‘First Match,’ ‘TransMilitary’ take top SXSW Audience Awards

Olivia Newman’s “First Match” and Gabriel Silverman and Fiona Dawson’s “TransMilitary” took the SXSW 2018 Audience awards for narrative and documentary feature competition respectively.

RELATED: Review: “TransMilitary”

Here are the rest of the winners

Audience Award Winner: “All Square”
Director: John Hyams

Audience Award Winner: “The Dawn Wall”
Director: Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer

Audience Award Winner: “Profile”
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Audience Award Winner: “Upgrade”
Director: Leigh Whannell

Audience Award Winner: “Vida”
Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios, So Yong Kim

Audience Award Winner: “Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”
Director: Abner Benaim

Audience Award Winner: “Virus Tropical”
Director: Santiago Caicedo

Audience Award Winner: “Science Fair”
Director: Cristina Costantini, Darren Foster

SXSW Film Design Awards

Audience Award Winner: #19 – Offf Barcelona 2017
Directors: Eve Duhamel, Julien Vallee

Additional screenings have been scheduled for this evening for all Audience Award winners except Headliners:

Audience Award: 24 Beats Per Second
“Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”
March 17, Alamo Ritz 1, 7:30 PM

Audience Award: Documentary Feature Competition
March 17, Alamo Lamar A, 4:30 PM

Audience Award: Documentary Spotlight
“The Dawn Wall”
March 17, Stateside Theatre, 5:00 PM

Audience Award: Festival Favorites
“Science Fair”
March 17, Alamo Lamar B, 8:15 PM

Audience Award: Midnighters
March 17, Alamo Lamar A, 11:00 PM

Audience Award: Narrative Feature Competition
“First Match”
March 17, Alamo Lamar A, 7:30 PM

Audience Award: Narrative Spotlight
“All Square”
March 17, Stateside Theatre, 8:00 PM

Audience Award: Global
“Virus Tropical”
March 17, Alamo Ritz 2, 5:30 PM

Audience Award: Visions
March 17, Alamo Lamar B, 5:15 PM



SXSW 2018: ‘Blaze’ is a terrific portrait of the artist as a poetic screw-up

[cmg_anvato video=”4344207″ autoplay=”true”]

Let the word go forth from this time and place: Ethan Hawke, director of the excellent Blaze Foley biopic “Blaze,” is apparently extremely good at getting stunning performances out of non-actors.

Ben Dickey, a 40-year-old musician from Arkansas, already has been feted at Sundance for his performance as Foley in “Blaze,” but nothing quite prepares you for seeing it on the big screen. It’s a tour de force of oversized charm and verve, a living ballad of song-writer-as-ramblin’-man (and almost compulsive screw-up).

Gauzy without being cloyingly mythic, Hawke lets us know Foley’s tragic end right up front — he died in 1989 at the edge of 40, shot during an altercation over his friend’s disability check, a death that might have been too strange and pointless and heroic and sad to even make for a good song.

After we meet Foley, in full Duct Tape Messiah mode, screwing around the studio with friend and running buddy Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton, equally excellent in a completely different tone than Dickey), we flash back over a decade (we think) and see Foley as a younger man doing construction work in a theater.

RELATED: Going out in the Blaze of glory at tribute concert

He meets Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat, earthy and vibrant), a young aspiring actress in … Arkansas, we think. (It is Rosen’s memoir upon which the film is based.)

Soon they are inseparable and living in a treehouse/cabin thing in the Georgia woods (right?). He is working on songs and dispensing almost Zen koans about life and art, she is acting and keeping a sort of vague house — they are Southern, post-hippie bohos of the first rank. Dickey and Shawkat do a phenomenal job embodying a relationship that neither of them really ever got over, such was its perfection.

We flash forward and back over the years as Hawke loosely braids a few plot threads.  We see Townes and  Zee (Josh Hamilton) conducting a myth-building radio interview about Blaze. We see Foley as a near-constantly drunken troubadour, small band in tow, cutting a live album at the Austin Outhouse that he cannot help but interrupt by getting into a fight.

