Piers Marchant Sundance 2017: Day 2

January 21, 2017

Sundance 2017: Day 2

Number of Films: 3
Vibe: Absorbed

My Happy Family: I wouldn’t call this splendid, Georgian domestic drama from first-name-listed directors Nana & Simon (a somewhat cute affectation for a film that is absolutely rid of such sentiments) similar to last year’s amazing Aquariusexactly, but certainly the strong female protagonists, here played with steely verve by la Shugliashvili, seem familiar with one another. Middle-aged and soul-deadened, Manana (Shugliashvili), living with her husband, two grown kids and her daughter’s husband, and her parents, finally can’t take her unhappiness anymore. Without fanfare, she leaves them all and gets her own flat – in a not so great neighborhood – in order to experience her life alone, as she so greatly wishes. Naturally, this causes an uproar in her family – eventually including her aunts, uncles, and cousins – but through it all, and her husband’s pleading entreaties to return, she follows her instinct, an inkling that later in the film gets confirmed, and removes herself from her sprawling family’s gnawing food chain. One wishes Manana could somehow meet up with the Sonia Braga character; they would have a grand time together.

Colossal: Nacho Vigalondo’s film is a curious mixture of seemingly disparate elements: We have the story of a reckless young woman named Gloria (Anne Hathaway) regaining control of her life; a sort of return-to-home comedy as she reacquaints herself with a former classmate (Jason Sudekis), who now owns a bar; a feminist call to power; and, oh, yeah, a monster movie where giant creatures suddenly appear in Seoul and wreck havoc. These are all interconnected – turns out Gloria somehow inadvertently manifests herself as the creature merely by walking across a nearby playground – but it the film could be pretty summarily dispensed with, but for the strong, pro-feminist angle. Vigalondo has said the film is in response to Gamergate, and I have to admit its kind of fun to see him strike a blow for the female cause directly where it would hurt male geekdom the most, but there is a thread of something here – practically every man in Gloria’s life tries to control her, or worse, and its not until she breaks free of all of them that she really finds her own voice.

Berlin Syndrome: Despite the film’s technical difficulties – with about five minutes to go, at the most dramatic moment, the frame froze, and the technicians were unable to restore it, but not before showing the literal last shot of the film, which gave everything away – Cate Shortland’s captive-woman thriller is so fastidiously made, wonderfully shot, and very well-acted by the two leads (Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt, who ended up coming out and explaining to the crowd what happened in the last scenes). It doesn’t break any cinematic ground exactly, in terms of plotting its largely standard, but because Shortland takes the time to infuse her characters with significant, poignant detail – especially the monstrous male character, whose dedicated German meticulousness makes him ever more diabolical – and behind the yeoman camera work of DP Germain McMicking, you become thoroughly absorbed in the tension as it ratchets tighter and tighter around your throat.

Tomorrow: An action-packed day, I will first check out the intriguing sounding Axolotl Overkill; head out to a distant theater to catch a public screening of Killing Ground; hope to have time to get back to the press tent in time to see the verité drama Dina; and finally take in a true rarity at Sundance, a war picture, this one called The Yellow Birds. 

Into the frigid climes and rarefied thin air of the spectacular Utah Mountains, I’ve arrived in order to document some of the sense and senselessness of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Over the next week, armed with little more than a heavy parka and a bevy of blank reporter’s notebooks, I’ll endeavor to watch as many movies as I can and report my findings. 

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