Two things come to mind when I think of South by Southwest: “Everything is bigger in Texas” and “With great power comes great responsibility.” The former is the state motto and the latter… well, that’s Spiderman’s late Uncle Ben. In a city known for its love of movies there is arguably no greater city to host a film festival than Austin. But Film is merely one portion of SXSW, with its other two parts, Music and Interactive having grown exponentially over the last few years—the festival has now reached a “seemingly” unmanageable size. I say “seemingly” to be kind, when “obviously” would be more apt. Festival-goers who arrived on Friday waited an average of two hours in line for badge pickup. As you can still walk up to registration and purchase a badge, one can only assume there is no cap on attendance (how does that make sense?!). Hence Uncle Ben’s wisdom comes to mind—in spite of being one of the most exhilarating and enjoyable fests to attend, SXSW is hardly the best managed… to the point of being comical.
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Luke Wilson was in town for an MTV related New York Comic Con panel a day or two afterwards. Ben Stiller had just completed hosting Saturday Night Live the prior weekend. And Owen Wilson may have possibly been still lounging about following a New Yorker Festival appearance a few weeks back. So I presumed offhand that they would be amongst the “other members of the cast” reuniting with director Wes Anderson following the 10th anniversary screening of his most successful film The Royal Tenenbaums held at Lincoln Center as part of the NY Film Festival. As it turns out none of them were present. The actors participating in a Q&A alongside director Wes Anderson and his brother, Eric Chase Anderson, were Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston and the show-stealer, Bill Murray. The moderators were Noah Baumbach and Antonia Monda, both collaborators with Anderson at one point or another.
In his introduction, the director, Asghar Farhadi (About Elly) asked the audience to forget everything they had read or may previously know about his new film. Though I had read a previous review on PopMatters of the film at the Sydney Film Fest, I abided by dissolving any expectations since I came to the New York Film Festival to watch films I would not ordinarily find. This film, A Separation, is more than a simple family drama piece as it totally captures the viewer just as the entire cast is caught up. Husband Nader (Peyman Moadi) and wife Simin (Leila Hatami), at the center of the separation, stumble into a situation that challenges their Islamic beliefs and morals and those of another family, their friends and their young daughter Termeh (Sarina Farhadi).
Farhadi (the director) does not ever preach about or challenge Islam. He carefully shows how difficult believing and interpreting the faith can be in Iran. When Nader’s father needs to be cared for, the hired help Razieh (Sareh Bayat) has to phone her mosque to get guidance before helping the elderly man with Alzheimer’s. Later the shariah legal procedure throws each character’s actions into stark contrast as the judge is unwilling to change the charges to reflect people’s motivations. At the center of it all is Termeh who wishes to get her two parents back together.
The CMJ Music Marathon & Film Festival continues to grow to epic proportions since its debut back in 1980. This year includes over 1,300 artist performances and dozens of cutting-edge films at 80 venues, nightclubs and theaters around New York City. Notable bands include Wild Flag, Neon Indian, Portugal. The Man., Active Child, Weekend and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. But it’s the bands you haven’t heard of that give this festival its raison d’ être.
There are also close to 70 panels, seminars and special events to keep things going around the clock. Topics include A&R, Artist Management and Publishing/Licensing as well as anything to do with social media. A CMJ Full Festival Badge costs $495 (with a CMJ Student Full Badge priced at $295) but new this year is a CMJ Show Pass for $149 which allows access to all CMJ Music Marathon Showcases and Film Festival Screenings—based on venue capacity on a first come first serve basis. For those not planning to attend, PopMatters will have a team spreading out across the city to bring the event to life online. More details at cmj.com.
A DANGEROUS METHOD
Director: David Cronenberg
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Sarah Gadon, Vincent Cassel
Country: Germany / Canada
David Cronenberg’s latest is a chilly study of the creative and competitive triangle between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), and the lesser-known Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly) in the early years of the 20th century. Christopher Hampton’s cunningly constructed script—he is the man behind Dangerous Liaisons and Atonement) paints the early history of psychoanalysis as a precarious moment, a time when brave innovators faced the collective disapproval of their peers for their forays to the edges of science. In many ways, this is a film about acceptance, about fitting in, and about the ways one muct repress one’s desires in order to do so.