We see Blaze and Sybil meet her parents (it seems entirely possible Sybil is the first Jew Blaze ever encountered; during the hang with her folks, the only one he can think of is Zero Mostel). We see them head to Austin, then Chicago, wherein their relationship reaches a point of untenability. Then Blaze heads back to Austin (right?) and the legend builds.

We see the start of the fight where Blaze died. We see his pals try to convey his epic character to a barely interested radio host. We see record execs try to make Blaze a star. We see him die (but, cannily, not shot). We see him missed by those who loved him.

Again, Dickey is luminescent throughout. He is almost never not on-screen and it’s the sort of part that gives veteran actors the shakes. But Dickey gives Foley a bearish charm, self-medicated instability and a swaggering desperation.

If the film has one constant frustration, it is that, in the possible service of timelessness and tonal ramble, Hawke is really vague about when and where things take place. Unless you know Foley well — and most don’t — you have to head to Google to know that his career ran from at most, around 1977 to his death in 1989. A few dates popping up on the screen would not have lessened the mood, Ethan.

But then, this is not a soup-to-nuts biopic. It’s an ode to the artist-as-emotional-outlaw, with all the good, bad and ugly that implies.  At one point, Foley tells his then-wife Sybil that he wants to be a legend rather than a star.  Bullseye.

Grade: B+

MORE SXSW: See all our coverage

Daryl Hannah on ‘Paradox,’ her ‘spitball production’ with Neil Young

[cmg_anvato video=”4344207″ autoplay=”true”]

Daryl Hannah really likes the term “spitball production.”


We’re sitting in a suite at the Four Seasons discussing her new movie, “Paradox,” starring Neil Young and some of the folks in Promise of the Real (with whom Young has been touring and making albums for a few years now). It premiered March 15 at South by Southwest, then heads over to Netflix on March 23.

Hannah is joined in this conversation by Promise of the Real’s Micah Nelson (son of Willie) and his girlfriend, Alex. Nelson has been telling me about his middle-school hobby of making stop-motion animation with clay and action figures. This eventually turned into the band/art collective Insects vs. Robots and the “spitball and duct-tape production” he does for that group.

Daryl Hanna on the “Paradox” red carpet at South by Southwest. Scott Moore for American-Statesman

“‘Spitball productions … I like that!” Hannah says, her face lighting up. It’s clearly the ideal term for “Paradox,” a not-really narrative, 72-minute Western that blends some fictional characters played by “Neil and the band, Neil’s mangers, the road crew and our caretakers and friends” with live footage of the band in full flight.

Shot over three or so days on Hannah’s Colorado ranch, “Paradox” came together in September 2016, when the band was taking some time to get used to the altitude in Colorado before playing a show in Telluride and embarking on a short fall tour that included the Desert Trip festival (aka Old ‘chella).

RELATED: Neil Young talks about “Paradox,” his archives and more

The band had a little rehearsing to do, but Hannah knew “they would eventually end up in this beautiful natural setting, sitting around the campfire, making jokes and singing songs. So I said, ‘Let’s catch that! Not make a doc about them sitting out there, but let’s make a little movie.”

Proceeding with a 10-page script for a short, Hannah said the characters started improvising. There’s some performance footage from a few shows and some actual songs and some recordings of playing guitar in the woods. But the most striking musical element is the stuff that sounds like an original score: feedback, enormous-sounding drums, fragments of melody — think Young’s landmark collage “Arc” as a movie score.

REVIEW: Are you a maniacal Neil Young completist? Fantastic. Enjoy “Paradox”

“We got these giant skin drums, and we were just trying out different stuff in the studio,” Nelson said. “We’d look at footage and say, ‘Oh, we need something for this section, let’s jam and record it, and that was it. I think we did that for about a day.”

They even shot a scene out in Luck in “Willieville,” the Western town set from “Red Headed Stranger,” wherein Willie meets Young’s man-in-black character.

“I used to play out there as as kid,” Micah Nelson says. “I was stung by many hornets.”

Eventually Hannah says she would like to make “a real film that is properly made according to traditional norms but still with an imaginative and creative story but also I’m sure I am going to keep making spitball productions. It is very liberating to make art without asking for anyone’s permission.”

