“After Palindromes, I had given up on Todd Solondz,” a friend wrote last night from the Telluride Film Festival. “So I went into Life During Wartime thinking that when an artist runs out of ideas he revisits one of his previous successes. I was wrong. Wartime is rich. Yes, he does revisit some of the same characters from Happpiness (’98), but Solondz has matured and become more introspective in the eleven years since.

“This will not be a commercial film by any means. There were many walk-outs this evenings, especially when a boy barely twelve asks his mother (played by Allison Janney) what does a man do to rape a young lad. But it’s a challenging work from an artist. Great ensemble work.”

When I read this last graph I said to myself, “Yeah, that’s certainly one way to put it — ‘challenging.'” A young buy asking his mom what rape amounts to when the predator is a man and the victim is a boy. If there’s one thing you know you’re going to get with a Solondz film, it’s something in the ick realm. But ask an elite film cognoscenti type about Solondz and they’ll never blurt this out in so many words. They’ll jump off a building or stab themselves with a letter-opener before doing this. For them it’s always the fine writing and dramatic richness and admiring acknowledgments of Solondz’s perfectionist tendencies, etc. Which is partly why Joe Popcorn ignores their reviews.

Jacques Audiard‘s A Prophet “is very compelling, and boasts intricate storytelling,” my friend also said. “You watch this young French/Arab guy’s education in jail on how to be a criminal.

“I just walked by the theatre where Up In The Air was showing and people said it’s the best film of the festival and [Jason] Reitman‘s best film to date. I’m going to try and catch it tomorrow.

“Oh, and Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is showing tonight at 11 pm.”