[Saturday: Leaves of Grass & Utopia]

* Leaves of Grass is the centerpiece film to the tribute to Edward Norton. Written & directed by Tim Blake Nelson, it’s… let’s see. A pot comedy slash Greek tragedy, maybe? But not a Greek tragedy on the level of Splice (THANK GOD.) Norton plays twins, one of whom is now a classics professor at Brown, while the other is a horticultural genius. No, really. The professor finds himself back in Oklahoma, for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture, and hijinks ensue. So to speak. I enjoyed it a lot, and hope it gets distribution soon.

Norton was present for a Q&A after, which was lovely. At the end of it he made a great statement about SIFF: that it was an important festival to support because it’s one of the last that’s actually *for* the audience, for the people living in the town rather than for industry. Which is what I’ve been saying for ages, so it’s nice to have it validated by someone who, you know, actually knows what they’re talking about.

* Utopia in Four Movements was an amazing experience, and I’m thankful to my friend for suggesting it. It’s part slideshow, part film, part lecture, & part concert, a performance piece with two directors (one queuing photos and video clips as well as narrating, and the other queuing music.) The content of it was fascinating; the movements as it were discussed the idea of utopia from the perspectives of the development of Esperanto, 20th century revolutionaries, consumer (but specifically shopping mall) culture, and forensic anthropology. No, really. It totally made sense. I can explain it to you sometime.

It achieved something else, though, which is the impossibility of discussing the film without discussing the form. During the Q&A portion after, a member of the audience suggested that she would have been fine just seeing it as a documentary, without the live bits, and I totally disagree. First off, it’s a piece always in flux (they made adjustments to it as late as 15 minutes before showtime), but also more importantly, live queues can be paced to the rhythm of an audience response, and the audience can connect with a live narrator in a different and more immediate way than with a disembodied voice over.

Furthermore, it brings the experience of the film back to what I’m always going on about: seeing something on the big screen, seeing it without distractions, and seeing it with an audience. You can’t watch a live documentary in one corner of your laptop while you organize your iTunes library in another. You have to be just as present as the filmmakers. It’s awesome. And, in its own way, it’s utopia.