SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST 1997: EVEN MORE FROM THE FRONTLINES Image

The final chapter in the trilogy of our SXSW Film Festival coverage. Direct from the bowels of Austin, Texas, editor Ron Wells and writer Merle Bertrand provide the last, but not the least of the fest.
[ THE BIBLE AND GUN CLUB ] ^ David Lynch meets David Mamet in this apocalyptic “Death of a Salesman”. Using many real-life counterparts, director/writer Daniel Harris delivers this tale of a group of Bible and gun salesmen attending their annual Las Vegas convention, and warring with rival packs of the same. Arriving from particularly unglamorous Orange County, California, five men descend into their personal hells, not all to make it out alive. Did I mention this was a comedy? It’s funny, but often “Eraserhead” funny. Echoing that film’s black and white cinematography, the film provides a lot of nervous laughter with the bleakest depiction of Vegas I’ve ever seen. This film was one of the highlights of the festival, at least for me.
[ FULL TILT BOOGIE ] ^ Director Sarah Kelley documents the making of the Tarantino/Rodriguez opus, “From Dusk Till Dawn” and in the process, actually makes a more consistently entertaining film. You know, I was entertained by “Dawn” too, but it had a tendency to swipe a lot from other films. The rumor is, that when they screened the movie for John Woo, he shook his head and said, “Everybody gets to make a Hong Kong movie but me.”
Anyway, the documentary records all aspects of the shoot, including the politics and personal relationships of the cast and crew. The film gets the most mileage out of talks with the crew, especially the dutiful and much put upon personal assistants to Tarantino and George Clooney.
While the section depicting the producers troubles with attempts by the Hollywood unions to take over the crew seem a little biased in favor of Q.T. and producer Lawrence Bender, the rest of the film does a great job of showing why jobs in show business are not as glamorous as they’re cracked up to be.
[ HARD CORE LOGO ] ^ Punk rock now has its own “Spinal Tap” in this fictional documentary about the reunion of a lengendary Vancouver punk band. Real director Bruce McDonald plays the director of a crew following the reunion tour of Joe Dick, Billy Talent, John Oxenburger, and Pipefitter; collectively known as “Hard Core Logo.” The band get back together at a benefit for Canadian legend, Bucky Haight, who is strangely nowhere to be found. Despite a notorious band meltdown, the four seem happy to work their way toward another one.
Based on the book of the same name by Michael Turner, I couldn’t even tell the movie was a fake for the first twenty minutes. The director has even promoted it as being real, and several Canadian punk bands contributed to a “Hard Core Logo” tribute album. The cast is perfect. Lead singer Joe Dick, physically at least, is cross between Joe Strummer and Johnny Rotten. Lead guitarist Billy Talent looks like a mix of Larry Mullens Jr. from U2 and Paul Simonson from the Clash. The rhythm section, however, look like a couple of lost Allman brothers.
The pressures of four guys, now in their mid-thirties, still touring in a utility van across long stretches of Canada, bring up all of the tensions that broke them up the first time. Unlike “Spinal Tap,” “Logo” succeeds in presenting everyone as real people, not jokey characatures. If you’re not into the music, I don’t know how much you’ll like this movie, but if you do, this film comes perilously close to the perfect punk rock movie.
[ PUDDLE CRUISER ] ^ I hate to say this-and most of the anything-remotely-smacking-of-mainstream staff will revile me for it-but this was one of the funniest, most enjoyable films I’ve seen in a long time. So shoot me.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. There’s literally nothing unique or innovative about “Puddle Cruiser”, which is why I’m instinctively hesitant to gush about it. It’s your basic antic-filled, Gen-X date flick; a younger version of any given “Friends” episode without the famous cast. Know what? I don’t care. I laughed so hard, I about pissed myself. Written by and starring New York’s Broken Lizard Comedy Group, this film bears a strong resemblance to such classic moron comedies as “Caddyshack”, “Stripes”, and “Animal House”.
I can’t think of anything deeper to say because there’s nothing at all deep about this movie. Nor does it pretend that there is, which only adds to its naive charm. Just check your problems, your world issues and your attitude at the door and prepare to laugh your ass off.
[SCHIZOPOLIS ] ^ Finally, Soderbergh lives up to his potential. Poster child for the sophomore slump, and sliding into irrelevance, the director strikes back with this mind bomb comedy about identity, communication, and Dianetics.
Everyone talks about “Lost Highway” as David Lynch’s comeback, but however you feel about that movie, it s just more of the same. Now if “Lost Highway” was directed by Preston Sturges on acid, it might just look like “Schizopolis”. Calling it, “a Rorshach test of a date movie,” Soderbergh must have made this film for himself. He even stars in it. I could describe the plot, but it’s beside the point. This movie is about storytelling. Whenever the director tires of an idea, he always has ten more. By far the best film I saw at SXSW, it’s definitely not for everyone. But if you leave your brain on and pay attention, you won’t be disappointed.
[ SWEETHEARTS ] ^ This is a great LAST date movie. Arliss (Mitch Rouse) goes to the aptly named Asylum Cafe to meet Jasmine, who he has contacted through a personals ad. While waiting for his blind date, a strange woman (Janeane Garofalo) sits next to him and strikes up a conversation. After mocking his preconceptions, Mitch realizes that she is in fact, Jasmine. Then, his date from hell begins in earnest.
It’s Jasmine’s birthday, and she’s had enough. Chronically manic-depressive, she plans to kill herself at dawn, and she wants a little company before she goes. Mitch is a nice guy, but he really starts to like her, so he doesn’t know the right thing to do.
It’s a great to see Garofalo in a lead part that’s not one long attack on her self-esteem in a dark movie that doesn’t choke in the home stretch. This is a great movie to watch with your significant other after a fight. You can at least say, “At least we’re aren’t THAT messed up.”

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