DAY 1 – 12.10.2013 – FAT DAVE GROHL
Those of you that have followed our blog over the years will have noticed a familiar pattern. We start with good intentions and plan to watch films the day we arrive, but as with most of our good intentions they soon disappear like tears in the rain, so we revert to type and get rip-roaring drunk.
And so not to disappoint, 2013 began with a big one. No idea what we spoke about but the fragmented memories that do remain are that we began at one of the bars on the beach (Bodega) and ploughed through beers at such a frightening pace that in no time the sun had gone down. This was our signal to hit our spiritual home in Sitges, El Cable. Again, it’s hard to piece together the events of the evening, but it mainly involved heavy drinking, singing, dancing and talking to girls that clearly hated us. As we left we played a game of human tenpin bowling as we drunkenly cleared out a group of people standing by the entrance, then proceeded to stumble around Sitges trying to find something to eat which ended up being the world’s most expensive ham cobs………….
DAY 2 – 13.10.2013 – CUT THE BITCH SOME SLACK
Sticking to typecasting we couldn’t raise our sorry arses out of bed in time to see the first planned film (MINDSCAPE) but we managed to throw some breakfast down us and head up to the Auditori for……..
10.30 HRS – AUDITORI – THE WORLD’S END
The nutty-topping on the Cornetto trilogy sees Wright unite the familiar vanilla flavours of Pegg and Frost(y) with a triple-dollop of fruit Freeman, chocolate Considine, and mocha Marsden. Wright lovingly whips the ingredients together with a 90’s soundtrack and sprinkles them with 100’s and 1000’s of quotable one-liners as our heros race to make last orders before the smashy-smashy-egg-man calls time on the human race. Great to hear The Auditori’s Spanish audience laugh along with what is at times very English humour.
…………The World’s End definitely perked us up, and with the feeling that we’d already seen one of our favourites of the festival we skipped back down to the Retiro for………………….
13.00 HRS – RETIRO – FANTASTIC SHORTS II
…….Unfortunately, the shorts couldn’t sustain the euphoria of The World’s End and once our hangovers fully kicked in we elbowed the idea of a planned trip to Barcelona. With time to kill we grabbed some tapas in Donastiarra and El Cable before moving on to drinks with our old friend Karen at Cafe del Mon. We’d convinced ourselves that an early night would get our festival schedule back on track but our all too accommodating hostess at La Taverna Divina had other ideas. Several free tapas and frog & toads later and we were staring another shocker in the face.
DAY 3 – 14.10.2013 – THE ENDLESS BUMMER
In boffin-parlance, the ease of arising for a 10.30am screening is directly proportional to the square root of the units of alcohol consumed the day before. In boxing-parlance, we were fucked! At least we didn’t have much time to wallow in self-pity as we piled into the “please don’t let it be sweltering hot” Prado theatre for…………
10.30 HRS – PRADO – FOR THOSE IN PERIL
Shaun had already lost patience with this admittedly difficult film to “enjoy” but the appearance of El rojo Moby Dick towards the end removed any last hope for salvation. Colin, on the other hand, was captivated by Mackay’s performance, all at once a grief stricken brother, troubled son, and apparent bearer of his town’s curse. His initial, post-tragedy interaction with his Mum (Dickie) and brother’s girlfriend (Burley) agonizingly authentic, and yet Mackay was then able to take the pain and despair to new depths as his detachment from reality drove him towards the inevitable but less than fairytale ending. Credit to Wright on his feature debut for bringing out shining performances from such a dark place. Dickie was superb and the beautiful Burley somehow managed to push back the ever present despair to the corners of the screen, if only for a moment.
………….Fortunately Shaun had little time to whale (!) about the pretentiousness of Those in Peril as the quick-march uphill to the Auditori typically leaves him speechless as his will to live is drained step-by-step. Front-side of the Melia was awash with festival-bag-toating free-loaders (wait, wut?!) but we could fortunately head straight in for the refuge of Corridorstyle row and……..
