Spent the evening up at the beautiful Sundance Ski Resort. Wristcutters: A Love Story was playing. I had a list of 4 or 5 films I wanted to see this year, but the only one available when I could attend (after work) was Wristcutters. As a warning - I talk some about movie content - but not really any more than is already available in the movie blurbs distributed by Sundance.
It is the result of the ongoing Sundance Institute's efforts at nurturing up and coming filmmakers. This film began at the institute 2 years ago when the director / screen writer, Guran Dukic took a screenwriters course. For his screenplay he choose a novella by an Israeli, Etgar Keret "Kneller's Happy Campers". All the particulars of the film making process Dukic covered during the Q&A after the film.
As a brief summary, this is a story about a young man (Fugit) who, after his girlfriend leaves him, cuts his wrists. He suddenly finds himself in the afterlife in the same, if not worse, situation than he was in life. After quite some time of pointless existence (who knew they had pizza in the afterlife?) he learns that the woman (Bibb) he ended his life for, missed him so much, she too suicided. He immediately decides he must go looking for her. The afterlife is filmed in an overexposed way, making everything look dusty, dirty and washed out. (It was all filmed in and around the LA area.)It was actually fairly effective in making this seem - as Dukic described it "like this world only a little worse". This place is peopled by other suicides, all miserable, all mostly alone. Their main topic of conversations is "so how did you off yourself?" A strange assortment of characters eventually come together as each one explores the issues that led them to suicide in the first place, and through associations, experiences, etc. they start to work through these issues. These characters include Shannyn Sossamon, who did a fairly good job, though at times seems strangely stiff; Shea Whigham as a Russian rock-n-roller (he was great!); Tom Waits as Kneller who runs a "camp", I loved his part and character - though his time in the film was too brief. Will Arnett's part was almost cameo-like.
Interesting theme, and actually fairly unique. The underlying storyline that suicide really solves nothing - just takes your pain and problems to another level is one that many should hear. "What can I do about it now, kill myself again?" -Zia talking about his miserable afterlife.
The filming was pretty well paced, not too long at 91 minutes, with enough comedy thrown in to keep it from being maudlin and enough drama to keep it from becoming clownish. The direction was classic art-house style, with cut aways, closeups, erratic use of music, etc. The direction was pretty clear and concise, though without the polish I'm sure Dukic will pick up with experience. The music worked fairly well. Dukic specifically picked the music played throughout the afterlife by bands that had experienced suicide at some point. There was some beautiful "northern" music as well - you'll know what I mean when you see it.
The language was raw, it would definitely earn an "R" rating. The only concern my friend, who went with me, had was about the love story. She's a middle school teacher and thought that the love story aspect would glamorize suicide as a way to find your "true love". I think they'd be smarter than that - but then we are talking about teenagers! I enjoyed the film, meeting the cast members (Whigham, Lazarev, Dukic, and the producers, etc. were there). I don't know if this is "movie house" quality. I do foresee the day, however, that Dukic will make that leap, he obviously has talent - I just don't think "Wristcutters" is quite there yet. I suppose it will make it to art houses and smaller theaters that show art films. I would recommend it, it was an enjoyable evening.
I had the opportunity to see "On a Clear Day" last night, Jan. 21, 2004 at Abravanel Hall as part of the opening of the Sundance Film Festival. Robert Redford introduced Gaby Dellal, a first-time director. She spoke about the film and creating it and then introduced the screenplay writer, some of the crew and the cast. They were nicely received by everyone - especially Billy Boyd.
The film itself is fairly good, a bit uneven, slow in the beginning. Much of that may be because the sound system was a little "echoey" and I'm not up on my Scottish / northern English dialects. After the first 45 minutes or so, once I could figure out who everyone was and what their issues were, the film really took off for me. I loved the last half, the resolutions and the cementing of friendships.
I've already decided to rent it when it comes out on DVD so that I can watch it with closed captions now that I have an idea of the plot line. I would recommend this to those who love a good story, this is not an action/adventure! I would imagine those who live in the areas shown in the film will especially love it. Peter Mulan was fabulous, but I loved and related to Brenda Blethan from the opening scene. Billy was the same happy-go-lucky type of character he played as Pippin in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and was the humorous leavening that helped make the film enjoyable. The story was one many will easily relate to.
Independent Films are often ignored, and I would encourage you to support the efforts films like this one represents. It's often an important resource and insight into our communities and cultures that the world needs. Try them, you will enjoy them!