DAY 1 – 06.10.2011 – HAS THA SEEN AN OWL FLY THROUGH HERE?
Life threatened to imitate art as the festival’s theme of cataclysmic events heralding the end of the world was experienced first hand by the team as we converged on trusted watering hole Cafe Del Mon only to find it had shut up shop. It would be a melancholic 48 hours before we’d discover that Mon had in fact just moved to bigger and better premises around the corner. Fortunately, we’re bar sluts and Mon’s initial loss was SOHO’s gain. Now eager to confirm no other bolt holes had closed down we spent the rest of the evening playing an alcoholic Game of Thrones, eating and drinking our way around the town’s favourite haunts. Cal, new addition to the team and CS member #5, quickly signalling his intent to make up for his shortened time at the festival by setting about the drinking with impressive professionalism.
DAY 2 – 07.10.2011 – DON’T EVER LET YOUR WIFE WASH MY SOCKS
Will we ever learn? The previous night’s high jinxs had left the team a couple of cevies short of a six pack and it was going to require some magical tater-tot action at breakfast if we were going to be in any fit state to appreciate the first film of the festival
A Korean film by Ryoo Seung-wan, the director of ARAHAN. Featuring his brother Ryu Seung-beom, the star of ARAHAN. About corrupt cops and the hunt for a serial killer. It’s pretty much impossible to find a better film introduction than that for us here at Corridorstyle.
And we were certainly not disappointed (though Shaun was in bits from the previous night’s kung fu fighting so didn’t fully appreciate it). A great all-round cast but stand out performances from Hae-Jin Yu and Ryu Seung-beom. The Koreans have now made this visual style of film making their own, and continue to produce narratives to match. Multiple character threads were deftly handled by the director and the action was as gritty and real as ever. Even if we never see another swift kick to the shins we’ll still die happy because THE UNJUST gave us all we could ever want.
……….Having just about dragged his sorry ass through THE UNJUST Shaun crawled back to his pit for more R&R while Col and Cal set about acquainting themselves with some of Sitges’ finer drinking establishments. In particular, Cal experienced his first taste of the mighty El Cable where the world was put to rights.
Two hours later, and with Shaun having narrowly avoided death, we were Barcelona bound. First time visitor Cal was afforded the full 3 minute sight-seeing tour (the glimpse of the Gothic Cathedral behind the scaffolding a highlight) before being whisked off to El Born district and the promise of his weight in tapas and Riquelme beer.
While we could have easily passed the rest of the evening in Born’s finest joint, El Born Bar, we instead chose to high tail it back to Sitges to ensure front row seats in Tres Quarts for England’s Euro qualifier against Montenegro. Though at times comfortable England were never convincing and paid the price with a late Montenegro equalizer. No tears were shed however as the draw and a point were good enough to see England through as group winners and their place in the 2012 finals secured. We helped them celebrate into the wee small hours.
DAY 3 – 08.10.2011 – THE DARK HORSE RISES
Will we ever learn? Sticking rigidly to the first phase of our festival program (drinking) Cal was quick out of the traps for the 7am start of a back-to-back World Cup Rugby session in Tres Quarts. A beer at that time of the morning may seem a tad severe to some but Cal found himself in good and plentiful company as the bar was packed with like minded souls. A strictly amateur effort by Colin saw him join the party half way through the second game, just in time to see the old enemy France rub English noses further into the dirt.
Fortunately the Rugby was just the precursor to the day’s main event, the arrival of the ginger prince (Shaun’s brother and camp confidant,) and soon to be team member #6. Jim’s arrival heralded the beginning of the end of our Blog entry for day 3. Brain cells already floating in the previous day’s slops were subject to a fresh barrage of memory erasing substances and where events went from here is as much your guess as it is ours. With the type of hazy flashback Christopher Nolan would be proud of there are vague recollections of a champagne birthday toast in Hotel Platja D’or’s rooftop bar, some risqué bending over maneuvers playing pool in gay bar Prisma, a failed attempt to negotiate entry to Queenz bear bar (actually hard to believe considering how the four of us must have looked), and cries of “I’m never drinking again” in the Road Cafe.
Such shenanigans remind us of the old Chinese laundry proverb……Small socks don’t always take less time to wash.
DAY 4 – 09.10.2011 – BOB KEGLER, BRADFORDS’ WORLD FAMOUS TABLE TENNIS PLAYER
The all too brief cameos of Jim and Cal would soon be drawing to a close so there were at least two obligatory items that needed to be crossed off the Sitges tour list. As this was Shaun’s belated 40th birthday celebration we needed a Sitges group photo for which the Auditori’s red carpeted entrance would provide the perfect back-drop. Official duties out of the way we could then turn our attention to hooking Jim and Cal on El Cables crack Albondegas. The polishing off of Cables’ meat balls was made all the more poignant by the bar’s screening of HARD CANDY and a certain tense testicular moment.
Farewell then to Jim, Cal and the first half of the festival. Time to push on into the second half and the film festival proper. Putting aside the festival toe-dipping that was THE UNJUST, our first official film turned out to be a disappointment. But that was mostly our fault.
A film chosen purely for this opening line of the synopsis……….”Kei and Masaro are run over by a train. The next thing they know is that they’re in a room, they’re not alone and there is a giant ball dominating the place that invites them to participate in a macabre game”….. If that doesn’t scream Sitges film then nothing does. We’d even included the the film’s sequel GANTZ:PERFECT ANSWER later in our program so excited were we at the prospect of Japanese bonkerdness. Unfortunately, we’d neglected to pick up the small print and the organizers’ announcement that the film would have no English subtitles. Shaun obviously speaks fluent Japanese but in a show of solidarity he elected to accompany Colin in a walk-out, though we did pause at the door for a brief glimpse of onscreen boob meat. We therefore can’t offer any opinion on the film itself but we did find it a little strange and disappointing that a festival of Sitges’ stature was screening films without English subtitles (no patriotic pomp intended, just a fact). Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the only time.
……………With 6 hours until our next film there were all sorts of dangers looming in our immediate future. Sitges+Time+Alcohol=Shitstorm. Fortunately, we’ve both grown into mature, sensible adults……….. so we decided to only travel a short distance for said potential drinking catastrophe and settled down into Can Xavi to opine over Japanese films sans subtitles. Seemingly immune to alcohol (or just becoming accustomed to it) we made it through relatively unscathed and headed into our second and last film of the day.
Ever-ready to embrace the organiser’s chosen theme for the festival this made our short list with what, on the surface, posed an interesting sci-fi premise. The appearance in the sky of an identical Earth. Here Colin likes to get deep, Shaun likes to get some sleep. However, any potential this concept may have had for weighty philosophical contemplation was quickly rendered irrelevant as it became apparent that the sci-fi premise was merely fancy wrapping for a story based around the more conventional themes of remorse and loss. Too slow and moody. Not enough space rockets and evil clone twins.
DAY 5 – 10.10.2011 – STICK A FRIED EGG ON IT
Like two lost (cloned artificially intelligent) puppies we wandered down to breakfast without the cheery accompaniment of Jim and Cal. But there was little time to dwell over absent friends as the day’s first film was up at 10am and it was a Hong Kong production which, as the millions of you that have followed us over the years will know, goes against our better judgement.
A string of past failures has taught us to be wary of Hong Kong cinema but reviews of REVENGE: A LOVE STORY promised something different. The usual convoluted plot and overly-sentimental set pieces had certainly been reined in and a sort of Korean, washed-out, grittiness filled the space left behind. A decent effort from lead man Juno Mak plus a story and pace to keep us involved. And…..wait for it……believe it or not, this was another film WITHOUT English subtitles. High praise indeed then that we got by on our limited Spanish and actually sat through to the end with just subtitles (we should clarify here that the fault this time lay with the organisers as the festival program stated there would be English subtitles)
………Fortunately there was only a couple of hours until our next film because at the rate Cal was sending us text messages Shaun would have likely gone into SMS-rage. Cal was clearly in post-Sitges depression. Something that happens to us every year once the white wine finally leaves our system.
This was one of those films that crops up frequently for us at Sitges. We’d both included it on our list of “must-see” films but going into the theatre we couldn’t have told anyone why as we’d only a vague idea of what it was about. We kind of thought it was going to be a bit like Jackass but without Steve-O. Well, there were hip dudes with flame throwers but within a more dark and disturbing context. Evan Glodell pulled a “Shane Carruth” here as he wrote the theme tune, sang the theme tune (as well as wrote, directed, produced, edited and played the lead) and that singles him out as a talent to watch. Visually very stylized yet also with a loose and guerilla feel, Glodell manages to imbue the film with an underlying uneasiness which keeps you in the moment. And the soundtrack alone is worth the entrance fee.
…….with six hours to kill before our next film we knew we shouldn’t hit the sauce, however, we could feel another equation coming on. “x hours + ∛vino blanco – ∏ = Prado deep coma”
We’d been fortunate the previous day to get away with some late afternoon drinking, could we make it twofer/two?
