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South-by-Southwest 2016

Everybody Wants Some

When it comes to North American Film Festivals, Austin, TX’s South By Southwest is #3. Only Sundance and Toronto are bigger and more important. Also, it’s not just a film festival, but a music festival and several trade shows as well.

To get oriented go to the North shore of the Colorado river at Congress street.

master cleanseLook north towards the capital building. The “festival territory” is on you’re right going from the Convention center on Cesar Chavez and on Congress Street from the river to the Capitol grounds. Most of it is on the notorious Sixth Avenue entertainment district, where there are dozens of clubs and the best pizza in the state. Within this area is 80% of the whole thing.

The South-By-Southwest festival (known by one and all as “Southbuy”) was founded in 1986 by the people who ran the New Music Seminar ( and from then added stuff, changed it’s name from NMS/Southwest, and became an annual fixture that basically takes over downtown for two weeks.

The whole mishegas is divided into three major parts and several smaller ones. Music, Movies and Interactive, plus what they call “eco” and some other things I can’t recall.


This is a trade show, pure and simple. They show products and hold seminars.

The thing will start when at 8AM with the first panel discussions. President Obama himself makes a keynote speech Friday, March 11 at 2:30pm at Dell Hall at The Long Center for the Performing Arts (701 W Riverside Dr., off Guadalupe), admission for that is via a lottery. Everyone else just does the con thing.

This will go on for five days.


When Interactive ends, then the music festival starts. This is also a convention, but is more open and there are lots of places where one can just hang out and do what God put Austin there for you to do, listen to country-western and punk until you’re ears bleed. The entire industry will be there to some extent and it’s going to be one of those party-till-you-drop events.

This will also go on for five days.


This thing goes on for nine days.

shovelbuddiesThey’re going to screen 139 films: 89 world premieres, 14 North American premieres and seven U.S. premieres, including 52 films from first-time directors. These films were selected from 2,455 feature-length film submissions composed of 1,467 U.S. and 990 international feature-length films from a total of 7,235 submissions.

Among the highlights are a special work-in-progress preview screening of Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s catnapping comedy Keanu, Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused sequel Everybody Wants Some and John Michael McDonagh’s brilliantly titled: War on Everyone.

Notable world premieres include Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice, starring the abovementioned Keegan-Michael Key; Ti West’s In a Valley of Violence, starring Ethan Hawke and Taissa Farmiga; The Master Cleanse, with Johnny Galecki and Anna Friel; Sophie Goodhart’s My Blind Brother, starring Adam Scott and Nick Kroll; Shovel Buddies, featuring Bella Thorne; The Trust, starring Nicolas Cage and Elijah Wood; and Kasra Farahani’s The Waiting, with James Caan.

Among the non premiers are: Jean-Marc Vallée’s Demolition,” which opened Toronto in September, stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts and Chris Cooper and biopics about Miles Davis(Don Cheadle)“ (Miles Ahead, which closed the New York Film Festival last year) and Chet Baker (Born to Be Blue, starring Ethan Hawke).

Not only that, they’ve decided to include TV shows: Danny McBride’s Vice Principals will also be featured.

Between these three, there’s almost no time to sleep. (there is also an “Eco” section, or so they say—wow).

Arnaud Desplechin Retrospective at Lincoln Center

My Golden Days

From March 11th through March 17th, the Film Society of Lincoln Center will be presenting a comprehensive retrospective of the films of Arnaud Desplechin, one of the most exciting and remarkable of contemporary filmmakers, whose extraordinary body of work includes such impressive achievements as: La Sentinelle, his fascinating and enigmatic first feature (regrettably screening in a digital format); My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument, arguably his masterpiece (alas, also being screened in digital); and the absorbing Kings and Queen, one of his finest accomplishments.

The series is being launched to celebrate the release of the director’s beautiful new feature, the autobiographical My Golden Days, which will open at the Film Society on March 18th, and will be shown in a sneak preview on March 15th followed by Q&A with Desplechin (He will also be appearing on the 18th and the 19th).