Are you a maniacal Neil Young completist? Fantastic. Enjoy ‘Paradox’

[cmg_anvato video=”4337229″ autoplay=”true”]

A voice-over fills the first minute of “Paradox,” which screened March 15 at South by Southwest and will be available March 23 on Netflix. Over a shot of a night sky filled with stars, said monologue is read by one Willie Hugh Nelson of Luck, Texas; a green oscillogram on the bottom of the screen maps his dulcet tone:

“Many moons ago, in the future, when the womenfolk had rightfully just about given up on us, a mangy group of outlaws hid out by a precious water source while the real bad guys quietly stole the seeds of life. Thankfully, music still helped our spirits fly.”

So, yeah, that’s what we’re dealing with here.


Shot over three or so days in fall 2016 while Neil Young (who has directed movies under the name Bernard Shakey) and the Promise of the Real (his backing band of late that stars Lukas and Micah Nelson, sons of the above mentioned Willie) got used to the altitude in Colorado before a short tour, “Paradox” was written and directed by actress Daryl Hannah, Young’s romantic partner since 2014.

RELATED: Neil Young talks about “Paradox,” his archives and more

Shot quick and cheap, “Paradox” blends a vague, possibly improvised Western narrative with a terrific instrumental score and a few new and old songs.  Young has a roles as the enigmatic Man In Black; Lukas and Micah are Western-ish outlaws called Jail Time and the Particle Kid. Sample dialogue: “Those two fellas are the Nelson brothers. The older one, the one on the left, he’s a gunslinger. They call him Jail Time. The other one? The Particle Kid. Nobody knows what planet that boy’s from. The man in the black hat, they all steer clear of him. I heard he can be kinda … shakey.” Oy gevalt.

RELATED: Daryl Hannah on “Paradox,” her “spitball production” with Neil Young

Ever wanted to see Young’s legendary manager Elliot Roberts as a cowboy? He’s in there! There seems to be some mining going on, also plenty of guitar playing. Willie himself pops in for a scene as Red (a scene shot in Willieville).

This was during Young’s anti-Monsanto period, so there are lines such as “Y’all are excited for flowers, but you haven’t yet sowed the seeds. Protect the seeds” and “When saving the seeds is outlawed, it’ll be the outlaws who saved the seeds.”

The guitar playing is, naturally, a highlight. Young and the band run through a song or two, and there’s a furious jam (that feels like the end of “Cowgirl in the Sand”) recorded at Desert Trip, aka Ol’ Chella. And the soundtracky bits — all guitar feedback, vague chordings and massive toms — are totally great, as is the acoustic ramble that floats around here and there.

It is exactly the sort of flick that everyone involved will say was a lot of fun to make. Is it a lot of fun to watch?

Well, how many Neil bootlegs do you own?

The moving ‘If I Leave Here Tomorrow’ chronicles Lynyrd Skynyrd

[cmg_anvato video=”4344207″ autoplay=”true”]

“Musicians are a rare breed — once it gets in their blood, they have to go after it” — Judy Van Zant, widow of Ronnie Van Zant

Are you in the market for an incredibly well-made, super professional, smartly-edited, fully licensed and extremely unlikely to be controversial documentary about an interesting musician or group?

Then, brother, Stephen Kijak is your man.

Starting with his outstanding “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man” (2006), Kijak has made excellent docs on the Backstreet Boys, Jaco Pastorius, the Rolling Stones and X Japan. He works his slick magic again with the moving “If I Leave Here Tomorrow,” bankrolled by CMT and likely airing on the network later this year.

Rising out of a Jacksonville, Fla., garage band called One Percent, Lynyrd Skynyrd took their name from both the name “Leonard Skinner” from “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” and a high school coach who happened to have the same name.

RELATED: 10 docs to watch out for at SXSW

The band honed its chops the old-fashioned way, rehearsing and writing morning, noon and night at “Hell House,” a cabin in the middle of nowhere where the band could work out music. It was also close enough to water than Ronnie could go fishing while writing lyrics in his head, Biggie Smalls-style. These were the salad days — as one member puts it, “Hell House was the reward.”