We’d be the first to admit we’re not Shunji Iwai connoisseurs but the opportunity to see his first English language film was too good to pass up. The premise was very “Sitges-esque” too and there was the hope that Iwai could breath new life into the over-worked vampire genre with his own unique style of film making. All looked good on paper then but within 3 minutes and 43 seconds of taking our seats Shaun had slumped into a deep coma (as earlier calculated). Colin’s right elbow was feeble in the face of the lion’s snore and we ultimately chose to leave the theatre under our own steam rather than the forceful ejection that was imminent. This was probably for the best anyway as it’s easy to deduce that Shunji Iwai FU camera techniques + blood alcohol content >1 = world hurling championships
Day 6 – 11.10.2011 – I WANT A GIRL WHO’S LIKE GERD MULLER WITH TITS
After plenty of sleep (some more than others) we awoke cheerful and happy. More than just upbeat we were positively elated and bordering on a state of euphoria as we skipped into our first film of the day. Wallop!
Von Trier on the big screen (The Auditori’s big screen at that) was too good to pass up, and word was that this was a lush looker and about as accessible as Von Trier is likely to get. Is it appropriate to mention that Kirsten Dunst gets her fun-bags out as well? The operatic opening 5 minutes certainly tested the Auditori’s sound system but this sequence was ultimately only matched by it’s counterpart at the film’s ending. The melancholic filling to the sandwich was miserably (in an appropriate way) handled by Dunst, while at the same time we had Sutherland in top form to cheer us. The film’s growing weight of despair and helplessness didn’t stop it looking good and though it’s completely the wrong word to use you’ll just have to take it (our word) when we say we “enjoyed” it. Did we mention that Dunst gets her dusters out?
………Von Trier had split the team a little with thumbs up from Colin and shrugged shouldered indifference from Shaun. Six hours was a long time to carry the melancholic weight of the (soon to be annihilated) world on ones shoulders so we turned to old friends vino and blanco to alleviate the gloom.
Strictly a Shaun pick so he can take all the credit for this. We’re as much interested in the process of movie making as the end result so it was great to get further insight into the man who made more movies than most. Corman himself made for an interesting talking head but it was the contributions from those who worked alongside and in front of him that gave the film its latex lusciousness. Corman has been in the business for so long because he treated it like a business and knew how to make the bottom line. Possibly the reason he never truly stepped up to the big leagues as so many of the people he gave first starts to eventually did (and it’s pretty amazing who got their foot in the door with Corman)
………..up until this point the films had been equal parts hit and miss but we’d perhaps been secretly holding our collective breaths for our next Korean installment to steal the show. With the realisation that four of the films we’d wanted to see (DRIVE, KILL LIST, RED STATE, THE THING) were only screening after our departure, chips were being heavily stacked in Na Hong-jin’s corner to save the day.
Having been blown away by Na Hong-jin’s first film THE CHASER, we were bordering on bat-shit to see this, his follow up. And if we could somehow self-edit the film as we watched it, and lose about 30 minutes of unnecessary back-and-forth in the final third, we’d probably have everything we could have hoped for. Great looking and with the kinds of characters and performances we’ve come to expect from Korean cinema, going hammer to hatchet in balls-out set pieces. When it was good, it was fucking amazing. But it was testament to our slight disappointment that our first conversation on leaving the theatre regarded the length and scale of some of the scenes, and how we both wondered whether the director had been thrown a truck load of cash on the back of THE CHASER and he’d felt obliged to use it. Actually, our first words out of the theatre were “are there no Korean gangsters who own guns?”
………..so good, but not great. Not a total disappointment but we were left wondering whether any of the remaining films on our list could deliver that surprise Sitges slap. Even the now customary viewing of Jackass 3 on the iPad back at the hotel couldn’t alleviate the team’s restlessness.
DAY 7 – 12.10.2011 – HAVE YOU NEVER SEEN A FAT MAN EAT CHORIZO?
…….Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more………… Our final day of films and although our bodies were weak, our minds were willing. It was a four-film day and we clung to the hope of some movie magic.
This made our short list purely on the basis that it had the words “Alien” and “bikini” in the title and the main protagonist was seen sporting a cracking mustache. It’s probably harsh to have any real expectations based purely on that criteria but we came away a little disappointed nonetheless. Were it not for impressive turns from the two leads (Young Geun Hong is one to watch for the future) there would be large parts of this film rendered almost un-watchable and while it’s admirable that this feature was made for a reported $4000 it felt very much like a short film padded out to over an hour. The alien never actually dons a bikini but it IS a cracking mustache, and the use of the Korean National anthem as a pleasure delayer was comedy gold.
