BY TODD MCCARTHY
Former Telluride tributee Guy Maddin, creator of fantastical film including The Saddest Music in the World, Careful and Twilight of the Ice Nymphs, and film noir specialist Kim Morgan ("one of the best writers on the Internet," according to Roger Ebert) met and married four years ago. They are Telluride's first Guest Director Duo.
TODD MCCARTHY: You are the first couple to serve as Guest Directors. To what extent do your tastes in films overlap? How did that affect the way you approached this task for Telluride?
GUY MADDIN: Wouldn't it be great if we had some sort of adversarial husband and wife relationship? The Bickersons? One of the things that made me fall in love with Kim was not just the number of movie obsessions we already shared but the one she introduced me to. We don't have many deal-breaking obsessions.
KIM MORGAN: Guy introduced me to many things, too. We are voracious in all eras, any type of film and any genres of film. We go on obsessive jags. The last one was Fredric March, or, watching every dirty, sweaty movie from the 70s. It can be anything and everything.
GM: There was a Lon Chaney jag, a William Talman jag, a Ralph Meeker jag. It feels like we should be checking in to a fleabag motel and throwing the empty bottles of corn out the back window.
KM: We don't agree on everything. But I'm trying to think of one disagreement... [I did say this: Guy admitted here that he didn't like Cheap Trick as much as I do -- but I'll survive. If it were Waylon Jennings, I told him it would be over].
GM: When I first met Kim, I clung to my last few prejudices before I could call myself a cinema omnivore. I knew you were supposed to be in awe of 70s American cinema, but I just never felt the urge to put the DVDs in. She can't go too long without looking at something from that era, road pictures, in particular. She turned me on to Monte Hellman's Two Lane Blacktop and William Friedkin's The French Connection.
GM: I liked Altman, but she introduced me to California Split -- I fell in love immediately. It wasn't two people getting together; it was two people and their favorite decades getting together. We've known each other less than four years, but this programming represents kind of the Arthur Murray numbered dance steps of our relationship. You can lay them out on the floor and follow the programming through our first heady days together. Is that too schmaltzy?
TM: No, it's a wonderful new direction for the guest directors. Your program is limited in period between the early 1930s and the 1970s. It excludes the silent era, which is of some interest to you, Guy.
KM: We were trying to get a silent in there ... we both love The Unknown and are both obsessed with Erich von Stroheim [I will also add here -- I really wanted to program Stroheim, and I wouldn't shut up about him for months, but we couldn't decide], but we were trying to find films that hadn't been revived as often, if ever.
GM: When I go back to Telluride, I come home feeling like I've seen something that none of my friends back home have seen. I wanted to give that feeling to this year's visitors. So our picks were rarely seen. California Split was briefly available in DVD, but with footage missing [it's now OP]. It hasn't been seen this way since 1974. Man's Castle was never available, even on VHS. It's on my Sight and Sound ballot for sure. It's fun to be able to show a movie I consider almost perfect.
TM: That scene on the stilts...
GM: I got goosebumps just with you mentioning it. I love Frank Borzage's silent masterpieces. To get someone like Spencer Tracy, who is an amazing alpha force, to slow down and simmer -- it's amazing how playful and loving and delicate he gets.
TM: It's admirable to show films that are hard to see. How did you whittle it down to six?
GM: We picked our first five, and had another title, a Mexican film, Crepusculo. But at the last second, we asked if we could swap Wicked Woman, which is the the kind of film that should be rediscovered. It's a Detour-like Poverty Row, or one block over from Poverty Row. It was the first film Kim showed me. It's the kind of film viewers will come away feeling they were having an experience.
KM: There were so many movies! I was holding out. It was stressful picking just six. We were trying to cover each era, just to help us curate it, to give some rhyme or reason. As Guy said, there are so many films that are rarely seen. Il Grido [starring the great actor and notorious Steve Cochran] is not screened often and never revived and rarely discussed. I think it's a masterpiece. I want to see it on the big screen! That one was haunting us. We put it aside. Should we show it? Or not? We'd keep watching it, it's so beautiful, and I kept and keep thinking about it.
GM: I really always wanted to like Antonino more. I was saying, "If only he'd cast Steve Cochran. Or Raymond Burr." You get some noir on my Italian arthouse.
KM: We didnn't get any Joan Crawford In!
GM: Until Wicked Woman went in, we didn't have a gynocentric film. And boy, is that one gynocentric. It really is from the women's perspective.
KM: And then there's Joseph Losey's M -- a film that really needs to be seen. It was the first film I thought of, and it had finally been restored. I had only seen murky grey-market copies. It was a Holy Grail for me, to see it in a restored, pristine copy. Joseph Losey is such an interesting filmmaker [I have to add, Boom! "Injection!"] , and to think of it as a remake is ridiculous. It's the same story, but it's set [gorgeously shot] in Los Angeles, and the performances are so different. How many have even see it?
GM: Or even know it exists?
TM: How about Road To Glory? It's not singled out as one of the great Howard Hawks films.
GM: I know it's not one of your favorites [Todd]. I'm crazy for the romance of films set in the Great War. It's the most romantic of wars. I first came to Telluride in 1991 with my World War I film Archangel. It was too distant for it it to seem as horrifying as it really was, so it became a backdrop for a romance adventure.
GM: I [also] like the presence of William Faulkner... Even just the idea that he and Hawks are in the same credit roll. I know how darkly mischievousness Faulkner can be. I love how the film has Hawks' sense of fraternity and camaraderie along with that Faulkner undertow.
Todd McCarthy, the chief critic for the Hollywood Reporter, is author of numerous books including Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood.