08.10.2010 – Day One – All Farewells Should Be Sudden
“That’s it! I finished. No more. Two weeks and I go to Argentina. I finish in Sitges.”
Though we hear it every year, it was not what we wanted to hear. Our first night at the festival and Hernan tells us he’s finished with the bar. He’s been threatening it for the last four years but this time it was for real. We set about making hay while the sun was shining and dropped into the first of many.
Cut-to: Ext. Random side street. Early hours of the morning.
Two hobos stagger across cobblestones like extras from a George A Romero movie.
We like to keep it old school at Corridorstyle and Sitges wouldn’t be Sitges if we didn’t start the festival with the mother of all hangovers. Box ticked.
Our film schedule had us pencilled in for THE EXORCIST at midday but the previous night’s high jinks, coupled with Shaun’s neglect for the hour time difference, meant a last minute adjustment saw us instead heading for Mexican cannibal flick SOMOS LO QUE HAY
AUDITORI – 14:30hrs – SOMOS LO QUE HAY
“I’ll take my whore medium rare.”
This Mexican production from first time feature director Jorge Michel Grau takes us inside the home of a Mexican family who adhere to a bizarre ritual which requires human sacrifices to fulfil their cannibalistic side of the ritual bargain.
With this unpalatable story played out between only a handful of actors moving through limited environments, these two elements of the film had to be chosen with care. The production design certainly hit the mark with the family home crammed full of nondescript boxes and jars filled with things we probably don’t want to know about. Every wall covered with hundreds of ticking clocks to fill our sound as well as sight.
The actors too were well cast, in particular Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) who is forced to take charge of the family’s fortunes and overcome the challenges that would present themselves as the outside world sought to break them and their ritual apart.
Ultimately, the story lacked any real depth to hold our interest and the brief forays beyond the family’s four walls to follow the hunt for sacrifices, or the police’s endeavours to track down the hunters, seemingly served merely as an opportunity for the filmmakers to take a swipe at some of Mexico’s social issues, rather than moving the story forward.
It split the CS team opinion somewhat but the general consensus was this fell short of the mark.
……..to make up for our poor start to the day our schedule now had us in back-to-back Auditori mode as we were straight in to our second film of the day….
AUDITORI – 16:30hrs – CONFESSIONS
“Confess and all will be forgiven….Just kidding.”
Fukuoka, one of Japan’s more interesting filmmakers draws us slowly and beautifully into this tale of revenge. One woman’s quest to even the score over the murder of her daughter sets off a chain of events where deep rooted tensions explode spectacularly to the surface.
While adults and children alike turn in excellent performances it’s Fukuoka who steals the show. Beautifully exposing every twist and turn of a plot which overlaps and turns back on itself as one confession leads to another. The slow motion sequences may have been slightly overused but by matching powerful music to the images the audience is treated to a sensory delight.
Just at the point where you think all has been revealed you realise you have only arrived at the beginning of a story that then keeps the hits coming to the very end.
A unanimous and enthusiastic back slap from Corridorstyle. Highly recommended.
……after a burst of necessary business at the festival’s press HQ it was a downhill saunter back into town for our next screening.
THE PRADO – 19:15hrs – LIFE 2.0
“It’s like the real world only without the bad hair days.”
New York Jack of all trades Jason Spingarn-koff brings all his filmmaker talents to this interesting documentary on the virtual second life phenomenon. An online “game” with small beginnings that has mushroomed in recent years as individuals seek to escape to a more fulfilling life. And the more that sign up, the deeper down the rabbit hole we go.
The Corridorstyle team were a little clueless on the virtual world that is Second Life so the documentary’s subject held some interest from the get go, however, it was the filmmaker’s choice to focus on three distinct inhabitants of this world that gave the doc it’s hook.
As much a study of a persons search for that which they have not, that something lacking in their everyday existence, Life 2.0 takes us into a world where that quest is made easier as reality is only limited by the imagination of the co-creators of the world they inhabit.
Team CS award a million Linden Dollars to Life 2.0
…..it was time to reacquaint ourselves with El Cable and an old friend. 12 monkeys graced the tivo while talk turned to the merits of a virtual life over the real deal.
PRADO – 23:00hrs – CATFISH
“It’s the catfish of life that keep us on our toes.”
This first feature from friends and collaborators Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost documents a friendship which develops between Schulman’s brother Nev and Abby, an eight year old girl who contacts Nev via Facebook to ask whether she could make a painting of one of his photographs. As the friendship blossoms and Nev finds out more about his long distance paint-pal things start to take a turn for the weird.
We followed the marketing advice and avoided reading too much about the story beforehand. Whatever expectations we’d developed were not what we got with CATFISH. Nev and the two documentarians are engaging from the start and we immediately fall into line with their curiosity and way of thinking as they try to uncover a possible ulterior motive for Abby’s communications.