Al Kooper, who helmed the first two albums, was floored by the band’s airtight prowess on even the guitar solos. Those records cut like butter, while the rest of their output was sometimes marred by writing-in-the-studio and, um, lifestyle choices.

Kijak talks to folks who are around and gets tremendous archival footage (and stunning bell bottoms) of those who are not. There’s guitarist Gary Rossington and Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant, who lets us see the Jacksonville neighborhood where the band was born.

There’s the fascinating Artimus Pyle, the “left wing liberal hippie” who replaced original drummer Bob Burns (who all but had a nervous breakdown due to, well, the hazards of being in Skynyrd).

PHOTOS: “If I Leave Here Tomorrow” red carpet

“I think they felt (the band was) supposed to smoke every cigarette and drink everything provided and eat whatever they wanted and throw the rest against the wall,’ Pyle says. “That was our road manager’s duty – to carry a briefcase with probably $250,000 in cash to bail people out of jail and placate hotel owners.”

There’s Ed King, the California kid who hailed from the Strawberry Alarm Clock, co-wrote “Sweet Home Alabama,” and filled out the three guitar lineup until he bounced in ’75 after Van Zant’s temper got to be a bit much.

Kijak also cuts between band history and an inevitable look at the October 1977 plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant, King’s replacement Steve Gaines and Steve’s sister Cassie (as well as assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray), effectively ending the band for a decade. Surviving members recount the horror of crashing in the middle of nowhere in the farmland of Gillsburg, Mississippi (“like hearing 10,000 baseball bats on the side of the fuselage” as they started to hit the trees).

“The one thing I want the world to know about my band is how bravely my band met their death,” Pyle says in the documentary. “Everyone knew it was gonna end badly. There was no panic, no chaos; everybody was in prayer, in deep thought.”

“If I Leave Here Tomorrow” plays again at 1:45 p.m. March 17 at Alamo Ritz 1. Grade: A-

The future is now in the terrific ‘People’s Republic of Desire’

[cmg_anvato video=”4337229″ autoplay=”true”]

About five minutes into Hao Wu’s “People’s Republic of Desire,” after you see live-streaming performers file into tiny offices to entertain hundreds of millions of people after being told that if they do their jobs well, they will “live like goddesses,” it hits you: This is a completely bonkers William Gibson sci-fi story come to life.

And yet, it is happening right now. Indeed, much of this material is a few years old.

“People’s Republic of Desire”

In China, in online live-streaming showrooms (meaning someone’s bedroom or home office with laptop webcam and decent microphone), thousands of folks — some talented, some pretty, some charismatic, and some none of the above — log on and live-stream, well, whatever it is they feel like, in an attempt to get the time and money of hundreds of millions of potential fans. These programs are a bit like real-time talk shows, complete with interaction with an online audience.

Some fans are members of China’s ever-emerging super-rich class, who lavish gifts on their favorite performers and act like sponsors. Stars can make millions of dollars a year through the purchase of “gifts” that translate into real money for the performers. The performers aren’t “camgirls” — there isn’t a visual pornographic element (or if there is, Wu doesn’t talk about it — though it is strongly implied that one performer has had real-life relationships with several financial supporters). A two-week competition, in which votes are literally bought, determines who is the most popular performer.

Far, far more fans (as in, millions more) are extremely poor, often migrant workers looking for fandom, community and connection. These are the diaosi, sort of a combination of “loser” and “nerd,” young folks working dead end jobs who can’t afford to support their favorite performers financially but still want to contribute here and there. Many of them make less than $500 a month.

Mercifully, Wu spends a fair amount of time explaining how all of this works, often using clever animation. “Desire” focuses on performers on the seemingly all-powerful YY.Com social media network and streaming platform. If performers get enough fans and attention, an agency will want to sponsor them in the hopes of making even more money (and taking a piece in the process.)

Singer Shen Man, 21, who lives in the city of Chengdu, is young and cute and has an OK voice and has absolutely no problem asking for gifts. Her bankrupt father has moved in with her — it’s a little hard to tell if she wants him there or if he is simply taking advantage of her.

