26.12.09

Dancing a Bit Too Close to the Sun...

Sundance, located a mere thirty minutes away from yours truly, released their 2010 line-up just a few weeks ago, following on the heels of a much ballyhooed “return to roots” campaign, promising greater efforts to display works of a riskier nature, specifically those made with limited budgets.  In light of this “renewed rebellion”, Sundance has stacked the New Frontier film section, the program supposedly dedicated to exploring experimental filmmaking, with……..wait for it………SIX WHOLE FILMS! (I know, it’s a lot of rebellion to take in at once).  Now obviously I cannot yet attest to the quality of the six films that have been included, for all intensive purposes they could be thoroughly enlightening works, nevertheless one can’t help but wonder what the program could offer if it was blessed with same amount of time and money afforded to the hundreds of carefully concocted celebrity gift bags doled out in exclusive areas of the city.  Now no one is expecting Wavelengths or Views style dedication, but doesn’t there come a point when you start feeling a bit sordid promoting yourself as THE festival for INDEPENDENT film? ((For more on this consult Robert Koehler’s pinpoint accurate Cinema Scope article))  Adding insult to injury, one also has the opportunity to see Gaspar Noe unscrupulously pilfer from various avant-garde traditions with his latest film, ENTER THE VOID, included in the Spotlight section of this years festival (all would have easily been forgiven had they simply instead picked the latest, Un Lac, from that other so called French “provocateur”, Philippe Grandrieux, a filmmaker exploring the visual and auditory limits of cinema without the aid of digitally enhanced vaginal cams).  So without further adieu, the New Frontier films are as follows:

 


"The beautiful Zel is a special woman. Her big house is full of ghosts of all ages from different eras. A psychic advisor, Zel works with her ethereal roommates to help her clients. Although it’s magical, it is also a job as she removes clients’ aches and pains, advises gamblers, and channels cranky spirits to check on their loved ones. Business is good—until the ghosts see “the light” one night. The ghost crew now feel they are trapped and start pressuring Zel for the truth.  Writer/director Tim Rutili is also a member of the band Califone, whose members act in the film and provide the lush original soundtrack. The band brought its music-making talent to the film’s construction, treating the footage and story like an album. Zel’s unique existence is a lesson in hope, habit, and folklore. The atmosphere is utterly enchanting, mixed with an odd realism, filled with as much humor as wonder."


Double Take (dir. Johan Grimonprez)

"The best art imitates life, but at a slant. Johan Grimonprez adroitly proves this in his highly original film, which locates and develops thematic conjunctions between escapist entertainment and real-life horror; more specifically, between the work and images of legendary film director Alfred Hitchcock and the escalation of the cold war in the 1960s. Appropriating and reprocessing film and television images of Hitchcock, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Nikita Khruschev, and others, Grimonprez expands droll generalizations about doppelgangers, guilt, and paranoia into a full-blown analysis of global politics, fear of the bomb, and the mad rush to mutually assured destruction. As public anxieties are sublimated in popular entertainment, so do they sometimes erupt in artistic expressions (such as Hitchcock’s The Birds). In addition to pinpointing the postmodern, movielike unreality of public life, Grimonprez convincingly indicates the precision with which an artist may sketch the public psyche in entertainment, and why Hitchcock still haunts our dreams."


Memories of Overdevelopment (dir. Miguel Coyula)

"What happens when a socialist revolutionary intellectual asserts creative freedom? In Memories of Overdevelopment, ideological clashes and contradictions explode and fragment within a Cuban √©migr√© while they spurt across the world stage. A kinetic, mesmerizing, subliminal collage, the film forges new cinematic dimensions with multiple planes fueling each other: a picaresque saga of desire and decomposition, a self-reflexive formal project about art reifying life and vice versa, a surreal foray into memory and the unconscious, and a searing critique of twentieth-century forces like genocide and totalitarianism.  Shot with psychedelic lucidity, the narrative evolves from our rogue’s Cuban boyhood, when the revolution and his aunt’s dying wish for a kiss become formative fodder and iconographic propaganda. He constructs and deconstructs reality—manipulating language, image, and sound with his computer, camera, recorder, and X-Acto knife—to manufacture the very art we're consuming. As he careens from youth to old age in elliptical swirls of misadventure, elusive pleasures of collectivity and individualism give way to existential truth."


ODDSAC (dir. Danny Perez) 

"Opening with torch-wielding villagers and a wall bleeding oil, ODDSAC attaches vivid scenery and strange characters to the wonderful melodic wavelengths of the band Animal Collective, revitalizing the lost form of the “visual album.” Working on the project for three years with friend Danny Perez, Animal Collective pushes the boundaries of the music video and joins music visionaries like The Residents, Devo, and Daft Punk, who previously connected filmic imagery with their songs.
Animal Collective’s music is a glittering mix of pop rock, experimental noise, and horror-movie soundtrack. Perez’s visuals mirror that, incorporating intense scenes of vampires, campfires, and screaming prophets to form themes and a distinct vision, rather than following a traditional plot and dialogue. The characters are interlaced with flicker effects that mimic pressure phosphenes, the magic colors produced by rubbing your closed eyes. A true physical experience,
ODDSAC turns the theatre into a sensory submarine."


Pepperminta (dir. Pipilotti Rist)  

"Pepperminta is a playful young woman with an anarchic imagination, determined to free people from their fears through her own special alchemy. Colors are her best friends, strawberries are her pets, and the world outside her door is there to be licked. Together with a plump, shy young man named Werwen and Edna, a gender-bending gardener, Pepperminta sets out on a mission to fight for a more humane world.  Internationally acclaimed visual artist Pipilotti Rist’s first feature, Pepperminta is an explosion of psychedelic color and fantasy where things sacred and taboo become playful and whimsical, and color can transform and heal lives. Crafting a tactile film seen through a toddler’s-eye camera, Rist irreverently engages with childhood fairy tales to create a magical and visually stunning contemporary fable of courage in the face of shame."


Utopia in Four Movements (dir. Sam Green, Dave Cerf)

"Throughout human history, people have had giddy dreams and fantastic notions about what the future would bring. Today the future has become more of a threat than a promise—a knot of intractable problems looming menacingly on the horizon. With a powerful sense of poetry, Utopia in Four Movements uses the collective experience of cinema to explore the battered state of the utopian impulse at the dawn of the twenty-first century.  In this “live documentary,” filmmaker Sam Green cues images and narrates in person while musician Dave Cerf performs the soundtrack. From the establishment of a man-made language designed to end war and cultural conflict and the undying optimism of an American exile in Cuba, to the current economic boom in China and the desire to give the remains in mass graves a dignified burial, Green and Cerf sift through the history of the utopian impulse with audiences and search for insights about the way to build a vision of the future based on humankind’s noblest impulses."


And yes, I know about this years NEXT program, the sentiments still stand...

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