Friday, February 02, 2007


Sundance 07: No Escaping the ‘Hounddog'

The main press-screening venue at Sundance, the locale for many films in dramatic competition, is a Yarrow Hotel ballroom converted into a cinema via office chairs on risers, a temporary screen and a four-walled projector. The location is dead-on convenient; smack in the middle of Park City, just across the parking lot from the main supermarket.
In terms of a quality viewing experience, the Yarrow 1 is roughhewn at best (Its down-the-hall counterpart, the Yarrow 2 is the same set up only smaller).
When crowded, it’s hard to get up and leave due to plastic fencing along both edges. It’s a fact worth remembering when measuring the disastrous press reception to Deborah Kampmeier’s overboard, Southern gothic “Hounddog.”
I’m not going to go into detail about my reasons for disliking “Hounddog,” the story of Lewellen (Dakota Fanning), a young girl in 1950s rural Alabama who lives something of a miserable life with her lecherous father (David Morse) and bible-thumping granny (Piper Laurie). For that, you can read my “indieWire” review at What I want to focus on via my blog is the painful efforts critics made in order to leave the “Hounddog” screening early. For me, that speaks volumes about Kampmeier’s disastrous film.
“Hounddog” may only be 98 minutes in length but many audience members decided by its midway point that they had watched enough. There were plenty of choices for fed-up moments: lightning striking Lewellen’s daddy, her granny waving a shotgun or an army of snakes slithering through her window.
Sitting alongside James Mottram, covering Sundance for UK’s “Independent” newspaper, I watched numerous people attempt to climb over the fence in order to get out of the screening. There wasn’t much time left to the movie but that didn’t matter. They just had to get out, even if that meant falling over the fence and landing on their ass.
“There’s no escaping the “Hounddog!”” I yelled to the escaping critics. Sure, they avoided watching more of “Hounddog” but the memory of the film has stuck to them like the stink of road kill on a hot summer drive. That's something we all shared, early exits or not.

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