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Monday, March 10, 2014

SXSW Film Roundup - Day Three


By David Massey


After a late night (and having watching 1:59am change to 3:00am before my eyes), I was totally shattered this morning but all set to drag myself downtown early to catch the screening of Richard Linklater's epic new film, and then call it a day. Fortunately, that screening was such a great experience that it compelled me to keep going; I also caught a unique performance from a cult hero and mustered the energy for a documentary about a band that formed a prominent bookmark in my life as I crossed into my 20’s. The culmination of these films sent me into a downward spiral of aged nostalgia… but in a good way.


'Boyhood' (directed by Richard Linklater)

Boyhood cast Q&A at SXSW
Once a year, over the last 12 years, Richard Linklater (‘Waking Life’ / ‘Before Sunset’) has reunited the same cast and shot segments of a feature film following the life of a boy (played by Ellar Coltrane – who literally grew into this part and became an actor of substance) from the age of 5 through the age of 18; the result is both fascinating and inspired. The only other project that comes close in comparison is Michael Apted’s ‘Seven Up’ series which documents the lives of a collection of school children in 7-year intervals, starting in 1964 and still going as of the latest edition in 2012. What’s so unique about ‘Boyhood’ is that these individuals (including Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, and Linklater’s own daughter, Lorelei Linklater) evolve and age within a scripted narrative that is not 'like' a time capsule, this is a completely authentic period piece that retraces an era from the cultural response to September 11th, through the election of Barrack Obama, and into the age of social media saturation. As you watch these actors morph through more than a decade of their lives within a few hours, the story becomes as engaging as its concept. Throughout my life and travels, I’ve heard so little enthusiasm for Linklater outside of Austin and it’s a shame because he is a unique force within the industry and quite an American gem. The director received a well-deserved standing ovation from and elated audience having, once again, set a new standard in the exploration of film’s potential and reinforcing the limitlessness of DIY filmmaking.



'Joe' (directed by David Gordon Green)

David Gordon Green at SXSW
David Gordon Green, who’s versatile career has swung from the sublime (‘Snow Angels’ & ‘Undertow) to the completely absurd (‘Pineapple Express’ & ‘Your Highness’), has swung back once again with this adaptation of Larry Brown’s bleak novel, ‘Joe’. The thriller follows the lives of country drifters surviving on the fringes of modern America’s mid-west. The title character, played by Nicolas Cage, is a man with a troubled past and a short temper that has found a respectable - if teetering - balance in life. When he hires a young drifter, played by Tye Sheridan (‘The Tree of Life’ / ‘Mud’) as a day laborer and tries to take the boy under his wing, that balance begins to tip when the boy's vagabond father becomes jealous of his income and his friendship with Joe. This is a film about fighting against your own nature and, though his more serious roles are often overshadowed by his over-the-top gonzo-ness, this is, by far, Cage’s most subtle success to date. Don’t worry though, he still gives the camera ‘crazy-eyes’ at least once.



‘PULP’ (directed by Florian Habicht)

Pulp Q&A at SXSW
In 1997, when I moved to London, beyond a song on the ‘Trainspotting’ soundtrack, I had never heard of the band ‘PULP’ (who released their first album in 1983). That gap in my musical knowledge was swiftly corrected by the locals and I was soon swaying and gushing with empathy to anthems like ‘Mis-Shapes’ and ‘Common People’. The year after my arrival, the band released the controversial ‘This is Hardcore’ album (which I adored) and largely fell from the limelight. In the UK, at least, Jarvis Cocker and his bandmates have not been easily forgotten and the band, which hasn’t toured or played together since shortly after the turn of the century, decided to organize a final concert as a bookend to their career. Kiwi filmmaker Florian Habicht (‘Love Story’) has created a ‘concert film’ as unique as the band itself. Instead of providing a sleek chronology of the bands history, full performances of their fan favorites, and back-stage antics, he’s focused his attention on the ‘common’ residence of PULP’s native city, Sheffield, and made pensioners the center of his study. To the credit of the ‘Veronica Mars’ audience that I scorned yesterday, this too may be a film for the fans but, for the sake of pop music history, the greats that didn’t quite make it stateside (largely because they weren’t macho enough), and because there isn’t yet a trailer for this documentary, I give you the ‘Disco 2000’ music video for your own educational enjoyment:


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