We were waiting for a Sitges style twist, complete with customary blood and guts, but were instead presented with a twist derived from the titular Catfish tale. This was an accomplished and entertaining take on a touching story of human interaction and how social networking has allowed those looking for interaction to reach out that little bit further. Friend requests are on there way to Schulman and Joost.
….. Day one drew to a close and we reflected on what was a great start to the festival. The Japanese had taken an early lead but documentaries were hard on their heels. Team Corridorstyle hadn’t covered themselves in glory at the start but a solid recovery had seen them tackle the four-filmer with aplomb. And we still had time to thoroughly explore such burning issues as; who was the first person to put ham and cheese together in a sandwich?; why it is that humans don’t develop knee caps until they’re two years old.; and just exactly why does the hotel buffet breakfast include a chocolate futon?
09.10.2010 – Day Two – Doctor Doctor, Gimme Gas In My Ass!
It was an early start to see The Sound Of Noise and after a mixed breakfast (toast for Shaun, everything else for Colin) we headed to the Auditori for a 9.30 screening. On the way we saw Hernan putting out the chairs at the road cafe, and the cause of our late night wished us well but scratched his head when we described the film we were going to see.
PRADO – 9:30hrs – SOUND OF NOISE
“That’s the trouble with violinists, they’re always on the fiddle.”
After making their debut in Cannes with short film BAKOM MAHOGNYBORDET it’s taken Simonsson & Nilsson 15 years to get around to making their first feature length film. It was well worth the wait.
This is a heist movie with a difference. It’s not money or diamonds these criminals are interested in but noise. More specifically, noise pollution. The gang plan to undertake four elaborate noise heists while trying to keep one step ahead of the law.
A fantastic cast delivers rhythmic comedy in perfect harmony with the film’s overall tempo. The fact that the material, as crazy a concept as it is, is delivered up dry and straight just doubles the fun. The heists are fantastically creative set pieces, each one more imaginative than the last, and with an original score to match the filmmakers were note perfect in building up to the film’s brilliant crescendo. A resounding thumbs up.
…..with extra pep in our step after the day’s great opening film we made our way up to the Auditori, taking the opportunity to discuss and resolve all of Derby County’s problems along the way. A quick coffee stop in Can Xavi had Shaun drooling at the “bikini” toasties but we were rolling to a schedule and the Auditori beckoned……
AUDITORI – 14:00hrs – LA CASA MUDA
“Hammer house of horror.”
This Uruguayan feature debut from director Gustavo Hernandez is based on the true story of an unsolved murder from the 1940’s. We were drawn to this film less by the story than the fact that it was shot in one take and only using a “photo camera”.
There was a lot we didn’t like about this film. In the main it was slow and flat and lacked any real creativity. There were missed opportunities to give the characters and story any depth so as to lend more weight to the final third. There were scares and they were accompanied with their fair share of gore and claret, however, these were rolled out using tired old techniques that had been used to better effect previously.
However, to pull the film up on these points alone is unfair and we should instead take our hat off to a feature length film that was completed in a single take and with what we assume was a relatively low-tech equipment. The film looked incredible considering this and should serve as a reminder to any budding filmmakers that equipment, or lack thereof, shouldn’t be used as an excuse for not getting out there and shooting. However, at the same time it also reminds us that a weak story is a weak story no matter how you shoot it.
…..we needed to collect tickets from the press office for the following day’s films and we were given the impression that the numbers in attendance were back up this year as the queues had lengthened. The organisers had stuck with the same format as the previous year and, in general, things seemed to be running smoothly.
Heavy demand for press tickets the previous day had meant that we were denied our chosen film NOTRE JOUR VIENDRE as tickets had run out, and we instead had to swerve for for the kind of film we’re increasingly looking to avoid……
RETIRO – 18:30hrs – FIRE OF CONSCIENCE
“We’re going to need some hot water and clean towels”
The following should be read with the understanding that we’re pretty much done with Hong Kong films as a result of unfulfilled promise after unfulfilled promise. We’re presented with what, at first sight, appear to be moody characters, plot lines and visuals, however, what we then end up with is all of the above rendered ineffective as Hong Kong cinema does what Hong Kong cinema does best. Hong Kong cinema.
The paths of two very different cops are brought together following the murder of a prostitute. Their ultimate goals are worlds apart and the forces of bent cop vs good cop will have to duke it out if good is to prevail.
The film quickly resorts to type. A myriad of plot threads are introduced, each one never allowed to evolve beyond the basic minimum. It’s as if Hong Kong filmmakers have a checklist of emotional elements they have to include if their audiences are to walk away satisfied. Give ‘Em what they want we suppose. In the case of action films we end up with exaggerated swings between overly tender moments and loud action sequences which are far too complicated for their own good in order to tie up plot points.
In terms of quality you get everything you can expect from Hong Kong cinema so if that’s your thing then great. We happen to think the Koreans do it a whole lot better.
