When in Marfa ... do as the Marfans do?
I drove out to Marfa, TX for the first time a couple of weeks ago. How deeply embarrassing is it that I didn't make it to one art gallery? (Kind of incredible, really, considering I'm not sure there's one building in that town without "Judd" stamped on it.) (Donald, that is.)
So why was I out there, if not for contemporary art? Good question: I made the almost-six-hour trek to attend the inaugural Marfa Film Festival, a five-day event founded by San Antonio transplant Robin Lambaria and her fiancé, filmmaker Cory Van Dyke. (Incidentally, I did, at least, see Rainer Judd's excellent autobiographical short film, Remember Back, Remember When.)
Marfa itself is without a technical movie theater, so the local theatre venue, the vaguely Alamo-reminiscent Goode-Crowley building served as the main screening space. (Recently-released-on-DVD flicks are shown at the town library. I know: I stayed with the super-interesting, super-sweet guy who runs the program.) Most of the films were shorts and docs; at night the Alamo Drafthouse lent its giant, inflatable Rolling Roadshow screen for outdoor screenings of classics like Night of the Hunter.
The entire weekend was surreal, and honestly it was difficult to separate my "new town" experience from my film fest experience, and so my coverage in the Current ran a little like a travel article. I ran on about the charming Brown Recluse, but neglected to mention the Marfa Book Company, where I spent less time but over whose gorgeous volumes I lusted at length during one afternoon. So many art books, so many screenings to make.
The most surreal event was the MFF's showing of There Will Be Blood on the inflatable screen on the still-standing set. As I expressed in the Current, I struggle with that film: Does it make sense structurally? Tonally? Is there any emotional core, and if not, is it one of those cases where its absence is excusable, even necessary? Why is it when P.T.A. makes a distinctly non-P.T.A. movie, the critics love him? I tend to be of one mind with Nathan Lee when it comes to heaping praise on the dead, and movies that recall too closely their dead forebears. To crudely paraphrase, is like: OK, we've done these old movies -- can we do something new? When in comes to TWBB, I just keep feeling like, Huston and Kubrick did their thing. What's next?
But under the incredibly clear and bright nighttime sky in Marfa, with 300ish others, settled between Little Boston and the Train depot, I appreciated TWBB in a way my two previous viewings hadn't allowed. Methinks it was the meta. (And the margarita. Fine.)
The festival programmer told me they hope to have three daytime screening venues for next year, and with King Airways planning to make a stop in the Marfa area, I imagine more folks from all over Texas will make the MFF a must in the future. I'm sure gonna try.
Bloggers We Love
Bridgette Redman and Lansing Theater
Drew McManus' "Neo Classical" at the Partial Observer
Marc Moss (Missoula, MT artist)
Mary Louise Schumacher's "Art City"
Other Great Sites
American Composers Orchestra
Arts & Letters Daily
Center for Arts and Culture
Cultural Policy and the Arts National Data Archive
National Arts Journalism Program
NEA Arts Journalism Institute for Dance Criticism
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Classical Music and Opera
NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater & Musical Theater
New Music Box: American Music Center
USC Annenberg/Getty Arts Journalism Program