Sundance : Day Nine

The final day of press screenings, and Amber dips her toes into some of the higher profile releases. Runaway laundry over Justin Timberlake's debut?

by Amber Wilkinson

The visually stunning Science of Sleep - the new feature film by Michael Gondry.

The visually stunning Science of Sleep - the new feature film by Michael Gondry.

The strange confection that is Alpha Dog, the Justin Timberlake, Sharon Stone, Bruce Willis vehicle about a drug dealer, had its press screening this morning but I gave it a body swerve in favour of 13 (Tzameti) and doing some laundry.

Settled down with my trusty laptop to watch the film, a highly stylised thriller, shot in black-and-white. Reminiscent of Intacto, it takes a much harder line and, I would say, is more successful because of it. Anton Bitel has already written a review of it, and I have to say I agree with his conclusions. Taught and edgy it has a powerful narrative and a strong style.

I stuck my washing on in the motel outbuilding before going to the movie and half way through nipped out to switch them to the dryer. Only problem was, when I opened the washer there was nothing inside. Hunted high and low, but to no avail and so was forced to go and tell the motel owner that I suspected someone had nicked off with my smalls. Dutifully, she trudged out in the snow with me, looked into the machine to confirm I'm not going mad and then proceeded to knock on doors and enquire. Then it happened. I don't know what possessed me, but I decided to check the washer one last time. There were the clothes, plastered to the sides under the lip - all the washing. Ooops! Much mortification ensued so that my reputation is now as bruised as my backside.

To be fair they took it quite well, considering.

I decided a quick exit was probably best and headed into Park City for the last day of press screenings, which were majoring on the Premiere section of the programme. I caught The Science Of Sleep, the latest film by Eternal Sunshine director Michel Gondry. It falls into the weird yet wonderful category, mixing reality with dreams, using animation to blur the boundaries. Originally slated to star Rhys Ifans they, reportedly, fell out at some point and so Gael Garcia Bernal stepped up to the plate.

He plays Stephane - a young man who moves from Mexico to France for work and finds a connection with his creative, but slightly ditzy, neighbour Stephanie (the impossibly ethereal Charlotte Gainsbourg). If you thought Eternal Sunshine was a bit off the wall wait until you get an eyeful of this. Bernal's dream life takes an increasing hold on him until it's hard for him - and the audience - to know whether he is awake, or not. It is the unrequited love beating at the film's core, however, which holds you captive.

Science Of Sleep is so wildly creative, it's hard to pin down and one which is sure to divide audiences. Although it dips into self-indulgence at times, it is a unique offering and one that I hope receives a release.

Thank You For SmokingI headed straight from there to Thank You For Smoking, the debut feature film by Jason Reitman, who is a veteran of the shorts section at Sundance. A satirical look at the nature of spin from the inside, it stars Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor, spokesman for the tobacco industry and part-time dad. The script whips along and has some good one-liners, plus a hilarious turn from Rob Lowe, as a Japanese-loving talent company boss. I think it may strike a better chord with American audiences, however, who are more familiar with this particular kind of slick, talk show spin. Also, the fact that the plot partially revolves around a senator (William H Macy in yet another excellent, but brief, character role) who wishes to put a skull and cross bones on a pack of cigarettes, may be a little lost on a British public already familiar with the Death cigarette brand. However, there are plenty of laughs, although the family drama aspect of the plot plays a bigger role than you might imagine at the outset.

It also has an excellent credit sequence, which got me thinking that there have been a lot of these about this year, some of which reminded me of one another. The Night Listener takes the prize with its kaleidoscopic images, which feel almost trancelike, and a close second is The Silence Of Sleep that uses a similar idea, only with paint. I should probably mention Digital Kitchen, too. They have provided the "introduction" animation for Sundance this year. Based around an Icarus theme, it is simple yet compelling and you can see them online at http://www.d-kitchen.com.

Had a quick breather in between films, then it was straight back into the screening room for Moonshine - sadly, the worst film I have seen all week. Billed as a vampire horror movie, someone must have left the chills in the fridge. The plot - such as it was - revolves around a kid (Brian Greer, slightly more wooden than your average stake) and his colleague Danny (Sarah Ingraham) at the local convenience store. There is a vampire, but not nearly enough of one and the plot line feels like it was culled from an end of year college showcase and shot by a child of the MTV generation on a miniscule budget ($9,200).

Spent the rest of the evening drinking the local no-alcohol lager St Pauli N.A., which, curiously, has more flavour than Buds.

Slunk back to the motel under cloak of darkness to fold my washing.

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