Dear Wide World,
Fortunately, today was quite a bit warmer than the icy deluge that was Saturday night, and by warmer, I mean it was in the mid-30’s (F) with the sun out. It’s strange how fast one grows grateful for the slightest hint of sun when it’s been absent for any length of time. My Monday will be packed with screenings, receptions and post-events, but today (Sunday) evolved into an unexpected day to recharge my batteries.
Kelly: A raw, true-life look at a young transsexual woman who decides to become a prostitute to support herself in Los Angeles. While Kelly’s story is somewhat compelling, it doesn’t include any kind of tangible goal for its subject. The film has a lot to say about what Kelly wants, but no clear focus on a central objective. Is it acceptance from her family? The chance to be a “movie star”? To free herself from drug addiction? To come to grips with her past? About two-thirds of the way into the film, there’s a wonderfully compelling bit where she outlines some tragic events from her past and finally forges an emotional connection with her audience. I wish more of the film featured similar material. Unfortunately, at film’s end, there are still too many questions and not enough answers.
Coffee with Neil Young and Jonathan Demme: One of the cool things about film festivals is the chance to interact with artists who have directly influenced you. Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) and music legend Neil Young have a film at Slamdance 2012 and agreed to be a part of the festival’s “Coffee With…” series. The film, Neil Young Journeys, is their third collaboration, and is a look at the material from Young’s newest album, Le Noise. Where their previous films together focused on Young’s work with a band of musicians, this one revolves around his performance of the new material solo, with only his electric guitar for accompaniment. I’m hoping to catch a repeat showing of the film on Tuesday.
Even for those of us unable to get into Saturday afternoon’s screening due to extremely high demand, today’s event was more than worthwhile. I’ve got to tip my cap to Slamdance’s tireless press office for making it possible for me to get into the venue early and in getting me tickets to almost every single event I’ve requested. Young and Demme seemed truly glad to be at the Festival and spent around two hours taking questions from a packed house on a variety of topics, including the nature of their partnership, the creative process, challenges facing contemporary artists and the value of art in today’s society. Something that really struck me was the way the two men often had completely different ideas while remaining respectful of each other’s opinion.
For example, Demme believes the most exciting contemporary filmmaking is found on YouTube and Vimeo, while Young finds that the quality of that material “sucks… to the Google power.” Young went so far as to say that “when MP3 files are traded, I’m not getting ripped off, ’cause it’s not worth anything.” Other highlights included Young talking about an idea for a film featuring him playing with Crazy Horse being accompanied and filmed by a large group of children wielding iPhones; the revelation that he composed the song “Philadelphia” in only a half-hour; Demme talking about the obligation he feels to document what’s going on in the world at this time in history; and both men’s unsurprising lack of love for corporate control of an artist’s work.
A few select quotes:
- Demme on collaboration: “Every time you step out…, fight to work with people that you trust.”
- Young on the creative process: “You have to trust yourself…. Then, you have no fear…. Welcome failure with open arms.”
- Young on songwriting: “If you hear it in your head, pay attention, grab it and accept it.”
- Demme on online platforms: Despite the medium’s low technical quality, filmmakers working there can “give the burst of truth.”
- Young’s final word on living as an artist: “What’s in front of you may not be as important as what’s inside of you.”
The day ended with a trip to the post-event for No Room For Rockstars, a documentary on the Vans Warped Tour. What made this one special was a live performance by punk rockers Against Me. While I wasn’t familiar with their work, a few of my compatriots were incredibly excited to see them, and I’ll certainly be checking out more of their stuff. Though I’m a bit deaf at the moment, they were a lot of fun.
Well, I’d best get to sleep. After moving to a different condominium in the morning, I’ll be hopping all over the place all afternoon.