What You Need to Know From Sundance

Categories: Film and TV
Another formidable multi-hyphenate, Carruth's co-editor David Lowery was also present at Sundance with his third feature as writer-director, the 1970s Texas crime drama Ain't Them Bodies Saints, featuring Casey Affleck as an escaped con trying to get back to the woman (Rooney Mara) he loves. Judging from the craftsmanship on display, Lowery is a talent to watch -- as surely as Saints was instantly overpraised by those desperate for a little old-fashioned cinematic luxuriousness after many days in the color-desaturated, poorly-framed digital trenches.

Probably the most visually arresting movie in the festival alongside Upstream Color, ATBS drips with terminally imitative Terrence Malick-isms -- including (but not limited to) cameos from such regular members of the Malick stock company as bodies posed artfully against magic-hour skies, hands gently caressing tall grass, crisp white linen blowing in the breeze and (on the soundtrack) tremolo strings straining for the ethereal. But where Carruth's film feels vibrantly alive with meaning, Lowery's too often seems embalmed with stylization, including the decision to have the (very fine) actors deliver nearly all their lines in breathy half-whispers.

If Sundance 2013 failed to yield a single critical and audience consensus favorite on the order of Precious or 2012's Beasts of the Southern Wild, day by day there were still many pleasures to be had -- quite likely the most varied and enjoyable lineup of the 11 Sundances I've attended. Even some of the duds managed to contain a diamond, like luminescent newcomer Kaya Scodelario, who works wonders with the title role in the otherwise taxing Emanuel and theTruth About Fishes. This veritable SNL parody of an indie film sent my quirk-o-meter into the danger zone around the time Jessica Biel appeared as a grieving mother who substitutes a plastic doll for her deceased newborn.

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