January 12, 2013

SUNDANCE 2013: Prologue

by Steve Dollar

Sundance 2013: STOKER

Off to the land of the ice and snow, where the free midnight booze and the hot tubs flow. I'm talking about Park City, Utah, where the 2013 Sundance Film Festival starts on Thursday. Here are dreams made and shattered, where deals are brokered and careers are ignited, and despite everything you see on Entertainment Tonight!, anyone there who is really doing business will be too exhausted for the party scene. Based on my experience last year, you can count yourself lucky (and grateful) to get four hours of sleep a night. It's a slog. Although, if you've handicapped the screenings wisely, an exciting slog.

Here are a few items that will be grabbing attention this year:


Ain't Them Bodies Saints. Produced by Brooklyn's Parts and Labor (The Exploding Girl, Beginners, The Loneliest Planet, Keep the Lights On), the latest feature from micro-indie MVP David Lowery comes front-loaded with a killer cast of bankable movie stars (Rooney Mara, Ben Foster, Casey Affleck) and further down the credits roll filmmaker buds like Kentucker Audley, David Zellner, Turner Ross, and the great Robert Longstreet. The story imagines something like the afterlife of Bonnie and Clyde, the latter catching up with the former after a prison stint to find that they won't be picking up where they left off. Lowery's a brilliant editor and cinematographer whose previous film, 2009's St. Nick, starred a couple of unknown kids. This is a major step into the big leagues, and a likely breakout hit. Lowery's also got a hand in two other films by fellow Texans this year: Yen Tan's Pit Stop (writer), and Shane Carruth's much-anticipated follow-up to Primer, Upstream Color (editor).


Beatniks... As usual, you can take your pick of biopics. There are two distinct slants this year, and they pretty much add up to a lot of sex, drugs, heavy drinking and epic acts of felony—all the good stuff. Big Sur, from Astronaut Farmer director Michael Polish, follows last year's On the Road with another Kerouac-inspired drama, this time focused on the Beat Generation icon's thinly fictionalized breakdown amid the natural splendor of the Pacific Coast south of San Francisco. French movie star Jean-Marc Barr is the novelist, who at least shares a native language with the actual Kerouac. Even Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, is hopping on the beat wagon, portraying the young Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, which revisits the fabled 1944 David Kammerer murder case in which Lucien Carr, a Columbia student who became part of Ginsberg's circle (with Kerouac and William S. Burroughs), served two years in prison on a charge of first-degree manslaughter, having claimed self-defense against an obsessive stalker. With everyone implicated, to varying degrees, in the incident's aftermath, it's like a literary version of a Law and Order episode, with a significant gay subtext.

Sundance 2013: LOVELACE

...and Porn Stars. The adult film industry also rears its, ahem, head at Sundance this week: Lovelace, the long-in-progress dramatization of the sensational life and (sorry!) hard times of 1970s adult movie sensation Linda Lovelace is one of the fest's hottest tickets. Amanda Seyfried takes the lead, opposite Peter Sarsgaard as Chuck Traynor, the performer's historically despised sleazebag husband and manager. To no one's surprise, James Franco is part of the cast, too, turning up elsewhere as the producer of Interior. Leather Bar., a reenactment of the presumably gnarly scenes shot in a hardcore gay bar and cut from William Friedkin's Cruising, and Kink, a documentary peek behind the walls of the San Francisco Armory, which has been transformed into the world's largest pornographic production studio by Kink.com, the BDSM-themed web empire. British director Michael Winterbottom, who featured scenes of professional actors having sex in his (really dull) 9 Songs, takes what is likely to be a highly colorful look at the career of London smut czar Paul Raymond in The Look of Love, reuniting with frequent go-to star Steve Coogan.

Sundance 2013: S-VHS

They're b-a-a-a-a-c-k. Indiewood superheroes like Richard Linklater (Before Midnight), David Gordon Green (Prince Avalanche) and Lynn Shelton (Touchy Feely) will yet again stalk Main Street, with attendant casts of familiar folks (Paul Rudd! Ellen Page! Ethan Hawke! Julie Delpy!). Brit Marling, the breakout face of 2011 Sundance, is back with The East, once again co-written and directed by Sound of My Voice's Zal Batmanglij, and once again an examination—in part—of a cult structure. This time, Marling is the outsider (an ex-FBI agent) who infiltrates a terrorist cell only to become swayed by their agenda. But let's not get all lofty about this. Other returnees include guys like Jason Eisener (Hobo with a Shotgun), on hand as part of the team of filmmakers behind S-VHS, the inevitable sequel to last year's puke-rific horror anthology V/H/S. They traded in the slashes for a dash, and got a mostly new roster of directors in the bargain (including Eisener, The Raid's Gareth Evans and, appropriately enough, the O.G. of the found footage genre, Eduardo Sanchez).

Sundance 2013: STOKER

Park! Chan! Wook! The Korean genre director whose Oldboy (subject of a Spike Lee remake) is one of the all-time cult favorites of Asian cinema, makes his Hollywood debut in Stoker, a twisted family saga starring Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska. It's a wild card, but succeed or fail it is likely to do so spectacularly.

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Posted by ahillis at January 12, 2013 4:15 PM