Paul Fischer at Sundance
Nothing like a totally exuberant, fresh and funny documentary about aspiring rock stars to begin a day at Sundance.
The film is “Rock School” and the aspiring musos are aged 9 to 17. Funny and vibrant, the film explores the often unorthodox teaching practices if Paul who was a modestly successful rock guitarist back in the day and now communicates his deep passion of Black Sabbath and zeppelin to a group of often social misfits who see music as a free way of communicating in a world by willing ti embrace such youthful freedoms. From CJ the brilliant guitarist to a pair of 9 year olds innocently infatuated by rock stardom, Rock School is painstakingly honest yet hilarious and moving. Its a wonderfully exuberant film destined for commercial success.
There’s some music to be heard in Michael Winterbottom’s "Nine Songs" but mostly there’s sex and more sex and some dirty talk then some even more graphic sex. One is never sure of the point of this trite look at the relationship between a British researcher in Antarctica recalling a past love, and an American girl who loves her sex. Not much else happens apart from a lot of graphic sex in subdued lighting and the film becomes repetitious to the extreme. Performances from the two leads are brave, but the film is nothing more than a collage of quasi-erotic vignettes that are less satisfying for the audience than they might have been for its participants. Nine Songs remains consistently out of tune and has a limited commercial appeal, unless of course you want to see the boundaries of sexuality pushed to extremes. Perhaps DVD sales will be more successful than theatrical release, and given more conservative times we live in, getting this film released uncut in some territories will prove an interesting challengw.
Tim Kirkman’s "Loggerheads" is a beautiful, languid tale about unresolved issues and relationships. Based on a true story, Loggerheads combines three stories in three different time periods in three different part of North Carolina. The events all unfold on Mother’s Day weekend on different years. A tad slow as it reveals past and present secrets, here is at least a film that has moments of genuine beauty, coupled with subtle performances by Bonnie Hunt and Kip Pardue. It’s a tough film, with its quiet, at times even poetic eloquence, but while it seems almost near perfect for a Festival such as this, it is less likely to find much of a home in cinemas, but rather on HBO and the like. Structurally complex, the film is gloriously human its detail, but overall, it is a film that is full of moments, leaving one curiously unsatisfied.
Scott Coffey’s "Ellie Parker" may sound familiar and if you were at Sundance back in 2001 you would remember the short of the same name, also starring one Naomi Watts. Back then, the actress was busy flogging that film with little fanfare. 4 years later, Watts is back with the feature version, in this comically insightful tale of a young woman’s struggle for integrity, happiness and a Hollywood acting career, in the midst of a city that thrives on the destruction of those that try to conquer Hollywood. One soon forgives the film’s technical look [it was shot on digital video], because Ellie Parker is a wonderful look at the comic and tragic life of aspiring actresses, with their inherent self-obsessions, paranoias and desperate need for acceptance. Watts remains a true revelation, delivering a magnificent, richly nuanced and at times outrageous performance in the title role. She is extraordinary to watch here, totally capturing, with an eerie honesty, the many facets of a woman desperate to succeed. She is ably assisted by fellow Aussie Rebecca Rigg, absent too long from the screen, who is gloriously funny and memorable here. Ellie Parker is a true independent film, and it’s wonderful to see Ms Watts return to those roots time and time again. In this film, she is a force to be reckoned with and the film is deliriously engaging, hilarious and disarmingly honest.
As Sundance enters its second day, here in sunny Park City, it’s time to drag oneself around, scheduling interviews, dealing with the inevitable rejection and the publicists. While most are as accommodating as they can be, there is the one, of course who would rather berate an underling than schedule interviews for the tiny films they have that will likely never be seen outside Sundance. But that, after all, is part of the pleasure and pain of being a working journalist at this Festival. As the journey continues, tomorrow I catch up with Adrien Brody, Keira Knightley, Naomi Watts, Rebecca Rigg, 2 of the girls from Upside of Anger and ex-porn star Harry Reems. Perhaps it’s not too bad a life after all!