Saturday, March 17, 2012

More SXSW Impressions - The Sheik & I, Compliance, Etc (CC @Etornado)

Here goes several more movies I saw in Austin, and what I thought of them, for what it's worth.

Paul Williams Still Alive

I vaguely remember people freaking out for this at TIFF. This was the first of two documentaries I saw at SXSW co-starring the director along with his finicky rock subject. The "will he or won't he" persnickety artist angle is interesting, different, and to me has its limits. Do I want to finish a film knowing more about the film-maker than the subject? I'm not saying this was bad - because it wasn't by any means. I learned a good deal about a 70's era songwriter who was previously virtually unknown to me, and listened to probably every cover in existence of Rainbow Connection in the process. I do not regret the time I spent watching this movie.

Electrick Children

The plot - within an isolated Mormon community, a young woman falls pregnant due, she believes, to immaculate conception through her inaugural listening of rock music. She's ostracized from her community and takes off for Vegas on a quest to find the "father" of her child, the voice singing on the tape she discovers in the basement of her home. A series of "c'mon, really now?" style coincidences made this movie unable to qualify for a hearty recommendation from me but I would categorize the director/screenwriter (Rebecca Thomas) and star (Julia Garner) as ones to watch.


This was #1 on my "I missed this at Sundance, please GOD let it be playing SXSW" list. Let's just call it highly anticipated, following some reportedly dramatic Q&As in Park City where at least one woman was offended by the violence in the film. I give next to no credence to Q&A shit-stirrers but quite a bit to my Twitter pals who unanimously loved this one. So. Definitely add my name to the list of people recommending this one highly. It will stick with you afterwards - long afterwards. I'm not sure it's important to read much about what it's about, but I will say that I was expecting it to be very visually graphic/unsettling but the disturbing nature was way more subtle than that. Equally subtle is the performances, in particular Pat Healy (The Innkeepers) and Ann Dowd. I was also pleased to see an appearance by Ashlie Atkinson, who I enjoyed in the overlooked 2012 Sundance comedy My Best Day.

Rock 'n' Roll Photos: Bob Gruen

I basically only saw this movie because I knew how much my friend Erin Russell would enjoy it were she here and I wanted to somehow transfer my experience to her, however impossible that might be. This was the fairly uninspiring yet historically significant story of a rock photographer I'd never heard of, but who's taken some pretty famous pictures of John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Iggy Pop, etc. This movie was quite long and like I said, not terribly cinematic or emotional, but certainly an informative and candid peek inside some of rock's most visible legends.

The Sheik and I

Oh man, this movie. It's a documentary and one whose merits have been hotly debated to the point that some people don't feel it should have been made or shown in the first place. It chronicles an American-born Iranian documentarian's journey after being commissioned by the Sharjah Biennial to make a piece of subversive art. This annoying dick head of a director uses that as an excuse to push the buttons of everyone involved in this commissioning (and then some), making (or attempting to make) a particularly irreverent (yet not particularly sincere) film whose purpose was clearly only to rile up an establishment whose culture I doubt very much he fully understands. Having said that, though, I did enjoy watching it and found some validity in the documentary - mostly as a conversation starter. I think it's totally possible to be put off by a film-maker ('cause god, who wouldn't be) and to find some validity in what he has created. To me, I enjoyed it less the way he intended it to be enjoyed and more for the dialogue it will undoubtedly create. I tend to think this controversial film will either be completely swept under the rug or be an explosive and highly publicized piece.

Leave Me Like you Found Me

Continuing the SXSW 2012 tradition of reflective dramas set in the woods, this one introduces us to a newly-back-together man and woman (and what a pair of beautiful people) as they navigate the emotional terrain around just having reunited after a year apart. This was not bad at all - in fact there were elements that were very good. I can't find a reason I will particularly remember this one much past this week - probably due only to the sheer volume of films I will have seen here.

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