On The Park City Trail... Sundance 2010 and more: Jan. 22

After two bowls of generic Froot Loops substitute and a couple of cups of coffee, the first day of the festival begins with a trip to headquarters to get a ticket to one of the shorts programs.

Getting the ticket poses no problem, but then things go wrong. The bus is slow and I wind up ten minutes late. That's less of an issue with shorts, where you can still see whole films if you miss the first part of the program, than it is with features, obviously, but still. Most of them were rather good, but  I missed Cordell Barker's latest cartoon, Runaway, which I'm going to see on a screener DVD. Following this, I saw a documentary on  our boys in Afghanistan and fell asleep, I'm sorry to say.

When that was finished, I took the bus to Slamdance, where I discovered that I had missed the film by a half hour. The day went like that. I'm not sure exactly why. I ended up being late to two other films.

So, for the next few days, I'm just going to go from screening room to screening room, hoping I'll get there on time, which I've only managed once today. After that, I'll be writing my reviews, which we'll begin here:

7 Les 7 Jours du Talion / 7 Days
Director - Daniel Grou (a.k.a. Podz)
Writer - Patrick Senecal
Starring - Rémy Girard, Claude Legault , Fanny Mallette, Martin Dubreuil, Rose-Marie Coallier
Park City at Midnight
World Premiere
Why there was a Lewis Carroll reference in this film, I'm clueless, since there's nothing here to do with Wonderland. Maybe since the main characters' names come from the title of Carroll's obscure, two-volume Sylvie and Bruno (1889 & 1893), it's an in-joke for those of us who came across it in some anthology.

Sylvie (Mallette) and Bruno (Legault) are a middle-class suburban couple living somewhere in Quebec with their daughter Jasmine (Coallier), who's going to be nine in slightly over a week. They are happy and boring. Bruno, a surgeon, has been working at all night and is too tired to take Jasmine around the neighborhood to deliver invitations to her birthday party. Sylvie is busy, too, so Jasmine goes out by herself — and is tragically, horrifyingly raped and murdered.

The police, led by Sergeant Hervé Mercure (Girard), are remarkably efficient, finding the little girl and her murderer (Dubreuil) all within the first 15 minutes of the movie. But Bruno works out a fiendish plan to get justice, and we're stuck with a dramatized discussion on the nature of crime and punishment with a bit of torture-porn added into the mix, while Sgt. Mercure tries to get his hands on Bruno and save our villain before he's due to be executed on what would have been Jasmine's birthday.

There's remarkably little gore in this film. Director Grou, a.k.a. Podz, treats the corpses and torture of the villain with a matter-of-factness  calculated to make what ick there is all the more disgusting. Legault's Bruno does a slow burn while the world goes on around him and the media has a field day with the whole mess. This is one of the more cerebral horror films of late, and I'm not sure if that's a good thing.

The Shock Doctrine
Directors: Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross
North American Premiere
Based on the book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein, this film originally aired on the digital television channel More4 in the United Kingdom on Sept 1, 2009. Klein's 2007 best-selling book hypothesizes that Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman's theories of free-market capitalism created incentives for making crises in order to reap profit. British filmmakers Winterbottom (whose movies include the 1997 fiction feature Welcome to Sarjevo and the music documentary 24 Hour Party People, both nominated for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival) and Whitecross (who'd teamed with Winterbottom on the 2006 fiction/documentary hybrid The Road to Guantanamo) transformed it into this filmic polemic.

Klein herself removed her name from the project, explaining on her Web site that, "I don’t have a credit on The Shock Doctrine documentary made by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross because it is not my film. As often happens in collaborations, we had different ideas about how to tell this story a nd build the argument. We all agreed to this compromise and the film's credits and format reflect that. I have been as involved in this project as I can be, watching cuts and making suggestions and corrections, which the directors were free to accept or reject."

From my perspective, Klein's thesis is primarily guilty of sins of omission. For instance, when talking about Chile, the filmmakers neglect to mention that President Salvador Allende only received 36.2 percent of the vote. Granted, he won by plurality (the other candidates garnered 34.9 percent and a  27.8 percent, respectively), just like Bill Clinton (who won the 1992 U.S. presidential election with 43 percent of the vote versus George H. W. Bush's 37.4 percent and Ross Perot's 18.9 percent), but the documentary still should have mentioned that Allende wasn't elected by the majority.

Things like that are commonplace throughout the film, and intimations of prosperity in places where there was economic collapse (like the Eastern Bloc in the 1980s and Britain in 1979) give a false view of history. The film's shrill tone won't convince anyone except the already converted.