Sundance 2012- Day Four
And we’re back! Following Day Three’s snow-related travel complications, Sundance Day Four was clear, bright, and warm—perfect weather for watching movies indoors. By now I’m sure you’re sick of hearing me go on and on about how I go clomping around town like I own the goddamn place, so I’ll go ahead and keep the first-person stuff to a minimum. Besides, we all know what you’re really interested in: hot celebrity gossip.
I wasn’t present at either of these events, but the two big things everyone’s talking about today are Aziz Ansari, who’s Drake-assisted comedy set at the Bing sponsor lounge apparently went down in flames amid a barrage of tech issues and drunken heckling, and Tracy Morgan, who—I believe this is correct—swallowed thirty-six peyote buttons, transformed into the ancient Assyrian demigod Pazuzu, and gargled blood from the severed throats of dead infants. But personally, I’ve seen Aaron Paul, Michael K. Williams, Mario Lopez, Lou Diamond Phillips, Caleb Followill, William Fichtner, and some woman from the E! Network who’s face was way, way too big for her head. It was a crazy day, the festival hitting peak levels of frenzy. But amid all the craziness, I still found time to watch the following…
Shut Up and Play the Hits
When frontman/producer James Murphy pulled the plug on his popular Brooklyn-based indie-dance group LCD Soundsystem last year, he apparently decided to use the band’s final, sold-out show at Madison Square Garden to reboot The Last Waltz, casting his own group in the role of Robbie Robertson and updating Scorsese’s seminal, elegiac concert film for the 21st century. Equal parts funeral, celebration, and circus, Shut Up is a joyous film event that manages to capture one of the best bands of the last decade at the peak (and end) of their career. Aside from the numerous crisply-shot, excellent-sounding full-song performances, the film also chronicles the calm after the storm, following Murphy around the day after the MSG gig as he goes about a series of mundane tasks (making coffee, walking the dog), struggling to work through hangovers both figurative and literal. Narration is provided via excerpts from an illuminating, seemingly unedited conversation between Murphy and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs author Chuck Klosterman—a sublime narrative device. Klosterman’s thoughtful questions about Murphy’s age, ambition, and iconography give the film its backbone. As with most concert movies, there’s not really all that much to say about Shut Up as a film, other than fans of the band should find it enjoyable (and really, if you’re not a fan of LCD Soundsystem, then what the fuck is wrong with you?) Co-produced by Murphy himself and directed by Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern.
Oh man, where to begin? One of the most astonishing, fascinating, and unusual films I’ve ever seen at Sundance, Room 237 is a nine-part, feature-length video essay about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Or, more accurately, about the many differing intellectual responses to The Shining—ranging from semi-plausible historical and academic interpretations to batshit crazy conspiracy theories. Is Kubrick’s film an allegory about the Holocaust? A metaphor for the genocide of Native Americans? A symbolically dense powderkeg of perverse Freudian psychosexuality? A coded admission to having faked the moon landing? Every opinion is given equal weight, as director Rodney Ascher weaves together the strands of several different unconnected theories, unearthing spooky synchronicities and weird coincidences. No continuity error or inexplicable piece of set design is too minor to consider with vast semiotic importance. And while several of the theories are downright silly on their own, their combined effect is deeply unsettling. Ascher seems to argue that just as the Overlook Hotel was haunted, so too is The Shining itself. Perhaps my favorite film of the festival, Room 237 is also the least accessible. The fucking thing might as well come with the disclaimer “for cineastes only.” Imagine Los Angeles Plays Itself as directed by David Lynch, on the subject of Stanley Kubrick. Copyright issues may prevent this from seeing any sort of official release, but it seems like the kind of thing that might pop up as a nine-part video series on Vimeo or Youtube. So fire up those Google alerts and remember: all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.