Sign up for our newsletters    

Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home page.

thn the empror has alrdy 1 LOL! my hnds r drty 2!!

January 28, 2013

Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg


Park City UT, a galaxy far, far away…  As buzz trickles through Facebook pages, twitter feeds, and smart devices that J.J. Abrams has been given the other half of the pop sci-fi universe to bend to his will, the humans attached to said devices have no opinion.  They’re more excited that they know the news than they are for the newest installment of the Star Wars trilogy of trilogies.  This apathy is easy to understand.  It’s unanimous that the last three Star Wars films were a disaster, in every measurable way.  No one with any integrity would dare argue otherwise.

But the end doesn’t have to be tragic.  Perhaps it is the nature storytelling that many of the most compelling narratives unfold after a disaster of some sort, be it a car accident, a baseball to the face, the murder of your husband, or getting evicted from your residence of 30 years.  Perhaps Abrams and the Disney Corporation could take a lesson from four great films playing at 2013 Sundance as they work to guide America’s most fallen franchise back to watchable.

Anchored by the best lead performance at the festival, Soldate Jeannette (dir. Daniel Hosel) tells the story of a middle age woman who has reached the end of a decade-long delusional spending spree.  The film is too singular to compare to anything you have seen.  The almost Dada journey actor Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg embarks upon delivers raises questions about life, consumerism and social mimicry that will leave a deep imprint on anyone lucky enough to put its eyes on this masterfully-framed film.

From a different place and time – the American desert of the late nineteenth century – Sweetwater (dirs. Logan & Noah Miller) blends a Monte Hellman existentialist western with a Clint Eastwood revenge shoot up.  Though the film seems to promise a Fabio Testi hero, the pistols end up in the hands of January Jones, who delivers a cool and calculated rendering of a reformed prostitute, dishing out grizzly gun murders to an all-too-deserving collection of frontier bullies and religious zealots.

Il Futuro (dir. Alicia Scherson), is an adaptation of a Roberto Bolono novel, bringing with it all the surreality and odd-ball allegory that such an endeavor promises.  When a pair of teens are left parentless by a mysterious car accident, they embark on a Lynchian crime caper to rob the safe of a retired Mr. Universe.  The contrast and chemistry between lead actors Manuela Martelli and Rutger Hauer create one of the festival’s strangest, most memorable, and ultimately sad relationships.

A story about rich hot people and their problems risks resonating like a clap fart in post crash America, but Concussion (dir. Stacie Patton), utilizes a pitch-perfect ensemble performance to create a nearly flawless mood piece about a bourgeois suburban mom’s descent (or ascent?) into high-priced prostitution.  That the film refuses to offer judgment or firm resolution is as refreshing as it is bold and pleasing.

It should not go unnoticed that each of these films has at its center a great performance from a female actor.  It is another thing Hollywood could stand to notice.  Instead of dressing up old faithfuls in sexy new clothes and contracting America’s best directors to rehash foreign fare into non-subtitled remakes, the industry could look to one of its best untapped resources.  That there are tragically few compelling roles for women in mainstream cinema is as obvious as the tin clang of Attack of the Clones.  In the second of the last grouping of Star Warsfilms, only the title worked.  And not just as a joke on itself, but as a comment on the industry as a whole.  Then again, maybe it is all we are capable of now as a culture, dumping hundreds of millions of dollars into tired ideas and the Intellectual Property of deeper thinking nations.

Tags: , ,