The Hands of Bresson

Sundry observations on the art of cinema and world film culture

Archive for the ‘Sundance 2011’ Category

Sundance Film Festival 2011: Dispatch Three

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For any dedicated cinephile, there’s a certain comfort in the daily routine at Sundance: wake, drink coffee, queue up half an hour before the first day’s screening, absorb film, queue again, repeat until exhausted. (Twelve hours is my personal limit.) Sitting in a darkened theater all day long, it’s easy to feel you’re existing in a bubble, as the rest of the world falls away like molted skin. Yes, the place is ablaze with the LED glow of various mobile devices as people compulsively check email and try to maintain a haiku-like thread of electronic contact with coworkers and loved ones. But the theater is also a refuge from normal obligations, where the chatter concerns films seen, and little else. People exchange heated opinions, discuss the latest acquisitions, and share recommendations. Here in Park City, as far as I can tell, few people are trying to wrap their heads around the protests in Egypt or Obama’s State of the Union speech, even if they’ve glimpsed the day’s headlines on a news feed. The world could be ending and no one would notice. Read the rest of this entry »


Sundance Film Festival 2011: Dispatch Two

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Even in Utah, the freaks come out at night. After a late-night screening at Holiday Village Cinemas on Friday, I decided to hoof it back to my condo on foot rather than wait for a shuttle bus. The temperature had dropped to about ten degrees, and within seconds I was skittering down the icy sidewalk like a two-legged beetle, trying to stay upright. Out of nowhere a wild-haired, goateed local screeched to a halt on Kearns Boulevard and asked if I wanted a ride. Actually, what he said was, “Get in! Get in!” My gut instinct as a New Yorker told me to demur and keep moving. But it was frigid. And I was in Utah. The passenger side door was frozen shut, so my new pal—who looked like a blond brother to meth-addled John Hawkes from Winter’s Bone—politely kicked it open after having what looked like a Tourette’s fit behind the wheel. “Fuck, dude,” he said, grinning madly. “NOW YOU’RE MINE. Haha. Where’s my hatchet?” He offered me some pills. Then a Heineken. “I used to work for Redford,” he boasted, launching into a rant about how they used to project films on white sheets up and down Main Street back in the day. Now he works construction, which is “sweet” because the guy who hired him likes to party. (Miming his boss: “Have you ever been brought up on drug- or alcohol-related charges? Because if you haven’t, I ain’t gonna hire you!”) A few blocks later, still talking a blue streak about his preferred mood enhancers, he pulled into the parking lot of my hotel. As I exited his battered Honda Civic, trying to not to let on how much I wanted to be on the other side of the door, he asked me for a Sundance film recommendation. I told him about Project NIM, thinking he might find common cause with a casualty of scientific experimentation. Read the rest of this entry »

Sundance Film Festival 2011: Dispatch One

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Sundance has its charms. Pristine mountain air and bison burgers aside, the Mormon hospitality—people are unfailingly nice around these parts, considering the massive influx of New York and L.A.–based douchebags who invade their quaint resort town every year—makes up for the expensive food, overstuffed shuttle buses, and hordes of Main Street swag hunters. So, too, does the progressive spirit underlying the festival, the emphasis on artists and the relevance of their work to the wider social world. The festival prides itself on nurturing next-wave talent, and often prioritizes alumni of the Sundance Institute’s vaunted writing labs, finishing schools that can sometimes create a formulaic “Sundance effect” among competition entries, especially on the narrative side. (Trauma/conflict + minority characters + impossible situation + hard-won resolution = the indie gold standard.) But there are always nuggets to be found among the glittering specks of fool’s gold. One reason I like to come to Park City is to glimpse whatever finely crafted, commercially viable independent films will find their way into theaters later in the year, and others (usually docs) that won’t connect with an audience at all. Another is simply to experience the collegial atmosphere of a festival that, despite the more invidious aspects of its growth over the past 25 years (brand specialists and bogus PR events grow around this place like kudzu), continues to inspire me. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by eyemaster

March 2, 2011 at 9:50 pm