For any dedicated cinephile, there’s a certain comfort in the daily routine at Sundance: wake, drink coffee, queue up half an hour before the first day’s screening, absorb film, queue again, repeat until exhausted. (Twelve hours is my personal limit.) Sitting in a darkened theater all day long, it’s easy to feel you’re existing in a bubble, as the rest of the world falls away like molted skin. Yes, the place is ablaze with the LED glow of various mobile devices as people compulsively check email and try to maintain a haiku-like thread of electronic contact with coworkers and loved ones. But the theater is also a refuge from normal obligations, where the chatter concerns films seen, and little else. People exchange heated opinions, discuss the latest acquisitions, and share recommendations. Here in Park City, as far as I can tell, few people are trying to wrap their heads around the protests in Egypt or Obama’s State of the Union speech, even if they’ve glimpsed the day’s headlines on a news feed. The world could be ending and no one would notice.
Incidentally, end-of-the-world scenarios are a favorite subject of American movies—the escapist conceit par excellence—and (as Susan Sontag first noted in her 1965 essay “The Imagination of Disaster”) are designed to vent and allay contemporary anxieties. Several films at Sundance this year tackle this conundrum—how to end the world and what that eventuality should tell us about ourselves—in tonally and ideologically divergent ways. Poised somewhere between Blindness and Children of Men is David Mackenzie’s Perfect Sense, a blithely apocalyptic film about the value of love and intimacy über alles with neither the literary pedigree of the former nor the technical bravura of the latter, its end-times premise hinging on the contagious outbreak of a sense-ravaging disease. Susan (The Dreamers’ luscious Eva Green) is an epidemiologist stung by a recent breakup and cynical about her future prospects. When an inexplicable illness seizes Glasgow’s truck drivers (uh…what?) and then the global populace (the afflicted experience profound, inconsolable grief, followed by the permanent loss of smell), she is brought into the orbit of Michael (Ewan McGregor), a chef with a love-’em-and-leave-’em reputation. Read the rest of Damon Smith’s third Sundance dispatch on the main RS site.