Big Li, 24, from Guangzhou, has the bluster and voice of a classic American shock jock  and a strong diaosi-made-good vibe. His wife, who seems older and is definitely more mature than her husband, is a talent manager for YY and must balance concern for her clients and traditional wife-and-mother stuff.

RELATED: 10 docs to watch out for at SXSW

Wu follows the ins and outs of both careers, including interviews with both a megarich sponsor and a few diaosi, and man alive, we are in serious cyberpunk-as-everyday-life territory here.

Indeed, the deeply weird world of “Desire” make a perfect companion piece to another South by Southwest film: “Ready Player One.”

“People’s Republic of Desire” had its world premiere March 10 and won the Documentary Feature Grand Jury Award at SXSW 2018.





Rian Johnson, Mark Hamill talk ‘Jedi,’ fear and the perils of the Internet at SXSW

[cmg_anvato video=”4345027″ autoplay=”true”]

Following a screening of the surprisingly moving documentary “The Director and the Jedi,” about the making of “The Last Jedi,” “Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson was joined by “The Director” director Anthony Wonke and, hello, noted Jedi Mark Hamill for a chat at the Paramount Theatre on Monday during South by Southwest. A few highlights:

Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill after “The Director and the Jedi”

Johnson got into the idea of a full-length doc about “The Last Jedi” after many viewings of the old “Return of the Jedi” doc as a kid. It was also inspired by a process documentary on Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia.” He wanted to  participate in a movie that really showed the process rather than one that would just promote the result of the process.

Johnson and some other folks were radio mic’ed every single day on the set. “It is weird when you are going about your work, it’s amazing how quickly you forget these guys (the documentarians) are there,” Johnson said. “Even if something awful happened, at least we will have a great doc.”

RELATED: Joe Gross’ 2017 review of “The Last Jedi”

Like the doc, the Q&A was also the Mark Hamill show. He’s a funny dude. Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher were together when George Lucas told them a new trilogy was desired. “Carrie slapped the table and said, ‘I’m IN!’ Hamill told the SXSW crowd. “I said, ‘Carrie, poker face!”

On the sheer immensity of the Star Wars mythos/fanbase/etc.: Hamill said he told Johnson at one point, “I’m terrified. And he said, ‘I am, too.’ That’s when I bonded with him deeply. I have to pretend that this is a small arthouse film that critics will love and the public will roundly reject because if I really thought about this, I’d just be in the fetal position in the corner. That’s how I know I’m a good actor. I look nonchalant at times when inside I am coiled tightly.”

SXSW PARTY GUIDE: Find out where everything is happening

On the alleged controversy regarding his and Johnson’s visions of Luke: Hamill says he regrets saying anything at all, but that with Luke, “you can go home again, but it was a house I didn’t recognize at all.”

Hamill on the Internet: “Don’t go on the Internet. In the old days, you would get fan mail. You wouldn’t get mail from people who wrote, ‘Dear Mr. Hamill, you stink, love, Rachel.’ Now there is the internet, where total strangers can insult you in your own home.”

[cmg_anvato video=”4344993″ autoplay=”false”]


‘Ready Player One’ is the geekiest thrill ride ever

[cmg_anvato video=”4355841″ autoplay=”true”]

If you are only vaguely familiar with Austinite Ernest Cline’s smash-hit 2011 novel “Ready Player One” and have glanced at the trailer for Steven Spielberg’s gee-whiz adaptation, it might seem at first like, “Hey, Remember How Cool This ’80s Thing Was When I Was 12?: The Motion Picture.”

It is more than that. How much more? Well, your mileage may vary depending on the extent you buy into the story of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), whose online handle is Parzival. He’s a broke white kid who lives in the slums of 2045 Columbus, Ohio, giant stacks of trailers and RVs called, well, “The Stacks.”

Unless you have a lot of money, everything pretty well stinks in 2045, so lots of folks spend a ton of time in a VR world called “The OASIS,” the creation of which made its founder, the reclusive and awkward James Halliday (Mark Rylance) a trillionaire. After he died, he made a three-section game inside the Oasis — the first to solve all three puzzles wins control of the OASIS and Halliday’s money.

