Photography: SXSW

Neil Young stars in “Paradox,” an eccentric neo-western set to premiere in March at the Austin-based event.

We’re less than one month away from the annual SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, so we’re already scanning the schedule to see what programmed movies may be of special interest to C&I readers. And we have to admit, one title is a standout: Paradox, an eccentric neo-western directed by Daryl Hannah, starring Neil Young (pictured above). Also along for the ride: Willie Nelson, his sons Micah and Lukas Nelson, and members of Lukas’ band Promise of the Real.

The official plot synopsis: “Time is fluid in this far-fetched, whimsical western tale of music and love. Somewhere in the future past, The Man in the Black Hat hides out between heists at an old stagecoach stop with Jail Time, the Particle Kid, and an odd band of outlaws. Mining the detritus of past civilizations, they wait ... for the Silver Eagle, for the womenfolk, and for the full moon’s magic to give rise to the music and make the spirits fly.”


Other movies we’ll be looking forward to at the March 9 – 17 SXSW Film Festival:


The multitalented Ethan Hawke directed this biopic, which, according to SXSW, is “inspired by the life of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas outlaw music movement that spawned the likes of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. The film weaves together three different periods of time, braiding re-imagined versions of Blaze’s past, present and future. The different strands explore his love affair with Sybil Rosen; his last, dark night on earth; and the impact of his songs and his death had on his fans, friends, and foes. The braided storyline terminates in a bittersweet ending that acknowledges Blaze's profound highs and lows, as well as the impressions he made on the people who shared his journey.” Newcomer Benjamin Dickey plays Foley, and the costars include Steve Zahn and Oscar nominee Sam Rockwell.

The Rider

Since premiering last year at Cannes, director Chloé Zhao’s audacious mashup of drama and documentary — in which her actors portray slightly fictionalized versions of themselves — has appeared at the Toronto and Sundance festivals, and earned four Film Independent Spirit Award nominations. The SXSW catalog blurb: “After a tragic riding accident, young cowboy Brady (Brady Jandreau), once a rising star of the rodeo circuit, is warned that his competition days are over. Back home, Brady finds himself wondering what he has to live for when he can no longer do what gives him a sense of purpose: to ride and compete. In an attempt to regain control of his fate, Brady undertakes a search for new identity and tries to redefine his idea of what it means to be a man in the heartland of America.”


Reading about this not-quite-serious, not-entirely-spoofy concoction by sibling filmmakers David and Nathan Zellner (Kumiko the Treasure Hunter) reminds us of the advertising tagline for the 1970 Frank Sinatra comedy Dirty Dingus Magee: “It’s Kind Of A Western. He’s Sort Of A Cowboy.” SXSW promises: “It’s the age of The Wild West, circa 1870. An affluent pioneer, Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson) ventures deep into the American wilderness to reunite with and marry the love of his life, Penelope (Mia Wasikowska). For his journey he brings Butterscotch, a miniature horse intended as a wedding present for his bride, and enlists drunkard Parson Henry (David Zellner) to conduct the ceremony. As they traverse the lawless frontier their once simple journey grows treacherous, and the lines between hero, villain, and damsel are blurred.” And, yes, that is the same Robert Pattinson who went all twinkly on us as a vampire in the Twilight movie franchise.

Lean on Pete

Indie movie stalwarts Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny and Steve Zahn loom large in what’s decribed as a modern-day western about a 15-year-old lost soul (Charlie Plummer) who’s determined to save a racehorse on his last legs. This trailer should give you a good idea what it’s all about.


For more on the SXSW Film Festival, visit the event’s website.