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A lot of this work involved artists seeking new forms -- or, at the least, rejecting old ones. Some of my favorite recent artworks have been live performances that also seek new ways to order theatrical experience. Iíve written here before about Tino Seghalís piece at the Guggenheim last year, and, currently, I love Punchdrunkís Sleep No More, in which audience members roam at will through a 100-room hotel while actors engage in a nearly wordless and very dreamlike rendition of Shakespeareís Macbeth. (This singular work has been extended until September and is highly recommended.)
Where am I going with all this? Well, because I love boundary-crossing work like this, I have to also note how rare it is in film. Many times, this is a good thing. The good old three-act structure, promoted in scores of screenplay books, is a dramatically sound way of ordering narrative. Many storytellers would be unmoored without it. Yet it is also limiting. In a bad film I can check my watch by the obvious appearance of the plot points. But when a film successfully jettisons traditional notions of story and character development, when it seems to be following its own muse, when it makes me wonder where itís going to go next, thatís when Iíll get really excited.
Opening Friday is a film that did that to me when I saw it at Sundance: Miranda Julyís The Future. Not surprisingly, July began her career in performance art, and she even workshopped some of the movieís dramatic material in a performance, Things We Donít Understand and Definitely Are Not Going to Talk About, that I saw when it played at The Kitchen a few years ago. Said July to James Ponsoldt at Filmmaker, ďBy the time I did it in New York, it had all these key elements -- what ended up being the surreal parts of the movie, they were all in the performance. Of course, they werenít as weird back then, because performance is inherently a stranger, freer medium. Which I think is partly what was so good about starting it that way. I knew I wanted to make another movie, but my path into it couldnít just be me sitting down and saying: ďOkay, Iím writing my second movie.í I think on some level I didnít even want to know I was doing it. I wanted the most liberated, unrelated-to-the-industry or market way into it. As soon as I finished the performance and could really call it done, I was ready to start making a movie...Ē
That movie is strange, wonderful, funny, disquieting and sometimes scary. Not scary in horror movie way, but scary for what it has to say about both the fragility of our identities and the ease with which we can settle into the most protective but unchallenging life paths. I didnít know much about The Future when I saw it, and I think itís best if you donít know too much about it either. But expect to see an artist challenging herself and us while shaking up the musty tropes of American indie narrative in the process.
For more on The Future, see Ponsoldtís piece, linked above, and this video by Jamie Stuart, shot at Sundance.
See you next week.
MOMENTUM BUILDS AS INDEPENDENT FILM WEEK APPROACHES With the selected Project Forum titles for the 2011 edition of Independent Film Week due to be announced in two weeks, and the Filmmaker Conference schedule to be announced August 1, heat is building as we move toward September. Industry registration continues currently for those broadcasters, distributors, festivals, sales agents, financing and production companies that want a first look at the projects beginning in early August as industry meetings begin to take shape. Independent Film Week takes place from September 18-22 at The Film Society of Lincoln Centerís new Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center. More registration info here.
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SLEEP FURIOUSLY By Michael Tully
Itís tempting to read Gideon Koppelís sleep furiously as a bittersweet ode to the antiquated community in which he was raised, or, God forbid, to view it as some sort of call-to-arms to not let this slow, quiet way of life fade into oblivion. The truth is that it isnít either of those things. By refusing to make any grand, preachy statements, Koppel has achieved something far more commendable and deceptively complex -- heís preserved the pulse, spirit, and soul of this place and its people. read more ATTACK THE BLOCK This schlocky creature-feature from British comedian and first-time writer-director Joe Cornish, as well as the producers of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, fits nicely alongside those other genre-busting imports. Attack the Block follows a South London teenage street gang who are forced to defend their public housing development against a brutal alien invasion. As funny and inventive a genre flick as you're likely to see this year, Block could render Cornish's name as instantly recognizable among geek circles as his cohorts Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE From veteran director Lee Tamahori (Once We Were Warriors, Mulholland Falls) comes this brutal and uncompromising window into the excess and brutality within Bagdhad's royal palace circa 1987. The Devil's Double stars Dominic Cooper in dual roles - as sociopath "Black Prince" Uday Hussain (eldest son of Saddam) as well as his reluctant body double, Latif Yahia. As Yahia immerses himself within Hussain's violent and gluttonous lifestyle, Cooper delivers two unforgettable performances, and Tamahori delivers a chilling suspenseful film. THE FUTURE It's been six years since Miranda July's Me and You and Everyone We Know, and now, the performance artist-author-director-actress-hipster-poster-child has returned with a sophomore release every bit as distinct as her debut. The Future attacks some very large questions through the simple story of a couple (July and Hamish Linklater) who decide to adopt a stray cat. July's vision remains engrossing and distinctive throughout, and her chemistry with Linklater helps to ground a film otherwise afloat in post-modern uncertainty. Read our interview with July now by subscribing to the digital edition of the magazine. THE GUARD For his directorial debut, Irish screenwriter John Michael McDonagh (Ned Kelly) delivers a buddy cop film that is purposefully light on the "cop" side of things. Instead, The Guard places its attention squarely on the hilarious and contentious relationship between its two leads -- Brendan Gleeson as a rebellious small town cop, and Don Cheadle as a stuffy FBI agent. On the trail of an international gang of drug-smugglers, Gleeson and Cheadle play off one another with a great deal of charm, charisma, and chemistry. Wry, light, and easily watchable, McDonagh's debut breathes new life into an often mishandled sub-genre. Read our interview with McDonagh here. THE INTERRUPTERS A fascinating exploration into the roots and lasting effects of urban street violence, this provocative new documentary from director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie) follows three ex-criminals now employed by CeaseFire, a Chicago-based violence interruption organization. Through James' verite style with these three, as well as with CeaseFire founder Gary Slutkin, James explores the organization's controversial ethos -- that violence can be equated with an infectious disease, and that the only way to stop its spread is to trace it back to its source. The Interrupters is gritty, relevant, and politically intriguing, made all the more affecting thanks to the human face it attaches to the proceedings. Read our interview with James here. This week on the blog, Scott Macaulay gives an excerpt from his Summer issue cover story with Another Earth screenwriter-star Brit Marling and screenwriter-director Mike Cahill (pictured left), highlights the trailer for Nicholas Winding Refn's Drive, and writes about filmmaker Seth Fisher's (Passing Harold Blumenthal) new step-by-step production blog.
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LADY VENGEANCE: REWATCHING (AND SAYING GOODBYE) TO ďHARRY POTTERĒ By Farihah Zaman
For the last ten days, the conclusion to the massively popular Harry Potter series has been jerking tears and dredging up boatloads of cash, and it seems its total box office domination is far from over. In honor of this momentous occasion I decided to undertake the unoriginal but ambitious quest of watching all of the previous films in the week leading up to the premiere. The Potter-palooza culminated in a midnight screening of The Deathly Hallows Part 2 in a strip mall multiplex near the rural Michigan town where I was vacationing, complete with buttered popcorn, limited edition 3-D Potter glasses and teenagers wearing pointy hats and apropos-of-nothing purple wigs. read more JULY
San Francisco Documentary Festival
Regular Deadline: July 29
WAB Deadline: August 5
Festival Dates: October 14 - 27
Atlanta Underground Film Festival
Late Deadline: July 29
WAB Deadline: August 5
Festival Dates: September 22 - 25
Starz Denver Film Festival
Late Deadline: July 30
WAB Deadline: August 10
Festival Dates: November 2 - 13