Dances with film
January 29, 2013
Another year and another film festival in the rear-view mirror. Although I saw fewer films than at possibly any other festival since I froze outside the Egyptian Theatre in order to catch "Blood Simple" back in 1985, somehow I’m left with a quite self-satisfied smirk this year. The coefficient of fun just seemed to peg the pleasure meter.
From the always-awesome tortilla soup at the Owl Bar at Sundance Resort to the rowdy crew I sat with for the sole public screening of "Muscle Shoals" at the Eccles last Saturday, the sidebars to the festival, as much as the films themselves, proved irresistible to my inner fun-hog.
And, except for the Sound City Players concert on the first Friday of the fest, this year’s escapades, in my case anyway, also probably featured the least amount of alcohol (by volume) of any Sundance ever.
I didn’t design it that way. There was no preconceived notion to cut back on the "hoisting" that has done so much to make me what I am. Looking back, it was no big deal! Sobriety happens!
Speaking to filmmakers about their cinematic art once again got me off in a big way. During one particular interview with famed Polish auteur Jacek Borcuch about his film "Lasting," the director lost confidence in his ability to communicate over the telephone and passed it off to one of his producers who, according to Borcuch, spoke much better English.
Well, this guy first introduced himself and then began rambling on about his role in the process of making the film for a good ten minutes without coming up for air. It sounded not totally unlike Navajo. Or maybe some Inuit language variant. By the time he finished, I had forgotten not only his name, but my own. I’ve had better luck discussing pottery traditions with Acoma Pueblo elders.
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The film was gorgeous, by the way, even though I ended up watching it on my phone due to desktop technical issues. Plus, besides its "look," I became totally smitten with the actors and storyline, so in the end, by reverting to production notes from the publicist, the review I submitted to The Park Record almost wrote itself.
And when "Lasting" walked away with the 2013 Cinematography Award in the World Dramatic category last Saturday night, I agreed wholeheartedly. If I had been at the awards ceremony, it would have been most difficult not to join in with the DP’s entourage, follow them up on stage, and deliver a few self-effacing remarks myself.
Another interview that I found rather compelling took place, also over the phone, with Greg "Freddy" Camalier, the filmmaker who brought the wondrous musical documentary "Muscle Shoals" to town.
At first, Freddy doled out his measured responses by teaspoons. This wasn’t shuck-and-jive time. Small talk was checked at the door. But then, as time wore on, his exuberance for his film and the soul of the town and its legendary musicians took over and passion began to punctuate his thoughts. He still couldn’t believe that this richly interesting tale hadn’t been told before. But, as he said, the story found him, not the other way around.
This past Sunday, the final day of the festival, I performed my customary swan song by taking in the winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriters Award. Over the years, this particular screening has provided some of my favorite festival memories.
"In a World," a smartly written and hilarious send-up of the voice-over trade, featured Lake Bell in a tour-de-force as writer, director, and star of the film, and let’s just say that she wasn’t found wanting in any of the three disciplines. There was no rest for the weary. The set-ups and punch lines just kept on a-coming at a relatively ferocious pace.
And there was nary a moment when you felt in disagreement with the screenwriting jury’s thoughts on the matter. Over the years, many Waldo-winners, as we have come to refer to them, have challenged us to come to terms with what actually defines a screenplay.
There are complexities a-plenty inherent to the art form to be sure, and oftentimes people leave this screening somewhat perplexed and shaking their heads. In this case, however, an exit poll would have shown that all heads were rock-steady.
The 2013 edition of Sundance proved to be one fine film fest, at least on my end. Additional films and a few more days spent at the Music Café and/or the Owl Bar might have added to the fun factor but, as it played out, I’ve got absolutely no complaints. Nothing much beats cavorting with friends and fellow film buffs in such a classic cultural environment. Can’t wait until next year.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.