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Just Say No

Just Say No

Day #2 took a darker turn subject-wise, bookended by powerful, honest tales (both fiction and non-fiction) of drug addiction. But first a couple of comments about DESTRICTED, the supposedly 80 minute collection of porn shorts that was scheduled to begin at 11:30 PM—NOT!! This two hour mixed bag got rolling around midnight, and by the time the credits rolled on the interminable Gaspar Noe piece that brought the program to a grinding thud, a good portion of the audience had already fled. The Matthew Barney film, HOIST, brings new meaning to the term “man vs. machine” with typically some of the most unusual and twisted images and execution of a concept one could ever imagine. SYNC, by Marco Brambilla, effectively sets incredibly quick edits from scores of porn movies to a drumbeat track, while BALKAN EROTIC EPIC had some amusing renderings of scenes from Balkan folklore, where male and female genitalia seem to have mystical powers. But the provocative and highly entertaining Larry Clark film, IMPALED, was clearly the best of this bunch. Young men are first interviewed by the filmmaker about porn and their own sexual experiences, eventually asked to strip while competing to star in their own mini-porn film and the right to pick their professional co-star. The “winner” then interviews a series of porn actresses, has them get naked, and makes his selection. The film of their sexual liaison follows, not without a mishap or two. This part of the compilation is worthy of further exposure—no pun intended.

SHERRYBABY features an excellent ensemble cast and a great lead performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal as an ex-junkie, released from prison after serving three years. Out on parole, she tries to stay clean, find a job she won’t despise, and connect with her young daughter that her brother and sister-in-law have been raising. This is a remarkably tough, honest, and sexually charged performance for a film that packs such an emotional wallop that the first question asked during the post-film Q & A was by a woman bawling while singing the film’s praises to the director, Laurie Collyer (who made the unusual leap of a doc feature in competition five years ago, NUYORICAN DREAM, to such an accomplished narrative feature).

Turns out the right side of the Racquet Club venue is a little less noisy from the metal steps , something to remember for the rest of the festival.

Heading over for a bite at The Broken Thumb in between films, I run into the A HAWK IS DYING team, including director and FFF veteran and Ft. Myers native Julian Goldberger (TRANS), producer Jeff Levy-Hinte (WENDIGO, LAUREL CANYON), and star Paul Giamatti. With so many Florida connections (director, source material of a Harry Crews novel, the Gainesville setting, Kim and Mark Mullen’s casting help), this is top prospect for this year’s Florida Film Festival, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens with distribution plans post-Sundance. The film itself is a unique story of a man obsessed. Giamatti plays the owner of an auto upholstery business in Gainesville, FL, who lives with his sister and her emotionally handicapped teenage son. Everything in his life however, seems to revolve around training hawks, and a tragedy sets him off on a downward spiral of exhaustion and delirium. This is challenging and deliberately paced material, much of it filmed at night or in darkness, and the cast, including Michelle Williams, Michael Pitt, and many authentic lesser-knowns, does a fine job with it.

ONE LAST DANCE is the new film from Max Makowski, creator of the extraordinary THE PIGEON EGG STRATEGY, which I saw at Sundance 7 or 8 years ago. This comedic gangster thriller from Singapore revolves around “T”, a classy and intelligent hitman tracking down some kidnappers for “the boss.” Constructed like an intricate cinematic puzzle, this visually stylish action film is punctuated by odd bits of wacky humor and digitally created gore effects. Unfortunately, I had to leave with about 5-10 minutes left to head to another screening because the film started 15 minutes late, a common occurrence two days in.

Yesterday was the “Techno Bus”, today it’s “Mr. Paranoia.” My bus trip from Main St. to The Yarrow for my final screening of the day featured an old driver who had his doom and gloom schpiel about driving in Park City during the festival down pat. He also refused to let a group of kids on the bus since they were eating ice cream cones, and according to a fellow passenger, had earlier refused to let someone bring a cup of coffee on the bus since the hot liquid was a “health hazard.” OK…

My final film of the day and first doc of the festival was the much anticipated TV JUNKIE. Skillfully compiled from more than 3000 hours of home video tapes, the film tells the dark and often disturbing tale of Rick Kirkham and his struggle to control his demons. A one-time national correspondent for TV’s “Inside Edition,” with a pretty wife and two small kids, his compulsion for video diaries provided a treasure trove of material to create a fascinating and sometimes harrowing narrative of what addiction can do to a picture-perfect life. A crying child has never been so ominous…

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