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Core Samples

The whole shebang was actually rolling off the reel rather routinely until we finished up that quite-ritualized, four-season sequence in the French Alps — but a bit more on that later. For now, it should suffice that, as a culturally-heavy, Western resort town, we’re once again up to our ears in film festival folk and that particular color that reflects comparatively little light and has no predominant hue.

Our toes didn’t in fact touch the water until Friday evening when Rufus Wainwright’s exquisite set at the Star Bar Music Cafe found a way to quiet even the blatantly boisterous in the back. They really didn’t want to listen but something they couldn’t quite put their finger on kept their jaws frozen and lips together. Go figure!

Careening down the canyon was next on the evening’s agenda as it was once again proven that, with a bit of motivation, you could get from upper Swede Alley to the Tower Theater in Salt Lake City in much less time than it takes to get a barkeep’s attention on Main Street.

The first difference you notice about doing Sundance down in the valley is that you can pull-up five minutes before they start letting the ticket holders troop into the theater and still locate parking within field-goal range. Try that in Park City and, more than likely, you and your local tow-truck driver might well find yourselves expressing respective genealogy in a high-decibel manner.

The motivation for the Parley’s Canyon Super-G that particular evening was the chance to view the brand spankin’ new print of Wim Wenders classic 1984 film "Paris, Texas," which was screening at the Tower as part of the festival. Unbelievable! Harry Dean Stanton against that stark Southwestern desert backdrop has never looked better.

And they also re-mastered that brilliant Ry Cooder bottleneck guitar soundtrack and what a dance that combination pulls-off in your head. That wonderful opening movement of body-language dialogue between Harry Dean and the wilderness he wanders is pure poetry – even more so now that the wry Mr. Cooder accents the action as part of a more compelling and dynamic soundtrack.

Another great aspect of doing Sundance in Salt Lake is that "Junior’s," the charismatically dank and dark blues and jazz bar, can be entered into the mix either coming or going. Depending on the approach, you can fire up a fine cigar and talk about what you’re going to do or what it was you just did.

We aficionados of the unique "haunt" have been stepping up our visits of late in that, before long, "Junior’s" will be long gone. They are moving to a new location where it will become a private club and, more than likely, still one of the better hangouts in town. But it will be new, and won’t have the "joint" ambiance going for it.

The following evening featured a couple of rounds of drinks and grub at that fine old Owl Bar nestled just below Cascade Cirque on Mount Timpanogos. It’s always a good thing to honor that landscape from which the Sundance Film Festival took its name and when you can camp out afterward in warm digs up in the woods, it’s even better.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch in Park City, a documentary film is showing. In it, time will be manipulated in a fashion not kind to festival goers with screening agendas. The monk at the Grande Chartreuse Monastery in the French Alps is rhythmically pulling the rope that rings the bell that calls the community to prayer.

The narrative is implied with only the sound of feet shuffling off to a spiritual buffalo of contemplation to break the still. There is the sawing of logs and the spitting of wood as the monastery achieves its daily cadence. Vegetables are sculpted by large knives for large pots. As is its wont, time passes.

There is additional rhythm in the passing of seasonal cycles as cats are fed and robes are fashioned by hand. The monks are allowed a trek in the mountains where they may interact audibly. Ironies and laughter bottled up during the previous week surface as they become one with holy nature. There is a sense of ad infinitum.

You have no concept that it is only the middle of the film and that you should be uprooting and heading to your next screening. Your sole timepiece, your cell phone, has been dutifully turned off and, the sole clock on the wall of the monastery is on Swiss Standard Time.

Two hours into this quite beautiful and austere film, the monks are just beginning to hit their stride. Others, less devotional, are now allowing those in line for your next screening into the theater.

The monks would love the ambiance of Timpanogos with its natural water features and the manner in which moments are stretched. But, then again, they don’t have another screening looming on the near horizon, where, by the way, they have started selling tickets to the not-small throng in the waiting line.

When the film editor finally pulls the plug and the cell phones spill their guts, the fact that it is now 11:21 a.m. at the Holiday Village Cinemas and your next film screens at the Racquet Club at 11:30 a.m. hits home. Additional careening ensues through the back door of Park Meadows.

Somehow, by some miracle, in the dark, after stepping upon every last foot, purse, and water bottle in the row, you catch your breath and alight with a thud as the opening credits to "Wristcutters: A Love Story" signal the beginning of what will be a delightfully dark and enjoyable storyline.

Much later that same evening, following fine dining and a cigar pairing at the most elegant Chez Fontana, the sole in-person filmmaker schmoozing element of this year’s festival unfolds. It’s all about slugging’ down a "decaf-and-Bailey’s" while talking jazz with the director and producer of "’Tis Autumn The Search for Jackie Paris," a most remarkable film.

Somewhere a film-monk is pulling a rope that is ringing a bell that is calling the celluloid-junkie community to worship as the Sundance Film Festival rolls off the reel into its second week. The contemplation will concern itself with a few more films and a panel discussion on "writing the West." Careening will continue to be an option.


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