was noted as being a gift to the club when it was on tour in 1982.

    I co-lead a group in NYC that sings rounds. I'd love to teach this to our group. Do you have a score of this amazingly clever round? (A scan of a handwritten version would be fine too.) Pse reply to Thanks! Murray Spiegel

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