Sundance 2012 Daily Blog: Day 8

Sisterly spats, Squatters and The Shining…

 

We’re not going to lie, we’re starting to lose our grip on reality.

Eight days, 31 movies, and god-knows-how-many early mornings in, the line between fiction and fact is getting dangerously thin here at Sundance 2012.

Luckily, we’re still discovering some fantastic movies in the theatres of the now-rather-slushy Park City. After a busy day yo-yoing from venue to venue yesterday, we caught the final screening of Your Sister’s Sister (we missed the premiere last week thanks to bus confusion) at the Holiday Theatre.

Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt star as siblings who spend a weekend away at their family cabin with the former’s friend (Mark Duplass).

Slow-burning but quick-witted, Sundance was made for films like this. Directed by Humpday’s Lynn Shelton, Your Sister’s Sister has naturalism coming out of its backside as our central trio bicker and overcome their various issues. It’s engaging and often throw-head-back funny, even if it fails to break any new ground.

We capped the night off with a trip to TF’s favourite restaurant, Squatters (which serves one of the best yellow Thai currys we’ve ever tasted), before sleepwalking back to the TF HQ for some much-needed kip.

Come a bright but chilly Day 8, The Shining doc Room 237 was first on our list of viewings. Considering fact flicks West Of Memphis and The Imposter both blew our socks off earlier this week, 237 would have to be something special to impress.

Compared to those cinematic offerings, though, Room 237 is an entirely different beast. Devoid of talking heads, it uses interview chat tracks and footage from other movies (mostly Kubrick’s) to tell its story, as various Kubrickites offer their 10 cents on the possible meanings contained in Stan's warped horror flick.

The result is a tongue-in-cheek experiment that lets the interviewees do the talking. Craziest reading of The Shining? One guy's insistence that it’s an ‘apology’ from Kubrick for 'faking' the Apollo 13 landing footage. Hysterical.

Next up was The Comedy, one of this year’s most contentious entries. It stars Tim Heidecker (one half of comedy duo Tim & Eric) as Swanson, a privileged yet disenchanted man-child who meanders from one reckless situation to the next, in what the press notes call a “scathing look at the white male on the verge of collapse”.

Hmmm… Painfully tedious and repetitive with no sympathetic characters and nothing new to say (rich kids have problems too, you know), the film provoked a mass walkout at the screening TF attended - and it’s hard to blame them.  

One supporter at the post-screening Q&A publicly compared the film to Buñuel (who are you kidding, love?!) and, among the few who stayed in their seats, there was lots of “people just didn’t get it” chatter. But isn’t that always the excuse afforded to the sort of pretentious drivel that, in fact, isn’t very good?

Then it was on to indie drama Keep The Lights On, the latest feature from previous Sundance winner Ira Sachs (Forty Shades Of Blue).

Sadly, Sachs' return to Utah doesn't fare quite so well, the director unspooling the story of Erik (Thure Lindhardt), whose love for Paul (Zachary Booth) is blighted by the latter's drug addiction.

It's well-shot and well-acted, but the druggy plotline feels like an outdated dramatic device, while it's difficult to sympathise with Erik's lost, over-dependent artist when we know so little about his motivations. In short: not a patch on Weekend.

Time to sign off. Tomorrow we're seeing dramas Compliance, Filly Brown and The Words (the festival's all-star closing-night movie) as well as Brit-flick My Brother The Devil, which has been getting big buzz over here. Check in for our thoughts on those and more tomorrow...

 

Film of the day: Beasts Of The Southern Wild

A gripping, entirely unique creation, Beasts Of The Southern Wild is part childhood fairytale, part enviro-drama, and wholly enchanting.

Starring a cast of unknowns, it’s the debut feature of director Benh Zeitlin, whose true grit visuals – paired with dreamy narration – are both whimsically arresting and grubbily unpretentious.

At the centre of Beasts is six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis, remarkable), who lives in a Delta community known as ‘The Bathtub’, because it’s in constant threat of flooding.

When Hushpuppy’s father falls ill, the end of the world seems nigh – especially when the melting icecaps unleash deadly monsters called aurochs.

Wonderfully weird and flush with atmosphere, Beasts is easily the most unique feature at Sundance 2012. Armed with a singular vision and a wry sense of humour, it refuses to bend to convention. While the end result is occasionally meandering, Beasts emerges as a beautifully-lensed, surprisingly savage lullaby.

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