SXSW has become such a mega-star in the summer festival constellation that it can be hard to sift through the clutter and find the one band/film/event that makes it all worthwhile. I personally find the music festival way too hot to endure and the "Interactive" events a bit too chilly — but the film festival? The film festival is just right. I saw so many great films (and missed so many others...) that I wish I could have stayed another week. But for round-up's sake, here are some of my favorite films from SXSW 2014:
The Heart Machine
Zachary Wigon’s The Heart Machine is simultaneously a love story, a psychological thriller and a smart analysis of today's internet dating culture. In the film, Cody (John Gallagher Jr) and Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil) meet online. They have an intimate relationship via Skype, but never interact in person. Things get weird when Cody begins to question Virginia’s true identity, and launches off on a spiral of obsession and paranoia. The film pastiches Looking For Mr. Goodbar and the sexual revolution of the 1970s to great effect, and Brooklyn’s own indie darling Ms. Sheil gives an absolutely mesmerizing performance as Virginia. Mr. Gallagher meets the challenge, playing a beautifully subtle and vulnerable Cody.
10,000KM (Long Distance)
10,000KM is another film in which the internet plays a central character (I sensed the SXSW curators were really digging "Love and Technology," theme-wise). Alexandra (Natalia Tena) lives in Barcelona, but maintains a long distance relationship via Skype with Sergi (David Verdaguer). The pair are planning to have a family, but their lives are disrupted when Alex receives an offer for an artistic residency in Los Angeles. The opening scene is a single shot that lasts 20 minutes and is totally epic (fun fact: director Carlos Marques-Marcet shot this scene 17 times over the course of three days) — but the real cine-magic happens over the course of the following year, as Alex and Sergi struggle to stay close while living so far apart. The performances are a tour de force; Tena and Verdguer even won the Special Jury Recognition for Best Acting Duo.
Attention fans of 70s detective shows (like Columbo) or noirs of the 30s (like The Thin Man series): you will love Lawrence Michael Levine’s Wild Canaries! Lawrence Michael Levine and Sophia Takal (real-life partners AND partners in crime) star in this delightful modern spin on the murder mystery. Barri (Takal) and Noah (Levine) are a bickering couple living in Brooklyn with their lesbian roommate, Jean (played by BUST cover alum Alia Shawkat). When Barri finds their 84-year-old neighbor dead of an apparent heart attack, she suspects foul play, and— against Noah’s advice — begins a frantic search for a possible motive. The downstairs neighbor Damien (played by Jason Ritter) provides a suspicious foil as the trio unravel a complex web of intrigue and murder.
Images courtesy of SXSW.