Novelist Russell Banks dubbed it ”the bad-dad festival,” and he should know. Alcoholic, homicidal, or incestuous fathers featured heavily in the selections at Colorado’s 24th Telluride Film Festival — two of them in adaptations of Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter (by director Atom Egoyan) and Affliction (by Paul Schrader). Pitiful patriarchs also showed up in Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, Neil Jordan’s The Butcher Boy, and the German sleeper Lea.
Fortunately, the founding fathers of the four-day festival, where high art unfolds in a rustic mountaintop setting, are well-known for good taste (last year’s entries included Sling Blade, Swingers, and Secrets & Lies). This year both Butcher Boy, Jordan’s improbably funny tale of a pubescent Irish sociopath, and Men With Guns, John Sayles’ Spanish-language meditation on guilt and guerrillas in Latin America, garnered applause. Provoking a more polarized response was director James Toback’s Two Girls and a Guy, an examination of infidelity that some saw as an endorsement of it. But mass walkouts were reserved for 23-year-old Kids scribe Harmony Korine’s directorial debut, Gummo, another verite parade of teens behaving badly (and killing cats in the process).
Meanwhile, Stone who practically invented polarization — proved he can cause a stir even without a sociopolitical agenda. His deliriously pulpy neo-Western U-Turn, starring Billy Bob Thornton, Sean Penn, and Powers Boothe, was praised for its stylishness but criticized for its amorality and body count. ”It’s not too complicated, but it’s got lots of twists,” says Stone, who chose to bring U-Turn here rather than rush it over to Cannes earlier this year. ”It’s perfect,” he says of U-Turn‘s Telluride debut. ”A neo-Western for a spaghetti-noir town.”