…….after FIRE OF CONSCIENCE left us distinctly underwhelmed we headed off off the comforting familiar faces of CS members 3 & 4, friends Em & Laura from the UK. We tried out a new bar called La Kassoleta which is fronted by one of the guys from El Cable, one of our favours Sitges hang-outs. It felt like we were being unfaithful (though I am sitting in El Cable as I write) but we tucked into their tapas anyway before moving on to our next film which we had tipped to be one of our stand out films of the festival.
PRADO – 21:45hrs – RED, WHITE & BLUE
The director, Simon Rumley, was in attendance and having won an award for a short film and also premiering his first full length feature at previous festivals, he’s a bit of a Sitges favourite. However, after turning up with an entourage of fawning journalists in tow and then giving a pretty conceited introduction to the film we weren’t impressed. Probably the most bizarre thing was his choice of clothing which appeared to be two sizes too small for him. We speculated that he’d possibly lost his luggage and had had to borrow clothes from someone far younger and smaller than him, but after seeing his crocodile skin cowboy boots we just figured he was a bastard dresser.
As to the film itself? Everything we’d read had our expectations raised a notch for a highly stylised, love tangled, violent revenge masterpiece. We were looking forward to a great performance from Noah Taylor as the mysterious war veteran, and we were hoping Rumley himself would turn on the style.
Not only were we disappointed but we were bordering on angry. Taylor managed to produce the goods with what little he’d been given and Amanda Fuller impressed as Erica in the central role which served as the catalyst for the escalating violence to follow, however, we’re struggling to identify redeeming features beyond that.
We love a revenge flick so it’s hard to see where this could have gone so wrong. The writing was awful so it’s a compliment to Taylor and Fuller that they could deliver their lines in any fashion. Large periods of the film were devoid of anything meaningful. Serving either as page fillers for a rushed or half-finished script or as shop windows for the director’s indulgent attempts at stylised visuals. Whatever the reason, the film was the worse for it. Throw in baffling editing choices and a poor score, both of which served only to annoy, and whatever idea Rumley may have started with was reduced to nothing.
……we left the cinema disappointed and angry by a film and director that promised much but failed to deliver. We headed straight to our safe place to discuss indie film making and larger life issues. Hernan! Large beers por favour.
10.10.2010 – Day Three – Bollicao Saves The Day
After a late and heavy night, Shaun took a pass on both breakfast and the first film of the day leaving Colin to take one for the team (you would have thought we’d have learnt not to use phrases like that in Sitges by now)……
RETIRO – 10:00hrs – RUBBER
“wheelspin or skid mark? No reason”
This bizarre tale comes from Quentin Dupieux, a.k.a Mr. Oizo, and braces us for the strangeness to follow by reminding us that in the movies, as in life, there’s often no reason for why things are the way they are. They just are.
It’s best to keep that thought in mind as we’re introduced to the film’s main protagonist. A car tire which can move of it’s own free will and has telekinetic powers which it can use to kill, kill, kill. This is much to the delight of the group of spectators who have been assembled to watch the tire’s trail of destruction from a safe distance with the aid of binoculars.
Great looking, cleverly undertaken and shot, this is way more entertaining than you may imagine from the synopsis, and this is down to the smart approach employed by the filmmaker. Helped by great performances from the human members of the cast and the most charismatic tire you’ve ever seen, Dupieux delivers this with class. And that’s without even mentioning the exploding bunnies and human heads. Corridorstyle definitely gives this the rubber stamp.
……….We also planned on attending the lunchtime press conference for Donnie Darko, but ended up giving it a miss after Shaun lazily wrote R Kelly instead of Richard Kelly on the schedule and we didn’t really want to watch a man urinating on 14 year old girls. We’re seeing ‘A Serbian Film’ on Thursday and thought we’d wait until then for that particular pleasure.
So, after an unbelievably slow walk up (we were being overtaken by pensioners) we arrived at The Auditori to see our next film, Rare Exports. Unfortunately for us, the weekend screenings attract ‘The Bridge And Tunnel’ crowd from Barcelona, and not only was it a sell out but we weren’t even able to bag our regular seats on Corridorstyle Row, something that would cause us problems over the next few days.
AUDITORI – 14:15hrs – RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE
“He’s going to find out who’s been naughty. He’s not bothered about the nice”
Following on from his award winning “Rare Export” shorts Finnish director Jalmari Helander brings us more of the same in this his first feature. As the doors of the advent calendar are opened and the countdown to Christmas begins it’s not excitement that young Pietari feels but an ever increasing sense of dread, and he’s sure it has something to do with the excavations being carried out in the mountains surrounding the town.
This Christmas tale with a twist is a smartly crafted work with great performances from director and cast, in particular Onni Tommila impresses as Pietari, the unlikely hero of his town. We’re a little confused over the target audience as although this was more of a kids film than we imagined there’s enough swearing and full frontal nudity to confuse the censorship board. Still a great Christmas film and we’ll be making sure we’re well behaved boys for the rest of the year.
