The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael
is absolutely horrifying. Loaded with easy cynicism and even easier sadism, it's a beautifully orchestrated, ideological disaster that shoots for social commentary but settles for lowest-blow shock. From what I can tell, the film premiered at Cannes in 2005 and has been making the rounds of European film festivals ever since – making its inclusion in the Narrative Competition here somewhat curious. 25-year-old first-time writer-director Thomas Clay was scheduled to make an appearance at last night's Austin premiere, but failed to show – a bizarre move for a filmmaker seemingly so desperate to confront is audience.