……..it was a Sitges “reach-around” as we had back-to-back films in the Prado. Just time enough for a caffine and chocolate croissant injection in the Prado’s garden cafe before heading into……
The documentary’s subject matter was interesting enough and appropriate for the theme of this year’s festival and the prospect of an artificial intelligence of the near future. Appropriate for sci-fi films in general actually as many of the themes could easily serve as plot lines for James Cameron or The Wachowskis. Rather than the futuristic prophesies themselves it was perhaps the rate at which they may come to fruition that was of more interest and that’s where the subject of the doc, Ray Kurzweil, came into his own. As a respected “futurist” Kurzweil uses extrapolation methods to predict technological trends well ahead of the curve, sometimes before the technology even exists, and much of the doc focuses on his use of the scientific term “singularity” to depict a time when man and technology would become one. A.I in its truest sense. The documentarian, Robert Barry Ptolemy, does a good job of covering the sci-fi, while also uncovering what appears to be the real story behind Kurzweil’s passion for bringing the future into the now. His belief that if he could prolong his own life through medical advances, and drag the necessary technology forward, he could bring back his beloved father from the grave.
……It was a brisk walk up to the Auditori for the last time this year (thank God) and we speculated on whether it would be worth hiring scooters next year to save our aging limbs, or even being ridiculously louche and taking taxis. We then contemplated the extreme of binning films up at The Auditori all together, while employing a small Filipino boy to fetch our press tickets for us. But this line of thinking was more a product of the emotional state Shaun assumes when pushed into a little too much physical exertion. Come October next year and he’d be bounding up the Carrer d’Emerencia Roig i Reventos with cinephile exuberance……..well, for the first day at least.
Appreciation of film is obviously subjective but at times it’s baffling to marry a review to a film. From what we’d read we had reasonably high hopes that this was going to be an edgy dystopian future view of Orwellian proportions. Sure, familiar themes were there, and the film makers had chosen appropriate suburban settings to let us know just how lifeless and loveless our future was going to be, but if I never see another creeping tracking shot around the corner of a poorly lit empty corridor in my life, my future won’t be so dystopian. The entire film felt like one long, slow, ass-dragging tracking shot. No doubt Jean-Baptiste Leonetti had a vision for this his first feature but the methods he chose to expose it led to a painfully slow and utterly disjointed experience. Hold on! Was it the director’s intention that the audience should experience some sort of Orwellian will-sapping, brain washing procedure? I must admit I have been feeling more inclined to tow the government line since I saw it. Hmmmmmm!
……Shaun put it somewhat more succinctly……..”Well, that was a load of fucking rubbish!”. It seems we all too often get drawn into these pretentious French existentialist films. Perhaps it has something to do with the Franco-films they used to air on BBC2 in the 80’s where, as teenagers, we were bombarded with the titillation of some tremendous tart, teasing us with boob meat and unbecoming behaviour. Ahhh! The halcyon days before internet porn.
A potential side-effect of Shaun’s increasing dislike for the hike up to The Auditori was the shock revelation that even the Sobresada baguettes were losing their luster in his eyes. Now, anyone that’s beheld the frankly awesome sight of Shaun demolishing a Sobresada baguette may find this hard to believe, but he’s putting it down to the fact that the cafe caterers have scandalously switched the cheese topping. Whiffy investigations to continue next year.
Having heard nothing whatsoever previously of the Toynbee tiles, and resisting the Google temptation, we entered the theatre hoping for a bit of mystery for our last film of the festival. Unfortunately, the only (slight) mystery revolves around who was originally responsible for laying the tiles rather than any deeper significance behind the message on the tiles themselves. This isn’t a documentary about Toynbee, or Kubrik, or any zombie colony living on Jupiter, it’s a story about someone seemingly with a grudge against authority finding a novel way to draw attention, and of an individual who’s then become obsessed with the idea that there’s more significance behind the tiles than there really is.
……..Stick a fork in us, we’re done! After the end of our final film we hit El Cable to say goodbye to the owner and our new best mate Manero who, unbeknownst to us, turned out to be a major movie geek. We then wandered to The Road Café to eat burgers and drink extortionately priced beers.
On reflection, the films have been a little below par this year. Then again, if they were showing a retrospective of Russian documentaries about snow on the back of a bed sheet in the alley at the back of Burger King, we’d probably still turn up. This is Sitges God damn it
DAY 8 -13.10.2011 – I’M ON THE BITCH POP.
……..We did have time available to catch one last film before heading home but the only real contender was Korean 3D disaster/monster movie SECTOR 7 up at The Auditori which, as griped about on day 7, was a non-starter as far as our knees were concerned.
We instead chose to sweat or way around the flatter sections of “downtown” Sitges, including a half-hearted look around Brigadoon’s exhibition of A.I: Artificial Intelligence concept art. But we both knew we were merely putting off the painful moment where we say our goodbyes to Sitges for one more year, and the melancholic journey home which ensues.