My last day of Sundance was also it’s most intense! I saw 4 movies, after skipping my first one to recover from my previous days illness. It was a pretty weird day, as far as the kinds of movies I saw, but I think we should all have come to expect that by this last day of reviews. Here they are, my last set of Sundance 2016 reviews:
Halal Love (and Sex)
Director: Assad Fouladkar
Writer: Assad Fouladkar
Stars: Berlin Badr, Christy Bared, Fadia Abi Chahine
After missing my first movie of this day, First Girl I Loved, it was a good thing I got to see Halal Love (and Sex). Telling four different stories of Muslim men and women trying to figure out the eponymous halal love and sex. Relationships are complicated, especially when you include religion of any kind, and Islam is no exception. Second wives, secret marriages, multiple divorces, and sex education the likes of which we normally expect here in America, all play into a complicated web of amusing and tragic love stories, each with enough time and space to breath and be lively. And surprisingly, there is a lot of nuance here, and each love story has depth that is informative and fascinating. Especially if you aren’t already a Muslim person from the Middle East, I suggest this movie because it does get into a lot of the complicated and arcane, but very human, foibles that befall people in that region. There’s also an amazing scene involving a worm that cannot be spoiled and must be seen. I highly suggest seeking out this movie for the love story loving among you.
Director: Bernardo Britto
Writer: Bernardo Britto
Stars: Camille Rutherford, Wyatt Cenac
I get the feeling Bernardo Britto is a great director and is going places. Jacqueline (Argentine) stars Camille Rutherford as Jacqueline Dumont, a former employee of the French government who is in self exile in Argentina after apparently discovering assassination plans and a vast government conspiracy. For reasons that aren’t quite clear, she enlists the help of a nameless and very dry witted director played by Wyatt Cenac to film her and record her experience so that she hopefully won’t be silenced. We follow the director as he attempts to investigate the very mysterious and yet engaging Jacqueline. The movie from there is a bit hard to describe. It’s about the struggles of art, and it’s about Edward Snowden and the media. It’s a bit more about the former than the latter, though, I think to its detriment. With so much focus on the artistic process and documentaries and film making, the real thematic weight of Jacqueline is placed on ground that has already been explored, whereas the very fertile ground of the Snowden leaks and other such real life events is lost. There’s a genre movie hiding here in this more art house picture, and I would have really loved to see that movie. Bernardo Britto is a talented director, and a talented screenwriter, and I hope to be able to see where he goes from here, but I hope he embraces his tendencies toward fun and theme more than on introspection in the future.
Cemetery of Splendor
Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Writer: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Stars: Jenjira Pongpas, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Rueangram
Cemetery of Splendor, unfortunately, was my least favorite of all the movies I saw, which I feel is probably a bit unfair. This is a slow movie, and a quite movie. On their own, that’s not that bad. But it’s every single shot. Every shot is at least a few seconds too long. Every shot feels like it is filled with silence. The camera doesn’t move except for 3 occasions in the whole movie. It feels like nothing actually happens. It was an unnervingly frustrating movie to sit through watching a whole lot of nothing except scenery from Thailand. I get the feeling that for people more attuned to quieter movies, to surrealism, and to the subtleties of the politics in Thailand from the past few years, this movie will be something special. For me, I got almost nothing out of it.
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Stars: Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, Patrick Stewart
Green Room is easily the most intense movie I saw the whole fest, and was quite a way to end Sundance. It’s about a punk band that spends almost all their time on the road, living from show to show, who end up after a botched show playing at a club for skinheads. Clearly uncomfortable with each other, the band puts on a decent show for the skinheads, but afterwards one of the members witnesses something terrible in the club’s green room and so the band is locked in said green room while the terrifying owner, played by Patrick Stewart, attempts to figure out a way to get them out of his club without alerting the authorities. The siege of the green room and the bands various plans to escape ensue and it is one of the most tension filled group of scenes I think I have ever witnessed. It’s horrifying, because it is all too real and all of the characters are a lot less competent than they think they are. Watching them stumble their way through in an attempt to stay alive is something else. It’s not a particularly political movie, as the skinheads, despite being Neo-Nazis, are treated more like unnervingly human boogeymen. While it was incredibly hard to pull my eyes away from the action, I don’t think I ever found myself contemplating the thematic aspects of the punks vs. skinheads war that was ensuing. Not necessarily a strong knock against the movie, since that’s obviously not what it wants to be, but I did feel like there was something meatier the movie could have mulled over. For what it wants to be though, this movie is nearly flawless. I don’t think I felt my heart race more over the whole week I was in Utah. Definitely worth your time.