For Critic’s Notebook four films seen online from SXSW:
The Thief Collector which seems to say that you should think the worst of quirky eccentric people and doesn’t do much to clarify if it’s being serious.
To Leslie which unleashes Andrea Riseborough on an award-worthy part but also says that destitution is an individual mistake that you tackle by pulling yourself together. At this point it might take a small cultural revolution to produce a film able to get its head around a large societal revolution for characters like Leslie, but critics not melting into tears at the sight of individual agony in films paralleling the view of the average fiscal conservative could be a start.
The Cow which hinges on Winona Ryder feeling old and other people agreeing with her, which seems a stretch.
And Spin Me Round. From the people who brought you The Little Hours, which I liked fine, another Tuscan farce with characters you might want to shove into the Arno. Or darker than farce, since it has people convincing themselves of something parallel to one particular in-the-news alt-right conspiracy theory involving casual dining establishments, and leaves it up to you if the film is mocking the theory or the people. But most films wouldn’t go near either. One film magazine has sniffed at “a whimsical Muzak-esque score,” which means no one knows who Pino Donaggio is any more or detects what the result of hiring him might be.
The needle of the politic-o-meter settles over to the right in a couple of those, and Spin Me Round’s push-back is carefully ambiguous; but a festival that mints its own NFTs in a sponsored storefront won’t be the place to look for agitprop. Even so, The Thief Collector’s documentary wander into a tabloid frame of mind where eccentricity and Other-ness are to be distrusted seems pretty wayward. What is that mock poster up there doing exactly, by turning a pair of middle-aged teachers who aren’t here to speak for themselves into Ocean’s Two? Faced with long dead and totally inscrutable subjects, the film is so keen to cover all possible reasons to find them entertainingly suspicious that it ends up seeing if anyone’s got a spare murder lying around that it can use for the purpose.