…….We had a couple of hours between films so popped down to the marina to meet the rest of team CS (Em & Laura) who seemed to eat everything on the menu in the cafe we were at, but with hangovers looming over both of us like storm clouds, coffee was all that passed our lips. We then joined the press queue for the next film, John Carpenter’s The Ward, complaining bitterly about Barcelona trendies nicking our seats.
AUDITORI – 18:15hrs – THE WARD
“Are you nuts!? It’s John Carpenter.”
The master was back at Sitges and although it had been Ten years since his last film, fans of John Carpenter’s work hadn’t forgotten his genius and had gathered en mass.
The stage is perfectly set for JC to weave the magic he weaves better than most. The setting, a psychiatric ward, oozes menace from the start and there’s a sense that a dark past lurks in the shadows that fill every corner. Our main characters occupy a ward not unlike Jack Nicholson’s in “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” and we soon learn that something has a hold over them beyond the medicine and the hospital staff.
Carpenter does indeed bring his trademark talents to this tale and although the story and performances themselves are nothing special the scenes inside the ward are well crafted and serve to maximise the tension Carpenter will unfold with familiar camera work and score. Certainly not a spectacular return but it was good to have him back all the same.
……With barely enough time for us to grab a quick toilet break, we were straight into our next film, Secuestrados, and for the third time on the bounce we couldn’t get our regular seats.
AUDITORI – 20:15hrs – SECUESTRADOS
“Scream if you want to go faster.”
Having won much praise for his earlier short films Spanish director Miguel Angel Vivas brings us a “Funny games” style home hostage for this his second feature.
A family are given a house warming party of the kind they really didn’t want as hooded thugs violently force their way in to their home, taking husband, wife and daughter hostage until the gang get what they came for.
The violent and bloody opening minutes of the film quickly grabbed our attention and the following jump to scenes of peaceful domesticity served to put the audience on an expectant edge. The director’s use of an initial long, relentless take served well to hold that expectation until the unwelcome visitors enter with crash. However, once the initial hostage situation is in play there’s little to maintain the tension and the film drifts flatly until a power shift between hostage and hostage taker escalates the blood and violence.
Apart from a few gruesome acts of well CGI’d violence and touches of black comedy this offered little new in what’s been seen before. This was also an example of what we here at Corridorstyle have now coined as “Steady-cam Syndrome” where the recent flood of low budget films made using hand held digital cameras seem to forego plot and performance just to get a film in the can. Thinking that the ability to get the camera up close and personal, or dancing between it’s cast and locations with the odd trick thrown in constitutes filmmaking. The camera work actually just left the CS team feeling sea sick, sure in the knowledge that there will be plenty of similar productions to Wade through in the future making it harder to find the gems.
……We left Secuestrados to join the rest of the team in a new bar they had discovered called Donostiarra, a traditional Basque-style Tapas Bar serving the pintxos we are so fond of. The girls were already half way into a bottle of Cidra, so the signs were already there that we would be having another late night, and after working our way through Beer, Cidra and Vermouth we finished the night off at Trocadero. Thankfully the self-serve beer pumps were out of order, or we might not have made the end of the festival.
11.10.2010 – Day Four – He’s Still Jim Bowen’s Son
We’ve quickly come to realise that our idea to provide slightly more in depth accounts of the films we’ve seen has fallen foul of the social hours we keep. There are only so many hours in a Sitges day and a quick tally of the numbers goes as follows; 4 films a day = 8hrs, Drinking = 6 to 8hrs, Sleeping = 8hrs, leaving us between 0 and 3hrs a day to write stuff and, to be honest, it’s been leaning towards the zero end of the scale.
What can we say, we love watching films and we love tapas and beer.
…….The late nights are starting to take their toll, and having struggled to drag ourselves out of our beds, we stumbled through the doors of The Retiro just as the credits began to roll on our first film…..
PRADO – 10:00hrs – A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE
This was hotly anticipated by both members of the team as we’re developing a bit of a thing for A J Bowen and he didn’t disappoint. This is a slick, smart and well put together serial killer story. We were relieved to finally get a film shot hand held and from the hip but where the focus was still on solid story and character performance. Though the film did employ a technique of dropping out of focus and swinging away from the subject as a means to cut into the next scene and this only served to annoy.
There was an effective use of time overlap and flash back, although they possibly exposed a little more than a half intelligent audience would need them to. A J Bowen’s performance was different class as he plays one part normal, one part psycho to perfection. He’s utterly convincing, and this was particularly important at the end as anything less would have undone the effectiveness of the film’s punch line.
……..Buzzing from how much we enjoyed Bowen’s bulls-eye we hightailed it up to The Auditori, discussing on the way that when we’ve made it big in Hollywood we’re going to put AJ Bowen in all of our films. We were desperately hoping that the weekend warriors had gone back to Barcelona, but were dismayed that this wasn’t the case and that the press queue stretched right the way back to the hotel entrance. Through some strange quirk of fate, we actually managed to bag our regular seats and normal service was resumed for our next film, James Gunn’s Super.
