I certainly don’t want to come to the defense of Four Rooms [January 19], a movie whose very existence could only be justified by the desire to work off the sophomore jinx for four filmmakers at once. But as the author of an upcoming book on movie awards which includes a certain amount of material on the Sundance Film Festival and its influence in recent years, I’d like to suggest that Jonathan Rosenbaum take another look at the independent festival that everyone increasingly loves to hate.
It’s not that what Rosenbaum accuses it of isn’t true–to pick one example, a festival whose debuting “independents” included Lyle Lovett and David (screenwriter of Jurassic Park) Koepp, as Sundance ’95 did, is probably guilty of anything you could name. But every Sundance has also had far more to offer than Miramax and multiplex-ready indies like The Brothers McMullen or Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead; it has also been an important launching pad for documentaries like Paris Is Burning and Crumb, gay films like The Living End, and any number of more radical things which went no further toward the mainstream than the Film Center or Chicago Filmmakers (such as one of Rosenbaum’s recent Critic’s Choices, Water and Power).
By focusing his anger on the same mainstream-ready movies that everyone else focuses hype on, he sort of falls into his own trap–once again, giving The Brothers McMullen press at the expense of more eclectic or unconventional choices. Next year, why not settle the issue by sending Rosenbaum to Sundance–with the sole instruction to cover everything that the rest of the press is ignoring?