Telluride Film Festival: Day Two

Paul O’Rourke reviews some of the films from the second day of the Telluride Film Festival.

Perfect Days

How many ways can you spend a perfect day? Hirayama (Koji Yakusho, winner of the best actor award at Cannes this year)—a devoted and well-practiced staff member of Tokyo Toilet (a public restroom cleaning company)—understands how.

And Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, 2013), a Silver Medallion recipient this year at TFF #50, certainly knows how, too. In this perfectly warm and wonderful film we accompany Hirayama on his daily routine, which at first seems, well, rather routine. Until that is, a few interruptions—like his sister’s daughter showing up unannounced or his part-time assistant quitting—attempt to divert his attention, if not his emotions, away from his well-practiced regimen. Ultimately for Hirayama (and Koji), life may be complex, but in his simple truth he is happily resigned to “Next time is next time; now is now.” And, as he explains it to his niece when she wonders why things aren’t exactly as she’d like them: “The world is made up of many worlds, but not all worlds connect. Some do; some don’t.”

In a very quiet way, Wenders and Koji show us that simple pleasures—like a breeze ruffling tree leaves or doing a serial tic-tac-toe with a regular but unknown patron of a Tokyo public restroom—can provide joy and wonder, enough to make for a perfect day.

This important film becomes one more entry into Wim Wenders’ remarkable catalog of cinematic masterpieces. For me, forever altered in the way I look at trees, Perfect Days is, well, perfect.

The Falling Star

The Falling Star, from the funny and intelligent team of Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel, reminds one of their Lost in Paris (TFF, 2017). And that, based on its often silly, but always very smart cinematic choreography, can only be a good thing.

The Falling Star is a bar, the principal setting for a potential crime drama. Boris (Abel) is the Falling Star’s barkeeper with a criminal (political activist) past, one that has drawn the attention of either a bounty hunter or the law (we’re not quite sure which). That Boris has a doppelgänger (also played by Abel) sets the stage for a series of very funny, and, as they had done so well in Lost in Paris, comically choreographed plot twists playing on the characters’ dual and mistaken identities; double entendre takes on a wholly new and hilarious meaning.

The Falling Star is funny and fun and a fine contribution to this year’s diverse festival program. See it if you get the chance.

Two Shorts: Strange Way of Life & The Golden West

What could be better; two half-hour movies shown back-to-back in the same theatre. Two for the price of one. Even better, one of those shorts, the curiously named (for me at least), Strange Way of Life, was written and directed by long time TFF contributor and Silver Medallion recipient in 1985, Pedro Almodovar. His film is, first and foremost, a Western with a definite The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly feel to it. Strange Way of Life is also a love story. Its protagonists (Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal) meet twenty-five years after their first wild and intimate encounter unsure, after the reunion, how they’re going to deal with one another. The setting and the scenario collide, artistically speaking, and the result, reminiscent of the three-way duel in Sergio Leone’s marvelous film, makes Strange Way of Life a wonderful short film that seems to want to be bigger.

In The Golden West, Oscar-winning writer-directors Ross White and Tom Berkeley have created a wonderful tale of two sisters, played so very well by Eileen Walsh and Aoife Duffin who have escaped the Irish potato famine and have turned to prospecting in North Wales in order to shed their past and make their fortune. But what starts as a near futile quest for gold becomes a “first one now will later be last” kind of story and a literary full circle back to their Irish past.

Both films are worthy of much praise; see ’em if you can.

All of Us Strangers

Andrew Haigh’s latest film is as much a love story as it is a haunting journey through time. Adam (Andrew Scott), for reasons mostly nostalgic, wants to find his former home, and when he does, he also finds, much to his shock and joy, his parents (Clair Foy and Jamie Bell), at a point in time when he last saw them alive, a few decades in the rearview mirror. The problem for Adam, beyond the fact his parents should be dead is that he remains in the present and needs to explain this rather surreal family reunion to Harry (Paul Mescal), his lover. Considering his parents live in their world four decades in the past, Adam’s sexuality requires no little explanation to them, which forces him to confront his own place in the universe.

 Andrew Haigh provides us much to chew on, visually and intellectually, in All of Us Strangers, as engaging as it is a little disturbing, in a good way. In the end, the audience is left to ponder and answer the questions of what’s real or imaginary, or what’s even possible. And that invitation to think and come up with an answer is what a good film is supposed to do, after all.