Screen by screenwest
This year’s South By Southwest film festival features winning movies in ‘Chef’, with Jon Favreau, Dustin Hoffman and Robert Downey jnr, ‘Frank’, with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson; Mike Myers’s ‘Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon’; and ‘The Legend of Shorty’, about the cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman
SXSW Film: Emjay Anthony and Jon Favreau in “Chef”
SXSW Film: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender and Domhnall Gleeson in “Frank”
SXSW Film: “Ping Pong Summer”
SXSW Film: Shep Gordon in “Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon”
SXSW Film: Blake DeLong in “Thank You a Lot”
The South By Southwest festival gets most attention for its musical and interactive components, but SXSW Film has been running in Austin since 1994, during which time it has established itself as a relaxed, down-home affair with a warm welcome for both film-makers and film fans.
This stands to reason when you consider the Texas capital’s rich legacy of independent film – and the fact that festival favourites such as Robert Rodriguez, Richard Linklater and Mike Judge call the city home. The festival may not have quite the industry buzz of Sundance or Toronto, but you’ll find a much better class of breakfast taco here.
Austin also has the Paramount. Although the city has about a dozen screens for the film festival, this 1,400-seat grand old theatre on Congress Avenue is its shabby-chic heart and soul. It’s where you’ll find the biggest draws, such as the opening-night film, Chef . It’s a good-natured charmer with Jon Favreau as Carl Caspar, a chef working a high-stress gig in a Los Angeles kitchen under the micromanaging eye of the owner, played by Dustin Hoffman.
After a blow-out with a restaurant reviewer, Caspar quits LA for Miami, where he launches a food truck and sells Cuban sandwiches. There’s a triumphant road trip from Miami back to LA via New Orleans and Austin – the hooting and hollering in the auditorium as familiar sights and people appear on screen nearly bring the house down – alongside a side dish of father-son bonding, a rejuvenated marriage and some great Twitter barbs.
Favreau, Hoffman and Robert Downey jnr all have great roles in Chef , but the real star is the food. It may well be the first film since Big Night that makes you leave the cinema with your stomach growling.
Austin and father-son bonding also feature in Thank You a Lot , Matt Muir’s film about a music manager who needs to land a new client, namely an old-school country singer and his estranged father, played by James Hand, in order to hold on to his job.
The film captures the endless drudgery of band management and promotion – a great scene involves an indie band doing a painful radio interview – and has poignant scenes between Hand, as himself, and Blake DeLong as his son and would-be manager.
Some of the scenes in Frank are also set in Austin, and at SXSW to boot. Lenny Abrahamson’s film may look at first blush as if it’s based on the late British musician Frank Sidebottom – the musician at the heart of the film is also called Frank and wears a gigantic fake head, à la Sidebottom – but this is more of a jumping-off point than a biopic.
Inspired by Jon Ronson’s article about his time as a musician in Sidebottom’s band, Frank is a tale about life inside a bubble inhabited by wild, unpredictable mavericks. Domhnall Gleeson is excellent as Jon Burroughs, a suburban dreamer who joins Frank’s band of outsiders and tries to bring his version of convention to bear on a very unconventional set of circumstances.