Sundance Premieres and New Frontiers

by Anthony Kaufman
November 30, 2006 9:18 AM
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Sundance brought out the big and little guns today. It's always difficult to know what to expect from the Premieres: Actors' vanity projects? Studio strong-arming? I can't tell you how many times I've sat through just unwatcheable movies at the Eccles, hoping for something fun and flashy and walking away utterly dejected. But you see the lineup and you think, damn, Antonio Bandera's next directorial effort might just be the movie of the festival. Not quite.

But here's hoping Tamara Jenkins' Fox Searchlight release "The Savages" lives up to the good buzz. And Mike White hasn't done much wrong before, so one can only expect that "Year of the Dog" will also have a nice bite. And judging from festival director Geoff Gilmore's comments, my curiousity is aroused by John August's "The Nines," a screenwriter with credits like "Charlie's Angels" and "Big Fish," but who apparently has something far darker up his sleeve this time around.

What is perhaps most alluring about the rest of the lineup is the festival's committment to beefing up the Frontier section's profile. After being relegated to the avant-garde ghetto, the Frontier section gets a new name, "New Frontier," and a high profile house on Main Street. Whether this further ghettoizes Sundance's more experimental work, I'm not sure. But the list of avant-garde filmmakers there sounds tantalizing -- Martha Colburn, Travis Wilkerson, James Benning, etc. Who will have the time to hang out at the top of Main Street when Competition Films will be screening 45 minutes away at the Racquet Club? If it means anything, some of the best, most original work to come out of Sundance in the last few years has been fringe Frontier fare, from "Tarnation" to "Old Joy." So maybe hanging out at the New Frontier coffeehouse and watching museum installations will be the best use of many critics' time...

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