Posts Tagged ‘upstream color’

Sundance Review: Upstream Color

Friday, January 25th, 2013

There are filmmakers who tell a straightforward story, and then there’s Shane Carruth, back at Sundance nine years after his brainy sci-fi film Primer, which was anything but straightforward, won the Grand Jury prize and went on to become a cult favorite. This time around, Carruth brings us Upstream Color, perhaps the strangest film I’ve seen at Sundance this year, but also one of the most interesting and technically complex. It took me awhile to wrap my head around this film; it’s not something you can digest and then immediately spit out any sort of thoughtful analysis of, but I finally think I’ve figured out what Upstream Color means … or at least, what it means to me.

Sundance 2013 Preview: US Dramatic Competition Picks

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The Sundance Film Festival kicks off this evening, and although the program of Sundance, like any large fest, can be a bit of a crap shoot, I’m always hopeful for more good films than lousy ones. Writing a curtain raiser for Sundance is always a bit of a crapshoot as well; it’s a program packed with new films, many of them from new filmmakers, and the best you can hope to do is hunt out the ones that look most interesting, or at least most promising, and hope for the best.

This seems like a totally random way to evaluate the Sundance Program, but it actually works out pretty well for me. I was looking over last year’s preview of the US Dramatic competition, and many of them have gone on have a life outside the fest circuit: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Middle of Nowhere, Safety Not Guaranteed, and The Surrogate — all solid films that had a good life outside the fest circuit. With the perspective of a year behind us, last year’s Sundance US Dramatic competition was pretty damn good, y’all. Here’s hoping this year’s slate holds just as much promise.

Here are my picks of the films in the US Dramatic competitions. Some of these are there because of the director’s history, some just because they sounded interesting based on the program notes. All of them, I hope, will be worth our time catching them here in beautiful Park City.

Title: Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

What It’s About: Bob Muldoon and Ruth Guthrie, an impassioned young outlaw couple on an extended crime spree, are finally apprehended by lawmen after a shootout in the Texas hills. Although Ruth wounds a local officer, Bob takes the blame. But four years later, Bob escapes from prison and sets out to find Ruth and their daughter, born during his incarceration.

The barren landscapes of David Lowery’s poetic feature evoke the mythology of westerns and saturate the dramatic space with fatalism and an aching sense of loss. Aided by powerfully restrained performances by Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster, Lowery incorporates an unnerving tension into the film, teetering it at the edge of violence.

The beautiful, irreconcilable dilemma of the story is that Ruth—compelled by the responsibilities of motherhood and her evolving relationship with the deputy she shot—remains haunted by her intense feelings for Bob. Each of them longs for some form of peace. Ironically, it’s Bob, the unrepentant criminal trapped in the romantic image of a bygone past, who is driven by an almost righteous sense of clarity. Following in the footsteps of Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde, Lowery’s humanism transcends the genre.

Why It’s Interesting: Love Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara and Ben Foster, so that triad leading the film intrigues me. is also at Sundance this year with another of my picks, Kill Your Darlings (see below). Director David Lowery previously had St. Nick at SXSW, and edited one of my favorite shorts of last year, Kat Candler’s Hellion. Definitely one I want to check out here.