|SXSW 2011 - Day 1 - Source Code, Sound of My Voice, & Little Deaths
|Genre: Festival Coverage
This article is part of SXSW 2011
For the seventh year in a row Iím in Austin for SXSW. Because I donít live here and my job is unpredictable, itís always a crapshoot how long I can stay, and how early I can get here on opening day. Previous years Iíve had a tough time getting here before the 9pm badge pick-up deadline, but this year I was able to head to Austin early enough to get my badge, have dinner, and still make a 7 pm screening. As with most other years, Iíll be here until some time Tuesday early evening. If youíre new to my festival coverage, I typically watch as many movies as possible each day (usually five to six... no after-parties or panels for me), then head back to my crappy motel (this year itís a Motel 6) and write my thoughts on everything I saw that day while drinking crappy beer (Keystone, natch). I typically donít have time to proofread, so especially as the festival goes on and I get more and more tired you can expect to see some... letís just say... imperfections.
And now, on to the films!
SXSW Description: When soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers heís part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train. In an assignment unlike any heís ever known, he learns heís part of a government experiment called the ďSource Code,Ē a computer program that enables him to cross over into another man's identity in the last 8 minutes of his life..
Thoughts: Iíve somehow avoided trailers and spoilers for this film. I could have told you part of the description listed above, but I more or less went into this one blind. As is normally the case, doing so likely made me enjoy the film more than if Iíd known what the big beats were before I showed up.
The Lovely Paramount Theater
The main pleasure of the film comes from how firmly weíre placed in Gyllenhaalís shoes. Heís is disoriented when the film opens, and so are we. Thereís no explanation for why he doesnít seem to know why he is where he is, or for why he sees someone elseís face in the mirror. Only s Jake learns things (twisted truths that come to him in starts and stutters) do we learn things. And when the larger reveals happen, I was as unnerved as he was.
Well, thatís kinda not true. The movie doesnít have any mind-blowing twists, and I could always more or less see three or four steps ahead. But that isnít a detriment, because this isnít a film that relies on a twist to be enjoyable. Gyllenhaal somehow comes across as an everyman and absolutely carries the film, and his chemistry with Michelle Monaghan and Vera Farmiga works on every level.
All that said, the film feels more like a summer blockbuster than an intellectual thriller (which I assume is what it was aiming for). Of course, weíd be damn lucky if summer blockbusters looked more like this film than Transformers. Damn lucky indeed.
Iím kinda rambling, so hereís the short version. I liked Source Code. Solid flick, and well worth your time. But not one I feel a need to revisit again in the theater or as soon as it hits DVD.
I had to skip out on the post-screening Q&A so that I could run next door and watch a film that @btsjunkie highly praised...
Sound Of My Voice
SXSW Description: A young couple infiltrate a cult that meets in the San Fernando Valley.
Thoughts: This wasnít on my radar at all until @btsjunkie hyped it to me as being unmissable. Iím glad he did, because I can see this being one of my favorite films of the festival. The basic concept is that a couple decides to make a documentary about a cult who meets in a basement in a California community. They want to expose the cultís female figurehead as a potentially dangerous fraud, but their relationship become strained the longer they spend time in her presence.
Iím hesitant to say much more about this one, because the joy of the film for me was how unusual it was. There must be other films in the vein (nothing new under the sun and all that), but nothing is coming to mind right now. The film is made by newbies for a small budget (during the Q&A the director admitted to buying an Apple laptop to edit on and then returning it on the 13th of 14 can-return-by days... then moving to the next Apple store and the next until the entire film was edited), but nothing about it seems cheap of First Time Screenwriter-y (something that I can usually spot at festivals).
Unfortunately (for my instant gratification side) and fortunately (if it actually happens), the director has said this is the first of a planned trilogy. Iím glad thatís the case, because as much as I liked the film, it is very much an unfinished work. And not in a ďthey left part of the story to the audienceís imaginationĒ sense, but in the ďthereís really no way to reconcile everything we see in the film and therefore really need more informationĒ sense.
I should mention that the cult head is played by Brit Marling, who co-wrote the film. Sheís a fairly new actress, and gives a really amazing performance. Over the course of the film I loathed, loved, pitied, sided-with, and felt sorry for her character. Itís a subtle and complex performance, and Iím very interested to see what she does next. I can easily see her being an actress like Greta Gerwig who continues to make indie flicks while gradually getting more mainstream recognition.
My last film of the night was a SXFantastic film, which means that Tim League and the rest of the amazing Fantastic Fest crew scheduled the film. Iím pretty sure that all of my midnight slots are reserved for SXFantastic, because fuck everything else.
Before the screening started I spent some time talking with Alamo Brand Guru Moisťs Chiullan, who was super proud to show off the installed-as-of-tonight Hobo With A Shotgun arcade cabinet:
The screening itself started with the auditorium going dark for several minutes while preparation noises were heard from the front of the theater. Suddenly Who Let The Dogs Out started blasting and there was a mini-giant pyrotechnic explosion. The lights came back on and Tim League - dressed in a giant dog costume - started running around the theater with a mic getting people to karaoke to the song.
This Rules So Hard
He ditched his headpiece rather quickly, and once he headed back on the stage, he explained "You can't see shit in these bigass dogheads." He then announced that there was going to be a chugging contest with a $50 prize. Several volunteers ran to join him, of course, and then were sorely disappointed when he announced that they were going to have to ďchugĒ room-temp beef stroganoff. (The idea was that the stroganoff looked like dog food, which came into play during the film). It was a disgusting display, and any time you hear Tim League admit "I'm pretty sure this is a really bad idea.", you know you're in for a fun time.
Tim League's Awesomeness Can Barely Be Captured On Film
A guy who was sitting a few seats down from me won, and then it was on to the film, which is an anthology from three Fantastic Fest alums.
A Really Bad Idea Indeed
SXSW Description: A psychosexual horror anthology comprised of three separate stories dealing with the twin themes of sex and death.
Thoughts: Iíd heard from a couple of people that Little Deaths was worth seeing mostly for the final segment, and that the first two were just ok. And I pretty much fall in that camp.
The first segment is from Sean Hogan and involves a rich couple who bring homeless girls to their home and fuck with them. Only this time, shenanigans ensue. The second segment is from Andrew Parkinson, and involves a mind-bending psychotronic drug developed from the enormo-penis of a bound Nazi-developed mutant. Seriously.
The final segment comes from Simon Rumley, who directed Red White And Blue, a film that made my top-ten list last year. Itís called Bitch, and revolves around a couple with serious relationship issues. Deviant sexual power struggles abound, and the entire thing builds to a climax that inspired this post-film tweet from me: ďThe Aristocrats! #LittleDeaths.Ē
I was half-sold on the film (and the final segment) until the last 10 minutes or so, but that last little bit is so gleefully (and masterfully) offensive that Iíll now say that the film is worth tracking down. My immediate reaction after it was over was ďthat was fun,Ē which says a lot about me that Iíd rather not delve into.
There was a brief q&a afterward, and then I headed back to my new home for the next few days, the Motel 6 on 1-35!
Epic Fucking Bedspread. I'm Stealing It.
Post Date: 03.11.11