Notes on Sundance ’13 — Part 1
Park City, Utah — There’s an odd, high-pitched keening when the celebs arrive. Lights go on and the crowd shoves forward to get a glimpse, maybe a touch or a smile or — mirabile dictu! — an autograph! On the runway a few “chosen ones” duck away and dash into the theater. Ah, Sundance!
The film tonight, LOVELACE, follows the redemption arc of “Deep Throat” porn star Linda Susan Boreman, aka Lovelace, from rebellious teen through the dark underworld of money, drugs, greed, sex, beatings, guns, gang-rape, to emerge in an anonymous middleclass life on Long Island. Then, after passing a polygraph test, she metamorphs into the authoress of a bestseller Ordeal touted on the Phil Donahue show. The graphic scenes depict violence — not sex — as boyfriend/husband Chuck Traynor pimps her at gunpoint, beats her and hurls her into a cold shower where she begs for mercy. Echoes of Woodward and Berstein’s Nixon Admin informant notwithstanding, Linda had her fifteen minutes, paid for it, and then died in a 2002 car crash.
Earlier, WE ARE WHAT WE ARE, showed the dark side of family codependency based upon — not alcoholism or drug addiction or even incest — but cannibalism. The dark overtones of this little tale out-Poe old Edgar Allan himself, and far surpass Hawthorne’s notion of a family curse based upon a witch hunt. In colonial times the family’s starving and dear old dad leaves with a relative to hunt. He comes back with butchered meat and they are saved. The relative though has disappeared. Gulp. Two centuries later this gruesome act has evolved into a ritual and when Mother dies, the patriarch must initiate the elder daughter into the butchery. They mark the cuts of meat with lipstick on the naked female corpse. Lots of stock melodrama with the sheriff and the doc who figures out the cannibalism and the monster-in-the-basement shock scene, but the final “feast” of the effort could send Tarantino for a barf bag, but seems oddly to work by ridding the world of daddy dearest’s “poisonous patriarchy.” Huzzah for the girls!
The title of ASS BACKWARDS is particularly apt, but not the way it was meant. The film puts two pair of female hams into the air in the opening shot — this is after the party favor of white cotton panties with the movie title in gold was handed out to the first hundred viewers — and then follows the picaresque vagaries of two ditzy gal-pals trying to get back home and win the beauty pageant they lost as children. The jokes just don’t work and the lesbian and pater familias stereotypes are yawners. Everything is ass backwards, the concept, the gags, the dialogue, etc. I suppose humor needs to bounce off of something solid, needs some anger and righteousness to make it work, and this giddy, snarky offering doesn’t justify the ix years they spent making it and the ninety minutes I spent watching it.
From this small sampling it looks like female rage against overbearing males is giving the films their boost, but today’s another day, Scarlett, and I’m off to see a couple of more this afternoon. The Park City streets are filled with cool folks from all over on all sorts of missions to get in the buzz. The venues are in the high school and the library in addition to the old Egyptian Theater. The flavor of an old mining town is submerged with all the condos, but it’s nice to be in the mountains anyway.
Above it all, though, loom the eternal mountains. The ski trails are steep and challenging, and the vistas wide and rolling and heavenly. A few inches of powder yesterday sent us up to the top chairlift at Park City and down through glades at impossible angles. The three Fagan guys, Kerry, Joe and Neil, showed that good old Troy never-say-die attitude as we skiied straight from 9:30 till 3:30. I grew up with their mom and dad and their aunts and their uncles, one of whom was a golden gloves champion. Together with Roberto, Jonathan and Nathan and Nate’s two cousins, the Davidoff sisters, Amy and Kate, we’re all stacked like cordwood in the condo.
A bluegrass trio asked me to sit in the other night at the Silver Star Café and we rocked out on old-time tunes like “The Wreck of the Old 97” and “Cigarettes and Whiskey” and “Deep River Blues.” Violin, stand-up bass and banjo.
Sooooooooo, Nathaniel West’s little classic gives everything a sharp edge, Day of the Locust. I love that climactic scene with the annoying little kid goes sailing over the rabid crowd in the apocalyptic premier! What’s it all mean, Mr. Natural? The buzz is a bit off-putting and without a solid story underneath, what’s it mean when they call, “Lights, camera, action”?
The mountains are eternal, though, the company from the old hometown is grounding, and the old familiar knee-slapping tunes are happy and familiar, but again the celebrity glitz seems a bit out of place up here in the high country. Sure didn’t do much for Linda “Lovelace” Boreman. Stories — films, novels, plays — need to be more nourishing than candy or popcorn. But the skiing’s great and the time away a welcome interlude and maybe tonight or tomorrow we’ll hook into a classic. Hope springs eternal . . .