Scenes from the Telluride Film Festival -- The 29th annual event featured a dark and disturbing delection of dramas
Telluride Film Festival
Credit: Telluride Film Festival: Arun Nevader/

If Telluride’s spectacular mountain setting is almost anyone’s idea of heaven on earth, the often grim and graphic lineup of this year’s 29th annual film festival took festivalgoers nearer that other place.

Some of the most challenging entries from May’s Cannes film festival made their American debuts, including ”Irreversible,” a French film that prompted debate over whether its rape scenes or revenge scenes were more repugnant, and David Cronenberg’s ”Spider,” a tense peek inside the not entirely beautiful mind of a schizophrenic (played by Ralph Fiennes). But nothing polarized passholders more than world premieres of ”Auto Focus,” Paul Schrader’s tragicomic take on actor Bob Crane (played by Greg Kinnear), and ”Ken Park,” another Larry Clark/Harmony Korine exploration of teen promiscuity, this time with hardcore footage.

Telluride audiences grasping for anything even moderately less chilly warmed up to Michael Moore’s ”Bowling for Columbine,” Phillip Noyce’s aboriginal story ”Rabbit-Proof Fence,” Julie Taymor’s ”Frida,” and Pedro Almodovar’s ”Talk to Her.”

As usual, the festival offered film buffs some savvy retrospective programs, perhaps most memorably a resurrection of several 1950s three-projector Cinerama travelogues that, during one river-rafting clip, had hidden staffers spraying water cannons over the audience.

But nothing could douse the enthusiasm that prevailed outside the cinemas, where Telluride’s typically convivial atmosphere provided a stark contrast to the frenzy some filmmakers recently experienced in Cannes. ”I just love walking down the high street, bumping into Fiennes and Cronenberg,” said Terry Gilliam, in town to promote his ”starring role” in ”Lost in La Mancha,” a documentary about his aborted adaptation of ”Don Quixote.” ”It’s like a village made of famous filmmakers!”