Originality and creativity is thriving in God's own country. Unfortunately, too few American indies make their way to Danish cinemas. In collaboration with Soundvenue we present the American indie series MADE INDIE USA - focusing on the American independent scene. Watch the latest from Debra Granik and Paul Dano, award winners from Sundance and South by Southwest and the latest from some of our favorites Joel Potrykus and Jim Hosking.
Dir. Paul Dano
The year is 1960 and Jeanette and Jerry (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal) are enjoying life as a young, polished middle-class couple with a clever son, who adores his parents. But nothing is ever perfect, and we learn that their life - the nuclear family - is a game for them, and it doesn't last long before too many after-work beers are drunk and affairs are had. Jeanette's character is written for Mulligan's breathtaking beauty: her schoolgirl appearance and her subsequent excesses when Jerry leaves her to drink beers and she throws herself into the arms of the first and best suitor. Paul Dano, who we best know from his roles in 'Little Miss Sunshine' and 'There Will Be Blood', tells his directing debut from the son's perspective, and this does not make the parents' downfall any easier to watch. The misery is made up for by a beautiful sensibility for the past, and Dano's debut in its best moments grows to Todd Haynesian heights.
Dir. Jim Hosking
Are you the kind of stick-in-the-mud person who hated Jim Hosking's debut 'The Greasy Strangler' (PIX 16), then beware of 'Beverly Luff Lynn'. Hosking has tuned down the genitals dipped in fat, but upped the budget and the pointless absurdities in a completely far-out detective-, revenge- and love story about the beautiful Lulu Danger, who has to go through so terribly much to make it to the eponymous show. Beverly, by the way, is a gigantic man, who has given up talking and now only grunts, and Lulu is accompanied by the assassin Colin, who is hunting Lulu's husband and falls head over heels in love with the blonde femme fatale. But the plot is the smallest bit in the parade of coarse incidents, musical timing and terrifically pointless jokes, which emphasise that Hosking is a worthy heir to John Waters. Join the cult.
Dir. Aneesh Chaganty
'Searching', the audience winner of Sundance, is not just this year's most inventive thriller. It is also one of the best. David's 16-year-old daughter has disappeared, and when the police investigations don't get anywhere, the desperate father hacks into her MacBook to look for traces. And from here on, the story gathers both shape and momentum. With David in front of the computer, the debut director Aneesh Chaganty tells a story almost exclusively through the screens that surround us: laptops, mobiles, TVs and surveillance cameras. But rather than locking the film into a static formal experiment, this provides a refreshing dynamic. 'Searching' is modern, inventive and highly exciting, with an effective plot that never loses its substance in its pursuit of digital footprints
Dir. Adam Christian Clark
The American filmmaker Adam Christian Clark has written, directed and played the lead role in this sharp noir comedy, which takes place in L.A.'s dating scene. Aston (Clark) is a sarcastic and self-obsessed film director, who is available again after breaking up with his Scientology girlfriend and her cultish family. But peace of mind and the comfort of a family home were not so bad after all. Clark is fearless and self-deprecating in the lead role, a bit like a young, unprincipled Woody Allen, who screws his way from one date to another and becomes increasingly cynical and coarse in the process. And yet, the director manages to give his character a sense of vulnerability and apologetic charm. We actually end up liking him - rude Aston - who hides his insecurity. And Clark, who exposes it fully.
Dir. Debra Granik
Debra Granik, who was behind the award-winning 'Winter's Bone', returns with an equally strong and haunting depiction of white poor America in 'Leave No Trace'. The widower and war veteran Will is hiding from the authorities and pretty much everyone else, together with his teenage daughter Thomasin, in a small national park outside Portland, where they collect rain water, pick mushrooms and try to make themselves as invisible as possible. His post-traumatic stress makes him avoid the outside world, while she is longing for it. On the surface, this seems like a simple dilemma, but in Granik's confident hands it is given an emotional depth and sincerity, which grows on us throughout the film. Will and Tom are brilliantly played by Ben Foster and 17-year-old Thomasin McKenzie, and the images are magical. The film is not in Danish distribution, so catch it here.
