Sundance Film Festival: ‘Freaky Nights’ Is the Hot Ticket

Sundance Film Festival: ‘Freaky Nights’ Is the Hot Ticket

The third wild film I saw at the Eccles on Friday was “Sasquatch Sunset,” a wordless comedy that follows a quartet of grunting Bigfoots as they trek through the forest for a year. Two of the Sasquatches are played, under heavy prosthetics, by Riley Keough and Jesse Eisenberg, though you’d never know it was them unless you were told beforehand. (Well, maybe some people could clock Eisenberg as the most high-strung Bigfoot, if forced to grade these performances on a sliding sasquatch scale.)

What starts off as slapstick becomes weirdly moving as we watch some of the sasquatches succumb to natural disasters. Keough, in particular, proved able to project all manner of feeling through her character’s seemingly blank stare, though she said it took some time to learn how to act under all those prosthetics, since certain facial muscles don’t move how you’d think.

“It’s like Botox,” Keough joked.

Hello from the Sundance Film Festival in frigid Park City, Utah, where your faithful Projectionist will spend the next week answering important questions like: Are we about to discover the next great filmmaker? Is it possible to look chic in a puffer jacket? And wait, there’s a Neon party tonight? Why didn’t I get an invite?

The festival is celebrating its 40th edition this year, but it’s a Hollywood 40, meaning some effective nips and tucks have kept Sundance seeming fresh and vital even as the industry it’s a part of has changed considerably. In the ’90s, every independent filmmaker dreamed of launching their career at this festival as the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Steven Soderbergh had. Now, with the independent-film market in a precarious position, talent comes to Sundance to schmooze and say, “What I’d really like to do is make a limited series.”

And hey, the festival programs those now, alongside the documentaries, shorts and narrative films that remain Sundance’s bread and butter. Some movies have premises so outrageous that you could only find them here: In “Love Me,” Kristen Stewart and Steven Yeun play a buoy and satellite who fall in love, while “Sasquatch Sunset” casts Jesse Eisenberg and Riley Keough as an unrecognizable pair of Bigfoots and, I’m told, plays things utterly straight.

Other movies evoke past Sundance classics. On Thursday, I watched “Ghostlight,” about a troubled family that finds solace by staging Shakespeare: It reminded me of the Sundance hit “CODA,” down to the third-act performance that had audiences weeping. Then I booked it to the documentary “Girls State,” a distaff sequel to Apple TV’s 2020 Sundance pickup “Boys State.” The new one follows hundreds of teenage girls as they try to craft a mock government.

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