Sundance Film Fest 2011: Part Two

On Saturday night N and I went out to dinner at The Copper Onion which is conveniently located next to the Broadway theater where our first movie of the night was playing. After seeing a parade of restaurants open and close in this space over the years I'm so glad to see that The Copper Onion is still going strong a year after it opened. The food is great! I love their sides in particular. Everything is very fresh and flavorful. In the summer N and I fight over their beet salad but the star of this last visit was the roasted cauliflower with anchovy cream and capers (in the middle of the photo below).

It was SO GOOD. I would have happily have eaten a big bowl of it for my entree. I also really liked the shredded brussels sprouts; the spinach with raisins and cashews was good but just okay. N got a plate of sweet breads and I got the pasta special and we shared everything. It was delicious but somewhat bittersweet because after the baby's born I'm cutting out all dairy, eggs, and nuts from my diet while I'm nursing and I'm really going to miss food like this.

About the movies: the first film was saw was Incendies which is nominated for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Based on a play by a well-known Lebanese-Canadian playwright, Wajdi Mouawad, the film opens with the reading of the unusual will of Nawal Marwan, a secretary of a Canadian notary. In her will Nawal's twin children Jeanne and Simon are charged with finding their father (whom they understood to be dead) and their brother (whom they didn't knew existed) and delivering sealed letters to them.

The film cuts between scenes of Nawal's life in an unspecified Middle Eastern country (Lebanon) as a civil war breaks out between Muslims and Christians and those of the twins traveling around their mother's homeland in the present day searching for their father and their brother.

The film is really great and was my favorite of the three things we saw this year. The director, Denis Villeneuve, does a great job conveying the sense of place that is so critical to the story. And he handles several big plot reveals with a light hand and allows the story to tell itself.

After the screening Villeneuve conducted an excellent Q&A and provided some thoughtful insights into the movie as well as patiently answered a few moronic questions from the audience. One tidbit was that for a while the studio wanted to release the movie with the title Scorch but then backed off once they realized it made the film seem like a B movie. For more details about the film see N's review here.

After Incendies we drove to the other end of downtown and saw Martha Marcy May Marlene. The movie rests on the shoulders of Elizabeth Olson (younger sister to Mary Kate and Ashley) and she carries it handily. Olson plays Martha, a young girl who falls in with a group of young people living commune-style on a farm in upstate New York. The group is headed by a older man who exercises absolute authority over everyone. The movie never uses the world "cult" but it becomes obvious that's what life on the farm is.

Soon into the film Martha runs away from the farm and seeks refuge with her estranged sister Lucy and Lucy's husband Paul. The rest of the movie cuts between Martha's life with the cult and her struggles to integrate into Lucy and Paul's upper-middle class life. The movie rides on Olson's ability to depict her character's inner turmoil without turning it into melodrama and I think she did a great job. It's especially impressive since it's one of her first feature films. For N's take on the movie see his review here.

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