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Solipsism has always been a big part of the Sundance identity. Just as Tarnation advanced the home-movie fixation of the previous year's Capturing the Friedmans, this year saw the autobiographical impulse of Jonathan Caouette's experiment extend quite profitably to the fiction films. Andrew Wagner's consciously mortifying The Talent Given Us is a road movie starring the filmmaker's nonactor parents and actor siblings—as themselves. Ira Sachs's study of competitive father-son resentments, Forty Shades of Blue, is based on the director's relationship with his dad. But the film that felt most like a psychotherapeutic breakthrough was The Squid and the Whale, which won Noah Baumbach the screenwriting and directing prizes. Drawing on his own teenage years, Baumbach stages scenes from a divorce as experienced by two young brothers from an artistic Park Slope family. (His parents are writer Jonathan Baumbach and former Voice film critic Georgia Brown.) Terrifically acted (especially by Jeff Daniels as the blustery patriarch), The Squid and the Whale nails the big emotions and petty details alike—the countless power struggles in the aftermath of separation, the disillusionment and helpless cruelty unique to parent-teenager interactions. It's a small tour de force of observational drama, at once moving and harrowing in its unembarrassed precision.


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