The Scarves of Sundance
(continued from page 5)

We get back to our room, and get sucked into one of the episodes of Jazz, playing on TV. They're taking it up through Art Blakey, Coltrane, Clifford Brown, Ornette Coleman. Kristin keeps asking if we're going to go to the party tonight -- Elisa can get us into some Hugo Boss shindig (I have no idea who or what Hugo Boss is -- but I'm not about to admit this to anybody out loud). Kristin takes a shower to freshen up, then lays down in her PJs on the couch. "So are we going to the party?" she asks, her eyelids already drooping sleepily over the top rims of her pupils. "Who're you kidding? You're gonna go in your PJs?" She shrugs, "We're at Sundance. We're supposed to be going to all the glamorous parties." I call up Elisa, because I don't want to be rude, and ask her about the party -- but she and George are pretty crashed out, and are going to bail after all. When I hang up and report the news, everyone sags in relief. And my favorite stupid show, Blind Date is on -- the best dialogue on television, improvised on the spot by lonely singles with strange exhibitionist tendencies. We yuk it up as we watch the self-professed "Hillybilly" clear the dance floor by dry-humping the air; and then yuk it up some more at the second couple, which features a self-professed "poet" with a Kenny G 'do, who actually wins over his date by talking up Norse mythology and quoting Thoreau. Sure, we're just as lame as these folks -- watching bad TV from the middle of Sundance, fer crissakes -- but at least our lameness isn't being televised.

Day 4
This time, in my daily trek to the "online festival," I meet Jakub Pistecky, whose short Maly Milos is in the lineup. He's a handsome fellow, with close-cropped black hair and compact, precisely arranged features. He's currently working at ILM, on the next Star Wars movie; I decide to be cool and not ask him a single damn question about it.

Jakub appears to be having a far better time in Park City than I am. He's not worried in the slightest about making connections or schmoozing his career up a notch -- he's just here to see movies and go to parties. In all, a far more sane approach. Last night he was at an Ozzy Osbourne party, that was opened by someone named the "Reverend B. Dangerous" or somesuch, who hung a 50 lb. camera from a perforation in his tongue, and then followed up by having the heaviest guy in the audience step on the back of his head, grinding his face into a pile of broken glass. In short, Ozzy is so far past his bat-head munching days, he's taken to delegating.

I like Jakub's short quite a bit. It's a 3D computer animation, with a genuine fairytale quality (fairytales of the Grimm variety, with plenty of dirt under their peasant fingernails). A lot of CGI animation seems, to me, to be heading toward a cul-de-sac of thoughtless mimesis; the closer computer-generated imagery comes to replicating "reality," the more it loses its purely expressive potential.

Jakub solves this problem by resorting to puppetry; the characters in Milos look like they've been carved in a woodshop. Milos has a face reminiscent of the faces of Jiri Trnka's animated puppets -- almost immobile, but deeply expressive -- the face has the suggestive emotional expressiveness of a mask. We have a good conversation about this. It seems we're at a point where new technologies are providing receptive forms for old, shunted-aside artforms: motion-capture provides an entry point for dance and gestural theatre; CGI provides an entry point for sculpture and puppetry.

For our last two nights, we're staying with the Quackenbushes, a couple who are friends with Kristin's dad, in Salt Lake City. It's a relief to not have to talk about movies and deals (perversely and against my will, earlier in the day I'd been drawn into an extensive conversation, with a complete stranger, about the lack of fire in Harrison Ford's latest thespian activities). Instead, we talk about books, the election, and the oddball physics experiments Joe Quackenbush, a science teacher, cooks up for his class. It's heaven, really. There's a world outside the screen.


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