Extreme Sundance

T&A and the ol' Ultra-V make for the ideal American film festival

 

Wolf Creek

If The Texas Chain Saw Massacre went 30 years without a buzz-worthy heir (never mind the remake), it's only because the world hadn't yet produced a work of horror as bleak and ferocious as 1974. Not to suggest that we should want a real nightmare to get a scarier movie--but if you've got the former already, you might as well have the latter as well. Basing his own screenplay on a notorious true-crime case, director Greg Mclean plops an attractive trio of twentysomething hikers--two girls (Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi) and a guy (Nathan Phillips)--in the middle of the Australian outback, drains their car battery at dusk, and sends an unkempt, abrasively gregarious, and volatile mechanic (John Jarratt) down a dark path to "help." Notice I've made Mclean the subject of the previous sentence--in order to emphasize that Wolf Creek is one of those horror movies in which you're never sure who's the bigger sadist, the killer or the director. In this case, both men ply their trades with ingenuity and flair. You do prefer your sadists to work ingeniously, right?

 

Rize

Extreme Documentary, this--enough to compel director David LaChapelle to issue a prefatory note that none of its footage has been "sped up or altered in any way." The movie's lightning-fast subjects are young residents of south central L.A., whose seemingly endless history of gang violence has compelled them to form healthier rivalries around the practice of similar but distinct forms of high-energy hip-hop dance: clowning and krumping. Granted, I'm no dance critic, but the crazy-quick moves of Dragon, El Niño, Baby Tight Eyez, Tommy the Clown, and Miss Prissy--"ghetto ballet" dancers whose cathartic kicks and jabs timed to hard, hard beats manage to clear space and draw crowds at once--look to me like the purest genius. (And to others, too: The audience at the first Sundance screening gave a 10-minute standing ovation to the dancers in attendance.) To be blunt: Rize is the work of a rich, white fashion photographer turning his gaze on a poor, black subculture; it's also the most infectiously energetic and inspiring documentary in years. LaChapelle begins with footage of L.A. ablaze in '65 and '92, and ends, after several terribly sad turns, with a Maya Angelou poem. In between, the dancers pretty much direct themselves, their heads held high despite myriad pressures, their toes pointed up and out.

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