Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
The Big 2015 Movie Preview
The 50 Best Films Of 2014
Review Of The Year 2014
Subscribe To Empire!
Get 12 issues from just £25
Must-Have Movie Collectibles
Bid on some classic memorabilia
Empire Blogs
Words From The Wise

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Sundance 2013: The Round Up Part One

Posted on Wednesday January 23, 2013, 10:30 by Damon Wise in Words From The Wise
Sundance 2013: The Round Up Part One

According to founder Robert Redford, the ethos of the Sundance Film Festival can be described in one word: change. “Some people fight and resist it because they are afraid of it,” he noted at the opening-day press conference on Thursday, “others accept it and roll along with it.” Though we're not talking seismic changes, Sundance is certainly a festival that moves with the times, and after the breakout success last year of Beasts Of The Southern Wild – which is following 2009's Precious to the Oscars – this year is definitely attracting interest from an industry looking for fresh new ideas.

They're not being disappointed. Yesterday saw the world premiere of Shane Carruth's Upstream Color, the director's first film since his prize-winning cerebral sci-fi drama Primer in 2004 – and quite possibly the most anticipated movie at Sundance this year. Although the festival attracts hundreds of bona fide movie stars every year – though markedly less stellar, this year's attendees include the likes of Nicole Kidman, Shia LaBeouf, Joseh Gordon-Levitt. Ashton Kutcher and Naomi Watts – Upstream Color is really what the festival is all about: a cool, mystical and at times impenetrable study of human fate. Making Holy Motors look like Nativity 2 by comparison, it is an insanely ambitious piece of work that begins with a woman being tazered and forced to ingest a worm that makes her fall under the spell of a mysterious attacker. This man then hypnotises his victim into handing over all her money, but not before memorising a novel by Henry Thoreau.

The film was well received, but then most films here are, and although the festival got off to a slow start with a couple of decent docs (Who Is Dayani Cristal? and 20 Feet From Stardom) and two OK world dramatic features (Crystal Fairy and May In The Summer), the quality of the films since has been pretty high, For me, the festival really kicked off with Austenland, a divisive chick-lit comedy that stars Keri Russell as a single woman named Jane whose infatuation with the novels of Jane Austen inspire her to sign up for a holiday in a British country theme park modelled on the life and work of the Regency-era authoress. There, Jane teams up with the rich, busty Miss Charming (Jennifer Coolidge), only to realise that her life savings only entitle her to the “copper” edition of the Jane Austen experience while her new but comparatively vulgar friend gets “platinum”.

That the film is divisive is because many were turned off by its exuberant, Comic Strip-style comedy, which tends to focus a lot on Coolidge's bosom and the great lady wailing such bon mots as “GORD SAYVE THA CWEEN!” in a horrible British accent. But there are some smart, literary laughs to be had, and even though Jerusha Hess' film is very, very, silly, it's rare to see a film that so knowingly explores the reality of many women's secret fantasies and desires. It's even more rare, however, to see women's fantasies and desires explored as boldly as they are in Anne Fontaine's Two Mothers, which stars Naomi Watts and Robin Wright as two middle-aged best friends who embark on affairs with each other's sons. The absurdity of the set-up put many viewers off, but although there is definitely some unintentional humour in some of the dialogue (“We've crossed a line!” observes a straight-faced Watts), there's also a lot of sexual tension and atmosphere to relish here, and the film, boosted by two great leads, definitely makes a provocative impression.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me so far has been Daniel Radcliffe's performance as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings, the true story of a scandalous wartime murder in uptown Manhattan. John Krokidas's film tells the story through the eyes of the young Ginsberg, who meets Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) in his first days at university and is seduced into a world of jazz, drugs and literary hedonism. Unworldly and inexperienced, Ginsberg is initially confused by his attraction to Carr, but the shadowy presence of David Kammerer (Michael C Hall), a somewhat creepy older man who follows Carr everywhere, alerts Ginsberg to his own blossoming homosexuality. The fact that Carr kills Kammerer is no spoiler, since this is how the movie starts, but what is surprising is how well Radcliffe plays out Ginberg's crucial early life journey, transitioning from a wide-eyed ingenue to a radicalised bohemian whose poetry would change the course of literary history.

Jumping forward a few days, fellow Harry Potter alumnus Rupert Grint plays a small but perfectly formed part in Fredrik Bond's excellent and at times uproarious The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman, in which the young Chicagoan of the title, played by Shia LaBeouf, takes a trip to Bucharest to recover from the death of his mother. It takes a while to heat up, but when it does, Bond's film is a great, sleazy crime caper, with Countryman falling for Romanian gangster's moll Gabrielle (Evan Rachel Wood), ex-wife of vicious gangster Nigel (Mads Mikkelsen). Unfolding backwards, the film starts with our bloodied, weeping hero hanging from a rope and about to be shot, and Matt Drake's script has a lot of fun explaining how Countryman got there. Bond's use of music is excellent and his vision of eastern Europe both hellish and magical; that Grint plays a wannabe porn star named Boris Pecker is just one of the many delights of a gripping, violent film that owes an unabashed debt to the Tarantino-penned love-in-low-places story True Romance.

