Divinity screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and has that one-time Sundance icon and all-the-time rascal Steven Soderbergh among the producers plus a plot apparently improvised on the spot. A sign of the times that the end result is only a mild twist on the prevailing irony-pastiche you could have crafted with three scriptwriters and a producer credit for your dentist if you really wanted. There are sci-fi females and mutagenic pharmaceuticals and a plot about women’s reproductive rights being abused (or surrendered, a different barb entirely), and not so long ago stewing that lot in low-budget if not home-made atmospherics would have made it automatically subcultural while now it’s from pop-culture’s à la carte menu of sci-fi things to do. Some preening beefcakes recline in the grainy black-and-white frame, as if the film fancies a swing at Kenneth Anger’s sexy-death fetishisms but then comes over all coy. What could once have been called the exploitation sector still exists, but it doesn’t want to alarm anyone any more.
A bit more on Divinity for Sight and Sound.
Some other items from the Sundance Film Festival 2023:
Little Richard: I Am Everything aims to reclaim Richard Penniman as a black queer pioneer and by implication rock and roll as a thing coming from that point of the compass.
Sometimes I Think About Dying and The Pod Generation are well meaning fables about how the 21st Century treats women and are too mild-mannered about it.
Infinity Pool is much more madcap than Brandon Cronenberg’s last film Possessor and not as interesting, although if shades of Eli Roth and Hostel are going to start turning up in 2020s art then that says something about the current moment as well.
Shortcomings is another film taken from an Adrian Tomine comic after Paris, 13th District and scrupulously respectful of the source, including the bits about unlikeable characters with racial issues that might work better on the page as a character in your head than articulated by actors on screen.
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt is fiction in the form of poetry about Mississippi people and their Mississippi land, soothing and sad.
See also: On Possessor and the life of the mind
And: On the power of trash art and other sexy-death fetishisms the ones in Batman Versus Superman.