Ahoy, you 3-degree-weather neighbors....Did we leave at the right time or what? It's a balmy 35 in Park City, UT where the 2009 Sundance Film Festival kicked off last night with the opening night screening of MARY AND MAX, a full-length animated Aussie offering from the filmmaker who brought us the claymation short HARVEY KRUMPET a few years back. Without delving too much into detail, this decidely non-kid-oriented film involved two very lonely pen pals: a nerdy girl in Oz and an overweight New Yorker with Asberger's Syndrome. We're mixed on the result itself, but agree that Philip Seymour Hoffman (voice of New Yorker) can do no wrong.
While the hordes pile in to the snow covered ski town, we're feeling like old hats having already been here for three days. Why? The Art House Convergence, of course. It's what happens when you gather 30+ arthouse delegates in one Salt Lake City hotel and bask in the firing of group synapses. There are independent booksellers organizations, independent grocers and on and on, but there's never been an independent cinema consortium. Spurned on by the Sundance Institute, who initially brought 14 of us together back in '06 for its Art House Project, the group took on a life of its own over the last few years and the Belcourt is proud to be involved in a leadership role.
So went Tuesday and Wednesday in Salt Lake. Yesterday, we had a few morning sessions and then shuttled up to Park City to an opening day industry reception at the New Frontier on Main, the video/art/science/media installation arm of the festival's programming. All we can say is WOW! Personal faves were MOTHER + FATHER, which was basically two separate rooms (separated by gender), each with six monitors/audio channels, each with an iconic actor or actress' excerpted sections from a film where they played a mother or father (think Faye Dunaway in MOMMIE DEAREST or Steve Martin in FATHER OF THE BRIDE). The excerpts played against each other to create a whole that commented on the hilarities and frustrations of parenthood. As they were in 12 minute loops, it was easy to get caught up and not know where it began or ended. By far the most fun was TAMPER: GESTURAL INTERFACE FOR CINEMATIC DESIGN, Oblong Laboratories' exhibit. These are the people that developed the software in MINORITY REPORT whereby Tom Cruise shuffled through mountains of data on a digital screen with the shift on the hand. Two big screens and a ceiling full of sensors allow the gloved user to sort through a handful of full length feature films and pull off set pieces or people and drag them onto a seperate screen, creating their own looped film. Imagine grabbing Charles Bronson from the end of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and juxtaposing a two-second grimace into an office complex from PLAYTIME, adding ashtrays from OLDBOY etc - endless fun. I found myself all alone with this this thing and its creators, engrossed in its wonders, when I felt a strange presence behind me (and the heat of a camera) leering at my creation. It was he they call Bob, the whole damn shindig's fatherhead: Robert Redford. Naturally, I stepped aside and gave him the floor. Not one to be starstruck as most of us Nashvillian take pride in avoiding, I couldn't help hiding behind a camera and snapping a pick of the young genius giving Bob the rundown...crappy cell-phone pics. A good day, and we're just getting started.
P.S. - Not to gloat, but would you believe that it's 30 degrees warmer in the high elevations of the Rockies than it is in Nashville? Stay warm...