Earlier today I was chatting with a friend about the state of movie journalism. We compared notes on how we find out about new films and filmmakers today, often relying on friends and those we follow online to share interesting perspectives on new and old movies. News outlets, movie sites and blogs often cover the same general crop of films coming from a handful of distributors that keep the marketplace jammed with dozens of new releases weekly. Even though there are so many more movies being made, where do you look when you're hoping to discover something fresh and new or reconnect with something old or just a bit off the beaten path?
I hadn't heard of Patrick Wang or his first feature "In The Family" until about an hour ago while I was walking home from a screening at the Film Society. Scanning social media, I caught a Tweet from Filmmaker Magazine linking to Paul Brunick's New York Times review of the film. It opens with a note that the movie was rejected by more than 30 film festivals before finding a home at the Hawaii International Film Festival and then traveling to the San Diego Asian Film Festival where it won the best narrative prize.
Brunick, a champion of Andrew Haigh's "Weekend" with a stellar Film Comment review earlier this year, was truly taken with "In The Family." In tomorrow's review in the paper of record, he writes, "Mr. Wang’s slow-reveal psychological drama isn’t just a showcase for his excellent ensemble cast. Beautifully modulated and stylistically sui generis, 'In the Family' is also one of the most accomplished and undersold directorial debuts this year."
"This is a career to keep an eye on," Brunick underscored. Ok, this is getting interesting. Paul is a friend whose taste I trust.
Perhaps skipping a wider fest strategy, the filmmakers decided to book the film themselves. A quick Google search when I got home revealed a few loving reviews of Wang's self-disributed "In The Family." Variety called it "a remarkable debut," in a review from the Hawaii fest. The film runs 169 minutes and is composed of just 300 shots, many of which are more than 10 minutes long, the review says.
"Every once in a while, a movie comes out of nowhere and hits you like a ton of bricks," praised filmmaker Dave Boyle, who was at the San Diego Asian fest with his own film. He was so moved by "In The Family" that he wrote a review for Hammer to Nail that surfaced in Filmmaker Magazine as part of a partnership between the two sites. "This is a monumentally ambitious film," Boyle enthused, "that tackles some of the biggest themes imaginable — identity, family, sexual politics, life itself — but presents itself in such a modest and unassuming way that its emotional wallop feels genuine and earned."
"In The Family" opens tomorrow at New York's downtown Quad Cinema with four showings daily. Fortuitously I'm scheduled to have lunch with Paul Brunick tomorrow where I expect we'll talk more about this new American indie. I'm already sold on it and will be at the Quad at some point on Sunday to see it for myself.
NOTE: There's a major redesign of the indieWIRE website coming soon and I've decided to send this blog into (perhaps an eternal) hibernation. Since joining the Film Society of Lincoln Center one year ago this week, I've found it harder and harder to devote the time and energy required to keep this particular blog alive. It's had a most vibrant seven year and a half year life since debuting in March of 2004 and I really enjoyed writing here as a more personal extension of my work on the main indieWIRE site. You can find me on Twitter and Facebook anytime, along with my contributions to FilmLinc.com. Cheers!