SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2010
By Don Simpson | March 14, 2010
Well, my day two of SXSW started just like any other day. I woke up, had a couple breakfast tacos at El Chilito on Congress then hung out with Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Micmacs, Amelie) for 25 minutes. Jeunet is my favorite director of the last two decades – three of five of his films (Delicatessen, City of Lost Children and Amelie) are some of the only films of the last 20 years that are currently on my favorite films of all time list. I consider Jeunet to be one of the very few working cinematic geniuses. So sitting a mere three feet away from him was mind-blowing, and being able to ask him questions was…well…it was a once in a lifetime experience. Of course, hanging out with Jeunet in the cloakroom of the Stephen F. Austin Hotel with two other critics and a bunch of camera guys was not my ideal scenario for a discussion with him, but nonetheless I got to learn to take what I am given. Don’t bite a gift horse, you can’t always get what you want, etc.
I was dazed and confused for a few hours after leaving Jeunet, but eventually I found myself sitting in the Alamo Ritz watching The Myth of the American Sleepover a film by David Robert Mitchell about young love. The summer is ending, and teenagers around town are reluctantly preparing to begin a new year of high school. The new freshman are participating in random sleepovers around town, while the upper classmen are at their own wild parties. (It seems everyone’s parents have vanished and let their teenagers to their own devices.) I wouldn’t be surprised if The Myth of the American Sleepover is a wee bit twee for some viewers, but I think its a pretty accurate and honest coming-of-age film.
Next was Chad Feehan’s Wake. Feehan mentioned prior to the screening that there were three key references to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, but at least to my eyes the entire film was an homage to The Shining. There’s an old motel in the middle of the desert and let’s just say that a lot of crazy stuff is going on there. The film cuts to a “parallel” narrative of the motel owner Jack and his wife — as that narrative unfolds, the pieces of the puzzeling story taking place back at the motel all come together. All in all, this is one of those movies (like Shutter Island) that are nearly impossible to write a worthwhile review without revealing spoilers — so I’m still wrapping my head around what I want to write about it. I will say that some directorial decisions annoyed me a little too much to call this a great film, but its still better than most of the other thrillers being released these days.
It felt like Saturday was a hectic day for me, and I quickly found myself sprinting from the Paramount to the Austin Convention Center for Michel Gondry’s The Thorn in My Heart – a beautiful and well-crafted documentary about Gondry’s aunt and cousin. Gondry did a Q&A after the screening, which means that I got to see (in person) two of my favorite working directors today. I really wish I had the fore-thought to arrange an interview with Gondry, but I do plan on catching his pannel discussion on Sunday. Anyway, I’m pretty excited to write about The Thorn in My Heart – I still prefer Gondry’s fictional work, but I have a feeling that I’ll be watching The Thorn in My Heart many more times.
Since I stayed for most of Gondry’s Q&A (which actually wasn’t that revealing), I was running late enough for Cyrus that the badge line was wrapped all the way to 7th and Brazos (meaning the line was nearly 3 very long blocks long). I got in nonetheless -thankfully the Paramount can handle such huge crowds – and Dave and JP were kind enough to save me a perfect seat. I am going to be interviewing (if all goes well) Jay and Mark Duplass – the directors of Cyrus – on Sunday morning, so you’ll be hearing plenty more about this one. I will say that the audience loved it (especially the very loud laugher seated right behind us) – and I agree. Comedies rarely meet my expectations, but this one does. I thought the humor was very natural and well written/performed – the humor is very subtle. Anyway, since three SLSS writers attended this screening you’ll probably be reading multiple reviews shortly.
For Sunday I am excited about Some Days are Better Than Others, Mr. Nice, and Elektra Luxx. If all goes well, I’ll also get to some parties today and tonight. Let’s just say that I’m tired of feeling like crap and I’m ready to get this party started.