AUDITORI – 12:39hrs – SUPER
An entertaining romp which only just sneaked in as a Sitges film as ordinary Joe dons a homemade superhero costume to combat crime in his community and win back the heart of his lost love.
This turned out to be only a 90% Hollywood flick as there were unexpected Sitges-style buckets of blood, gore and excellent swearing. The use of the “C” word in a comic store was class. The A-list cast hit their marks as expected and it was good to see Ellen Page show something different. Her on-screen orgasm just may have been convincing enough to have pre-pubescent teens everywhere reaching for the Kleenex.
……..We walked straight out of Super into our next film, Dream Home. Again, the press queue was huge but after some clever cheating/deception (we pretended to be buying coffee from the cafe near the entrance), we were one of the first in the cinema and Corridorstyle Row was ours once more…..
AUDITORI – 14:30hrs – DREAM HOME
A twist of a tale born of the current financial crash this Hong Kong horror takes mortgage meltdown to the extreme. The things people would do to get a dream roof over their heads is taken to the next level as one woman’s plan to secure her family a new home turn from bad to shit-storm
Part gore and part comedy the film ends up being neither, though the kills certainly become ever more inventive they would have had more effect had the comedy and the characters been punching at the same weight.
…..Today’s film viewing was cut short as we headed off to El Born district in Barcelona to sample tapas and Spanish hostelry at it’s very finest…….
12.10.2010 – Day Five – I’m Playing The Right Notes, Just Not In The Right Order
……having sweat the late shift in Barcelona the night before it was always going to be slow to rise in the morning. Matters weren’t helped by watching NITRO CIRCUS into the wee small hours but when the tivo in your hotel room only has two channels in English watching dudes ride BMX bikes off cliff tops into the Caribbean seems like a good idea….
RETIRO – 12:00 – ANIMATED SHORTS MARATHON
As budding short film makers we wanted to take in a few of the festivals curt offerings to see if we could get a handle on what’s currently being made. A few of the feature film offerings up at the AUDITORI were preceded by a short film and, to be honest, we weren’t overawed when comparing it to Shaun’s recently completed short film, ALEX.
We also wanted to check out the animated short offerings and this marathon threw up a few gems. Namely;
Shaun Tan’s THE LOST THING
Victoria Mather’s STANLEY PICKLE
Niki Kindroth Von Bahr’s TORD TORD
Suren Perera’s SCARY THERAPY
….our next film was up at the AUDITORI so we jumped at the opportunity to hit restaurant CAN XAVI as Shaun could no longer deny his taste buds the flavour temple that is the ham and cheese bikini (the sandwich that is, not the swimwear). At an attempt at professionalism we hit the iPad with all the enthusiasm we could muster but we were conscious that Beat Takeshi was waiting to unleash his rage at the cinema and excitement had the better of us….
AUDITORI – 16:30hrs – OUTRAGE
We love a bit of Takeshi but he doesn’t always return the love. This time he delivered with style in this Yakuza (read gangster) tale of back-stabbing and betrayal. Takeshi himself employs his trade mark distant stare to great effect as the moody underboss with the tough task of manipulating those above and below him to the tune of the chairman, though not always to his knowledge
The film does a great job of navigating the complex world of Yakuza families whilst maintaining forward momentum on a story that will underpin the violence that unfolds in the film’s final third. Really well put together and a pleasure to see Beat Takeshi back on fine form.
…..tough decisions are tough for a reason. Faced with the difficult choice between an England international against Montenegro and the film STAKE LAND we put on our team hat on and reverse spliced ourselves so that we could cover both. We didn’t know who had drawn the short straw until both had finished. The general consensus was that Colin got stinky finger by catching STAKE LAND while Shaun sat through Ferdinand’s less than convincing reinstatement as captain.
RETIRO – 20:45hrs – STAKE LAND
We’re suckers for a road movie here at Corridorstyle and that’s ultimately what “Stake Land” is. Sure there are vampires. Yes this is post apocalyptic. However, when you look for the reason why this film worked you need look no further than Nick Damici. As co-writer of the film he’s responsible for kick-ass characters moving through a world inhabited by characters who want their ass kicked. And as bad as this near future world is, the director make’s it a fascinating world to view from the safety of your cinema seat. One of the festival highlights.
…… The team reunited and Colin was secretly thrilled to learn that the England game had thrown up a less than enthralling 0-0 draw. As is now customary, and something that had already been done with RUBBER, Colin let Shaun know he’d just missed the film of the festival. There was no time to talk 4-4-2, we had horror to see, and it was none other than SAW’s James Wan dishing up the scares…..
