The sunny weather and clear skies persist here in Austin, where audiences are reveling in epic genres, small indies, auteur favorites, and more in the fest’s seventeenth year. Three days into SXSW and our own Anne Thompson has called it: “First Hit is Cold Weather” reads the headline. LA Times‘ Mark Olsen sees big things for the film and bigger things for Katz. “Where his previous features, ‘Quiet City’ (2007) and ‘Dance Party, USA’ (2006), were diffuse romances, making Katz seem something of a lo-fi sensualist and new American independent variation on art-house stalwarts Michelangelo Antonioni or Wong Kar-wai, ‘Cold Weather’ has just enough of a jolt of conventional plotting to make it a more audience-friendly and, dare one say it, commercial picture.”
To LA Weekly‘s Karina Longworth, “Cold Weather” is “the bumbling adventures of Doug (Cris Lankenau), a former forensic science major who drops out of school in Chicago, moves in with his sister (Trieste Kelly Dunn) in Portland, gets a graveyard shift factory job and wastes away his days reading Sherlock Holmes novels and hanging out … until his ex-girlfriend (Robyn Rikoon) shows up and touches off some shady business that requires Doug to put his vague detective skills to work.” She goes on to say, “It’s an impressive experiment in genre in more ways than one: a pulp fiction of troublesome dames and distinctly costumed villains, wedded to conversational comedy…while also a subtle exploration of friendship, family, and the behavioral differences between the two.” indieWIRE‘s Eric Kohn adds, ‘While “Cold Weather’ makes for a legitimate genre exercise, it also conveys a magical realist sensibility in the tradition of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch-Drunk Love,” the kind of moving image experience informed by expressive audiovisual maneuvers rather than melodramatic overstatements.”
Actor/”performance artist” James Franco is doing well in his budding filmmaking career. He won a Teddy at Berlin for his short film, and premiered his new feature-length doc, a verite look at SNL, “Saturday Night,” at SXSW last evening. In his video intro from the Utah set he’s working on now, Franco said that he is following the direct cinema pioneer D.A. Pennebaker’s unfulfilled goal of making a SNL film and that he made the film for his coursework at NYU, intending it to be a film about Bill Hader. Writing at Cinematical, Erik Davis‘s measured take on the film begins with praise for Franco. “[I]t’s as if he just tosses the camera into the air and lets it float – capturing the SNL creative process from a fly-on-the-wall perspective, allowing the audience to mix and melt with castmembers and writers so they, too, become a part of the madness. ‘Saturday Night’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel and it won’t reveal any shocking truths (except maybe that Bill Hader deserves way more credit than we give him), but you’ll definitely walk away with a lot more respect for not only the show itself and what it manages to produce with only one week of prep time, but also the people who make it all happen.” Our own Eric Kohn notes in a satisfied review that “the most engrossing aspect of ‘Saturday Night’ is the way it depicts the sheer insanity of live television, a format as old as the medium itself. As a result, Franco’s portrait emerges against all odds as a compelling look at anachronistic media in action.”
“If you watch a lot of horror movies, particularly in the last few years, you have no doubt grown accustomed to the expectation that low budget horror movies are emotionally vacant, supplanting plot and character nuance for needless gore and brutality,” starts Horror Squad‘s Peter Hall in his review of Austin-set “Red White & Blue.” In the film, directed by Simon Rumley, a young woman not used to settling down with men does just that when a man enters her life after being discharged from Iraq and sent home. Hall sees the film as a low-budget horror corrective, saying, “Rumley’s gritty-looking film is low budget, but it bears none of the low-budget trappings that destroy films crafted by lesser talents. It is not spiteful; it is not hateful; but it is beautiful in a supremely unnerving, macabre way.”
The fest rolls on here all week, with premieres ending and awards handed out tomorrow night. More from indieWIRE all week long from Austin. Take a look at the interviews from competition and Emerging Visions filmmakers here, and, if you’re in town, here’s our guide to the city and enjoying the fest. Still not sure what to see? Check out indieWIRE editor-in-chief Eugene Hernandez‘s ten to watch.