<p>This scene from &quot;Baraka&quot; reeled me in 10 or 12 years ago.</p>

This scene from "Baraka" reeled me in 10 or 12 years ago.

Credit: The Samuel Goldwyn Company

A Telluride time-out with Ron Fricke's 'Baraka'

Stunning as ever in 70mm

TELLURIDE - I've recognized over the last few years that sometime Sunday afternoon at the Telluride fest, I find myself yearning for a break, something different, something I don't feel compelled to write about. Of course, I'll often find myself wanting to write about it anyway, but the lack of obligation going in is the real gift. Last year it was the presentation of a restored version of Georges Méliès's "A Trip to the Moon." This year it was a 70mm presentation of Ron Fricke's "Baraka."

I've mentioned this briefly before, but I was fortunate enough to attend a film school that had a massive archive of prints, one of the top three largest collections in the world at the time. And part of that was a great 70mm selection, from "Aliens" to "2001: A Space Odyssey" to, indeed, "Baraka." I had never heard of the film at the time, though a few of my classmates had. I went in blind and I fell in love. It was a very specific and noteworthy moment for me, an awe-inspiring experience in a pre-jaded time. I've owned the film on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray since and, naturally, it has just never been the same experience.

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<p>Keira Knightley in &quot;Anna Karenina.&quot;</p>

Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina."

Credit: Focus Features

Review: All the world really is a stage in adventurous, aloof 'Anna Karenina'

HitFix
B-
Readers
B-
Dazzling design but muted passion in imaginative adaptation of the Tolstoy tome

In the five years since Joe Wright last fixed his camera on a lissome, silk-swaddled Keira Knightley, he appears to have taken concerted, even hasty, steps away from a reputation he'd never made as much effort to acquire as his harshest critics would have you believe. Those accusing him of safely wallowing in Masterpiece Theater starch, or brashly seizing the mantle of the late Anthony Minghella (already a little moth-eaten from its time in David Lean's wardrobe), seem prompted more by the comfortable middlebrow success of his first two films than the often invigorating evidence on screen. 

No one needed another “Pride and Prejudice,” true, but Wright's frisky, grass-stained romp proved you could young up the classics without taking them to Vegas; “Atonement” occasionally buckled under the weight of its formal ostentation, but was bracingly concept-y in its romanticism, doubling back on Ian McEwan's exclusively literary twists with cool elan. It was an impressive one-two, but Wright obviously felt cowed into contemporary material by glib Merchant-Ivory comparisons. The modern LA folk tale of “The Soloist” wasn't as gloopy as it looked from a distance, but it felt like an assignment. Far weirder and more vital was “Hanna,” a daffy girl-oriented chase thriller lent cred and urgency by its full-throttle techno-Grimm styling; his best film to date, it's also the one that had us wondering who Joe Wright, like his equally mutable heroine, really is. 

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<p>Michael&nbsp;Shannon in &quot;The&nbsp;Iceman&quot;</p>

Michael Shannon in "The Iceman"

Credit: Millennium Films

On Adam Driver and Michael Shannon, 'Frances Ha' and 'The Iceman'

Charisma on two levels in Telluride

TELLURIDE - I'm not the Noah Baumbach subscriber many of my colleagues are. I even choked a little bit yesterday at the premiere of "Frances Ha" when Scott Foundas, in introducing the director, called him "the voice of his generation." But I do think a case may have been made in his latest.

The film is Woody Allen by way of Williamsburg, "Girls" by way of...well, Baumbach. And it's easily his best yet, his most thematically refined outing. And it's been interesting to see some call it his least essential, others his best effort. But few have bad words for it. At the center is a fantastic, flighty portrayal from Greta Gerwig, continuing her indie star rise, but I was once again charmed right out of my seat by Adam Driver.

You'll probably recall him for his work in Lena Dunham's aforementioned HBO series, and yes, he's treading similar waters here. But there's something so charismatic and easy, assured and magnetic about the actor. I'd say when he was on screen, I was most invested in the film. And I hope he gets more and more work.

