Another day of the Sundance Film Festival has come and gone and I must admit I’m losing steam here. It’s been a long week with a lot of late nights and disappointing films (with some good ones mixed in). Today I ended up seeing 3 films and tomorrow I have the option of seeing 4 but I may just do 3 since the 4th is coming to Netflix soon and I could use a long morning to be honest. We’ll see!
Anyway, I feel about emotionally tapped out but I still managed to take in the 3 films today and here are my thoughts:
The Truffle Hunters
First up is the documentary The Truffle Hunters. This is a charming film about a group of 3 or 4 Italian men who, along with their dogs, hunt down the prized Alba truffle. The best way I can describe this film is it is like an Italian version of Duck Dynasty, which is a show I have a lot of affection for.
These men wax philosophical about life, truffles, competition and drive the people who are buying the truffles crazy. None of them seem to have family lives and they all relish having directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw following them around. I especially laughed when one man writes a letter resigning from truffle hunting to the horrors of the buyers (he reminded me a lot of Uncle Sy from Duck Dynasty). I also loved the man in the picture above and his relationship with his dog.
The Truffle Hunters comes in at 84 minutes so it doesn’t outstay its welcome and is a real gem of the festival.
8.5 out of 10
I have a seen a lot of experimental, artistic films here at Sundance and most of them have failed spectacularly. Nine Days is finally one that actually worked for me! It definitely won’t be for everyone but it’s a weird little movie with a spiritual core to it I connected with.
Nine Days is set in a premortal world (filmed in beautiful Utah!) where one man named Wil (Winston Duke) is responsible for deciding who is ready to come to earth in a body and who is not. He gets 9 days to make his decision and then in a wall of TVs he watches his choice live out their lives on VHS tapes.
At the beginning of the film Will is shaken by the suicide of one of his favorite recruits and yet he soldiers on with the interviews of the new candidates. For a small indie they gathered a pretty impressive cast. In addition to Duke (who is tremendous especially in the epic final monologue), they got Zazie Beetz, Bill Skarsgard, Tony Hale, Benedict Wong and more.
The cinematography of Nine Days has a definite Terrence Malick vibe to it, which is enhanced by the beautiful Salt Flat vistas behind the house. Also the script is unpredictable and creative.
Where the film falters is sometimes the world building and rules are unclear and confusing. Even his final choice seems to come out of the blue and not make much sense. It’s also a bit repetitive and slow at times; however, compared to something like Horse Girl this should win all the Oscars. It’s a good one!
8.5 out of 10
If there ever is a case of a film biting off more than it can chew it is the new film from Julie Taymor called The Glorias. The film strives to tell the 80 year story of feminist icon Gloria Steinem and it has tons of ambition and some solid performances. However, it ends up feeling like a well-intentioned mess. It has so many ideas and covers way too much to absorb everything or give it all the gravitas it should have and it ends up being frustrating.
The conceit of the film is that a child, tween, young adult and older version of Gloria are all taking a road trip together through the events of her life. These scenes are shot in black and white and at times we spend a lot of time on the bus and than other times we will go 30 minutes without seeing them. Then there are flights of fancy and even an animated sequence that feel very out of place.
The Glorias would have been smarter to focus on one era like the start of Ms magazine or the achievement of the National Women’s Conference. Instead we get Gloria’s childhood, her experiences with both her parents, her time in India, her time as a struggling journalist, every era of her feminist leadership, her finally getting married, her sadness at Hillary losing and finally the Women’s March where we see the actual Gloria speech (real footage is used throughout). It was just too much and it all starts to run together and feel like a biographical box the filmmakers needed to check off the list.
I can see why other people might like bits and pieces of this film, but I found it pretty frustrating to watch and was relieved when it was over.
3 out of 10