A great film festival for me is defined not only by the quality of films I get to watch but also the meetings and chance encounters that happen along the way. In a queue waiting for a film to start, sitting in the lobby of a hotel waiting for an interview and sometimes, just stopping for a whole hour or two in the midst of the hectic festival schedule makes all the sense in the world.
I tried this yesterday afternoon and went to visit a friend in the restaurant of The Belvedere hotel, a good while after lunch and as interview junkets were being conducted all around me. It turned out to be the best decision of the day.
As I sat in the coolness of the A/C, observing the work and diligence that goes into publicizing the Locarno Festival and its endless, great content, I could look to my left and see Belgian actor Jérémie Renier talking to journalists, while on my right sat French filmmaker Bruno Dumont. Dumont's latest ARTE TV venture 'Coincoin et les z'inhumains' (Coincoin And The Extra-humans) -- the follow up to his 2014 'Li'l Quinquin' -- screens in two parts at the festival and he's also in Locarno to receive the Pardo d'Onore Manor on the evening of August 4th. He thus joins the company of wondrous filmmakers like Manoel de Oliveira, Bernardo Bertolucci, Ken Loach, Jean-Luc Godard, Abbas Kiarostami, Terry Gilliam, Aleksandr Sokurov, William Friedkin, Alain Tanner, Leos Carax, Werner Herzog, Agnès Varda, Michael Cimino, Marco Bellocchio and Todd Haynes -- the latter received the award in 2017.
On my way out of the hotel, I ran into Ted Hope, who is now best known now as the Head of Motion Pictures Development, Production, & Acquisitions at Amazon Studios, but of course has been a relentless champion of independent cinema in America for as long as great contemporary American indie cinema has been made.
Earlier this morning, Hope shared the wisdom of his path at a public talk. From working with Ang Lee on films like 'The Wedding Banquet' -- Hope said working with Ang taught him that "there is always another way to look at things" -- to getting 'American Splendor' made -- the story of underground comic book writer Harvey Pekar -- with two documentary filmmakers at the helm, to the upcoming 'Suspiria' by Luca Guadagnino, which is the title to surpass all titles at the upcoming Venice Film Fest, Hope shared his wisdom generously. The talk was moderated by Nick Vivarelli of Variety and the two shared a passion for cinema as well as an extensive knowledge of the film industry which made the hour and fifteen minutes float by in what seemed like seconds.
Hope swears by lists and of course he's well known and followed on social media for them. His mentality is that "if you stick around long enough and make enough movies, you realize that one-in-a-million chance can happen." But he also admitted that you have to constantly interrogate and take things to a higher ground in life. He got a phone call from Alejandro González Iñárritu just as he thought the filmmaker would never ever need him. He got '21 Grams' made, and still loves it despite the fact that Manohla Dargis began her review by writing it was "perhaps the most depressing movie ever made." And Hope discovered that creative lists should have 32 elements -- apparently even the classic composers stopped at that number -- while meaning-of-life lists usually go up to 42 points.
At one point Hope stated that "Amazon is a place where rules can be broken" and perhaps that sums up the success of the site, which has morphed into a full fledge movie studio of late. With their presence in Cannes and Venice they are at the forefront of a movement to make cinema, different, probably born out of Hope's own motto "originality and ambition." He's singlehandedly done away with the old standard of "prior comps" -- what made studios feel more secure when making a film whose formula had been tried successfully before.
And with that, I felt like diving into the last two episodes of Bruno Dumont's TV mini-series, which questions for me the meaning of the Apocalypse -- is it just one big party where everyone finally comes together as one? More on that later...