Features

SUNDANCE Film Festival 2009

ARTICLE INDEX

Let's Make Money (Austria)
A timely documentary about the global money pool and the effect it has on people. The subject matter alone is all that is needed to recommend this movie in times like these. From a film making standpoint it's definitely a cut above the standard talking heads documentary. The interviews with both rich and poor are well shot and fascinating. And we get to travel from some of the most impoverished places in Africa and China to some of the richest such as the Jersey, once a home to cows, now an offshore tax haven used by financial centers such as London.

Here we see the prototypical financial manager living in chauffeured luxury and conducting business from a treadmill, on the phone and computer and watching TV at the same time. We may well wonder about this man's fate since the time this movie was made. It's not quite as simple as 'evil money managers' however as an interview with Economic Hitman John Perkins reveals. This is required viewing for all who haven't read his book (Confessions of an Economic Hitman).

Louise-Michel (France)
A timely comedy about the global money pool, the effect it has on people and what we can do about it (hint, it involves a hit man but not the famous Economic Hit Man as in Let's Make Money).  The subject matter alone is all that is needed to recommend this movie in times like these. This film is firmly in the screwball comedy camp and it serves to vent our frustrations well even if it sometimes dwells in the screwballishness and not the task at hand. We travel from rural France where laid off factory workers have decided to seek revenge to Jersey, once a home to cows, now an offshore tax haven used by financial centers such London.

Here we see the prototypical financial manager living in chauffeured luxury and conducting business from a treadmill, on the phone and computer and watching TV at the same time.  The fate of this man is sealed but it's not as simple as that because the global money pool seems to have no end as our factory workers find out.
(Yes the above two movies would make an awesome double feature which is how I happened to experience them at the festival. The themes were so similar I was able to cut-n-paste the reviews. The treadmill scenes, one real, one staged, were for all practical purposes, identical)

Sundance 2009


Brief Interviews With Hideous Men (United States)
Directed by John Krasinski, yes that John Krasinski (aka 'Jim' on The Office), based on the book by the late David Foster Wallace.  This movie was attracting more than a few female fans interesting in seeing Mr. Krasinski in person, apparently he's become a bit of a heartthrob. To the extent that those throbs are based on the kindheartedness of his character on 'The Office', there may be some disappointment. Krasinski played a role in the movie as well as directing and it's not all sweetness and light. Smarter hearts will throb all the more however as the performance and the movie reveal profound depth of thought and humanity. The central question is similar to last year's Mike Leigh film 'Happy Go Lucky': How do we treat those among us who are too wounded to function well?

There was a lot of head scratching at the festival among those that had read the book because it didn't seem to lend itself to movie making at all – how would they make a movie from this? The book's contents match the title precisely – a series of fictional interviews with men, the book makes no mention even of who might be conducting these interviews. Krasinski came up with the idea of having the interviews conducted by a female graduate student who is writing a dissertation about men. He was able to discuss the script briefly with David Foster Wallace before Wallace's tragic suicide and was thrilled when Wallace suggested the same female graduate student idea, the same idea that Krasinski had already employed in writing the script. That role is the single female part in the movie and it's played brilliantly by Julianne Nicholson. Feminism brought us Women's Studies. What comes next? Post feminism of course and that has us looking at men and how they've been affected by feminism. Men's Studies.

The Clone Returns Home (Japan)
A quiet meditation on the soul, The Clone Returns Home is from the contemplative school of science fiction, a minimum of special effects and lots of scenes with little to no dialogue. Astronaut Kohei dies during a mission in space, back on earth they were prepared for this, they saved his DNA and they make a clone. The clone has the memories of the original Kohei but lacks the aspects of personality that let him deal with life, especially some traumatic memories from childhood.  Where is the soul then? In our DNA? In our memories? Is it the part of us that responds to difficult circumstances? This film has luscious photography and music to give you time to think about these questions. The acting is stiff at times early on but that is soon forgotten when the movie takes us to the places that it wants to go.

Sundance 2009


Dare (United States)
This was the second 'teen movie' I saw at this year's Sundance and while it more conventional than Victoria Day, it is far from conventional. The 'dare' is laid down when the princess of the high school drama department is challenged to live life more fully by a visiting graduate from the same program. From there on in Dare has little fear as three characters explore and discover their passions for each other and what they want to pursue in their young lives. Not every note is perfect in this film, the parents for instance are more on the cartoon side as compared to the fully developed characters in Victoria Day but I still liked it.

On the surface the drama in this movie revolves around the high school drama department but underneath that it is exploring the difficult path of self discovery and acceptance.  I don't know if this movie will make it to theaters, I think it should but the sexuality part might be enough to scare off the studios. It will certainly be on DVD though and it would make for a nice summer's evening in front of the tube.

Sundance 2009