Sunday, January 20, 2013

Sundance: Day Two

I've been so caught up in the Sundance experience that exhaustion is a common thread that has (ironically) held my body together these past few days. So even though I haven't been updating everyday, I still plan on writing about everything I've seen! So I started off Day Two with getting a taxi to the Box Office at 5am. My friend and I waited until 8 (we were about 15th in line) to see if any tickets were available for Day-Of showings. Even though most films were sold out (once films are sold out, the only other chance one has is by waiting in the waitlist line, which can begin anywhere from 2-5 hours before the screening), we did get tickets to Sightseers. This film, directed by Ben Wheatley, was promoted as one of Sundance's favorites that premiered at Cannes. Sidenote: Sightseers is in the Spotlight category and not In Competition.

So this film, premiering at 11:30 at the MARC Theatre, is quite hard to explain without revealing the true atmosphere it creates. The "cold open" immediately evoked laughter, and it left me in such awkward and artistic yet interesting confusion. The juxtaposition of photos of a white terrier with a man pinpointing pit stops on a map, played to an offscreen moaning noise isn't what you first expect from any film. What follows is a melting pot of genres that details a harrowing, yet still comedic journey of a couple travelling to museums around England ("Chris, can we go to the Pencil Museum now?"). Road genre, romcom and gruesome horror slasher is the beginning of the awkward relationship that blooms from the couple. In a way Ben Wheatley becomes a British Tarantino. At each stop along the way, Chris and Tina meet people that rub them the wrong way, leading to their unfortunate- albeit hilarious and hard to watch- demise. The backstory to the introductory shots the dog, later discovered to be the late Poppy, is disturbingly revealed in (once again) an over-the-top fashion.

I can see most audiences having a polarized response to the film, either loving or hating it. The conflict between human vs. nature is prevalent throughout, especially in the many shots of nature and historical locations. So the gruesome, almost unwatchable scenes could easily overshadow Ben's artistic elements which are easy to love and entrancing. I haven't seen Ben's other films but I'll be adding them to my list, regardless of how conflicted I am by the film.

Later Friday Night I waitlisted for Two Mothers, a story of two mothers (*shocking*) who have affairs with each others' sons. Each of the four leads- Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuels, and James Frecheville- exudes a unique chemistry with the other characters. The cinematography is stunningly beautiful! The Australian landscape becomes an important character itself, providing a home to the characters that don't want to leave for Sydney. The capital city, only being shown in two shots, is immediately disguised as impersonal to the relationships the characters form. Even though Sydney borders the ocean, the beach and beach house provide a flourishing and intimate setting. Water is such a key symbol- swimming, surfing, motion of the tide- that immediately reveals nature's central importance.

The film's homosocial depictions are hard to misconstrue. Even in the first sequence with younger versions of Lil and Roz swimming to the pivotal dock out at sea, the framing of their feet swinging through the water lead me to believe they could be more than friends. Later Roz, played by Robin, reminisces about a kiss they both shared as kids when Lil (Naomi Watts) asks her, "Are we lezzos?" Even shots of the two children, Ian and Tom, question their playful relationship; however, the high eroticism is attributed to the more-than-often thinly dressed, or naked, cast. The repeated capture of butts becomes a symbol of the juxtaposition between young and old and frames the question of maturity in the film. The situation is definitely odd, but the characters learn to deal with the consequences and portray a believable, emotional compromise.

Naomi, recently Oscar-nominated for The Impossible, was beautiful on-screen and on-stage for the post-screening Q&A. Anne Fontaine, the French director, misunderstood some of the questions asked during the Q&A. For example, when asked why both mothers kept their wedding rings on throughout the entire film (there are reasons why this may seem unconventional), she responded in confusion. Even after multiple people tried to rephrase the question (I understood), she finally concluded with "Why not?," which is an upsetting answer to an intriguing detail and possible continuity blooper.

The final sequence, as described by my friend as reminiscent of the Horse Head scene from The Godfather,  is so beautiful that I would see the movie again just for the penultimate shot. I have to see it again regardless, but for another reason that links itself to film circuit experience. During the more awkward moments, the audience would erupt in laughter. The first comment that Anne made after the film was that she was definitely not expecting such a comical response. I felt bad during the screening because I was not laughing (there are definitely purposeful humorous moments) and it broke up the dramatic intensity of the scene.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend seeing Two Mothers! It's sure to be released later in the year (it is part of the Premieres category), so keep your eyes peeled!

After the screening Megan & I went to the Box Office to check on Day Of Screening tickets, and since there was a good amount of tickets to screenings we wanted to see, we decided to quickly get food then sleep over- YES, SLEEP OVER- in the building so that we could get a good chance at tickets!  (see Day 3 for more!)

1 comment:

  1. Great review Nick!

    Those last few lingering shots of the four on the dock drifting through life were fantastic. The same question about the rings was asked during the second showing, the director gave a different answer then.

    Can't wait for your Day 3 review!