Piers Marchant at Sundance: Day Five

January 24, 2017

Sundance: Day 5

Number of Films: 2
Vibe: Snowbound

Call Me By Your Name: This film, from acclaimed Italian director Luca Guadagnino, had its public premiere last night, and as the resulting accolades came pouring in via twitter, it was clear this morning’s press screening would be packed. It was, and from the general buzz, very few of the critics in attendance were disappointed. The film is set in Northern Italy in 1983. Dr. Perlman, a professor of art history, is with his wife (Amira Casar), and 17-year-old son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet) spending the summer at their very charming villa. Each year, the professor brings in a student from the states to help him with his work. As Elio transcribes music and vaguely flirts with the local girls, in sweeps Oliver (Arnie Hammer), a larger-than-life figure, brimming with confidence and charm. Over the course of the next few weeks, Elio and Oliver become closer and closer until Elio finally professes his interest. Eventually, the two embark on a deep, loving affair, even as their time together grows ever shorter. The film’s first couple of hours are perfectly entertaining, but is in its closing scenes that it goes from engaging to sublime, including a monologue from Stuhlbarg, consoling his now-bereft son, that is truly one for the ages. The closing credits, set over a long, single-take of Elio’s face in front of the fire, will sear your soul.

XX: It’s no secret that anthologies rarely work, let alone in the horror genre. It’s difficult to establish very much in that short a time period, and the genre-linking has a tendency to feel forced. This anthology of four horror films, each crafted by a female director (Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusuma, Jovanka Vuckovic, Anne Clark) was keenly anticipated, but too often the brief episodes do little more than a single thing, and none of them are particularly scary. Of the four, the closest to a stand-out would be The Box, Jovanka Vuckovic’s entry. In it, a young boy peers into a mysterious box a stranger shows him on the subway, and subsequently stops eating. He keeps insisting he’s not hungry, a condition soon enjoined by his sister, and later on, his father, in a whispered secret. Soon, all three of them are wasting away, with the mother helplessly watching her family disappear. Otherwise, we have a pretty standard issue sacred-Native-American burial-ground monster piece from Roxanne Benjamin; a Rosemary’s Baby-like yarn about a mother and her demon-spawn son; and, most peculiarly, a short starring Melanie Lynskey as a mother whose child is about to have a birthday party, only to find her husband dead in his office (likely poisoned, although never specified), and kids about to be pouring into their home. Not unwatchable, but nothing terribly much to recommend it.

Tomorrow: I should be back on the circuit, likely to check out the Psycho shower scene doc 78/52; possibly taking in Where is Kyra?, with the return of Michelle Pfeiffer; catch the winsome-sounding Columbus; screen the comedy Band Aid; and close out a heavy day with Nobody Speak, a doc about the Hulk Hogan trial that resulted in the shutting down of Gawker.com.

Photo from Call Me By My Name

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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