Telluride: Robert Redford looks back at the progression of an industry
TELLURIDE, Colo. - It's interesting seeing Robert Redford receive a tribute at the Telluride Film Festival. With Sundance so ingrained in his blood and his being the face of an entire institution, his presence here -- albeit in a completely warranted capacity -- feels like a touch of infidelity. But it's too good an opportunity to pass up for a fixture of Hollywood history who this year delivers an absolutely amazing, sure-fire Oscar-contending performance in J.C. Chandor's "All is Lost."
A pair of tribute presentations were held yesterday and today at the fest with a clip reel and Silver Medallion presentation (introduced last night by Redford's "Quiz Show" star Ralph Fiennes, who is here with his own film, "The Invisible Woman"). Audiences were treated to 60 minutes of Redford's work across a wide spectrum, from Sidney Lumet's "The Iceman Cometh" (1960) to multiple Sydney Pollack collaborations (1972's "Jeremiah Johnson," 1985's "Out of Africa," etc.) to Redford's own "A River Runs Through It" (1992, starring Brad Pitt, who's also here this year with a sneak of "12 Years a Slave").
When this morning's event got around to the conversation portion, moderated by the LA Times' John Horn, the theme was clear: Redford's perspective on an ever-evolving industry over the course of five decades. He has worked through a changing of status quo in Hollywood, watching as the industry "became more centralized and 'followed the money,'" to steal a phrase from 1976's "All the President's Men." Redford could "see changes taking place in the product, and it was jettisoning the kinds of movies I was interested in," he said.
That is of course a well-worn talking point by now as it's the perfect segue to his reasoning for founding the Sundance Institute and later the Sundance Film Festival. But it's part and parcel of Redford's perch and perspective. He's seen the rise of film schools and a new breed of filmmaker in people like Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, and later, the effects-driven world of consumer product in film. But within all of that, gradually what was missing for him were the three things he holds most dear: character, story and emotion.
One of his earliest collaborations was with Sidney Lumet in "The Iceman Cometh," and that was a filmmaker Redford was quick to praise in the discussion. "Sidney really understood the value of pulling out the emotions in something," Redford said. "He liked close-ups so much that he would get in the way of your performance; he'd stand next to the camera and you'd be working with Jason Robards or Myron McCormick and suddenly there's this face in there. But that was Sidney."