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<p>Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams in &quot;To the Wonder.&quot;</p>

Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams in "To the Wonder."

Credit: FilmNation Entertainment

Review: 'To the Wonder' is Terrence Malick's typically enchanted Tree of Love

HitFix
B+
Readers
C+
Heartfelt song to personal and spiritual intimacy proves predictably divisive

VENICE -- Stop the presses: There's been booing at a screening of the new Terrence Malick film. Whether they came from the same small-but-loud faction of supposed journalists who vocally expressed their displeasure at "The Tree of Life" in Cannes last year, or a fresh batch of doubters, such jeers are unusual for films that feature no purported moral transgressions, nor any sheer ineptitude of craft. (Films aren't booed at festivals simply for being bad, you know: a year ago, Madonna's "W.E." heard not a one.)

Rather, Malick is one of the few senior A-list filmmakers who can get razzed in this fashion for being too sincere, too lyrical, too himself. And he is all of those things, to both bewitching and bemusing effect, in "To the Wonder," a follow-up to "The Tree of Life" in more senses than mere proximity. With not even 16 months separating their premieres, they are by far the nearest-born works in a filmography otherwise thick with white space, underlining the impression of two sister films: both iridescently pictorial, ambiguously self-focused and inclined to lure critics into terms they should normally feel self-conscious about using. "Tone poem." "Meditation." "Elegy." "Prayer." Ghastly words when abused, the lot of them. Malick's cinema somehow wears them well.

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<p>&quot;The&nbsp;Gatekeepers&quot;</p>

"The Gatekeepers"

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Provocative and revealing 'Gatekeepers' argues futility of an eye for an eye

One of the most important premieres of the festival

TELLURIDE - Fewer movies are going to be as important and provocative at this year's Telluride Film Festival than Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers." The documentary filmmaker was granted an extraordinary amount of access to six former heads of Shin Bet, the ultra-secretive Israeli intelligence agency, and turned out a striking, candid assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from those with the very power to dictate what can and cannot be divulged.

Along the way there are plenty of defensive exchanges regarding the organization's handling of terrorism and notions of morality in a situation seemingly lacking any sense of it, but ultimately there is a sense of weariness from the former agency chiefs and a desire to negotiate peace with their enemies. "We can sit down and I can see that you don't eat glass and you can see that I don't drink petrol," one of them -- who even goes so far as to compare the "cruel" Israeli occupation to Nazi Germany -- puts it.

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<p>A scene from &quot;Argo&quot;</p>

A scene from "Argo"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Does WB have an Oscar thoroughbred on its hands with Ben Affleck's 'Argo?'

Signs point to 'Yes'

TELLURIDE - Like my colleague Greg Ellwood, I attended yesterday afternoon's "Sneak Preview" premiere of Ben Affleck's "Argo." Last year the spot -- an unannounced screening for patrons of the festival and invited press -- went to "The Descendants," the year before, "Chico & Rita." It's not a typical spot for Oscar bait to bow, it just happened to fall that way the last couple of years. And it was a big winner this time around.

I found the film to be yet another step up for Affleck, who continues to grow as a filmmaker and surprise not just formally but with his adeptness at handling ensembles as well. And that's what "Argo" is: an organic, finely tuned ensemble where no one really stands out from the pack. And that's not a bad thing, particularly for a film that is very much about the efforts of the many.

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<p>Marion Cotillard at the New&nbsp;York premiere of &quot;The&nbsp;Dark&nbsp;Knight Rises&quot;&nbsp;in July</p>

Marion Cotillard at the New York premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in July

Credit: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

'Dark Knight Rises' and 'Rust & Bone' star Marion Cotillard honored in Telluride

The still-rising starlet receives the second tribute of the festival this year

TELLURIDE - Actress Marion Cotillard didn't really explode onto the domestic film stage until "La Vie en Rose," but what a coming out it was. She managed to win an Oscar that few (ahem) saw coming and transformed that newfound respect and goodwill into a thriving Hollywood career, but it was hardly an overnight success story.

