By Joe Bendel. Travel is broadening – you can discover exotic new ways to get high. For an extraordinarily annoying American expat, Chile is all about one thing: San Pedro cactus. Chile is welcome to keep him. Still, he just might learn something from a hippy-dippy free spirit in Sebastián Silva’s Crystal Fairy, which screens during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in Park City.

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Did I mention how truly unpleasant it is to spend time with young Jamie? Well, it is. Nonetheless, three Chilean brothers befriend the self-centered, manic, immature drug-vacuum. They are about to embark on a little Fear-and-Loathing road trip in search of some of that increasingly rare cactus to boil up and ingest on the beach. However, Jamie complicates matters when he invites along wild child Crystal Fairy. He will regret the overture as soon as he comes down from his coke bender. While the brothers three try to make the best of it, Jamie acts like a complete jerkweed around his fellow American. Yet somehow, there might be a thimble-full of redemption lurking in the third act.

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While Michael Cera still looks like a moppet, he is so convincingly irritating, it is rather amazing his management signed off on this Chilean escapade. Were it not for the climatic emotional pay-off Silva handles with remarkable sensitivity, Crystal might sour viewers on Cera indefinitely.

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Between Crystal Fairy and his class conscious The Maid, Silva is beginning to emerge as the maestro of the awkward situation. He is also clearly willing to present his cast in a profoundly unflattering light. Indeed, Jamie dubs Gaby Hoffman’s character “Crystal Hairy” for reasons that are vividly and repeatedly established. The obvious exceptions are his three real life brothers, Agustín, José Miguel, and Juan Andrés – who all come across as decent chaps with sufficient hygiene.

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Essentially, Crystal Fairy shows the dark side of the kooky, quirky characters that typically inhabit indie films. Frankly, it is sort of a corrective to many other films that will play in Park City over the coming week, reminding viewers there are often rather unfortunate reasons behind eccentric behavior. That is not nothing, but Silva forces the audience to sit through a lot of noise before it starts to get real. Only recommended for viewers with little fondness for precious-sized indies or Cera, Crystal Fairy screens today (1/18), Wednesday (1/23), and Friday (1/25) in Park City, today (1/18) in Salt Lake, and tomorrow (1/19) in Ogden, as a World Cinema Dramatic Competition selection at this year’s Sundance.

LFM GRADE: C+

Posted on January 18th, 2012 at 8:33am.

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By Joe Bendel. There are plenty of fantastical happenings in this girls’ finishing school, but it certainly is no Hogwarts. Clémence Poésy’s Harry Potter fans will not know what to make of it. Part fashion show, part art installation, but entirely experimental cinema, Athina Rachel Tsangari’s The Capsule screens as part of the New Frontiers Shorts Program at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Six young women have arrived in mysterious ways at an ancient coastal villa for metaphysical instructions on becoming women. This naturally includes music classes and lessons on how to look elegant while walking your goat. Narrative is decidedly slippery here, but it is definitely inspired by Sisyphus, Prometheus, and Sappho, as well as the art of co-writer Aleksandra Waliszewska.

For part-time cover-waif Poésy and her co-stars, The Capsule is as much a modeling assignment as it is an acting gig. The costumes by leading designers, including the only mildly fetishistic school uniforms, are quite striking, but the faded glory of the villa and exotic surrounding environs are Capsule’s strongest asset. However, the super-imposed animation would not have cut it on MTV’s Liquid Television back in the day.

Expressly intended for adventurous viewers, the thirty-five minute Capsule is nonetheless unusually stylish by experimental standards. Cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis gives it all a cool, glossy sheen appropriate to its neo-gothic austerity. Recommended for New Frontiers track veterans and uncommonly hardy fashonistas, The Capsule screens as part the NF shorts block at this year’s Sundance.

Posted on January 18th, 2012 at 8:32am.

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