SXSW: YEAST and Yacht Rock
Another good day. And two directorial debuts. That's what a festival should be. Good and new.
I was brought way up by Jodi Lambert's documentary OF ALL THE THINGS about his legendary yacht-rocking hit-making father's Great American Songwriter tour of The Philippines. And then I was brought back down to reality by actor-turned-director Mary Bronstein's passively brutal YEAST. Both films are well worth your time, but whatever, it's your time...
I can not imagine a worse thing than standing up after a film I directed or acted in or was the jib op or whatever and field questions. The Q & A is a nightmare... The budget? Slightly less than $37. What'd you shoot it on? A Motorola Razr. Where'd you get the idea? A poem I read about Paul Riser. Your average special guest forces out a word or two they've chiseled down from the last time someone asked that question, maybe attempts a joke, we hmmm or laugh and I miss the bus home. But I am happy I kept it cool through Mary Bronstein's (and everyone else that had anything at all to do with YEAST apparently) Q & A. She was genuinely excited to share her thoughts and her purposes, and her answers left me liking the film even more. An addendum to the experience you only ever get at a festival. Why I liked it more was because she was able to successfully justify why there doesn't seem to be a shot in the whole film pulled further back than extreme close up (an exaggeration, but not much of one). No performances happened off camera, not even in rehearsal. They had two cameras for shot/reverse shot, they got the face they wanted and moved on. A truth brought home by the freeze-frame final shot of...Mary Bronstein's face. The concept does leave the film feeling slightly claustrophobic and disorienting, but it's small price to pay for a this-is-happening effect. For better or worse, not much in the film felt planned out. And I have to admit, I felt shame playing voyeur to that action. No plot really. Just three once-best friends coming to terms with the fact they can no longer stand one another.
OF ALL THE THINGS, on the opposite end of the spectrum, was a charming love letter from a son to his father. Dennis Lambert made it big as a songwriter in the 60's and 70's but never as a singer. He put out one album- it died in the US but hit gold in the Philippines. Thirty years later, he's a real estate agent in Boca Raton suddenly invited to go on tour in the Philippines. His son, Jodi, documents the trip. Best line: When Blender magazine called his song WE BUILT THIS CITY ON ROCK AND ROLL the worst song in history, Dennis responds with- it's just good to back on the top of the charts. The film has a amateur quality, but it only reinforces the theme of making something good out of what you got. A happy accident, but happy nonetheless.
I want a permanent film festival in Austin, something to bring these films out all year round.