Sundance 2007 : Day Eight

Van Der Graff generator bedclothes, Away From Her starts the waterworks, and Donovan serenades Eye For Film. (And - IMDB user Rotary Girl, we're not worthy!!)

by Amber Wilkinson

Black Snake Moan? Groan more like as Samuel L plays Taming Of The Shrew with Christina Ricci

Black Snake Moan? Groan more like as Samuel L plays Taming Of The Shrew with Christina Ricci

Stop me if you've heard this before, but the day dawned bright, cold and clear. Back to the 6.30am wake up call, the morning got off to a great start when the people in the neighbouring apartment failed to hear their alarm clock. The constant beeping didn't bother us but it clearly got to one of the other residents, who went out, started the engine of his truck and proceeded to honk his horn in time to the alarm. This may well be the first documented instance of room rage, let's hope it's the last.

One other great thing about the apartment we are staying in is the static. The bedclothes are so highly charged that if you move them when the lights are off you can see sparks jump around. Slightly disturbing, still you can't beat a healthy static shock when you touch the fridge in the morning for chasing the sleep away.

Well and truly awake, we headed down to Park City for Samuel L. Jackson's latest, Black Snake Moan. We'd like to thank the IMDB user Rotary Girl for giving us a good laugh with her abbreviated description - Skanks On A Chain - which sums it up neatly. This misogynistic piece of derivative action does, indeed, involve a skank (Christina Ricci overacting to the point of incredulity) who - a la Taming Of The Shrew - is put on a chain by Blues man Samuel for biblical reasons best known to himself. Craig Brewer following up Hustle And Flow with another great female empowerment movie, oh sorry, my imagination ran away with me there for a second.

But enough of my black snake moaning. In a bid to divide and conquer, Eye For Film then checked out Away From Her and Phantom Love. Away From Her was a hit back in autumn at the Toronto Film Festival and it's no wonder. An affecting drama about a couple coming to terms with Alzheimer's Disease, it features stand out central performances from Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent. Admittedly Alzheimer's patients have never looked so good, even in The Notebook, but it is still an assured feature by Canadian actress turned director Sarah Polley (star of Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead). Take the mansize tissues, though.

Phantom love looks great but the non-linear narrative isn't for everyone.
The directorial style of Phantom Love was likened to Stanley Kubrick and Roman Polanski by Variety earlier this week, so it only seemed right to check it out. It has a non-linear narrative and an 'I am Woman, hear me roar' subtext. Ultimate verdict, looks great, not sure about the plot.

In the afternoon we headed down to the ASCAP (American Society Of Composers, Authors and Publishers) cafe, to catch Donovan - who surely must be a British national treasure by now. The cafe - more of a bar, really, gives the opportunity to check out artists who have written music for movies, or had their songs used on film and offers the chance to see big names in an intimate space.

We caught the tail end of a set by Greg Laswell, who put us in mind of a slightly more tuneful Badly Drawn Boy. He was followed by singer-songwriter Dana Parish and her husband Andrew Hollander (who scored the film Waitress, which is showing as part of the fest). She belted out a few numbers but you could sense the crowd was waiting for the Hurdy Gurdy Man.

The Glasgow-born folk star didn't disappoint. Wearing a green jumper and jeans and looking relaxed, Donovan took to the stage with his daughter Astrella Celeste, who also has a lovely voice. His set included hits such as Colours, Hurdy Gurdy Man and Mellow Yellow - which saw the audience join in with gusto. A notable inclusion in his set was Buffy Saint-Marie's Universal Soldier - clearly a nod to current world conflict. The song put us in mind of how many films bear the badge of Iraq or the Middle East at this year's film festival - even those which have no direct plotline related to it.

While documentaries, Ghosts Of Abu Ghraib and No End In Sight are directly concerned with America's conduct in Iraq,there are also nods to it in Black Snake Moan (Justin Timberlake goes away to Iraq, albeit briefly), Away From Her and Phantom Love (TV news) and The Good Night (Martin Freeman reads a copy of The Idiot's Guide to the Middle East Conflict - more of which tomorrow).

Donovan over, we decided to skip out on the rest of the day's screenings - when do you think we get time to write the diary? - but we'll be back tomorrow for The Good Night, the extremely controversial Hounddog (formerly known as The Untitled Dakota Fanning Project) and more. Plus we might find time to fill you in on another running theme at this year's fest - sexual deviancy.

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