Saturday, January 27, 2007

sundance from home this year...mulling

I'm not a professional industry analyst or film critic, and I hate the idea of joining the hordes of bloggers who seem to feel the need to get their pop culture opinions out there. On the other hand, it's disingenuous for me to ignore my deep long connection to film and the activities and connections that make up the bulk of my real life. I've got to figure out a better way to combine the range on this blog.

We didn't go to Sundance this year although of course it dominated our thoughts. How could it not? Our commitment and engagement too longfold. But what's it matter - in terms of this blog? Commenting on the commenting? Experiencing the festival in person is very different than following it in the papers and online. Because the story that gets written about is so much less than the whole experience. The tremendous diversity gets boiled down to what has previously been handful of sales, this year the explosion. Actually the bloggers have opened it up quite a lot. I was able to get more of a reading acquaintance with a greater variety of work, but it's still much of the same limited story over and over, and paltry compared to what one can experience firsthand.

Which makes it even worse to contribute to the noise surrounding Hound Dog which unfortunately I can't stop thinking about. The endless jawing over it's "appropriateness" steals too much ink and attention from other deserving films. A jewel like Chris Smith's The Pool which premiered at the Raquet Club on Monday is clobbered by the din of the Hound Dog show which followed.

Not that I wouldn't be right in there fighting for the right to depict child rape and sex abuse. I would. Like with the failure of abstinence only sex education - you can't just wish away problems. Rape exists and pretending it doesn't is only more harmful. I applaud Dakota Fanning's support of her work, and intent, and speaking out against those who are trying to use her for their own means. But how is that affected by the film's quality? If it's not successful, what good is any of this? It's just more noise and clutter. The contrived controversy - first the Catholic League's parasitic attack, then the necessary defense, take up space from other discoveries and deserving films. I'm not naive, I understand how publicity works. I'm just not happy about it.

I read the script about ten years ago. I met the writer/director casually - I can't even remember now exactly why. I think she moved into my rural town and we met in a yoga class. She knew I was involved with film. My vague memories mesh exactly with the reviews I've been reading. But what's interesting to me is not my failing memory or tendency to name drop, it's the tenacity of the filmmaker. She's been working on this same story for over ten years. Do I admire that? You know, I'm not sure. Ten years is a long time. In that time, she's written and produced two feature films, I've written and directed none. But still, ten years to tell that specific story? With my ever waffling mind, I find that boggling.

David Lynch was in Austin the other night (more about that later) and he repeated over and over that the artist's job was to "catch ideas." So the question is, what are the ideas worth building your life around? It's just that tenacious commitment that defines the artists from the wannabes. I find myself struggling with that as I work on a current book. Steadfastly holding on this idea for well over a year, yet not quite sure of the validity. It's that hesitation that's my downfall. Or is it? You spend ten years on one thing and it doesn't quite come together...has it been worth it?


Bryan P said...

I got a chance to see The Pool and agree that it's one of the best films up here, by far. Way better than the fitfully interesting but largely cliche-ridden Hounddog. Dakota Fanning definitely delivers an amazing performance but everyone else kind of embarrasses themselves, David Morse especially.

Chris's film is such a breath of fresh air in so many ways. I hope people in Austin have a chance to see it for SXSW! ...Matt Dentler, are you listening?

castleshadow said...

You should definitely keep working on your book. We want to read it!

Joe Swanberg said...

I can't imagine working on something for 10 years. Especially something as fragile as a film, with such a high likelihood of failure (artistic and commercial). Definitely doesn't seem worth it. After 10 years, you better make a fucking masterpiece or it's hard to justify the energy. It doesn't sound like the film shows any evidence of the 10 years of hard work that went into it. It seems like just another movie that could have been whipped together in 9 months.