By Matthew Curtis | Enzian Theater January 18, 2008 at 11:00AM
But definitely white, frozen, and beautiful as this year's Sundance Film Festival kicks off. Arriving late morning yesterday to a 15 degree slap in the face at the Salt Lake City airport, we soon found ourselves in single digits and dropping as we got to Park City. In fact, after being in the -6 to -9 degree range the previous two nights, the locals delighted in predicting -10 for our first evening in town. Let's see...leave Orlando at nearly 80 degrees, find ourselves facing -10 in Utah. Nothing like a little 90 degree swing in one day. Whatever it ultimately got down to, it's simply as cold as I can ever remember here. And after a virtually snow-free fest last year, it's already snowed twice. This morning was particularly picturesque as it was coming down pretty heavy and 5 huge deer were hanging out in the cross-country skiing area behind our condo (and out the dining room windows). Not something you see too often in Central Florida...
Another rarity was actually sitting down to two good meals in one day in Park City, something that never happens once the films get crankin'. Hit Bandits Grill & Bar (didn't this used to be "Reds BBQ"?) for lunch and had the yummy tri-tip steak sandwich, while I also had my first experience at Butcher's Chophouse & Bar with a very late night lamb chop dinner. Both establishments are highly recommended. Meanwhile, I was surprised to see the extremely popular Main Street Noodle & Pizza joint closed for a private rental for the first half of the festival--geez, I can only imagine how much that cost.
On the film front, I'm happy to report my first two were both winners. Continuing a trend that started last year when my first screening of the festival was ONCE, YOUNG@HEART (5 stars) was everything I expected and more. Stephen Walker's doc about a renowned geriatric chorus (average age: 80) that covers everything from The Clash to The Zombies to Dylan to James Brown to Coldplay and Sonic Youth is highly entertaining, funny, and incredibly moving as the group of senior citizens comes together for 7 weeks of rehearsals before performing a new show. Somehow they find the time and energy to also shoot delightful videos for tracks by The Ramones, Talking Heads, Bowie and The Bee Gees. This is a must-see, and I'd be shocked if there's a more inspirational and touching film in the festival.
Director Tom McCarthy's follow-up to his acclaimed THE STATION AGENT, THE VISITOR (4 stars) is an outstanding drama about a lonely, widowed Connecticut college professor (Richard Jenkins, the father on "Six Feet Under") who returns to NYC to deliver a paper for a colleague at an educational conference. When he arrives at his rarely occupied apartment, he finds an illegal alien Muslim couple (he's from Syria, she's from Senegal) crashing at his place. The relationships and situations that develop (no spoilers here) are wonderfully acted and beautifully told, and this is a film with resonance that demonstrates no sophomore slump whatsoever.
Let's hope this fine film trend continues...it's off to the Library for numero tres.