Live From SXSW's Screening Room

SCREEN DOOR JESUS

D: Kirk Davis; with Buck Taylor, Myk Watford, Cynthia Dorn, Silvia Moore, Scarlett McAlister.

Narrative Feature Special Screenings

The imagery in Davis' adaptation of the eponymous Christopher Cook short-story collection pops off the screen as if superimposed, lush with purples and blues and greens, heavy-textured with summer rust and an oily East Texas sunshine. I suppose this could be the visual equivalent of Cook's prose, which, though quite melodic, can be daunting in its own rich density. While there's enough wooden acting here to notice -- which is enough to neutralize the magnificent interplay of Cook's characters -- Davis still manages to capture the stories' essence: The film is filled with race, religion, troubled love, coming of age, drugs, old-boy politics, humor, wrinkles in time, and symbolism overt and embedded. Screen Door Jesus revolves in several plot circles, but starts with Mother Harper (Dorn) seeing an image of Christ in her screen door while gardening. As believers mass upon Harper's home, turning the normally sleepy town into a holy mess, the lives of several residents tune into the weird waves in the air, and a previously country-mile-paced movie becomes an action-packed horseless wagon. Scores of Texas actors worked on this Lockhart- and Bastrop-filmed set, but the strongest performances are by C. Anthony Jackson as the star-crossed Collins and Cliff Stevens as the morally tortured bank president, George. (Paramount, 3/14, 11am)

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