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Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week—29 January 2010

Movies I Would Have Seen At The Sundance Film Festival, With Bonus Feature Of Movies I Would Not Have Seen At The Sundance Film Festival, Had I Actually Gone To The Sundance Film Festival: Now that it no longer coincides with the Golden Globes, Sundance gives film bloggers some no doubt welcome time off from having to think about awards and such, which must be nice for those who actually go. For those who can't or don't actually go, it's a bit of a pickle, as all they are going to read about on other film blogs is this or that Sundance movie. I suppose I would have had to have gone and seen Derek Cianfrance's Blue Valentine, but I don't know if I woulda liked it. As I get older, I tend more to enjoy films mit a plot. And this appears not to have much of one, just two interlaced accounts of a relationship, its beginning and end, imagine that. And a score from Grizzly Bear. What's with all these bands and such, and the names? Grizzly Bear, Panda Bear, Animal Collective, Wolf Parade. Feh. The only one of the lot I got any use for is Wolf Eyes. I'd like to get a boom box so I can blast that band's collaboration with Smegma next time I'm on a film festival line and some clod says something like "I don't like films about bourgeois people."

Grumble, grumble, mutter, mutter...where was I? Oh, and I suppose I woulda gone to see Cyrus, which is a Duplass brothers picture featuring movie stars of a sort, among them John C. Reilly, Catherine Keener, Marisa Tomei, and Jonah Hill. "You could say Cyrus looks ugly, but that ugliness is an artifact of a working method," Karina Longworth writes of it on on the Voice film blog. I don't mean to come off like some kind of spoilsport, but that sounds like a hifalutin way of saying "The movie looks like ass because it looks like ass." I mean, what is this working method of which you speak? Inability to properly operate a camera? No, seriously, I'd like to know. I mean, you read a little about Cassavetes, you get a pretty precise understanding of why his work looks the way it does. Saying their style "privileges intimacy and immediacy over beauty" may well be true, but as none of those qualities are mutually exclusive, if I'm sitting in that theater having my eyeballs violated, I'm gonna want a good explanation. Of course I don't know that Cyrus is going to violate my eyes, as I haven't seen it yet. Because I'm not at the Sundance Film Festival.

You know what picture I probably wouldn't have seen at the Sundance Film Festival? Buried, which is apparently an hour and a half of Ryan Reynolds in a coffin. "But Glenn," I can hear you saying, "we'd imagine that a curmudgeon such as yourself might get some enjoyment out of seeing the fluffy Reynolds interred alive." Well, first off, I really don't have a lot against Reynolds. Secondly, don't even joke about it, dude. The whole buried-alive concept is one of my biggest freak-the-fug-out pho-pho-pho-phobias. Just thinking about the ending of George Sluizer's original The Vanishing is enough to make me lose sleep for about two weeks. Just digging up the illo to run at the top of the page is gonna keep me up late. And Kill Bill 2 doesn't count, because you know she's gonna get out of the coffin, the whole entrapment's just an exercise to show how inventively badass "The Bride" was.

Of course, in the current Buried, Reynold's character's coffin is roomy enough that he can prop himself up on his side. And he's got a cell phone. And, judging by stills, some kind of light source. So maybe it's not so bad. One is reminded of the immortal Groucho Marx protest, "Let me out, or at least throw me a magazine."

I have to tell you, though, even the accounts I've read of the supposedly lighter fare, such as Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are Alright, make the festival fare seem, well, just like what festival fare seems to a lot of the philistine set: joyless, grim, pompous, and agenda-driven. I wonder, if I were at the Sundance Film Festival, if in my own coverage I would inadvertently convey a similar vibe.

We have no way of knowing.

Granted you would have seen ENTER THE VOID had you gone to Cannes, but since you didn’t, would you have seen it had you gone to Sundance? Or does The Glenn Kenny Who Could Go to Sundance occupy the same alternate universe as The Glenn Kenny Who Went to Cannes, thus making the question moot? Is Shane Carruth going to have to unpack this? Also, the fiction features with alt rock soundtracks and the obligatory Ryan Gosling Oscar Vehicles always wind up getting the press, but it needs to be said that this year’s Sundance had one of the most heavy-firepower documentary lineups, like, ever. Amir Bar-Lev, Leon Gast, Davis Guggenheim, Jeffrey Blitz, Stanley Nelson, Alex Gibney, etc. etc… It was something.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the ENTER THE VOID that was at Sundance, 30-40 min shorter than the ENTER THE VOID that was at Cannes? You can’t enter the same VOID twice, apparently.
@ Bilge: Oh, I absolutely would’ve done the Noe. I saw “I Stand Alone” at Sundance, at a midnight show. Jeez, it was fun getting back to the condo THAT night. @ Chuck: There were conflicting reports about how much he cut from the Cannes version, but 40 minutes sounds like too much. We’ll have to get to the bottom of this “Void,” ar ar ar…
From what I was told, Gaspar Noe cut just a few minutes from the Cannes version of VOID, but then also added a complete end credits sequence (missing at Cannes), so that the discrepancies in the running time ultimately make the post-Cannes cut only two or three minutes shorter. However, I believe he also tweaked quite a bit of the sound design and visual FX post-Cannes too. That was the version that screened at Toronto, and I thought that was the same version at Sundance (I wasn’t there). Now there are rumors that IFC (which recently bought VOID for the U.S.) is involved in cutting another half-hour for the American release, but that doesn’t really make any sense. If IFC (which has a good track record of leaving films alone) had no problem with ANTICHRIST or all six hours of the RED RIDING trilogy, I don’t know why they would feel any need to groom VOID into being that mainstream multiplex blockbuster that it’s just oh-so-close to being otherwise. Nor do I think Gaspar would permit that.
The US theatrical cut of Void is reportedly 137 minutes; it’s about 19 minutes shorter than the version that played Cannes, Toronto and Sundance. Gaspar said the visual effects are now finished, which was not the case with the version that I saw at Cannes.
Thanks guys. And p.s. Travis: I’m sure you weren’t meaning any disparagement of RED RIDING, whose every shot feels integral to the overall design — unlike ANTICHRIST which, had it been trimmed down to a single frame, would still be an abomination.
Chuck — the RED RIDING trilogy got the better of me at a film festival, but that was merely because I was just tired, hungry, and ill-prepared to sit through three features back-to-back (the usual film fest gripes). I didn’t necessarily fall in love with what I saw (most of the first two, before ultimately deciding I was doing the films a disservice by viewing them when I was fatigued), but that was my fault on the day, and I do look forward to revisiting it on DVD or VOD at a later juncture. No, my comment was only referring to IFC’s willingness to handle distribution of a film (or, in this case, films) with a somewhat intimidating running time, hence I can’t understand why ENTER THE VOID would be cut for an American release. It seems unlikely that this reflects Gaspar Noe’s wishes, or one would think he would have prepared that version for Toronto and Sundance, since he certainly had ample opportunity, post-Cannes. And for the record, I loved ANTICHRIST. But, like much von Trier, it’s that kind of divisive film (I hated DANCER IN THE DARK, if that makes you feel any better).

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