My Golden Days revisits the character of Paul Dédalus, the fascinating protagonist of My Sex Life… or How I Got Into an Argument, reprised here by the outstanding Mathieu Amalric, an axiom for this filmmaker. A compelling tale of adolescent love, the film centers on the young Dédalus, convincingly played by the attractive Quentin Dolmaire, and the object of his passion, lusciously incarnated by Lou Roy-Lecollinet. Desplechin’s early work featured a controlled style but he plumbed a thrillingly manic, messier mode in such works as Kings and Queen and A Christmas Tale; My Golden Days is less formally original although it is unusually moving in effect and will surely prove to be one of the more memorable films of the year.
My Golden Days is a Magnolia Pictures release.
To learn more, go to:

Rendez-Vous with Fatima at Lincoln Center

The perennially popular Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, now in its 21st edition, will be returning to the Film Society of Lincoln Center on March 3rd and running through the 13th, featuring new works by such celebrated directors as Jacques Audiard, Emmanuel Finkiel, Danielle Arbid, and, above all, the incomparable Otar Iosseliani.

What is certain to be one of the strongest works in the series—as well as of the year—is the extraordinary Fatima by the superb, woefully underappreciated Philippe Faucon, several of whose previous features have been presented by the Film Society. The director’s beautiful debut feature, the 1990 L’Amour, which screened in the New Directors, New Films festival, had a musical, Bressonian style but he had developed a more lyrical mode by the time of his exquisite 1995 Muriel fait le désespoir de ses parents, screened in an earlier incarnation of Rendez-vous, programmed by Jean-Michel Frodon, then editor of Cahiers du Cinèma (Frodon had also programmed the director’s Sabine from 1993 in Rendezvous).
By the 2000 Samia, also screened in Rendez-vous, Faucon’s style had become its most purely Rossellinian, as well as evincing a deepened interest in Arab characters, both qualities of which can be seen in his new feature, based on the experiences and writings of the North African writer Fatima Elayoub, who emigrated from Morocco to Paris and supported her two daughters by working as a cleaning lady. The director is especially well-served by a large non-professional but astonishing cast. Fatima is an immensely moving work and should not be missed.
Fatima screens on Friday, March 4 at 2pm and on Sunday, March 13 at 4pm.

Film Society of Lincoln Center Sings a "Sunset Song"

The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s yearly series, Film Comment Selects, now in its 16th iteration and running from February 17th through the 24th, has consistently been the strongest selection at this august institution of new works, barring the New York Film Festival. As in previous incarnations, this year’s edition features new films by many of the most outstanding filmmakers in the world now working. The current highlights include: the latest by veteran Italian director Marco Bellochio; Benoît Jacquot’s new version of Octave Mirbeau’s classic 1900 novel, Diary of a Chambermaid, previously adapted by both Jean Renoir and Luis Buñuel; and new features by the experimental Philippe Grandrieux as well as Aleksei German, Jr. Retrospective programs include spotlights devoted to controversial Polish director, Andrzej Żuławski — regrettably all in DCP — and to the underrated Charles Bronson, with  two features screening in 35-millimeter. A 1984 featurette directed by Ray Davies of the Kinks is also on the slate along with the wonderful musical, Golden Eighties, the closing night selection, by the recently deceased titan Chantal Akerman, both also presented in 35-millimeter.

The opening night film is certain to prove one of the most remarkable of the series: Sunset Song, the latest opus by the extraordinary Terence Davies, is a translation to the screen of the esteemed novel — a Bildungsroman about a young woman in rural Scotland in the period before and during the first World War — by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, a major figure of the Scottish Renaissance. While his first several films — through the beautiful The Long Day Closes —were autobiographical, the director has since embarked upon a series of remarkable adaptations from literary sources, perhaps most impressively in his magnificent version of Edith Wharton’s novel, The House of Mirth, which was notable in that he seemed to be at the furthest remove from his signature style that I’ve seen.
From the first moments of Sunset Song, one finds oneself, despite the unfamiliar setting, fully immersed in Davies’s distinctive world, with the filmmaker’s trademark slow tracking-shots and musical interludes alongside other characteristic formal and thematic motifs — for example, the figure of the protagonist’s monstrous father, here brilliantly embodied by the outstanding Peter Mullan. The total effect is both mesmerizing and deeply moving, The director gets the most out of his unfamiliar cast and evinces a complete mastery of the digital format. The final third or so of the film had the impression of diffuseness relative to the stunning first portion, but on one viewing this assessment can only be provisional and future screenings may prove this to be one of Davies’s finest achievements.


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