RETIRO – 22.45hrs – INSIDIOUS
Despite absolutely hating the last film of Wan’s we saw at Sitges (Dead Silence) the cast and synopsis for this were enough to make us give this a chance. For the first two thirds it was a tight, tense horror with enough scares and jumps to have our arses twitching like rabbit’s noses. Unfortunately, like other recent horror films (stand up The Last Exorcism), it’s really let down by it’s final act where the introduction of a poorly conceived ‘demon’ almost ruined the good work done previously.
Good performances by Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne and enough early scares to get the adrenaline pumping mean that it’s definitely worth giving this a go, maybe just leave half an hour before the end.
…and with that we decided to forego late beers and head back to the room for an early(ish) night, allowing ourselves the time to check out the genius of Morecambe & Wise on YouTube before finally drifting off to sleep.
13.10.2010 – Day Six – Chicken Breasts. They’re A Canteen/Special FX Double Act
…..O.K. So technically this post is only making it onto our site the day after the festival has finished, five days after we actually watched the films we’re blogging about. In this day and age of instant information we’ve decided on a more old school retro approach. It’s our two fingered salute to all those festival goers who insisted on tossing about with their phones during just about every screening we attended. They were often the people who arrived 10 minutes after the film had started and were no doubt twittering that very fact to their army of 3 followers. Sort it out Angel……..
A last minute adjustment to the schedule saw us shifting from Swedish gangster flick SNABBA CASH to a cerebral pro-life advertisement for extra terrestrials.
PRADO – 10:30hrs – EARTHLING
Hats off to writer/director of this film (Clay Liford) for at least finding the passion/motivation to make a film about a concept (we assume) he was interested in. For us this one goes into the box labelled “why would anyone go to the time, effort, and expense to make a film like that”. It’s a box that gets pretty full during the Sitges festival.
A story of a group of people finding out that their lives up to that point had been a lie as their human forms were merely vessels for aliens that had been stranded on earth. Some of the aliens want to return home while others have kind of become attached to their new home and tensions rise within the group as a result.
Whether this was a vague attempt to raise the question of what it means to be human we’re not sure but a film that was mediocre at best then fell off the charts when the special effects team broke out the old chicken breasts for aliens routine. At this point Shaun was asking someone to open a window.
……With a little over an hour to burn until our next film it was two dudes, a beer and an iPad time in Café “yeah’ Roy. It was good to see that old folk still look out for the best interests of today’s younger generation. While Shaun and I were enjoying the innocent pleasure of a bit of G-String action out of the back of the voluptuous young (but old enough) lady at the adjacent table, a nearby granny poked her in the crack of her builder’s bum with the tip of her umbrella to show her disapproval. Spoil sporting old hag……
The vintage Sitges year of 2004 and the masterpiece that is THE MACHINIST seemed a lifetime ago after enduring this faltering effort from Brad Anderson. At least he didn’t write it so perhaps it was thrust upon him and he merely saw it as a break from all the tivo work he appears to have been doing lately. Whatever the history this had an estimated budget of $10 Million bucks which once more begs the question “why?”
The story follows the last hours of what could be the remaining few souls on earth. Daylight is diminishing and darkness is busy consuming anyone and everyone that falls under its shadow. There is a brief reference made to “dark matter” at the beginning of the film and the ending has heavy-handed religious tones. Is someone trying to tell us that the Universe of science/nature will ultimately consume itself in the “big crunch” of the “big bang”, and the only way to save your soul is to seek out the light of God? Am I reading too much into this?
This was neither well scripted nor acted and appeared to be undertaken with little thought or care. Please Brad, stick to tivo and don’t sully the memory of Sitges 2004.
……. confused and grumpy we turned to the comfort of alcohol. Our next film had the potential to go either way so we were staring a possible three-on-the-bounce stinker of a day. No man should be asked to face that sober so a fruity blanco was called for at Café Del Monde and CS team members 3 & 4 were filled in on Plan B, that is, we asked them to keep our seats warm as we expected to be in and out of the next film in 5 minutes……..
RETIRO – 18:45hrs – GALLANTS
Having earlier posted our disenchantment with Hong Kong cinema (see FIRE OF CONSCIENCE) and staring at strike three for the day’s films we dragged our heels into the Retiro. We needn’t have worried. This old school martial arts comedy grabbed us from the start and left us feeling a touch of ARAHAN about it (high praise coming from us).
This Karate-Kid style tale sees our not-yet-a-hero Chung join up with a kooky band of martial arts old-timers to save their old school from being torn down and redeveloped. Regardless of any morals it may contain the story is really only there to give screen time to the brilliant kung fu pensioners Tiger (Siu-lung Leung), Dragon (Kuan Tai Chen), and Master Ben Law (Teddy Robin Kwan). These three worked so well together and their comedic timing is matched only by that of their (still) amazing kung fu. Teddy Robin in particular was outstanding and we love that fact that he used to front a band called “Teddy Robin and the Playboys” back in the 60’s
As if all of this wasn’t enough the film’s wardrobe appears to have been sponsored by Adidas Originals gaining it a near perfect score from the team (that’s 2 ¾ asterisks in case you were wondering)
…..What a turn around for the day with GALLANTS threatening to take the team’s top honours for film of the festival. There was little time to discuss however as we were back to back at the Retiro and straight in to our next film……
RETIRO – 20:45hrs – LES 7 JOURS DU TALION
From such comedic kung fu highs it was going to be tough to switch moods for 7 days of Canadian torture. Indeed we only had to wait 10 minutes before facing some of the grimmest and most realistic visions of the aftermath of a child rape and murder. From here on the tone was set as the child’s father sets about exacting his revenge on his daughter’s captured murderer. Planning and executing 7 days of methodical torture culminating in his version of the death sentence.
