Reviewed (sort of) at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.
Sometimes the movie gods smile upon you, though Sebastian Guitierrez probably wasn’t feeling that way during the SXSW premiere of “Elektra Luxx.” Roughly an hour and ten minutes into the sequel to last year’s crowdpleaser “Women in Trouble,” you could hear the voices of Marley Shelton and Carla Gugino scheming again. The only problem was you couldn’t see them. As a panicked Gutierrez and others retreated to the back of the Paramount Theater to find out what was wrong, the film continued to play — audio only — and the murmurs began to rustle through the crowd. Soon enough, the lights went up at the Paramount and after people began biding the time by talking about the musical number Gugino had just finished in the film or having their picture taken with a captive Malin Akerman, who hadn’t yet actually shown up in the film yet, Gutierrez valiantly took to the stage to apologize for the projection problem.
This would be the moment at most screenings where people would be leaving the theater, but only a few of the 1000-plus that were at the packed Paramount did so. Instead, Gutierrez started a self-effacing mile-a-minute ramble about everything from why Akerman hadn’t appeared in the movie (“there was no film in the camera”) to asking if there was anyone from Canon
Canadians in the crowd who could lend him a 7D hi-def camera for his next film. Well, actually the one after his next film, which would be “Girl Walks Into a Bar,” what he claimed was the first film with a cast of notable stars including Rosario Dawson, Zachary Quinto and Robert Forster that will premiere directly online on Hulu and YouTube. (The film, much like the anthology style of “Women in Trouble,” was shot in 11 days and features 10 interconnected vignettes set in a bar.) Although Gutierrez admitted he couldn’t juggle or tap dance — though he did do a little soft shoe — the rapt audience was glued to their seats.
And none of it could’ve happened if “Elektra Luxx” wasn’t something worthwhile and the audience wasn’t as invested in it as the actresses involved were. The cast joined Gutierrez onstage for an impromptu Q & A slightly after SXSW Film chief Janet Pierson breathlessly stepped up to tell the audience that the projector was being looked at and compared the experience to a San Francisco Film Festival screening of “She’s Gotta Have It” where she killed 45 minutes with Spike Lee until the film came back up. Gutierrez’s film never did and ultimately Pierson told the audience to keep an eye on Twitter and the SXSW web site for a makeup screening.
And expect many to return. Like its predecessor, “Elektra Luxx” is incredibly uneven since it seems like it comes directly from Gutierrez’s subconscious, full of wild diversions (like I said, there’s a musical number that comes out of nowhere), clever and not-so-clever double entendres and sexual fantasies (including an extended lap dance by Chriqui, who grinds on co-star Adrianne Palicki) in a tangled set of stories that extend “Women in Trouble”‘s narrative further into the complicated lives of the retired porn star Luxx (Gugino), her old co-star (Palicki) with longings for her best friend (Chriqui) and the low-rent online porn critic (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who reviews it all.
I can’t speak for Akerman, but even though this is an ensemble effort, Gugino understands that its her character’s name in the title and steals the film with an incredibly confident performance that truly becomes a revelation when she has to appear in a dual role as Luxx’s incarcerated twin sister. For those who weren’t able to see Gugino on Broadway in a 2009 production of “Under the Elms,” one is reminded again of her range as she is alternatingly vulnerable, tough, funny and heartbreaking during one five-minute scene in which she occupies by sides of a table during a prison visit. It was the highlight of the film for me, but not the highlight of the evening. That would have to be seeing the passion of Gutierrez in not letting the ship go down and in turn, leaving the rest of the audience buoyant as they left the theater.
“Elektra Luxx” currently has no U.S. distribution.
[Photos: Carla Gugino in “Elektra Luxx,” Gato Negro Films, 2010; SXSW photo taken by Stephen Saito]