I've never been to Sundance and I'm sort of bummed about the whole thing. Don't get me started, okay? Moving on... This year, I asked my friend/son, Taylor Ghrist, to hit me up with his favorite films from this year's entries. The young man has excellent taste. You may want to make note of these films and check them out if you haven't already. And be on the look out. One of these days you may find yourself watching one of his films. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, Taylor Ghrist...
At this yearʼs Sundance Film Festival, many ﬁlms had tons of buzz surrounding them. Unfortunately, I could only for the ﬁrst weekend. The following are reviews from a batch of the ﬁrst weekendʼs ﬁlms.
Directed by: Vincenzo Natali (Cube)
Written by: Vincenzo Natali, Antoinette Terry Bryant and Doug Taylor
Starring: Adrien Brody, Sarah Polley, David Hewlett
If you are squeamish at the slightest sight of creature gore, frantic noises, or easily perturbed by things with tails, Splice isnʼt the movie for you. The story, plain and simple, revolves around two scientists who make a juvenile mistake by contributing to their own “experiment” instead of actually working on assigned work. As a result, a new organism named Dren is born. The two foster the organism as if they just had their own offspring and form an unlikely bond that eventually descends into chaos. The ﬁlm was packed at the Sundance premiere. The cast, Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody, along with the director, Vincenzo Natali, were there to speak. Before the ﬁlm screened, Natali mentioned that Polley herself describes the ﬁlm as a ﬁlm with no “moral boundaries,” not to say that this is ʻA Clockwork Orange.ʼ The ﬁlm feels like itʼs almost set in the Garden of Eden and introduces some unnerving ideas about science and mankind. I thought the ﬁlm was actually a bit ludicrous, due to the seriousness intertwined with the dark humor. Though, the more I thought about the ﬁlm the more it grew on me. The next day I couldnʼt stop thinking about it. Who said a sci-ﬁ action ﬂick canʼt be silly at times?! Do yourself a favor, grab some popcorn and see this movie when itʼs due in theaters.
Written/Directed by: Todd Haynes
I also had the chance to see Todd Haynesʼ Poison, originally released in 1991. Having seen his other ﬁlms, including Far From Heaven and the ever-so glam fueled, Velvet Goldmine, I expected another empowering ﬁlm. I was right. Sundance screened a remastered version of Poison as part of their selection of “important” ﬁlms, all from the UCLA ﬁlm archives (the other two were Harold and Maude and Metropolitan). The ﬁlm tells three different stories, titled “Hero”, “Horror”, and “Homo." The stories explore the melancholy lives of three different characters. There will soon be a released DVD for this ﬁlm. Poison struck a chord with me because of its haunting imagery and in-depth analysis of what makes life so difﬁcult for these human characters (mostly homosexual in this ﬁlm) to live and pursue the happiness that everyone wants. Haynesʼ perfectly orchestrates a sinister look that society imposes on the gay community and leaves much interpretation to his general audience with disturbing metaphors (AIDS and a “mysterious skin infection”), moody camera movements and stylized touches (ﬁlm noir for “Horror”). All in all, I think Poison is a very underrated ﬁlm that should at least be viewed by most. Look out for it on DVD when itʼs re released. At the moment, a single DVD on Amazon (used) runs for about $45.
Enter the Void
Written/Directed by: Gaspar Noé
ENTER THE VOID. The title says it all. Gasper Noé, the controversial French director (Irreversible), introduced his newest addition, Enter the Void, to North America last weekend and audiences were both enthused and appalled (the ﬁlm was previously screened at the Cannes Film Festival). The central story of Enter the Void is simply (if only) about a young drug dealerʼs soul lingering the streets of urban Tokyo after being shot by a cop and how the soul embarks through the past, present and future, in a deeply meditative, almost hypnotic, visual feast. The young drug dealer, played by the stunning Nathaniel Brown, is closest to his sister, Linda, after their parents had died in a devastating car crash when they were younger, which they both witnessed. He then promises his sister that he will never leave her and, as a result, his attachment is what keeps his soul lingering the streets for the time being. I will warn any viewer that the ﬁlm isnʼt for everyone and has no moral boundaries whatsoever. If one is truly curious to see this ﬁlm check out his previous ﬁlms beforehand. The camera work is seen mostly through the main characterʼs eyes, which provides a dizzying, realistic glimpse into the world he once lived in. The colors, saturated and vivid, do justice for the city of Tokyo and emphasize several tones of the ﬁlm, with its themes of sex, violence, drugs and life. I would also like to acknowledge the fact that Daft Punk and Air helped with the score.
Women Without Men (Zanan-e bedun-e mardan)
Directed by: Shirin Neshat, Shoja Azari
I had one day left to experience the thrills of Sundanceʼs contagious movie going and had no idea which ﬁlm to see. At the last minute, I ﬂocked to see Women Without Men, a courageous story about Iranian women suppressed by war, politics, and, as you guessed, men. Set in 1953, the four female characters revive themselves in a serene garden, set apart from the CIA infested backdrop in Iran. My praise for this ﬁlm remains highly induced by the lead female performances, namely Pegah Ferydoni, which inspire and move the audience more than anything else, including the imagery (shot in HD), which is still beautiful. The ﬁlm contains some nice surprises and, overall, Iʼd recommend it to anyone whoʼs looking for an honest, intimate look into real people recognizing real issues in past history.
Oh, and donʼt go see The Perfect Host, starring Frasierʼs David Hyde Pierce. I swear the movie will go directly to DVD.
I didnʼt have the chance to see these ﬁlms but they have either had great buzz or Iʼve heard great things about them. Enjoy perusing.
*THE RUNAWAYS (Dakota Fanning in the Joan Jett ﬁlm)
*HOLY ROLLERS (Hasidic Jews smuggling ecstacy! Who doesnʼt want to see this!? Jesse Eisenberg stars)
*SINS OF MY FATHER (Pablo Escobarʼs daughter tells her story)
*THE KILLER INSIDE ME
*WELCOME TO THE RILEYS
*GET LOW (I actually heard something terriﬁc about this one)