The film lost its way a little and, apart from one unbelievably realistic scene involving nifty work with a scalpel, the anticipated torture sequence didn’t quite fit the build up it was given. The ending too left a lot to be desired unless there’s a subtle meaning here we’ve missed.
…….we chose to forget the day’s low points and instead carried the GALLANTS good vibe down to Hernan’s where Colin got dragged into a seemingly endless conversation on the virtues of Humphrey Bogart (who Colin can not stand) with a local Scottish drunk. Colin’s misery was compounded when Shaun later told him that exactly the same thing had happened last year with the same Scott!! Colin must have pushed last year’s miserable memory so far to the back of his mind that he’d forgotten completely. Or perhaps he was just pissed…….
14.10.2010 – Day Seven – Snabba Cash And The Reggae Smash Single “Chaka Demus Have You Seen My Pliers?”
…..These (relatively) early morning starts were helping Shaun follow a diet of sorts as the hotel’s sumptuous buffet breakfast was forgone in favour of an extra 30 minutes kip. Colin, on the other hand, continued to break new personal bests in bacon consumption and was slowly becoming addicted to the Bloody Mary mini shots on offer.
A stroll up to the top of town at this time of the day is a pleasant one and we all too often take the views out to sea for granted. Perhaps we would have seen monsters had we been looking…..
AUDITORI – 10:15hrs – MONSTERS
This turned out to be not-really-a-creature feature and more of a road movie about two strangers reluctantly thrown together trying to find their way through the hazardous infected zone of Mexico to the US border and home.
Fortunately there was good chemistry between the two leads Samantha (Whitney Able) and Andrew (Scoot McNairy) so their screen time felt natural and never dragged. Team CS developed a bit of a thing for Samantha and Andrew had a touch of early Bruce Willis about him so both were easy to watch. The dialogue too fit the characters and this helped the many non-eventful scenes still play out with some success.
The film’s theme about monsters (alien life forms that had accidentally arrived on Earth 6 years previously) was never really explored and served merely as the driving force for our duos perilous journey, although it did provide some decent special effect moments and set pieces.
An enjoyable watch without challenging for any awards.
…….it was a back-to-back big screen bonanza again at the Auditori as we were straight into our next film.
AUDITORI – 12:00hrs – A SERBIAN FILM
This had been highly anticipated by the team although for slightly differing reasons. In recent years there has been a spate of films that have dared audiences to go and see them, challenging them to have an opinion. Some films have done this with an inventive approach and some have done this with pure shock value.
The filmmaker here may have had genuine intentions to use the film and some of it’s more shocking scenes as metaphors for the recent history of his country but it’s unlikely audiences will take that with them when they leave the theatre.
This tale of a fading porn star legend who is given one last chance to make his masterpiece and secure his family’s financial future provides a perfect platform for the director to roll out scene after scene of unflinching extreme sex and violence.
While film critics may look to dig deeper beneath the story’s surface, audiences will no doubt remember this director’s debut purely for its set-pieces of shock, in particular we’re guessing the now-coined “newborn porn” will attract the most attention.
Ultimately the team thought this became silly and its attempts to continuously one-up itself to the very end rendered any other intended sub-story meaningless.
……Colin tried to find reason behind the gratuitousness of our Serbian encounter whereas Shaun was just bemused (and a little angry) at how pointless it was. With a couple of hours to kill until our next screening it’s possibly a reflection of how much the film failed to make its mark that we spent no more than 5 minutes discussing it. Even films that are bad but for a reason provoke more debate than that.
We have, however, always got time to discuss Sobresada baguettes and that was first on the agenda at the Auditori’s outside café…….
AUDITORI – 16:00hrs – THE HOUSEMAID
Our cinematic favourites, The Koreans, were somewhat thin on the ground this year and the one film that we wanted to see above all, I SAW THE DEVIL, was being screened the day of our departure. It was good then to finally get our first Kimchi kick in the form of this Korean remake of a (also Korean) 1960 cult classic, where a newly appointed housemaid becomes an unwitting player in her wealthy employer’s game of infidelity and deceit.
A beautifully crafted film employs a lush look for the “dripping in money” setting of the family’s palatial home. The home was virtually the only location and that gave the film a sense of theatre, fittingly played out with great performances from the five main characters, and with each of their nuances captured by excellent camera work. The score was also used to draw out the drama to great effect and although the ending perhaps dropped the ball a little this was overall a great story.
