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January 27, 2007 |

By Dustin Rowles | Miscellaneous | January 27, 2007 |

I think there are maybe five perfect films in the history of cinema. I’m not talking about the absolute best films; I mean flawless. Movies I can watch a hundred times and never find anything I’d change. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Third Man, Double Indemnity, Bottle Rocket, and now Rocket Science.**

Rocket Science, which was written and directed by Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound), is about a kid with a stutter who joins the debate team because he falls in love with a cute debating whiz who’s also in on the recruiting process. But more than just that, Rocket Science is about the ignominious torture of high school; it’s about the unknown, and speech, and the triumph of Trenton, New Jersey; it’s about Clem Snide, and love, and revenge, and it’s about ordering a fucking slice of pizza. But mostly, what it’s not about is cheap victories, or false epiphanies, or phony climaxes. It’s real. And it is absolutely perfect, a film I expect I’ll watch 20 times over and never find a flaw. Indeed, if I were handing out the grand jury prize here at Sundance, Rocket Science would win by a mile.

Unfortunately, the exhilarating high that I had after watching Rocket Science was short-lived, because an hour after I walked out, I was watching Mitchell Lichtenstein’s Teeth, a film about — what else — the vagina dentata myth. Certainly, the premise was intriguing — who wouldn’t be curious about a horror film concerning an abstinence-preaching high-school prude who discovers, when a classmate has sex with her against her will, that she has, well, teeth in her cho-cha. And while she’s not comfortable with the mutation at first, she ultimately uses her condition as a weapon, becoming a sort of feminist heroine. (I’m sure Ratner, right now, is trying to think of a way to work her into the next X-Men flick.) Unfortunately, Teeth, which was apparently inspired by Camille Paglia (a professor of Lichtenstein’s in college), is little more than a fascinating premise and a lot of severed penises. It’s supposedly a female-empowerment flick, but I think that’s a bit of a stretch. At its best, it’s a Troma film with a highfalutin mythological premise, which was apparently enough to get it into Sundance. In fact, I’d be surprised if Troma or Blue Moon hasn’t already explored the vagina dentata myth in one of its low-budget horror films, though I suspect they would have referred to it as something else, like The Razor Blade Muff or The Barking Cooter. Good news, though: Lichtenstein is already working on a sequel.

I followed Teeth with Crazy Love, which has gotten quite a bit more buzz at Sundance than it probably deserves. It’s a documentary about Burt and Linda Pugach, who had the mother of all fucked-up relationships, beginning in 1959 and continuing until the present. I mean, it’s worse than Sienna Miller and Jude Law or even Pete Doherty and Kate Moss. We’re talking O.J. and Nicole, only imagine it if Nicole had survived her stabbing and then taken O.J. back? That’s just about what Crazy Love amounts to. Unfortunately, their bizarre, co-dependent relationship isn’t really given its due by the director, Dan Klores, who has some serious pacing issues — it takes a full hour for the story to ever take off. It’s also an old-school “A&E Biography” type of documentary, the kind that relies heavily on stock footage and old photos to go along with personal interviews. It’s not a bad film; it just could’ve been so much better.

Finally, I ended the day with La Misma Luna, from Mexican director Patricia Riggen, a newcomer who I’d argue already stacks up well with the three Mexican directors who received so much acclaim last year. La Misma Luna is an incredibly humanizing portrayal of life as an illegal immigrant in the United States and, at the same time, a film about the real bond between a mother and a child. And it manages to explore both of these themes in a way that is neither saccharine, preachy, fake, or annoying, which made it all that much more effective. I really liked Pan’s Labyrinth, Babel, and, to some extent, Children of Men in 2006, but each of them was infused with a sort of Mexican machismo — the emotion was of the dry, masculine variety, while La Misma Luna is wet and poignant and far more touching than Riggen’s male counterparts would allow their films to be. It’s a remarkable movie, one that no doubt will be released in the fall (it was bought two days into the festival) and compete next year in the Oscar race.

And here’s the biggest irony to my day at Sundance: It was the best overall I’ve had in terms of the quality of films, and I didn’t see a single celebrity, either in person or in a film.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.

A Dork Who Stutters and a Vagina that Bites

Daily Dispatches from Sundance / Dustin Rowles

Miscellaneous | January 27, 2007 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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