And so another successful edition of the Sundance Film Festival - the 13th year for showcasing independent films in Utah - has come and gone, save a few screenings scheduled to play through Sunday evening.
But most of the out-of-towners have caught their planes by now and few, if any, of the remaining screenings will sell out. Especially since, as usual, the final day of the festival is also Super Bowl Sunday.Festival '91 seemed to offer more than its share of real gems this year. And it also seemed to offer more than its share of real oddities.
But there are plenty of pleasant cinematic memories for the film fans who made the trek up to Park City. Too many to list, of course, but here are a few:
Most frequently asked question: "What does the hand mean?" The festival logo this year was a black-and-white hand print below colored streaming lights, the latter resembling molecules of Kirk and Spock when they're being "beamed up." (If the fingers had been positioned a bit differently, I'd suggest the hand meant "Live long and prosper.")
Most uncomfortable moment: When the press gathered to interview "Once Around" star Holly Hunter Thursday evening immediately after the radio announced that Tel Aviv had been bombed by Iraq for the first time. Hunter eased the tension, however, simply by acknowledging it.
Classiest saving grace: The moment of silence requested by Leigh von der Esch, director of the Utah Film Commission, prior to the "Once Around" screening.
Saddest note: That this usually more joyous annual event had to be held during a time when war was uppermost on our minds.
Oddest sight: People in tuxes and formals buying popcorn in the lobby of the Crossroads Cinemas Thursday evening. (Presumably either without butter or with a lot of napkins.)
Most sobering personal thought: That I took in some 40 movies over the course of the festival (and the weeks before in special screenings) and still saw less than half of what was available.
Best trend we wish would spill over to regular moviegoing: Audiences in Park City are quieter and more respectful than the average movie audience, partly because the people who made the movies are in the audience, but also because these moviegoers simply want the best possible film experience. (This struck me when I came down to see "Eve of Destruction" last week and noticed how much noisier that audience was.)
Submitting without titles: A Japanese film, "Uminchu: The Old Man and the East China Sea," arrived without subtitles. Yet, because it was, in the words of program director Geoff Gilmore, "quite a watchable film even without them," the audience didn't leave. Either that or it was an all-Japanese audience.
Most difficult challenge for skiers: Whether to hit the slopes or take in a movie - the snow was piled high and the weather was gorgeous during most of the festival's 10-day Park City run.
Most conspicuous absence: Premiere magazine, which had free copies all over Park City during the past two festivals but was nowhere in sight this year. The latest issue includes a negative story about the Sundance Institute and the magazine was withdrawn as a sponsor - and its $10,000 contribution returned. In addition, the article's author, Premiere executive editor Peter Biskind, resigned from the festival advisory board citing "conflict of interest" and canceled his festival ticket package and press credentials. (He told Variety he was going to Acapulco to interview Martin Short and didn't want to take two back-to-back trips.)
"Women Directors": That was the title of a panel discussion on the subject of women behind the camera, though it was clear the panelists would rather be known as "film directors" and not identified by gender.
Women's films: Still, it is interesting to note that three entries in the dramatic competition directed by women - "Privilege," "Queen of Diamonds" and "The Juniper Tree" - were among the festival's most demanding, difficult films. And, believe me, with festival films that's saying something.
Best bumper sticker in a Park City parking lot: "Paris, New York, London, Tokyo, Moab."
Most frustrating aspect for stargazers: There were no stars attached to films, save Holly Hunter for "Once Around" and Theresa Russell for "Whore," who showed up. Though scheduled to be with Hunter for the opening-night kickoff, Richard Dreyfuss canceled early on and Danny Aiello at the last minute. Russell's director, Ken Russell, also canceled at the last minute - though he participated briefly by telephone linkup. Elizabeth Perkins, of "Enid Is Sleeping," got sick, and John Heard, of "Mindwalk," was making a movie and couldn't break away. Even John Cusack, who has attended the festival the past three years, didn't come in for "The Grifters" - though he did come into the festival later. Another last minute dropout was "Doonesbury" cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who was ill.