…….Having shuffled our schedule the previous day our fourth and final film of the day was also up at the Auditori so once we’d secured tickets for the following day’s films it was once more to the café to write but mainly eat/drink. What can we say, we’re sociable guys…….
AUDITORI – 20:00hrs – SNABBA CASH (EASY MONEY)
Although Shaun had pointed out that the film’s original Swedish title sounded more like a Jamaican reggae artist than a gritty crime drama both CS team members had ultimately singled this out as one to watch
This adaptation of Swedish Jens Lapidus’ best seller by the same name plays out in Stockholm’s gritty underworld and follows several gangster characters from rival gangs, the director using each of their viewpoints and position within the gang hierarchy to expose the greed and mistrust prevalent as the self is put ahead of any real sense of loyalty. Easy money this ‘aint.
This solid story played out well although could have benefited from losing 20 minutes or so of unnecessary dialogue and side story. Good performance helped keep the drama real, in particular the excellent Dragomir Mrsic as Mrado and Matias Padin as Jorge.
…….the aforementioned schedule reshuffle had been undertaken to give us a reasonably early end to the cinematic day and subsequent early start to the team’s nocturnal activities. The last day of the festival was fast approaching and we needed to say all our farewells to bar and person alike…..
15.10.2010 – Day Eight – Achtung Maybe…
It’s pretty standard that by this point in the trip Shaun is missing breakfast to give himself an extra few minutes in bed but today he excelled himself by also skipping a shower. Subsequently this meant that that anyone who even dared to think about sitting close to us was greeted by the aroma of stale beer, sobrasada and two day old pants and socks which allowed us a rare treat of plenty of space to spread out into our first film, Red Hill…
RETIRO – 10.00hrs – Red Hill
Australia’s Patrick Hill chose a pretty standard revenge thriller for his first film. The clever twist he put on it is that it’s essentially a modern-day western set in rural small-town Australia. It’s a pretty standard story of a big city cop on his first day after being re-posted to a small town and being thrown into turmoil immediately as a convict escapes from a nearby prison and returns to town to get his revenge on the people who put him there.
Shaun was more impressed by this than Colin but it’s a pretty taut and well paced thriller with good acting performances from True Blood’s Ryan Kwanten as the newcomer and veteran Aussie actor Steve Bisley as the grizzled old cop.
…so, after our Aussie western fix we headed back to the hotel for Shaun to shower and get rid of the flies that were following him around like Pigpen from Charlie Brown. Once we were a clean, lean, film watching machine again, we headed up to the Auditori for our second film of the day, Korean revenge horror Bedevilled…
AUDITORI – 13.45hrs – Bedevilled
Really, we should have probably done a bit more research on this before we saw it. It was Shaun’s choice mainly based on the fact that it’s Korean and had been shown at Frightfest but wasn’t really what we were expecting. What we got was a film about a woman who, after losing her job and needing to re-evaluate her life, retreats to the remote island she grew up on but finds herself dragged into the issues her childhood friend is experiencing and the events that then occur.
This was pretty much treated with indifference by the pair of us as it was very slow moving and you could find very little sympathy or empathy for any of the characters and therefore didn’t really care what happened to them….
So, bidding farewell to the Auditori for the final time this year we headed down to the Retiro for our next film, barely making it in time…
Retiro – 16.00hrs – Jackboots On Whitehall
We were a little surprised that this puppetised (is that a word? it is now!) version of World War 2 wasn’t more of a hit when released in the UK as it had a stellar voice cast and quite a bit of publicity. I suspect that the reason is the same problem we had with this and also last year’s Panique Au Village – they might make a great trailer / short film but stretching them out to a full 90 minute feature film is just a bit too much to ask….
So, with aching backsides from the seats in the Retiro we did the one thing we probably shouldn’t do when we have an extended period of time between films – went straight round to Cafe Del Mon and got straight on the wine. Cut to 6 glasses each later and we were legging it back to the Retiro to watch our final film of the festival, Spanish horror chiller Atrocious…
Retiro – 20.45hrs – Atrocious
Another one of Shaun’s choices, the decision was made due to the fact that it was made in Sitges and looked Paranormal Activity-style scary. Unfortunately, only one of these was true and although we respect the director’s attempt at purely making a film to get into the Sitges festival, it wasn’t really good enough. It was a fairly standard setup of a found footage hand-held documentary story, but unlike Paranormal Activity, didn’t follow through with the scares and just ended up being a bit silly. Also the fact that we were drunk, hot, a bit giggly and sat up in the gods didn’t help and this really struggled to hold our attention, which for a horror film is unforgivable.
So, wandering out with a buzz on into our final night in Sitges, we rounded up Em and Laura and set about visiting our regular haunts to say adios and drink wine and eat tapas until the early hours.