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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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Who are the critics speaking to?
Nobody seems able to answer the question of how you can make theatre criticism more appealing, more clickworthy. One answer is to be a goddamn flamethrower every week, be a bombthrower, to write scorched-earth reviews. Just be completely hedonistic and ego-driven in your criticism, become a master stylist, and treat everything in front of you onstage as fodder for your most delicious and vicious language. That’s one road. And people may enjoy your writing. The thing that’s sacrificed is any sense of a larger responsibility, and any aesthetic consistency. I don’t think anyone is following that model right now—just being a complete jerk.

Well, Rex Reed is still writing.
Ah. Well, you can also be a standard bearer, and insist that work doesn’t measure up to your high standards. But I think the art makes the standards. I’m not going to sit there and say, “This is the way you do Shakespeare.” I believe that every play establishes its own standards, and our job is to just evaluate it. But everybody’s looking for the formula for how to talk about culture so that people who don’t have any time to read want to read about it. Is there something beyond thumbs-up, thumbs-down criticism? I would hope there’s a way to talk about a theatre event in real time—meaning while it’s still going on—in a way that’s engaging, funny, witty, and evaluates the elements of the thing. But it’s like if you had a friend who was like, “Gee, are you working out? You look great. But that’s a terrible haircut.” Nobody wants that person around.
~ Time Out’s 17-Year Theatre Critic, David Cote, Upon His Exit

“Now I am awake to the world. I was asleep before. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn’t wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Constitution, we didn’t wake up either. They said it would be temporary. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub you’d be boiled to death before you knew it.”
“The Handmaid’s Tale,” Bruce Miller