Telluride’s annual Patrons brunch is always a highlight of the festival—there are worse ways to kick off your event than gathering a bunch of enthusiastic filmmakers against a stunning mountain backdrop—but this year especially offered a jolt of bliss. While Venice is already facing some muted buzz as a result of the SAG-AFTRA strike, Telluride’s relative intimacy certainly works to its benefit amid all the industry dysfunction. There were less actors around than usual—Anatomy of a Fall and Zone of Interest star Toni Erdmann and Tuesday lead Julia Louis-Dreyfus were among the few in attendance—but the startling array of celebrated directors and producers made for a welcome no less thrilling than in years’ past. “It’s just lower-key,” as one rep told me.
Rebecca Ford and I were able to catch up with a slew of filmmakers, festival patrons, and various strategists and representatives priming for their big premieres—and certainly, everyone in attendance for Telluride’s 50th birthday agreed that this edition is offering a particularly stacked lineup. By far the most anticipated movie seemed to be Amazon Studios’s Saltburn, premiering late tonight; basically everyone I talked to said they were going, so if you’re reading this and planning on it, get in line early. It’s premiering against Andrew Haigh’s All of Us Strangers, which is the second most mentioned movie we heard about today, and a broader theme emerged there: Opening night is incredibly packed, with world premieres of those two movies plus Apple’s Fingernails, Netflix’s Rustin, Focus’s The Holdovers, and more. Plan wisely.
Also premiering tonight? Jeff Nichols’s The Bikeriders, one of the biggest mysteries of the fest. (I know no one who has seen it; it’s the only title I can say that for.) I was surprised when he told me and Rebecca this was his first time at the festival, given that his American dramas like Take Shelter and Loving would feel tailor-made for the festival. He joked that his longtime collaborator and friend Michael Shannon, who costars in that film opposite Austin Butler, Jodie Comer, Mike Faist, and more, had given him a hard time that he’d never actually make the film, since he’d been talking about doing so for literal decades.. “So I’ve proven him wrong,” Nichols told Vanity Fair with a laugh.
These may be top-notch filmmakers, but you could feel the nerves of those about to unveil films they’ve spent years on to the world—if, more specifically, an ideal film-loving community. Haigh admitted to steeling himself a bit for the critical response to All of Us Strangers, reflecting on the experience of a handful of journalists setting the tone for a given film’s level of acclaim before it goes on to more premieres around the world, and finally a theatrical release and a (hopeful) awards campaign. But if there were a place to do it, he says, it’s here. And Saltburn writer-director Emerald Fennell seemed to be taking all of the anticipation in stride. She told Vanity Fair that she loved her movie, and knows that’s what ultimately matters. Still, it’s a big premiere. What does it feel like? A bit like “taking off all your clothes,” Fennell cracks, and asking a group of people to point out your flaws. We suspect said group will have some nice things to say, too.