SUNDANCE ‘09: Tuesday, January 20th

Today provided a bit of an emotional Sundance lull for me, and not because of the inauguration. Was it just a general case of mid-festival doldrums? Or, hmm, maybe it was the countless beers I drank at the funner-than-fun Cinetic party last night. As for this morning’s dilemma, being the devoted professional that I am, I chose cinema over President Obama’s speech (which I will obviously watch in full once I return to normalcy). Here are today’s most notable moments inside a theater:

Children of Invention — Tze Chun’s tender drama superficially calls to mind Craig Zobel’s Great World of Sound. Maybe I’m the only one who sees those similarities, though. Chun’s story of a struggling Chinese mother of two in Boston is a fine lesson in restraint, how one need not force things in order to create a work of weight and merit. I’m looking forward to talking to Tze tomorrow to find out how he pulled such great performances out of his young cast.

The Girlfriend Experience — Word on the street had been building for several days that tonight’s “conversation” with Steven Soderbergh was in fact a sneak preview of his latest Bubble-esque low-budget experiment starring porn star (and legitimate cinephile!) Sasha Grey as a high-priced call girl in New York City. Word on the street was right. Out of respect for Mr. Soderbergh, I won’t speak about the footage itself. That’s like judging the facial features of a not-yet-born fetus. If he’s looking for feedback, I would be happy to send him my own personal notes (of which I have many). What I will say is that it takes a lot of courage to show a clearly still-being-formed work to an audience of 1300 at the Sundance Film Festival, where it can’t help but feel like a world premiere. I’m afraid to show my films in the early stages to more than five people at a time. 1300? No, thank you!

— Michael Tully

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