My Sunday began with the Polish production The Mill and the Cross. The lead, Rutger Hauer, had not seen the film before today, and was stretching to articulate his impression of it, settling on “several minds having sex.” It’s a cinematic exploration of a single painting, an attempt to connect with it in the symbolic language of its time. The director himself, a Polish filmmaker, artist and poet, acknowledged during the fascinating Q&A that it was a feature film based on an essay, the implications of which concerned even the essayist. It’s basically an intellectual exercise, and as such it was a bit hard to connect to emotionally, just a little too mannered to get lost in. A wonderful exception is the moment in which God, the divine Miller, sits shaken in the shadows of his own cosmic mechanisms, crying over the death of his son on Earth. I really shouldn’t pass over the visual accomplishment. And I liked the fact that the film seemed to pass through the plane of a painting into a kind of explanatory space behind it, an imaginary clockwork made up of a true historical time and place intertwined with allusive and allegorical narrative elements. I had noticed what I considered to be a typically Polish, or maybe just European, inclusion of the earthy along with the transcendent, and the director addressed this afterwards – mentioning that in the art of Bruegel’s day, the viewers expected an all-encompassing work, one that attempted to include the world with its contradictions, “the sacrum and the profanum” as the he put it.
This screening also led to my first close encounter; walking out of the building, a man turned around in front of me, and he was Rutger Hauer. About a foot away. We had a brief encounter. I go straight from Rutger to the freezer section of the grocery store, grab some more Lean Cuisines, and head home. Jon walks through quickly. “I’m supposed to be at a party in twelve minutes.” He and Colin have come from a producer’s breakfast, where they had trouble finding vegan food but indulged in free vodka. Jon pops back in. “I have a plus one for the Universal party, does anyone want to come?” I feel far too gross to rub elbows with VIPs – I need a shower and a change of clothes, but Jon’s leaving now. I toss down my computer and grab my coat. Jon’s a little concerned because he didn’t RSVP to this party, although he was invited. This is how busy he’s been – when he totally finished the Sundance cut of the film (just a few days before the fest itself), it was about 2 a.m.. He immediately went to work winnowing the pile of unread emails in his inbox down to 300 by 6 a.m. The rest remained unread, including some party invitations for Sundance.
I see now that these invite-only parties are where you actually meet the people you want to meet. I wonder if networking can even happen elsewhere while these are going on. This swanky loungy little space is crammed wall-to-wall with people in bulky coats, with a thunderous roar of shouted conversations. Within seconds of getting inside, we are talking to some people from The Woods, which I’ll definitely be seeing this week. The lead actor is based in Philly. If I understood him, he’s a tour guide at at Eastern State Penitentiary. I am excited to see this film in part because the soundtrack includes Dirty Projectors, one of my favorite bands, and I ask these folks how they got DP for their soundtrack. (The answer: the director did a music video for them). Jon gives himself twenty minutes at this party before leaving for the IndieGoGo party, in fact he sets the alarm on his phone so he’ll remember to leave. He’s speaking about Kickstarter a panel there, and he invites someone from The Woods to come along since they raised money there too. I try to follow him out but a sudden crush of people separates us, and I settle for another free local beer. I spot an actor and producer of ‘The Nine Muses’ which I saw on Friday, and I say hello and ask a few questions about the UK Film Council, of which I’m quite jealous. The producer gives me the bad news that it’s a victim of budget cuts. I also spy an actress from ‘Codependent Lesbian Space Alien’ and we talk about our lives as working artists and she gives me a cool pin before being pulled out of the party by her team. It has payed off to watch the ‘Meet the Artist’ interviews before coming here, as I’m constantly recognizing directors that way. The party continues with a raffle with prizes including an iPad and $5000 vouchers for various services. The rich keep getting richer! Face fushed and buzzed from altitude and beer I realize that it’s time to get to my next film, which is up on the other end of town, even further out than the festival HQ. But the bus service during Sundance is so incredible (and free) I’m whisked away in seconds.
The film I see next, another world premiere, is ‘Jess + Moss’. A film of gorgeous auditory and visual textures, and once again admirably ambitious. It strikes me as the work of a young filmmaker who’s attempting to push formal boundaries but can still develop in the basics. There are some textural details I will clearly remember for a long time.
I rushed out and caught the bus to get in line to see Lou Reed at a venue called Sundance House – an event for credential-holders only. It was supposed to start at 8; I got in line at 7:30 and two hours later I was standing just outside the main doors, shaking, stamping my feet to keep warm. It was totally worth it. In line I meet one of the composers of Kinyarwanda, a film I’d like to see this week. We talk about how he got his work, and my working relationship with Jon, who was my composer. I also stood near the Mountain Time Zone’s answer to Absolutely Fabulous. They were letting us in a few people at a time, and finally I squeezed in with just enough time to grab a free drink for each hand and get a spot for the show, about 25 feet from Lou. It was highlight of my life. It felt so special to be here in the mountains of Utah surrounded by 300 people in a small room watching one of my all-time favorite musicians run through some of his best songs for an appreciative crowd. I’ll spare you the gushing details. But what a Perfect Day.