Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sundance Post V: Closure, Anyone? 

We spent time in our little festival-going team last night debating which of the award winners to see. We weren't all that psyched for any of them, but we remained hopeful. Ultimately, K. and I chose Special Dramatic Jury Prize for Independent Vision winner In Between Days, Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award winner Stephanie Daley and World Dramatic Jury Prize winner 13 Tzameti.

Just before In Between Days started, I glanced at an email review which predicted it would not find an audience beyond the festival circuit and I have to concur. The story of a Korean girl struggling to assimilate in either the U.S. or Canada (we can't tell exactly where we are), the film falls into the deadly category of "slice of life" filmmaking. The trap here is that naturalistic slice had better be damn interesting. In this case...not so much.

Tilda Swinton, the British Meryl Streep of her generation, is the reason to see Stephanie Daley. There are other great actors on hand: Denis O'Hare, Tim Hutton and the very promising young Amber Tamblyn among them. But it's Swinton's film and she always delivers. The story follows a pregnant, court-appointed psychologist as she evaluates a high school girl who may have murdered an unwanted, premature child. Many plot details swirl, but at heart its the examination of the ambivalence and fear that some women may feel as they are pregnant. It's refusal to give an "all ends tied up" denouement is the only thing that makes this an "independent film". Beyond that it's simply a very well acted retread of such classic "What made them do [insert unimaginable crime here] and what does it mean" investigative dramas such as Equus, Agnes of God, etc.

13 Tzameti has been called Tarantino meets Hitchcock. Unfortunately, it's not up to the standards of Hitch, but it's an understandable comparison. Stylishly shot and over-scored within an inch of it's life, 13 Tzameti is something like Stephen King's "The Running Man" melded with John Woo's most famous signature shot on shown on repeat. If you'd like to see lots of guns pointed at lots of heads, this is the flick for you.

All of the films today suffered from an inability to provide satisfying endings. I'm hoping that our dinner tonight at the Blind Dog will provide one for our little Sundance team.
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