Cotillard had already seen plenty of success in her native France before that 2007 explosion. She starred in Arnaud Desplechin's "My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument," Pierre Grimblat's "Lisa" and the "Taxi" action comedy trilogy -- earning plenty of recognition for each -- before breaking out in Yann Samuel's romantic comedy "Love Me If You Dare" (in which she co-starred with eventual husband Guillaume Canet) in 2003. She also eventually landed a prime role in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's "A Very Long Engagement," which brought her a César Award for Best Supporting Actress.

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<p>A police sketch from the trial of Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam</p>

A police sketch from the trial of Antron McCray, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam

Credit: Sundance Selects

'Central Park Five' is a crushing indictment of mob mentality and miscarried justice

Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon's doc holds a mirror up to society

TELLURIDE - "I hope this film makes you angry," filmmaker Sarah Burns said by way of introduction to this morning's screening of "The Central Park Five." She co-directed the film with her father, Ken Burns (a Telluride staple -- as is Sarah: this is her 20th fest) and husband David McMahon. And angry is a good way to put it.

Maddening, gut-wrenching, deflating, these are all words I would use to describe the film, which tells the story of five black and Latino youths who were wrongfully convicted of the vicious rape of a female jogger in New York's Central Park in April of 1989. Films like the "Paradise Lost" trilogy and "West of Memphis" have recently depicted miscarriages of justice in similarly infuriating ways, but few have been such a thorough and profound indictment of mob mentality as this. It's a must-see effort analyzing an ugly and dark hour for society.

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<p>Nina Hoss in &quot;Barbara.&quot;</p>

Nina Hoss in "Barbara."

Credit: Adopt Films

Germany selects Berlinale winner 'Barbara' for the foreign-language Oscar race

Christian Petzold's superb Stasi-era drama is playing Telluride this weekend

A little over a week ago, I mentioned that Germany had announced a shortlist of eight possibilities for their official submission in this year's Best Foreign Language Film race -- and had evidently ceded Michael Haneke's French-Austrian-German co-production "Amour" to Austria this time, after beating their neighboring state in the tussle to submit "The White Ribbon" three years ago.

I had only seen one of the options on the list, but still found it hard to imagine they could make a better choice than "Barbara," Christian Petzold's excellent, broadly acclaimed Cold War drama about a female doctor in rural East Germany circa 1980, wrestling with her conscience over whether or not to defect to the West.

Happily, that's exactly what they've chosen -- giving Telluride audiences an extra reason to check "Barbara" out as it has its North American premiere there this weekend, before travelling on to both the Toronto and New York festivals. The film already has a US distributor in newish indie outfit Adopt Films, so Petzold's team can now just bask in the further kudos they're likely to receive on the fall festival track.

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<p>Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in &quot;The Master.&quot;</p>

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in "The Master."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Seductive, elliptical 'The Master' answers to no man

HitFix
A-
Readers
B+
Anderson's latest man-and-boy saga stimulates and mystifies in equal measure

VENICE - How do you break an already broken man? It'd be presumptuous to say that this is one of the questions asked by Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" -- and it certainly asks no end of them, both verbally and otherwise -- but it was the first of many it left me asking. In a film that devotes an abundance of screen time to replicating (though not, contrary to more excitable pre-screening rumours, ridiculing) the Scientological auditing process, an interrogative therapy designed to draw out unconscious truths, the spontaneous personal response is surely not to be distrusted.

Elliptical but hardly indecisive, testy but hardly incendiary, Anderson's exquisitely sculpted film is about more individual-based values and desires than its grabby advance reputation as a Scientology exposé promised: trust, admiration, sex, kinship. "The Master" turns out to be many of the things I expected it to be -- a sharp evaluation of what we are prepared to believe in exchange for self-possession, a richly textured evocation of American social vulnerabilities in the aftermath of WWII, most inevitably of all, another literate chapter in Paul Thomas Anderson's ongoing thesis on the positive and corruptive powers of charismatic leadership. What I had not quite anticipated, however, was a romance -- much less one between two men.

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