Sundance Diary: Day Eight

Big Fan, An Education, The Cove, Tyson, Carmo Hit The Road, Old Partner and Adam

by Amber Wilkinson and Tony Sullivan

An Education

An Education

Determined to make up for yesterday's lack of film-watching by having a catch-up fest. Started the day with Brit flick An Education - which sold to Sony Classics for a purported $3 million. Star Carey Mulligan has been getting plaudits heaped on her since the Lone Scherfig's film first screened earlier in the week.

Based on a memoir by journalist Lynne Barber, and adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby, the film tells the story of a 16-year-old bright young thing who falls for an older smoothie (Peter Sarsgaard). Beautifully shot and with a script which cleverly mixes comedy with more emotional heavyweight issues, it is finally nuanced and pulls off the remarkable feat of making Sarsgaard seem just dodgy enough without leaving the audience utterly creeped out. Mulligan is as good as everyone says and might well be a contention for awards for her performance.

Next up was Tyson, a first-person documentary about Iron Mike. If you bring preconceptions of the bruiser who bit off Evander Holyfield's ear and was banged up for three years for rape, you may well find you have to leave them at the door. The Tyson here is a candid and humble soul, willing to talk about even his darkest hours. James Toback's camera hugs the boxer's face almost continually in between some nicely edited archive footage of his bouts and its hard to doubt his humility and honesty as he recounts his days as a petty thief on up to being the world champion and his fall from grace.

It's straight from there to Italian film One Day In A Life (Un Altro Pianeta). Basically a tale of a day in the life of a disparate set of beach goers, its a fiercely arthouse slice of entertainment. Shot in just a week by Stefano Tummolini, the story mainly revolves around Salvatore (Antonio Merone), a gay man with a painful past and his relationship with a menagerie of sun-seekers. Emotionally dense and very talky, the film is enjoyable enough but overlong and won't appeal to those looking for a dynamic narrative.

Tummolini and actors Merone and Lucia Mascino were on hand after the screening to discuss the film, revealing that despite the short shooting time, it was 10 years in the planning stage. The film was preceded by short film A'Mare, which despite being shot in Italy (and in Italian) is a UK production, directed by Martina Amati. The film sees two kids fish out more than they bargain for on a boat trip. The camerawork is excellent, both in and out of the water, although the story is somewhat obtuse.

Finished the day with The Cove, a documentary about dolphin killing/capturing in a Japanese town. Shot in similar thriller terms to last year's Man On Wire, there is no denying it is a compelling and well put together film. But I did find myself having some misgivings with some of the arguments. While there is no doubt that the way the dolphins are dispatched is horrific, and the facts and figures regarding the high levels of poisonous mercury in the meat downright scary, there is a real lack of balance and what appears to be a telling of half facts.

For example, we're told 23,000 dolphins are killed every year... but there is no indication of what percentage of the population that is or, indeed, how many are actually killed in the specific bay which has attracted the ire of the filmmakers. There is also an odd reference to the Yangtze River dolphin - depressingly, no longer with us, but since that died out for entirely different reasons to the ones causing the demise of the bottlenose in Japan, it can hardly be used to back their argument.

Most concerning of all, however, was the lack of consideration given to those dolphin in dolphinaria/aquaria up and down the globe. Given that the reason the dolphins in this specific cove are being caught is, primarily, because of the high price a percentage of them will fetch when they're sold to captivity, surely a more intense scrutiny of what we in the West do in support of the likes of Seaworld was called for. There was not even a single quote from anyone at Seaworld or similar outfits, which suggests that either the filmmakers couldn't be bothered getting one or, more worringly, didn't like the fact that when they did seek out a quote, the argument for the capture was a good one.

Tony writes... started the day with Carmo, Hit The Road, a suitably earthy tale of free-spirited Brazilian girl, Carmo (Mariana Loureiro) who throws in her lot with wheelchair user Marco (Fele Martinez) and his truckload of Japanese stereos. The boomboxes become the catalyst for a cat-and-mouse road trip when a couple of dumb villains manage to thieve them. A kind of Spanish road-trip version of No Country For Old Men road trip spiced by the presence of Carmo.

Next up was, Adam, the second Sundance movie to deal with Asperger's Syndrome. This time the affliction complicates the burgeoning romance between Adam (Hugh Dancy) and Beth (Rose Byrne). Complications are provided by Beth's skeptical parents played by Peter Gallagher and Amy Irving. Byrne just gets better and better. A sweet-natured but contrived romance.

Old Partner concerned the working relationship between an elderly Korean farmer and his equally decrepit Oxen. The ox pulls the plough and the heart-strings in equal amounts. Unexpected humour is provided by the farmer's malcontent wife who keeps up an ongoing critical commentary on events. Somewhat bizarely the farmer's family show up for a celebration all looking rather well-off - there's parental respect for you.

Adam picked up the Alfred P Sloan award for its science references this evening... they said it was selected “for its credible and moving portrayal of an engineer with Asperger's Syndrome whose passion for science helps him in his struggle to achieve a meaningful relationship.”... although the cynic in me notes that the science is really a manifestation of the character's affliction.

In the world outside of the press screenings,gossip has it that the morning showing of The September Issue - a documentary about Vogue - had double sold out, resulting in a large number of ticket holders being turned away (somewhere in the region of 150 our mole says) and then to add insult to injury being told that they could get refunds on Main Street (a bus ride away). Oops.

Finally, I caught Big Fan, which sees complications arise for nerdy New York Giants fan, Paul (Patton Oswalt) when having pursued his favourite player to a bar, the two come to blows. Thus setting up a dilemma for him especially when his mother and brother are urging him to sue.

Genial but slight comedy with a splendid turn from Oswalt and almost a guest star turn from Michael Rapaport as a rival fan.

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