Halliday was an ’80s pop culture obsessive, so his OASIS puzzles are filled with Reagan-era Easter eggs, references and tropes. Egg hunters (or “gunters”) like Wade spend loads of time becoming ’80s culture nerds like Halliday (and Cline), doing time at a virtual library containing all Halliday’s memories. 

PHOTOS: “Ready Player One” world premiere at SXSW 2018

So get ready for so many visual Easter eggs that Spielberg actually warned the crowd at Sunday night’s world premiere during South by Southwest not to pay too much attention to them. “Just remember one thing: The side windows are for cultural references; the windshield is for a story,” he said. “If you look straight ahead, you can always follow the story.” 

Then again, when it was announced that Spielberg was making “Ready Play One” into a splashy feature, wag the dog jokes were impossible to avoid. Not only did the novel owe A TON to Spielberg’s ’80s work, but a story about total retreat into fantasy was being made by a man who was perhaps the greatest natural filmmaker of his generation who also caught all sorts of heat for steadfastly avoiding making movies for actual adults.

[cmg_anvato video=”4344660″ autoplay=”false”]

Then again, Spielberg can tell stories about as well as anyone in the business,  so after some scene-setting voiceover,  the director uses a jaw-dropping action sequence to spell everything out — including Wade’s allies Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) and Aech (Lena Waithe).

 SXSW 2018: Steven freakin’ Spielberg introduces “Ready Player One” at world premiere

Scripted by Cline and Zak Penn, the story, which moves like a DeLorean going back in time, takes place mostly in the OASIS, so everyone is a CGI avatar. Given that a poor mix of live action and CGI can pull the viewer right out of a movie, even the most hardcore CGI haters will warm up to the eye-popping, all-digital design of the OASIS in “Ready Player One,” especially since Spielberg makes the real-world scenes look decently grubby and analogue.

As our heroes try to find all three keys to the digital kingdom, they are pursued in real life and online by Halliday’s former assistant Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn),  whose IOI corporation is determined to control the OASIS.

RELATED: Austin’s Ernest Cline talks about what it’s like to see his novel as a movie

This is where the world-building starts getting a little squishy: Just how much control over daily lives does IOI have? Is the OASIS just for entertainment? To what extent are people’s daily economic fortunes dependent on this online world?

Personal relationships are similarly dicey. Online friendships suddenly become awfully close in real life, and the romance is especially light.

But even Spielberg knows this isn’t why you are here — you are here for the overwhelming, dazzling digital set pieces, rendered in astonishing detail, packed full of references you can ignore or indulge in. You want total immersion into a fantasy world? Spielberg is definitely your guy.

“Ready Player One” opens in theaters March 29. Grade: A-


SXSW 2018: Steven freakin’ Spielberg introduces ‘Ready Player One’ premiere

[cmg_anvato video=”4344660″ autoplay=”true”]

“This is not a film that we’ve made. It is, I promise you, a movie.” — Steven Spielberg introducing “Ready Player One,” March 11, 29018, Paramount Theater.

Well, that happened.

Steven Spielberg, as in THE Steven Spielberg, showed up at the Paramount on Sunday night to introduce the world premiere of his new movie “Ready Player One.”

Not this guy:

But this guy:

Image uploaded from iOS.jpg

As you might imagine, the assembled were very excited indeed.

After a very brief introduction from SXSW Film head honcho Janet Pierson, out came Spielberg with the cast of “Ready Player One,” along with screenwriters Zak Penn and Ernie Cline, the Austin author whose book upon which the film was based.

Spielberg noted that while you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy the fil– uh, movie, he himself has been a gamer for longer than much of the audience had been alive.

“I’ve been a gamer ever since 1974 when I played the first Pong game on Martha’s Vineyard filming ‘Jaws,'” he said.

PHOTOS: “Ready Player One” red carpet arrivals at SXSW 2018

He also noted that while he directs some films from behind the camera, others he directs from the audience — this was the latter. “Your reaction is everything,” he said after the screening.

While the film (review forthcoming) was well received by the packed house, an interesting thing happened at the movie’s very climax: The sound cut out. Then the picture froze.

