The Austin Chronicle

Page Two

By Louis Black, March 8, 2002, Columns

Peter Bogdanovich and John Sayles both epitomize the essence of SXSW, so it is appropriate they both have films helping to kick off the event. Equally important are the not-so-famous filmmakers who have work showing. SXSW, in all its manifestations, is about creative control, personal vision with an awareness of commercial reality. It's important not only to make great works but to have the work reach its audience as well. Just as appropriate is the screening of Lloyd Kaufman's Citizen Toxie at midnight, Friday, March 8, the opening night of SXSW 2002. A truly renegade filmmaker, Kaufman reminds us how crucial humor is to vision.

Bogdanovich offers the regional premiere of The Cat's Meow at 6pm on Friday at the Paramount. Beautifully cast, the film relates the still-unsolved murder on William Randolph Hearst's yacht. If Bogdanovich had just stuck to one of his many careers -- actor (currently with a recurring role on The Sopranos), film historian, scriptwriter, or director -- he would still be famous. He has done them all. The director of The Last Picture Show comes back to Texas with his new film. The Cat's Meow is added to a filmography that includes Paper Moon, What's Up, Doc?, Nickelodeon, Saint Jack, Mask, and They All Laughed.

Sayles is arguably the father of modern independent film. In many ways, Return of the Secaucus 7 started it all. Sayles is also a multitalent. A writer who began making films, he has evolved into a consummate filmmaker. Sayles with his partner and producer Maggie Renzi present Lianna Friday, March 8, at 5:45pm, at the Austin Convention Center theatre. Lianna, perhaps the least seen of Sayles' works, is one of the first general-audience films about lesbians, treating them not as an erotic sideshow but as everyday people with everyday problems. It is a groundbreaking work, especially in that it is so normal and restrained in the world it portrays. It is a love story more than anything else. Sayles and Renzi are here as part of a retrospective re-release of some of their earliest works, including Return of the Secaucus 7, Lianna, The Brother From Another Planet, and Matewan. They'll do the Q & A before the film to set the context, so get there early

A truly gonzo talent, Lloyd Kaufman is another independent visionary. His films always look like the cast and crew had as much fun making them as audience does watching them. This is manic stuff; with no budgets and tongue mostly in cheek, they broadside current generic innovations with a remarkable cheerfulness and a deep perversity.

But it's the filmmakers, musicians, webmasters, visionaries that you've never heard of that really define SXSW. Some of our staff argued we should put Alexandra Pelosi's Journeys With George on the cover. Here is a film that came through the normal submission process. The SXSW staff fell so in love with it they decided to show it at the Paramount on Friday, the kickoff night. Since then, the rest of the country has discovered the film, with stories in everything from Time and Newsweek to the L.A. Times and The Weekly Standard. Staff argued that we should celebrate Pelosi to honor all the unknown and lesser-known filmmakers who are the heart and soul of the event. It was tempting, but the honor of Austin hosting the world premiere of a new film by native son Guillermo del Toro was irresistible.

So it's here. SXSW 2002 -- 10 days of film, music, new media. Dozens of films, hundreds of bands, and creative talents are everywhere. This issue is loaded with information about SXSW 2002. Remember this event is for you and defined by you: Buy a Film Pass, a wristband, or a single admission, but go. Austin audiences are the miracle that makes SXSW possible.

Unfortunately, because this is such a loaded period of time, I don't have the leisure to really celebrate the extraordinary filmmaking talents of Guillermo del Toro. We all know that there are certain talents we connect with in undeniably intrinsic ways. We like their worst work better than other people's best. Yet it is hard to find the words to describe our feelings; they are emotional and spiritual, visual and subliminal, as much as cognitive. I feel that way about del Toro. Blade 2, which has its world premiere Saturday, March 16, at the Paramount, is only his fourth film, yet it is obvious to most that we are dealing with a world-class talent here, a cinematic poet whose works are always more than the sum of their parts. Getting to offer the world premiere of a del Toro film at the Paramount is very exciting.

The best part of being involved with SXSW is getting to put it on. This is shaping up to be a very memorable SXSW. The next 10 days should offer a cornucopia of fun -- indulge, enjoy. SXSW 2002 wristbands are still on sale at all Star Tickets outlets and Film Passes are on sale at Waterloo Video.

The Austin Chronicle presents the Austin Music Awards Wednesday, March 13, 2002, at the Austin Music Hall, starting at 7:55pm sharp! The official kickoff of the SXSW 2002 Music Festival (though there are shows at dozens of clubs that night) celebrates you. It is not about critics' opinions or dilettantes' affections. It is about the choices you, the Austin music lover, make. The show this year is shaping up to be especially great. There are a very limited number of Austin Music Awards Show tickets on sale at all Star Tickets outlets. Emceed by Paul Ray, the lineup includes teenage wonders the Snobs, female supergroup Supergirls, Sixpence None the Richer, Spoon, and a special tribute to Champ Hood featuring Toni Price, Warren Hood, and the South Austin Jug Band. The show honors Ray Benson, who is not simply a great performer, a crucial nurturer of talent, and a very involved citizen of Austin, but a really great person. The show will feature Ray and Asleep at the Wheel with special guests including Jimmie Vaughan and Johnny Gimble. Expect other surprise guests during the show. Remember SXSW Music wristbands get you into the Music Awards, space permitting.

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