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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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“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to “avant-garde art” than  normal TV to meet the word count. My feed was busy connecting the dots to Peter Tscherkassky (gas station), Tony Conrad (the giant staring at feedback of what we’ve just seen), Pat O’Neill (bombs away) et al., and this is all apposite — visual and conceptual thinking along possibly inadvertent parallel lines. If recappers can’t find those exact reference points to latch onto, that speaks less to willful ignorance than to how unfortunately severed experimental film is from nearly all mainstream discussions of film because it’s generally hard to see outside of privileged contexts (fests, academia, the secret knowledge of a self-preserving circle working with a very finite set of resources and publicity access to the larger world); resources/capital/access/etc. So I won’t assign demerits for willful incuriosity, even if some recappers are reduced, in some unpleasantly condescending/bluffing cases, to dismissing this as a “student film” — because presumably experimentation is something the seasoned artist gets out of their system in maturity, following the George Lucas Model of graduating from Bruce Conner visuals to Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting.”
~ Vadim Rizov Goes For It, A Bit

“On the first ‘Twin Peaks,’ doing TV was like going from a mansion to a hut. But the arthouses are gone now, so cable television is a godsend — they’re the new art houses. You’ve got tons of freedom to do the work you want to do on TV, but there is a restriction in terms of picture and sound. The range of television is restricted. It’s hard for the power and the glory to come through. In other words, you can have things in a theater much louder and also much quieter. With TV, the quieter things have to be louder and the louder things have to be quieter, so you have less dynamics. The picture quality — it’s fine if you have a giant television with a good speaker system, but a lot of people will watch this on their laptops or whatever, so the picture and the sound are going to suffer big time. Optimally, people should be watching TV in a dark room with no disturbances and with as big and good a picture as possible and with as great sound as possible.”
~ David Lynch