Everyone had the same thought: “Wait, is that part of the movie? No, it’s not. Someone make sure Janet isn’t having a stroke. Can I stand up for a second? I am going to stand up, my leg is asleep.”

Everyone was chatty and chill about it. Pierson came out and said they weren’t sure what happened, and then another funny thing happened — after a few long minutes, the glitch was repaired…

SXSW 2018: A few things we learned from the “Ready Player One” VR experience

Readers, I have gone to many an event at the Paramount over the past 17 years or so: concerts, movies, stand-up, the works.

I have NEVER, EVER heard a sound like the screams of triumph when the sound and picture was restored, when it was clear the movie would conclude.

Not once, not ever.

This was a moment when everyone was rooting for everything to work and for the movie (not film) to deliver all its punches.

And when it did, the roar was legitimately deafening. It was one of the most joyous (and possibly slightly drunken) sounds I have ever heard, certainly at the Paramount.

SXSW 2018: A few things we learned from Richard Linklater’s chat with Olivier Assayas

[cmg_anvato video=”4337229″ autoplay=”true”]

Unconnected to SXSW, the Austin Film Society is in the middle of an Olivier Assayas retrospective this week, but SXSW also seemed like a good time to get the legendary French filmmaker, one of the greats of the ’80s, ’90s and today (“Irma Vep,” “Demonlover,” “Something in the Air,” “Cold Water,” “Carlos,” “Personal Shopper”) in conversation with Richard Linklater.

Here are a few things we learned:

Like many of his era, he thought the May ’68 demonstrations in Paris meant the old world was over. “I was 13 at the time,” Assayas, born in 1955, said, “but I sensed that the world was shaking on it4s foundations and (in the years that followed), there was this absolute conviction the old world was finished and it was the beginning of a new world. I grew up in a context where you were not thinking about a career or family or studies because all that would be rendered worthless. Gradually we realized that was not happening.” But as Assayas notes that while political revolution did not happen, the 1970s did see profound social upheaval in societies all over the world.

1970s French teens thought A LOT about political theory. “We had this absurd political maturity,” Assayas said. “I remember being in high school and discussing the fine print of the political history of the 20th century,” which meant lots of discussions about what kind of Trotskyite you were, what kind of Maoist you were, what “nuance of an anarchist” you were.

A film set can be a locus of freedom. “At some point, I felt what was happening on the film set was a continuation of the utopia of the 1970s, a validation of non-alienated work,” Assayas said. “You could work with a film crew, they would share your ideas and your ideal. We were a bubble of freedom. I don’t want to be the boss of a business, which is how you can feel sometimes when you direct a film. I want to be part of a collective that is basically enjoying itself doing something that has to do with their ideals.”

His five and a half hour 2010 mini series “Carlos” on Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, aka the revolutionary/terrorist Carlos the Jackal, was a reflection on the politics of the 1970s. “What excited me about him is that he embodies the whole arc of political involvement of the 1970s,” Assayas said. He started as a Latin American idealist who decided to “go all the way” and gradually became a “professional militant and terrorist” expelled from the Palestinian movement and worked for some “very ugly governments…he was morphing with the time and you follow the arc, it’s the arc of those years. European terrorism reflected the decay of leftist revolution.”

Assayas shot “Carlos” in 92 days. It was essentially three full-length movies with about 30 days for each. “We didn’t rehearse at all,” Assasyas said. “We created the set, the ambience and threw the actors into the scene,” which is actually a pretty good way to make a movie about a terrorist.

Genre film was a huge influence on Assayas. John Carpenter, Wes Craven and especially David Cronenberg were all big. “Those films are so powerful,” he said. “Sometimes I think indie filmmaking misses connecting physically with an audience.” (AMEN, BROTHER.)

Linklater: “‘Demonlover’ was your ‘Videodrome.”

Assayas: “I am not ashamed to say ‘Videodrome was a major influence — so daring, so strong. It was mind-blowing.”

He is not sure entirely how the Internet is changing everyone, but he’s sure it’s happening. “The way the Internet creates access to fantasy and make it accessible to everybody all the time…I don’t know if it is good or bad but extremely important in the transformation of the human experience.”