Belated dispatches from the banks of the Red River. Just got back from SXSW, the first time I’ve been to the film component, now in its15th year. It was either 1992 or 1993 when I paid my first visit to Austin, home of the Charles Whitman Tower – that wacky college town immortalized in local hero Richard Linklater’s indie classics Slacker and Dazed and Confused –and the city that gave us Madonna’s pap smear, the Butthole Surfers and Daniel Johnston. Upon that inaugural trip, I was still a rock critic for a major daily newspaper, Beck was just launching his career, and Johnny Cash was making a comeback. My super-genius cultural prescience wasn’t exactly Nostradamus-like: When I met rock legend Kim Fowley, he introduced me to a wraith-like spindle of raw bones, black stringy hair and eyes as blank as the checks he would soon be able to cash. The next big thing, Kim gloated. I didn’t foresee Rock Future. I saw Gothic Loser. Good thing I’m not in showbiz. But I did shake hands with Marilyn Manson.

The Divine Mr. M is banging teen starlets these days. Yet, I had nothing to complain about. This week, my hostess was the mostest. And the festival was as good as promised. Just not the weather. Arriving a day early, we had naively assumed the Texas skies would brim with toasty goodness. Instead it was cold and nasty. A trip to Guero’s and the fab Yard Dog gallery was dampened by horizontal sheets of black freezing rain that turned a pair of mean-ass New Yorkers into soggy raindogs, scampering for a cab and whimpering in dismay. Went back to the sucky Marriott Courtyard and watched an AVI download of Irina Palm, a downbeat Cinderella story-of-sorts about a dowdy widower (Marianne Faithfull, more amazing through the years) who discovers a midlife aptitude at giving handjobs for hire. The scenario falls somewhere between Joe Orton and Mike Leigh, though lacking either’s acidic pep to punch through the dour, council-flat veneer the film insists on. Worth it for Marianne-with-the-not-so-shaky-hands, redeeming menopausal doldrums (and saving the life of her gravely ill grandson – movie-of-the-week style) via the glory hole, though I can see why it never got a US release. Perhaps someday on IFC or Sundance.


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