Sundance 2012- Day Two
One of the harshest realities about Sundance—especially for people visiting for the first time—is just how fucking hard it is. In many ways, the festival works against comfort and convenience. When you’re outside, it’s too cold. When you’re indoors, it’s too hot. The seats are stiff and cramped, even in the larger, nicer theaters like the MARC and Eccles. You’re forever trudging and lugging, trudging and lugging, fighting to fold and store and not loose gloves, jackets, hats, backpacks, laptops—you name it.
It’s all very counterintuitive in an age when the name of the game is exaggerated luxury. While premium art house theaters and digital home video distribution platforms work to maximize the ease and comfort of the viewing experience in a continued effort to court consumer discretionary income, Sundance knows that, at least in this unique situation, it is the one in power, not you. So you will wait and freeze and get wet and feel pain. And you will love it, goddamn it. All just to do something you could ostensibly do from your couch at home. Personally I think it’s fun, but I’ve always taken a great deal of sadistic pleasure in seeing complainers broken upon the wheel. Speaking of wheels, here are some movie reviews…
Director Antonio Campos’s follow-up to his debut indie-hit favorite Afterschool follows Simon (Brady Corbet), an introverted American on extended holiday in Paris trying to get over a bad break-up (and the post-collegiate blues) by—what else?—getting laid, eventually developing a relationship with Victoria (Mati Diop), a self-assured young prostitute with a tragic past and cool bamboo wallpaper in her apartment. Now, there are a lot of ways that this same basic premise could play out, but whatever “romantic” is, Simon Killer is the opposite. As infatuation morphs into obsession, it becomes clear that under Simon’s vulnerable, puppyish exterior lays a pathological misogynist and master manipulator of women. Equal parts Tom Ripley and Natalee Holloway murderer Joren Van Der Sloot, Simon is a terrifying, fascinating, and pitiable creature. An example of subjective filmmaking at its finest, Simon buries the audience deep within the head of its subject through a combination of masterful cinematography and intricate sound design. Filmed in a series of meticulously composed long shots and festooned with a propulsive, Pitchfork-friendly indie-electro soundtrack (LCD Soundsystem, Lykke Li, etc.), Simon has plenty of style to burn, without ever feeling like it’s trying too hard to be cool. Not everyone agrees. But while some have felt the film to be all style and no substance, I’m not one of them. I found it effective and hypnotic.
Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present
For those who think Performance Art is the worst kind of pretentious, self-parodic, Mike-Myers-in-“Sprockets”-type cultural blight, Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present will do little to convince you otherwise. But for those with an open mind, Artist is an effectively comprehensive primer on perhaps the premiere artist working in her field. Tracing the Yugoslavian Abramović’s career highlights beginning in the early ‘70s through her infamous 2010 MoMA retrospective, Artist assumes that the audience is already onboard with the idea of Abramović. And this is the right choice, I think. Why try to make a case for yourself to people who probably aren’t watching your movie anyway? I, however, was hungry for more information (for a much better explanation of who this woman is and why what she does isn’t bullshit, I recommend checking out the segment devoted to her MoMA show on the April 28, 2010 edition of the Slate Culture Gabfest.) But apart from the lack of context, the first 2/3 of Artist are an interesting chronicle of a charismatic, unconventional woman sincerely dedicated to her craft. The film is nearly sunk, however, in it’s last third, which is given over to an endless, repetitious documentation of Abramović’s MoMA performance piece, which, while too difficult to explain conceptually here, basically involved her just sitting in a chair and staring straight ahead for three months. Director Matthew Akers presents this event in what seems like real time, and holy shit does it get old after a while. Luckily the screening was buoyed by a spirited Q&A with Abramović herself, who spoke eloquently and passionately about her philosophy of work and life and basically charmed the pants off the entire audience. Plus, there are naked people in this movie. Lots of them.