by Walter Chaw About three hours into the six-hour drive to Telluride, I feel something unknot. It's somewhere between my shoulder blades. My head clears. I find myself stopping more this year than I have in years past. I pull off onto more scenic overlooks. I push my teeth into the journey.
It's like there's been something coiled, black, and it goes away after winding itself up in the time from one festival to the next. Every turn in the road solves some curve in a rope puzzle. They know every labyrinthine furrow and unravel it like a clever clockwork, clicking in opposition. Everything starts to look different. Things smell different, taking on a cast of petrichor and hiraeth. That shortness of breath owes itself to something other than just the extreme altitude. It's hard to explain. I don't understand it completely. But coming to Telluride is the best thing that I do for myself every year.
And here I am again.
It's not about the movies. I'll watch nine or ten over the next three days but that's not why I come. The new Charlie Kaufman movie is here and, yes, I'm very excited to see it, but I'll be fine if I don't. Telluride for me is very much like Comic-Con is for cosplayers. I get to be a Film Critic in Telluride and embrace one of the last places on the planet where that term isn't treated with instant suspicion, incomprehension, or hostility. My wife understands the complexity of my personal identity. My blue heeler does, too, I like to think, or at least we forgive each other for being unbalanced in a complementary way. Beyond that, I've always struggled to adequately explain what I do, and so when people I don't know ask, I tend to offer a list of things and let them choose whatever's most comfortable. What's painful is when people I know and love still ask.
It's not painful in Telluride. In Telluride, I can wear this skin without self-consciousness. People know what I'm dressed up as.
Telluride has become a mile-marker, too, to chart the course of my depression. I'm doing well now. I've had a great year. I've been involved with a great creative endeavour as the general manager of an Alamo Drafthouse; and I've completed the bulk of a first draft of a book on the films of Walter Hill. Smaller projects have peppered the spaces in-between. I teach a little, speak a little, and the other night I got to introduce Say Anything... while holding a boombox over my head. And if I never really enjoy much in the moment, Telluride at least lets me enjoy it for a moment. I take stock here. I consider the things that I have done well and come to terms with the things I have not. I face my demons and acknowledge my angels.
I don't pray, but I understand it. I don't meditate, either, but I understand that, too. I come closest to both when I come here, where I'm closest to my source.
The view from my condo is rain-soaked and grey. It's raining more than it ever has in my experience here and, last night, driving up the mountain, I wondered if the giant droplets were turning to snow. I'm up after two hours of sleep. I don't sleep much in Telluride--I don't seem to need as much. Now I'm about to head down to the gondola that serves as the town's main form of public transportation. I've never ridden it in the rain and the prospect of it makes me giddy. I plan to see four movies today. Maybe five. I plan to meet dear friends for lunch and drink more coffee than is probably healthy. I am the best version of myself here, and if I only get to be that for 72 hours each September, it fills me up and I'm grateful for all of it.