For about the last 14 years, I pack up, take a few days off of work, and head to Utah for the Sundance Film Festival. A good chance to really recharge my creative batteries for the year. Though we didn’t see too many films this year, two out of the three were fantastic. Reviews are below.
Though not familiar with the majority of the relatively small body of work of Leos Carax, I did really enjoy this documentary by director Tessa Louise-Salomé. The movie chronicles Carax’s work with the actor Denis Levant, who stared in almost all of Carax’s film. Work that has spanned a 30 year period. Levant’s the main voice of the movie, and has interesting insight since his career has grown up alongside Carax’s.
The movie solidified what little I already knew of Carax and peeked enough interest to put the rest of his works in my viewing queue.
Michael Tully’s coming of age film, set in the 1980s, a story of a young man obsessed with ping pong who spends his summer in ocean city. The movie definitely tried and did have some high points, but overall just seemed to try too hard, taking a lot of easy jokes at the decade’s expense but not giving the audience anything that hasn’t been seen before. It amused enough, but overall, I thought, it didn’t deliver.
By far one of the best, most inventive, genre bending movie I’ve seen in a long time. In Farsi with English subtitles, filmed in California with a mostly Iranian cast, this vampire/western feeling/noir-ish movie is described in Sundance’s synopsis as David Lynch meets Sergio Leone, which is really spot on.
Ana Lily Amirpour’s first feature is highly stylized, but it feels stylized for story’s sake rather than for style’s sake. Fantastic score, filmed anamorphic, b&w with really thought out framing of the scenes. The vampire, a 20 something year old girl, in a b&w striped shirt, riding a skateboard down the street with her khimar flowing behind her (so much like the cape of the vampire we are used to seeing), creates some stunning imagery and takes things we are familiar with but gives them a new twist.
You are immersed in a world that would seem to ask more questions that answer, but honestly, you don’t care since everything fits together so well. The pit of dead bodies the main character passes in one of the first scenes after stealing a cat? Sure you wonder who he stole the cat from, why he stole the cat and what’s up with the body pit, but that does nothing to impede the flow of the story, it just seems to make sense in the world of the film.
Amirpour was there to answer questions and her sheer joy at what she does was very apparent. She talked about some of her influences (“Back to the Future” and “Wild at Heart”) which make sense with what she’s done with this film. Answers like “We should talk about what YOU think of the gender context over some bourbon” delighted the crowd. Definitely keeping an eye out to see what’s next with her.