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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar Voynar@moviecitynews.com

A Word on Without

Mike Tully has a piece up on his indieWIRE blog about the Maryland Film Festival (never been to that one, but this isn’t the first time I’ve heard raves about it, so I need to add it to my bucket list, I guess). One thing that caught my eye in the write-up was Tully’s shout-out to Mark Jackson’s Without, a film of which I’m also a big fan.

I didn’t review Without from Sarasota, where I saw it, because it was in the narratives competition and I was on the jury. It will be on my upcoming SIFF preview as a recommended film for folks to try to catch at SIFF. Prior to winning at Sarasota (against, I should add, a stack of very good competition films), Without received a Special Jury Mention at its Slamdance debut, along with a second Special Jury Mention for lead actress Joslyn Jensen.

And I should mention here, too, that if Without had been playing at Sundance in the Midnight category, Jensen would have been garnering mention in the same “Girls of Sundance” articles that were talking up Elizabeth Olsen, Felicity Jones and Brit Marling. She’s a terrific new talent, and if she chooses wisely with her projects and steers clear of crappy studio rom-coms, she could really be something. She reminds me a bit of Brittany Murphy circa 8 Mile, walking the line between fragility and strength and emotional in a layered, complex performance.

Jackson’s direction is technically proficient, but beyond that the way he builds suspense in this film, through story outline and seamlessly tight editing choices, is really impressive. The interesting thing is, after briefly talking to Jackson at the Sarasota closing party, I’m not sure he even has any idea yet just how good he is, or why people are taking such notice of his little film. He struck me as completely unaffected and rather overwhelmed by all the positive attention his film is getting.

I’m hoping to connect with both Jackson and Jensen when they’re in Seattle for SIFF, to catch up with how things are going for them. I hope Jackson’s able to step back, take a deep breath here, and process and hang onto WHY people are impressed with this film. Watching Without, you get that sense that you’re bearing witness to the on-screen birth of two potentially big talents. He has that same potential I talked the other day with regard to Daydream Nation director Michael Goldbach.

It’s new directors like Goldbach and Jackson (and, for that matter, Mike Tully) who make me feel good about the future of independent film, particularly low-budget indies. Smart indie films that rely on story and character rather than effects, tightly directed, for a low-enough budget that they can actually make their money back (as Tully did in a matter of months with Septien)? Good stuff.

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“Why put it in a box? This is the number one problem I have—by the way it’s a fair question, I’m not saying that—with this kind of festival situation is that there’s always this temptation to classify the movie immediately and if you look at it—and I’ve tried to warn my fellow jurors of this—directors and movie critics are the worst people to judge movies! Directors are always thinking, “I could do that.” Critics are always saying, “This part of the movie is like the 1947 version and this part…” And it’s like, “Fuck! Just watch the movie and try and absorb it and not compare it to some other fucking movie and put it in a box!” So I think the answer’s both and maybe neither, I don’t know. That’s for you to see and criticize me for or not.”
~ James Gray

“I have long defined filmmaking and directing in particular as just a sort of long-term act of letting go,” she said. “It’s honestly just gratifying that people are sort of reapproaching or reassessing the film. I like to just remind everyone that the movie is still the same — it’s the same movie, it’s the movie we always made, and it was the movie we always wanted to make. And maybe it just came several years too early.”
~ Karyn Kusama