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Friday, March 7, 2014

SXSW Film Roundup - Day One

By David Massey

March 7th 2014 - Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival kicked off tonight in great form and I caught a big-name audience-pleaser and a no-name little Australian film that absolutely blew my mind.

‘Chef’ (Directed by Jon Favreau)

Jon Favreau’s pet project, after a decade of big budget, heavy-on-special-effects, blockbusters and fantasy fair, is as charming as they come. The film follows a master chef (played by Favreau) whose career is derailed and, as a last resort, opens a food truck and drives across country with his young son and his sous-chef, played by John Leguizamo, selling Cubano sandwiches. Along the way, we're treated to food-porn at its best and introduced to a cast of characters that would make Woody Allen blush: Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansen, and a slew of other familiar faces. 

This is still a far cry from 'Swingers' - the film that began the plague that is Vince Vaughn and managed to charm every straight man in America - but the man knows how to make a light comedy with clever dialogue that doesn't feel frivolous. This is far from indie/art-house but Favreau was candid in saying that he had no desire to make a cinematic contribution, he simply fell in love with the premise, ran with it, and the result brought the house down.

‘The Infinite Man’ (Directed by Hugh Sullivan)

With a cast of 3 and barely more than one location, first-time feature filmmaker (and writer), Hugh Sullivan, has woven together a topsy-turvy time travel film that falls somewhere between ‘Primer’ and ‘Groundhog Day’. The initial impression is of pure comedy with time travel as the incidental extreme that the main character (played by a fantastic Josh McConville) is willing to go to in order to keep control over his love life. The result is a complex, infinite loop that wowed me with every twist and turn. Though never stepping over the line into ‘Thriller’ or serious ‘Science-Fiction’, the logic of the storyline is mathematically maddening and the film does consider some truly heavy existential ideas like the result of jealousy on relationships and how fear of change and the desire to control others is almost always counterproductive. Ultimately, the film is just a ton of fun and, though it perfectly fits within the supposed film-festival mold, even the most novice of movie-goers would get a huge kick out of this one.

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