1/21/2011-Sundance Day 1

Day One

7 a.m. Four-point-five hours in bed. Jon and Doug are up and heading out for an 8:30am film. That means I’m up too – I’m in a sleeping bag in the living room. Works out okay because the first movie on my Sundance schedule is at 9am. The theater is four minutes away across a parking lot. The sun is working itself up somewhere behind a huge mountain.

I’m forcing myself to this screening because I have a ridiculous conception that the film needs my support – it’s billed as an abstract, lyrical doc about immigration to England, and I imagine that at 9 am these sad but bright-eyed filmmakers will be overjoyed and grateful to find a film lover like myself showing up.

It’s a good time to mention that in spite of Sundance’s efforts, and hours of contemplation, the ticket process remains almost too complex to grasp. This goes for all of us. Some people were able to register for advance ticket sales, and received windows of time last week to buy. Then there was open ticketing online for the few screenings that weren’t sold out. Here at the fest, you can go to the HQ after 8 am for day-of tickets that were held in reserve. Failing that, you can get to the screening for the lovely waitlist process. Starting two hours in advance, you can get a waitlist number (not a ticket itself). Later you will return and line up in the order of your number, to try to squeeze into the last few vacant seats.

Traipsing through the snow in the morning light, I feel certain that I won’t have to bother with those complexities for this little overlooked gem. I should be able to get tickets in the lobby, or have I misunderstood everything? I ask a volunteer, and she excitedly connects me to someone trying to sell an extra ticket. I got a cheap ticket, but I still haven’t learned how to buy one. I find the theater, and a huge line of chatty, coffee-clutching people. I guess nobody will be thanking me for showing up. I ask a volunteer if my credential does anything for me and she kind of laughs at me. “When it’s time for your movie, you’ll be blowing up! Until then… you’re just like everyone else.” Good to know.

I approve of the ambition of The Nine Muses, but the ‘lyrical’ pace is tough to sync to with little sleep and the experience of Sundance swirling around. Long and often-repeated shots of anonymous men in parkas gazing out over snowy landscapes, accompanied by readings from great works of world literature. It’s a very deliberate construction but not one hundred percent successful. One learns that the trick isn’t to pay close attention to the layers of spoken words, screen text and images – the narrative and structure are distilled from the audiovisual churn, assembling in your mind instead of on the screen. Words or phrases separate themselves from the flow and lend surprising meaning to elements that have come before. Maybe the pacing forces one to back away from close attention, to receive the film in this other way. Anyway, they didn’t need my support, they were funded by the UK Film Council.

Back at the condo, everyone’s rushing out, Jon and Justin to the premiere of a shorts program featuring an artist they know. The internet’s broken here – time to fix it.


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