One of the thrills of going to a film festival, of course, is taking a chance on a film that might sound interesting from a brief plot summary, but which doesn't necessarily have much in the way of previous buzz or a promising artistic pedigree. I think I've made a couple of fascinating discoveries of this type at South by Southwest so far this year, one of them being the subject of my second dispatch for The House Next Door, a truly eye-opening and enthralling documentary by Ian Cheney entitled The City Dark. I had never heard of Cheney before (though, as I discovered after seeing the film on Saturday evening, he had previously worked on a 2007 documentary called King Corn that I had heard a bit about), so I didn't really have any expectations going into it based on exposure to previous work; all I knew that it had something to do with light pollution—not necessarily the most exciting of subjects on the face of it. But the movie itself had me in its grip right from the beginning, with beautiful New York City night photography that, honestly, put me in something of a nocturnal Fallen Angels frame of mind. The rest of The City Dark obviously ain't nothing like that Wong Kar-Wai masterpiece; still, it's the rare documentary—a compelling mix of talking-heads and first-person modes—that deserves to be appreciated on a big screen. I do hope it gets some kind of theatrical release in the future.
Other than that, I'll let my review speak for itself.
The other film of interest is something I saw this morning called American Animal, a truly bizarre work that had me ready to claw at the screen in frustration for its first half hour until it began to go into more fascinating and provocative directions. I hope to say more about it in my next dispatch; it's definitely like nothing I've seen at the festival so far.
Now, off to my next screening!