Speaking of porn, who would have thought that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directing debut Don Jon's Addiction would be so near the knuckle (pun intended)? Gordon-Levitt stars as Jon, an Italian-American jersey boy who pumps his muscles, pimps his ride, and keeps his crib squeaky-clean for the endless procession of women he takes back to his pristine apartment. When Jon meets the ten-out-of-ten club girl Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), he falls in love. But Jon has a secret: though he every inch a ladies man, he is also an internet porn addict, scouring the internet for hardcore and softcore images, since he prefers the fantasy version of sex to its awkward, grunting reality.

If you still haven't quite got your head round Gordon-Levitt's recent ascension to leading-man status, this film will blow your mind, not only showing the still-boyish actor pumped up to eye-popping proportions, but displaying a sexual frankness one rarely sees even in independent cinema these days. And then there's the sight of Johansson as we've never seen her before, flaunting her curves, chomping on gum and yakking away in a Noo Joisey accent – a killer combo that leads us to the film's subtle about-turn. That Jon mends his ways is perhaps to be expected, nevertheless, Gordon-Levitt does it with style and energy and a very human conclusion (hint: it involves Julianne Moore), that combined to create the opening weekend highpoint of a very promising festival.

Coming soon: Breathe In, Valentine Road, The Look Of Love, In Fear, The East, Stoker, Before Midnight, 99 percent – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film and more.

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (443)

Under The Radar (335)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (36)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


A chat with Jury chair Lee Daniels & the results of the 11th Dubai Film Festival
By Nev Pierce

Paying the rent, rats and selling out: A lesson from Virginia Madsen
By Nev Pierce

Movies And Medinas: Empire Reports From Marrakech International Film Festival
By Phil de Semlyen

Dubai Film Festival: The unlikely appeal of camel beauty pageants…
By Nev Pierce

Mission: Probable - Dubai's attempt to attract Hollywood
By Nev Pierce

The Dubai International Film Festival: Paul Bettany and Russell Crowe turn directors
By Nev Pierce

Night Visions 2014: The Harvest, Let Us Prey and Nuntius
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2014: Marcos Ortiz and In Darkness We Fall
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2014: Pablo Larcuen and Hooked Up
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2014: The Spanish Contingent
By Owen Williams


Paying the rent, rats and selling out: A lesson from Virginia Madsen
"It's not that long an article, Nev Pierce. It's just our attention spans have got shorter! Really re"  Cookiedough
Read comment

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
"Or don't..."  Owen Williams
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Juan Francisco Pardo Q&A
"Sadece on altı dakika içinde iyi bir görsel hikaye anlatmak önemli beceri ve bel"  skndrdmr
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Opening Gala
"That really amazing."  ommrudraksha
Read comment

2013 IIFF - The Winners
"Hi Simon, Trying to get in touch with you. Hope this works. I enjoyed your piece on Enter t"  matthewpolly
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Brisbane International Film Festival: First Report
"I think it is pretty clear the story revolves around The Blacksmith, in The Man With The Iron Fists,"  owenyunfat
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Thanks for the feedback! I hope I didn't give the impression that Cloud Atlas is a write-off; I just"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Hi Damon With regards to Cloud Atlas, I fear that it will face the same problem a"  ChesterCopperpot
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"No worries! I just try to describe things as I see them, and I often forget that, as Empire has grow"  Damon_Wise
Read comment


Sundance Part Six: In The Loop

Basterds Blog

Damo's Top Ten Of 2009

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!

Sundance 2010: The Killer Inside Me causes outrage!

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines

The Wrestler

Where to see Moon...

Damon Wise (298)
Helen O'Hara (181)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (21)
Owen Williams (21)
Simon Braund (6)
Nev Pierce (5)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)
Will Lawrence (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
Ian Nathan (1)

Showrunner Beau Willimon Reveals 8 House Of Cards Secrets
On Kevin Spacey’s dog-dispatching and more…

21 Great Movie Cons
Fleece your friends with these duplicitous devices...

Empire Podcast 150: Margot Robbie
The Focus (and Wolf Of Wall Street) star from the Top Gear track...

Empire's New Spectre Issue Covers
First look at Bond 24 in Empire's April issue

Vote For The Jameson Empire Awards 2015!
Your mission is clear...

Sleeping Beauties: The Story Behind 12 Of Cinema's Unlikeliest Hits
They came, they saw, they surprisingly conquered

Writer / Director Dan Gilroy Reveals 8 Nightcrawler Secrets
On Jake Gyllenhaal's hand-slicing mirror smash and more...

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Only £25!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 12 issues of Empire for just £25!
Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)