Sundance 2011: Sexytime in Park City


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The first Friday of the Sundance Film Festival is typically party time, the most Bacchanalian night in Park City. And to judge by the glamazons packed into Main Street’s exclusive Bing Bar -- young women teetering atop stiletto heels, wearing thigh-high boots, micro miniskirts and hosiery with visible garter belts -- it was also, as Borat would say, sexytime: a massing of would-be Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians, hoochie mamas with barely there outfits in strict defiance of the 9-degree cold.

The place was jammed for a midnight performance by Grammy-nominated soul chanteuse Janelle Monae. But if you ignored the North Face parkas piled in various corners and the occasional muffler, Bing Bar more resembled some Manhattan club or Sunset Strip boite -– maybe a disco party at Brett Ratner’s house –- than any kind of celebration honoring independent cinema.


Meanwhile, farther up Main Street, a sardine-packed crowd smushed into a subterranean space to chug free Crystal Skull vodka at Sotheby’s Chefdance party for Oscar host/graduate student/actor James Franco’s art installation “Three’s Company: The Drama” -– a jokey riff on the beloved ‘70s sitcom on exhibit at Sundance’s New Frontiers venue. They hobnobbed with the likes of actress Eliza Dushku, former Laker Rick Fox and Franco frère Davey Franco, secure in the knowledge they were attending the Most Happening Event in Town.

James Franco, meanwhile, confused and amused by appearing in various wigs, one a long blonde number (in homage to “Three’s Company” star Suzanne Somers) and another shorter auburn-colored one (a guest was overheard wondering whether the actor was trying to channel Don Knotts’ inimitable Mr. Furley) before getting onstage, a la hip hop fauteur Joaquin Phoenix, to rap-sing a song called “Chewing Gum” with performance artist Kalup Linzy. It included such choice lyrics as “You’re just a [expletive], you hot mess!”

Back at Bing Bar, at an event billed as an afterparty for the festival selection “The Ledge,” Monae took the small stage about 12:15 a.m. accompanied by an extremely tight five-piece backing band.

The eccentric singer was resplendent sporting her signature pompadour hairstyle, wearing a tuxedo shirt, bow tie and hip-hugging silk trousers. Her most upbeat songs manage to channel Cole Porter, Xavier Cugat and Jimi Hendrix in equal measure. But over the course of her short set, Monae brought no small amount of visual spectacle, donning a dainty bank robber mask at one point and joined on stage by dancers wearing ghost masks and black hoodies. Famous people including Susan Sarandon and Liv Tyler were seen conspicuously rocking out.

“It’s really strange that this is at Sundance,” commented Brinda Krishnan, a doctor-musician who has attended the festival for the last three years. “But nonetheless cool.”

-- Chris Lee