If you missed kART Across America at the Denver Starz Film Festival, the time you have left to see it on the big screen is limited. So if you can avoid your holiday plans for one more day, see it tonight. The film, directed by Denver natives and thoughtful funny men Andy Raner and Jeremy Make, concentrates the concept of personal art -- and the quest behind it -- into an 83-minute odyssey predicated on a disastrous, ridiculous and surprisingly successful gimmick: a golf kart named Christine, in which they spent 100 days traveling the United States in in 2008.
In Christine, the two twenty-somethings sing Ben Harper, sit incredibly close together and occasionally go shirtless on a journey Westword touched on with a preview this morning. If you read that, you learned more about them than you will in the film, which often veers away from personal insight in an attempt to explore the general. Although it details the inspiration for the film's central question, "What is your art?," it provides little evidence as to why its filmmakers are inspired by the issue or how they decided to travel the country in a POS peppering strangers with that very question.
As a result, their own answers, combined with the decision to remove themselves from much of the film's context, feels too safe, too comfortable from a film roughly three-and-a-half years in the brainstorming process before production. But given an insightful film with few other holes to mention, the loss is minimal. If you'd like to know more about Raney and Make's intentions or creative process, you can simply read or listen to one of the bevy of interviews they've tackled on the subject. As Pulitzer-winning, hearing-aid-wearing playwright Edward Albee lectures the two on camera, "Nobody wants to talk about that shit if they're any good."
Albee, whose time onscreen presents him as a scary, scary human being, also insists he doesn't wear underwear, which is another level of intimacy he gains on his interviewers by the end of the film. The point here, however, is that Make and Raney betray a stunning knack for capturing the meaningful minutia, even in a film they tailored to avoid running a second overlong. Had they chosen only obvious artists, for example, they would have avoided much of the depth that comes from witnessing a female blacksmith's self-awareness or a city employee's realization that the hot rods he builds are a form of art. The mildly terrifying section on a crotchety Albee, for instance, is so fascinating it could have merited an entire documentary alone, and his famous name is the only quality that distinguishes the value of his commentary from the rest.
Throughout a score of artists, some of whom would not even know to apply the title inward, Make and Raney navigate the personal meaning of art with a cinematic voice that is humorous, insightful and distinctly faithful to their subjects. During 100 days of travel, Christine breaks down what appears to be at least 100 times, it rains, Make reunites with his estranged mother, both men are berated by Albee, and lots of other things happen, sure, but the film's worth is rooted firmly in moments, not in scenes. Every answer the directors uncover, even those that can only be called answers on a technical level, is an addition to a moving and earnest search that should leave you with, if not your own answer, at least your own guess.
kART Across America debuts at the Mayan Theatre, 110 Broadway, at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Tickets cost $10.
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