“Delicious, demented satisfaction:” It’s a phrase Telluride Film Festival Guest Director Kim Morgan—film writer, noir enthusiast and life partner to the other of Telluride’s two guest directors for 2014, filmmaker Guy Maddin—uses to describe her reaction to two favorite movies of hers, Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour and a film she programmed into the festival this year, the vividly sordid Russell Rouse picture Wicked Woman. One suspects savory satisfactions of all types to be found in the six films the couple has brought to the mountain town this year. I spoke with Maddin and Morgan over an unfortunately scratchy connection, in the midst of preparations for the their long-weekend adventure in Telluride, which by now is well underway.
Susan Gerhard: The travel experience to Telluride, it’s not necessarily an easy journey. Short of Donner Pass, but you do have to be dedicated to get there; there’s a bit of an entry barrier….
Kim Morgan: The altitude can really affect you.
Guy Maddin: I’m looking forward to mountain fever.
Gerhard: How does that manifest?
Morgan: I got a bit of a headache a few years ago. But I always wondered how Abel Gance handled it. How old was he?
Maddin: He was ninety. And he handled it the same way I would, at the foot of the bar.
Morgan: It’ll be fun. It’s a nice fever.
Maddin: Everyone’s got it; it’s an epidemic.
Gerhard: Let’s talk about the films you selected for the festival. [The program hadn’t yet been announced when we talked.]
Morgan: One of the first films I thought of when I was asked was Joseph Losey‘s M, which had just been restored last year. It’s one of those Holy Grail movies for me. I had wanted to see a crisp, beautiful copy of it. It’s never been released on VHS or DVD; it’s hard to see. I think it’s a brilliant film. The word is overused but I think it’s really under-rated.
Maddin: It’s a great-looking movie. People think of remakes as bad [and this a remake of a Fritz Lang film]. But this one is a real revelation.
Morgan: It was released in 1951, and is beautifully shot in downtown Los Angeles by cinematographer Ernest Laszlo, who did great, gritty location shooting. David Wayne plays Peter Lorre’s part in a much different performance. With Raymond Burr and Norman Lloyd, who is one hundred this year (!). . . we wanted him to come. We were sad that he couldn’t make it.
Maddin: I first thought of Frank Borzage’s Man’s Castle when I was invited to do this. The other two times I went to Telluride, I always came away with the thrill of seeing something that was difficult to see [anywhere else] and it turned out to be amazing. I wanted to bestow that feeling on this year’s visitors.
I chose this Frank Borzage masterpiece that’s never been on VHS or DVD from the early talky period when he was still batting a thousand. It stars Spencer Tracy and a really young Loretta Young. It looks gorgeous and is everything Martin Scorsese means when he praised Borzage’s films for unfolding in “lovers’ time” [“. . . every gesture, every exchange of glance, every word counts.”]
Gerhard: What are one or two of those other highlights from Telluride Film Festivals past you’ve attended? You were a tributee at one of those?
Maddin: In 1995 [when Maddin was honored at the festival], I saw James Wong Howe’s Greta Garbo screen test for a comeback. In the pre-Internet days there was no way for a person from Canada to see such a thing. I just felt so special. I went back home and told everybody; I started re-enacting Greta Garbo’s screen test on my friends. I also saw He Ran all the Way, a John Garfield picture with the director present. It was so wonderful.
Morgan: When I went in 2012, I presented two Jack Garfein movies, Something Wild and The Strange One. Something Wild, he did with Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker. I got to talk to him about how much I liked Somethign Wild; I interviewed him on stage and it was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had. Him talking about his own personal life, and how he felt while he was watching the film. He’s been through a lot: came to the U.S. after surviving Auschwitz, joined the Actors Studio in his twenties, made these two pictures at a very young age and none since then. But he’s an acting teacher and a writer who’s still working, and so fascinating and fun. He’s one of the most liberal-minded men I’ve ever met.
Next: Maddin and Morgan on their picks Il Grido, California Split, The Road to Glory and Wicked Woman.
Susan Gerhard is the Editor of Keyframe.