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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Sundance ’13: Day One

The tone seems to be being set by opening night this year.

There is a Pablo Larrain thing going on, as he produced Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus and 2012, and his star from No co-created the doc, Who Is Diyani Cristal ?. Pablo’s Oscar-nominated No is also here. Of course, part of the “Pablo thing” is a South American thing, as the indie world continues to lean harder and harder on international films and not American Indie. A.I. is still in the house, in the Dramatic Competition, but I feel like there is a sense that the awards show is becoming the ghetto here and the real interesting stuff is elsewhere. (Crystal Fairy is in the World Dramatic Competition.)

Blue Caprice is going to be a hot topic as the festival moves on (it opens Saturday), combining the cool distance of European cinema with a very American issue – especially right now – of gun violence as a solution for the disaffected. Add on top of that an awards-level performance by Isaiah Washington and there will be talk about why the film is in the “Next” section and not in the main competition over some of the more expected Sundance fare.

And then there is the sex. We’ve already seen Gaby Hoffman running around buck naked – and not highly sexualized – in the title role of Crystal Fairy. But just wait til they get a load of dick. James Franco is the finger in the ass of Sundance this year, with two strong pieces. One is, in theory, about recreating the missing footage from Billy Friedkin’s Cruising. But it’s not. It’s much more about the idea of how much sex of a presumably different persuasion a straight guy can take. And then, Kink.com, which Franco produced, is about a fetish site that produces a lot of content of all flavors. Of course, they are also a business, so almost exactly like Gawker, they rank the response to the material each in-house director creates and everyone is paid accordingly. But both movies are about limits, ultimately. What are they? Should we all be considering broader ones… even if we ultimately reject them? And how much of this is choice – not on a participatory level, but on one’s personal turn-ons or offs – and how much of it is just part of who each of us is.

Let’s hope the entire festival is a bumpy, bumpy ride.

2 Responses to “Sundance ’13: Day One”

  1. A Moose says:

    Billy?

    Really- who the bloody hell are you to refer to Mr Friedkin in that matter?

  2. brack says:

    Hey David, did you catch Before Midnight?

    I hear the buzz on that one is good. Guess I will buy the inevitable Blu-ray box set.

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MAMET
Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

INTERVIEWER
Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

MAMET
Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet

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