Familiar faces we did spot: Aside from Robert Redford, of course, there were some actors in the crowds, though many were of the "haven't I seen you somewhere before?" variety. Among them, the most recognizable was probably Lou Diamond Phillips. Also glimpsed were Josh Mostel, Cynthia Gibb, Griffin Dunne and Jeroen Krabbe. A non-actor who is perhaps even more familiar was Michael Eisner, the Disney CEO who hosts some of the company's TV programs. (Wayne Owens, who may or may not be an actor, was there as well.)
Familiar faces that will be more familiar in the future: As is often the case during the festival, audiences made stars of the actors who accompanied their films. Patsy Kensit, best known as Mel Gibson's love interest in "Lethal Weapon 2," became the darling of the festival due to two important events - a strong performance in the competition film "Twenty-One" and a flattering write-up in the Los Angeles Times by critic Sheila Benson. Also, the very personable Mario Van Peebles, who attended last year when his father Melvin Van Peebles was honored, and who this year made his directing debut with "New Jack City," which premiered Saturday. (What - no Elvis sightings?)
Nicest shattering of a reputation: Robert Redford showing up on time for a morning press conference at Sundance.
Personal favorites: Though, of course, I couldn't see everything, the films I most enjoyed were "One Cup of Coffee," "Coney Island," "City of Hope," "Requiem for Dominic," "Vincent & Theo," "Raspad," "The Juniper Tree," "Maria's Story," "Legends," "Trust," "Iron Maze," "The Grifters," "Hangin' with the Home Boys," "Enid Is Sleeping," and, of course, the 1967 classic "Belle de Jour," which has been on my wanna-see list for some 20 years. (I also enjoyed the wild sci-fi short film "12:01 P.M.," a worthy modern-day "Twilight Zone" effort if ever there was one.)
Obtuse observation: Within a half hour I had two people tell me about the competition film "Poison," which I didn't see. The first person loved it, the second hated it.
Obtuse observation, Part II: Do you suppose the Salt Lake International Airport is as crowded on the festival's final weekend as the Park City pizza parlors on Main Street are during the week?
Best short satire: "Lava, Jr.," a hilarious sendup of PIXAR's computer animated "Luxo, Jr.," about a mama desk lamp and its child - only this time it's lava lamps.
Best movie that wouldn't stop talking: "Mindwalk," a sort of three-way "My Dinner with Andre."
Best movie that wouldn't say anything: The nearly silent Japanese film "To Sleep, So As to Dream."
Best bad news/good news: The bad news was that the scheduled three-part overview of American animation did not come together as planned. The good news was that two packages of cartoons, put together at the last minute, proved to be most satisfying. One was a Disney program featuring shorts and clips from features, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" through "The Little Mermaid." The other was an MGM and Warner Bros. package featuring the classic works of Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and others, along with some PIXAR computer pieces. The latter collection even had the sequence from "Anchors Aweigh," in which Gene Kelly dances with Jerry the mouse. And they were all in 35mm!
Most outrageous screen moment: The opening sequence of "Enid Is Sleeping," where a jealous young girl places her baby sister in the oven. (Don't worry, the baby is fine - and gets revenge 25 years later. It's a comedy. Honest!)
Worst print that nobody seemed to notice: The "Enid Is Sleeping" print had green vertical lines throughout most of the movie, but audience members laughed so hard it was apparent they didn't mind.
Best title for a foreign film advertised in the press office but not actually in the festival: "The German Chainsaw Massacre."
- QUOTE OF THE WEEK (movie dialogue division): Vincent Spano's flattering compliment to a woman in John Sayles' "City of Hope": "You're like a surgeon general's warning with legs."
- QUOTE OF THE WEEK (live, actual person division): Amy Robinson, producer of "Once Around," who said Redford began the Sundance Institute 10 years ago because "he had the smarts, the sense of humor, the fortitude, the guts - and the real estate."