SXSW: Days 3 & 4

A quick post from my hotel room where I’m recovering from a migraine, which has probably been induced by typical festival behavior. By typical, I mean: odd eating habits, late hours and, probably most of all, bouncing between the Texas sun and darkened movie theaters, which takes its toll on the eyes.

I’m not asking for your pity. Yesterday’s screenings of the Duplass/Zellner shorts, Hannah Takes the Stairs and Pretty in the Face were alone worth the trip to Austin. And, even with the headache today, I managed to catch two features today. One was Ronald Bronstein’s Frownland; the other was Aaron Katz’s Quiet City.

Frownland follows an indescribably inarticulate door-to-door coupon book salesman as the tightly wound spool that is his life begins to unwind. The pressure in the film builds and builds, like a zit that needs to be lanced. If you think this sounds unpleasant, you would be right.

Frownland is clearly designed as an audience endurance test, a kind of cinematic middle-finger. Though not enjoyable in any conventional sense, it’s an unusual and original film that succeeds on its own uncompromising terms. Recommended viewing for brave lovers of cult films; others will probably want to skip it.

Quiet City is the yin to Frownland’s yang. Both are New York movies, but it would be tough to locate two more different depictions of Gotham. I’m hoping to do an interview with Aaron Katz, so I’ll hold off on further comments for now.

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Shortly after seeing Quiet City, the migraine which had been threatening throughout the day kicked into full gear. I had to check out of Ti West’s Trigger Man despite the fact that the film came billed to me by more than one person as “Old Joy with guns”(!).

I thought that if I gave my eyes a rest I would be able to catch a few films at night, including Ry Russo-Young’s Orphans and Dan Brown’s short film The Pipe. Alas, it didn’t happen. Moviegoing at festivals is catch-as-catch-can and sometimes, well, you don’t catch ’em. Hopefully I’ll have another chance to see these.

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