Sundance Report: Dressed to Kill

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So far I’ve seen two self-referential movies at Sundance. One was a documentary about philosopher Jacques Derrida that tells the story of Jacques Derrida while also telling the story of how the documentary about Jacques Derrida came to be. The other was “The Laramie Project,” which is based on a play, and the play is partly about how the authors wrote the play. Imagine if “Hamlet” didn’t just tell the story of Hamlet, but also told the story of how Shakespeare happened to write “Hamlet.” (As if “Hamlet” weren’t long enough already.)

And so, in the true Sundance Film Festival spirit of experimentation, and of copying things you’ve seen other people do, this column will be self-referential. It will be a column, but it will also be ABOUT the column.

During Sundance, Park City’s Main Street is the place to be if you want to see a lot of other people who want to see celebrities. The celebrities themselves, I don’t know where they are. They tend to blend in with the commoners, because everyone — famous people and peons alike — dresses exactly the same. Everyone looks like they don’t know whether to watch a movie or go skiing, like they could walk into a room and buy either popcorn or a lift ticket.

(Originally, that line ended with “watch a movie or go skiing,” but I felt like it needed another clause to drive the point home. Then I figured I needed some material on cellphones, since they’re so prominent at the festival. That material is coming up now.)

Cellphones are part of the Sundance uniform, of course. If you cannot afford a cellphone, one will be appointed for you. It’s ironic, really, given that Park City has cellphone reception worse than what you would get on the moon. Of course, it’s ironic that Park City would be home to a film festival when there are only three actual movie screens in the town, but irony is something you get used to with Sundance, since it’s the favorite literary device of all the angsty Gen-Xers who make the movies.

But back to the cellphones: Everyone talks on them all the time. The latest trend is the headsets, where you trade the hassle of holding the phone in your hand with the hassle of looking like a Gap employee. (Why do the Gap employees need headsets, anyway? What goes on in a Gap store that requires all personnel to be in communication with each other at all times? Are they launching nuclear-powered chinos back there, or activating a doomsday sweater? Is there a show going on? Is one of them the stage manager? (“Ready, pants … pants, go.”) (Are you allowed to include a parenthetical remark within another parenthetical remark?))

Wow, what a nightmare of punctuation THAT was. In technical writing, you use brackets [like this] for parentheses-within-parentheses. I don’t know what the rule is for newspapers. The rule is probably just not to do parentheses-within-parentheses. But in the spirit of Sundance, I am breaking the rules. I am also talking a lot about myself, which is also in the spirit of Sundance.

You have to look the part, and nowhere is that more true than at Sundance. Cellphones, black leather jackets, coffee-oriented beverages — it’s all part of The Look. With it, you’re part of the crowd, whether you’re a director, actor or just a regular ol’ movie-goer. Without it, you’re just a loser. (Will I offend my fellow losers by pretending not to be one of them? That is the ongoing question with this column.)

I wrote the Gap paragraph and thereafter wanted to acknowledge the hideousness of the punctuation involved. To do so would be too self-referential, though -- unless the column were all about self-referentialism, which I realized would be quite appropriate, given the nature of some of the films at the festival. So I added a new lead and went in this new direction. The observations included within the column about the writing of it are accurate.

I like the phrase "doomsday sweater." And of course "pants" is always a funny word.

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