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SXSW Film part two

Submitted by MBergeron on March 21, 2024 – 11:35 pmNo Comment

While my focus is on films at SXSW 2024 its also easy enough to breathe in information from the interactive and music elements that go hand in hand with one of the world’s largest conventions. And it wouldn’t be a trip to Austin with a least one or two diversions, like a trip to Uncommon Objects on Congress about a mile from the heart of SXSW, or maybe a jaunt to Torchy’s Trailer Park down on South First Street, also the same distance as the crow flies. At the former I found a handful of vintage original release photos of movies from the 1940s, all for $5 each. At the latter I realized that while the tacos taste the same whether in Austin or Houston, there’s no denying the ambiance is superior in the capitol city.

There was no stopping the audience enthusiasm for Safety Not Guaranteed, which was more romantic and funny than pure science fiction despite its time travel ending. Killer Joe may well turn out to be the Drive of 2024. Even though he was in Vienna directing the opera Tales of Hoffman, director William Friedkin joined the Q&A by phone. A bizarre tale of murder and revenge filled with lowlifes, Killer Joe contains sizzling performances from Juno Temple and Matthew McConaughey. The trailer trash script is by Joe Letts adapted from his own play, which marks the second collaboration between him and Friedkin after Bug. Paul Williams Still Alive starts out as a documentary about the singer/songwriter but rapidly turns into an in your face examination of the friendship between the director Stephen Kessler and Williams; a friendship that takes the route of stalker director to actual buddy buddy bonding. Williams who was in attendance at this the American premiere charmed the audience at the end when the music ended with still about half a minute left on the credit roll. All of a sudden in the darkness you could hear Williams’ inimitable voice singing “Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water.” There’s a moment in the film where someone mentions both Williams and Paul Simon in relation to the 70s.

The Raid: Redemption, which opens in a few weeks, has to be one of the most action packed movies ever made. The choreography of death gets transferred from guns to machetes to martial arts fisticuffs. Director Gareth Evans hails from Wales, however the film was made in Indonesia and includes a great score composed by Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park) and Joe Trapanese (music arranger for Tron: Legacy). Blue Like Jazz takes place at Reed College in Portland, contains a great ending that ties up lots of loose ends and has a lead character that’s a charitable kind of Christian dude who likes to get really drunk. BLJ also opens in limited engagements in April. Some of the films I saw are even now available online, like Re: Generation Music Project a music documentary currently streaming on Hulu.com. Re: Generation pairs current hip DJs with classic rock and soul artists to produce new songs. So we get Skrillex and The Doors or Crystal Method joining forces with Martha Reeves (of the Vandellas). That’s just the tip of the iceberg of Amir Bar-Lev’s film. Speaking to the director during the festival he mentioned how he used prime lenses that required him to make sure everybody was on their mark, which didn’t always jive with their studio habits. Bar-Lev moves between controversial docs like The Tillman Story and enjoyable yet non-polemic subjects as in Re: Generation, which itself seems to be mostly about musicians wanting to create music that has substance.

There’s also name branding like where CNN takes over Max’s café and puts up electric signs and banners. In fact, on Monday afternoon I sprawled out in front of the CNN Café where they had dual large screen televisions playing Game Change on a continuous loop. While not a part of the festival per se this HBO movie that examines the McCain presidential campaign with Ed Harris and Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin was a great diversion and energy pit stop. Likewise a block away from the convention center Fed Ex has a free food line serving everything from pasta or falafels to shrimp po-boys out of a food truck painted with the FE logo colors. But the Fed Ex spine is about providing energy to festival goers as every picnic table around their area has multiple cell recharging outlets. If that’s not enough Fed Ex uniformed employee walks around with recharging outlets all over their branded jackets. I ask the lady if she follows people around while they’re recharging their phones and she replies yes that is what she is there for.

- Michael Bergeron

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