Jay Meehan: Dancing with auteurs
January 22, 2014
Opening weekend at Sundance most always plays back in memory as if it had been shot out of focus on some silent-era hand-cranked machine at about 12-frames per second. Chronology gets blurred and, like Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, moments become unstuck in time.
There were a few films ("Memphis," "Wetlands," "Finding Fela"), of course, and a beverage or two, and some stone-gorgeous, stop-you-dead-in-your tracks eye candy, not to mention throngs of engaging and engrossing festival volunteers who annually raise the bar for stamina, insider tips, and friendliness.
A few of the Portly Gray Dude’s usual Main Street haunts also came into play. A couple of ventures into the No Name Saloon, including both levels and the deck, provided nary a familiar face save for locals with far-away-looks in their eyes working the particular shifts in question.
Dolly’s is also a longtime never-boring comfort zone when he’s looking to kill time between films and, this year, its siren’s call rang loud as the pilgrimage carried him up and down Main Street.
Scenes with three-member families, one side-by-side on a bench and another plopped onto an overstuffed chair, each individual reading a personally selected book while flaunting vastly different facial expressions, played out as if by design. Dancing with readers remains as rewarding as dancing with filmmakers.
The Dude’s own shtick at Dolly’s has, of late, ended up in the back of the "Fiction" aisle as he tries to cop a few more pages from Thomas Pynchon’s "Bleeding Edge." Hey, in its current hardcover form, it’s just too hefty to pack around. And, to hear him tell it, Pynchon’s prose is just too cool to not visit when in the neighborhood.
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Over the weekend, the Sundance ASCAP Music Café seemed to fill up quicker than usual, as is always the case when one isn’t at the front of the line, but once inside, musically, it did not disappoint. Whether or not they were triggered by the recent passing of Phil Everly, quite-beautiful vocal harmonies appeared to be the order of the day.
There was a time, however, back when the Café’ did that thing it does so well up the street at its old Plan B/Star Bar location, when, on opening day, bottles of Stella Artois were free for the asking until they ran out.
You can bet that the Dude abided well with that now-long-gone great notion. However, not to worry, free Stellas were, indeed, located at a late-afternoon media happy hour further up Main. "One must keep hydrated!" It’s an incessant refrain, and not one to be ignored.
It wasn’t that the Dude needed alcohol, it’s just that "free stuff" is always in his crosshairs. Now, remembering where he deposits the various plunder he acquires has, in the past, become problematic.
Not that a briefcase-pocket full of caramel packets snagged earlier in the day from one of the many sponsor venues and then left to melt and fuse next to a heater during a panel discussion on "Sex in Cinema" would ever rain on his parade. No, in this instance, following a short refrigerator rehab session, the Dude was actually able to extricate the candy "sculpture" and restore it to its natural habitat.
It should have been evident right from the outset that this year might just be one for the ages, when, down at festival headquarters, they handed him a credential graced with a photo of Edward Abbey rather than one of himself. Although extremely flattered, he swears that, someday, he will get to the bottom of it and that all conspirators will receive their just rewards.
It shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, then, when only moments later he found himself face-to-face in a casual conversation with one of his filmmaking idols, Chris Eyre ("Smoke Signals," "Skins," "Skinwalkers," "A Thief of Time," etc).
"Always," was Eyre’s response to the question "Are you working on anything?" His work-in-progress is an "over-the-top comedy like "Blazing Saddles" called "Up the River." Set on the 18th-Century Native plains and featuring two brothers, Crystal Blue Persuasion and Crazy Fox, who would rather make love than war, it’s not that difficult to extrapolate a comedic scenario or two for the film that will hopefully begin shooting next summer.
A personal Saturday night tour of New Frontier installations given by longtime friend Nan Chalat-Noaker pretty much had the Portly Gray Dude speaking in tongues. First came a wonderfully innovative and gorgeous 3-D-mapped narrative film projected onto the upper floors of the Egyptian Theatre.
This was followed by "The Source (Evolving)" in lower Swede Alley where a 6-channel projection displayed interviews with "groundbreaking pioneers from different disciplines who are shaping modern culture" concerning the germination and journey of creativity.
I’ll say one thing: week number two has its work cut out for it!
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.