Dir. Jim Cummings
Jim Cummings has written, directed and played the lead role in 'Thunder Road', which looks like nothing else on the colourful American indie scene. It starts with a ten-minute funeral scene, where the police officer Jim (Cummings) tries to say a decent farewell to his late mother in a way that is so cringe-inducingly awkward and disarmingly honest, that we don't know whether to laugh at him or cry with him. And this precisely becomes the strong point in the story about this small town officer, who is struggling both with his loss, an ongoing divorce and his own unidentified social defects. Cummings is just as awesome in front of the camera as he is behind it, and 'Thunder Road', which won the main award at South by South West becomes something as rare as an honest comedy, which doesn't hide behind the laughter, but opens up with it.
Dir. Jordana Spiro
One of the finest surprises at Sundance this year was Jordana Spiro's story about 18-year-old Angel, who is kicked out of youth prison with a dead cell phone and bleak future prospects. She is back on the street, where she ended when her younger sister came into foster care, while their father - who murdered their mother - went free and started a whole new life. Convinced that she has nothing to lose, Angel sets out to find her father, avenge the injustice and put her mind at rest. Spiro, who is best known as an actor, among other things in the Netflix series 'Ozark', marks his debut as a director with a compelling drama, which digs deeper than most coming-of-age stories. And which with unsentimental sincerity and cinematic poetry shows us that hope and love exist even at the darkest of times.
Dir. Joel Potrykus
Joel Potrykus ('Buzzard' PIX 15, 'The Alchemist Cookbook' PIX 16) continues to undermine the American capitalist dream and pays homage to society's slackers. In his best - and most grotesque - film to date, the layabout Abbie is trapped on his couch in a basement flat, in his underpants, and plays PacMan. We are in 1999, shortly before the dreaded turn of the Millenium, and Abbie has accepted the ultimate challenge: not to get up from the couch before he has completed the cheese game's impossible level 256. Let's just say that he takes the challenge seriously. As hours turn into days - and weeks - he tugs at his joystick and battles with personal hygiene issues, unsympathetic friends, milk, rat poison and the impending Doomsday. The film is totally far out, and there is a reason why they handed out sick bags at American film festivals.
Dir. Josephine Decker
A cat in the body of a young woman, or vice versa? A teenager and her mother. A place between fiction and performance. Josephine Decker's film is made of different stuff than we usually see on the big screen, and 'Madeline's Madeline' is one step up, with Miranda July (The Future) and Molly Parker (House of Cards) in the lead roles. But the debutant Helena Howard steals the show with her performance. Madeline has difficulty adjusting, at least that's what her mother (July) thinks, and she is the first to remind her about how she should behave. And behaving like a cat is not exactly acceptable. When Madeline shares her personal story with her drama teacher, a somewhat eccentric modern dancer, the teacher sees a sellable idea and decides to dramatise it - including various details about both Madeline and her mother. Decker's metafilm is liberating, and the strong and progressive teenager, who is not in a hurry to lock herself down in a specific identity, is a pure revelation.
Dir. Chloé Zhao
Reality and western mythology are seamlessly fused in Chloé Zhao's 'The Rider', which depicts life at an Indian reservation in South Dakota. Here, the rodeo rider Brady packs carrier bags at a supermarket. Heading towards a promising career, he got seriously injured. Now, his life is at stake if he sits in the saddle again, but when horses and the arena mean everything for your life life, career and identity, this is hard to accept. With glowingly warm colours and elegant images, Zhao captures the dying western world, and with unsentimental empathy she draws an almost poetic portrait of Brady, who is forced to say farewell to it. The actors are all amateurs playing roles that are based on their own lives, and they do an fantastic job in this unique film, which has thrilled audiences in Cannes, Toronto, Sundance and Rotterdam.