12.15 HRS – AUDITORI – WE ARE WHAT WE ARE
The fact that we’d seen the original on which this film was based (SOMOS LO QUE HAY) ultimately had little bearing on how we viewed this remake as the “reveal” was not what this film hinged on. Mickle had remoulded enough of the old and introduced enough new so as to make this very much his own offering. And a polished, if slightly flat, offering it was too. The rich set design of the original film was mirrored here and the casting of the three family members excellent. Mickle deftly introduced us to the family’s life and while the additional back story added an extra layer to the present day action, the flash-back method by which it was unveiled came across somewhat disjointed. Perhaps the very nature of the story itself should have been enough to have us squirming in our seats but we felt the the film lacked any real menace or uneasiness. And it certainly lacked sufficient screen time for Nic Damici and Michael Parks who’s respective characters Sheriff Meeks and Doc Barrow deserve their own TV series,
……….A gentle saunter back down in to town and a moment to sit a while and grab tapas and beer on the sea-front before heading into our first documentary of the festival……….
15.30 HRS – PRADO – MILIUS
We’d never claim to be anything other than enthusiastic film fans but Figueroa & Knutson’s excellent documentary contains sufficiently meaty “I never knew that” treats to keep even the most ardent aficionados happy. Milius has provided us fans with a lifetime of quote-laden storylines on screen but here we learn that at the same time he was adding countless cocktail stories to the real life folklore of Hollywood itself. The notable talking heads of Spielberg, Lucas, Stone, Ford, Coppola all appear to recall fondly their memories of working with Milius (ok, perhaps not Coppola) but there is also a genuine reverence for his writing ability and unwillingness to compromise its integrity. Our personal favourite snippet was hearing of how Spielberg reached out to Milius over a segment of the JAWS script he was having difficulty nailing, a segment he felt crucial to fully externalise the character of Quint. While it was Howard Sackler that had come up with the idea for the legendary USS Indionapolis speech it was Milius that provided the astounding monologue that Shaw would go on to make his own and deliver into cinematic history. Napalm, 44 Magnums, broadswords and sharks. That seems to sum up John Milius pretty well.
……….Presenting Shaun with a Prado-Auditori-Prado-Auditori back-to-back schedule is like telling him to go suck huge camel balls. As and when he drops the lottery I’ve a feeling the first thing he’ll do is have a moving walkway installed between Sitges centre and The Melia hotel. Fortunately Milius had been sufficiently entertaining so as to distract him from the noise his knees were making, plus the lure of Corridorstyle row seats can usually spur him on……
18.30 HRS – AUDITORI – BORGMAN
We’re a tad ashamed to admit that this was our first Alex Van Warmerdam film but chuffed to say it won’t be our last. We probably could have said that before even watching the film based purely on the warm and humble introduction given by the director prior to the screening. The film itself was possibly less confusing than we may have expected. Sure, there may be as many ways to interpret it as there will be viewers, but the film stands up perfectly well by itself without a deeper meaning of any possible subliminal message it may contain (though if you’re the sort that “needs” to know a film’s intention to enjoy it then you could do worse than just read the citation given on screen during the opening sequence). Playing out almost entirely within the confines of a single location there is an element of theatre about Borgman that serves well to further blur the line between what is real and what is illusion. We have to hold our hands up and say we may have initially been drawn to the ample attributes of Hadewych Minis but it’s the dark and wicked wit of Borgman that will be the film’s enduring charm.
………We decided to try and emulate Shaun’s theatre to theatre endurance with some equally tough but considerably more liquid bar to bar endurance. All good train-wrecks start at station El Cable with a feeble attempt to line our stomachs. We even doubled-down with more scran at El Donostiarra but the tapas were going round for round with the alcohol so by the time we swaggered into Hernan’s we were already on the referee’s 8-count. But before we hit the canvas we managed to cling to the ropes in the Irish Bar and it’s there where the permanent damage was done and the back page headlines would be written……..
DAY 4 – 15.10.2013 – A SHIT IN THE DARK
………Failing to make it to a screening due to being hungover is nothing new. Bursting with anticipation for a film only to be bitterly disappointed has also happened before. But this is probably the first time we managed to do both simultaneously. A way, way too late night in the Irish bar the night before left Shaun shamefully unable to drag his sorry ass out of the pit for a 10.15am showing. Colin actually left the bar an hour or so later and so was probably still in pre-hangover state (aka drunk) when he staggered up to the Auditori for the “triumphant” return of Refn and the Gozzer……….
10.15 HRS – AUDITORI – ONLY GOD FORGIVES
Although flying solo Colin was almost treating this like a Midnight X-Treme screening due to the lingering presence of alcohol and so was ramped up for a Refnfest of voluptuous violence. It says everything that within 15 minutes Colin wished he’d stayed in bed (or the Irish bar). Though it was noted as such in the festival program it was a surprise that the film was screened without English subtitles (only Spanish) considering a reasonable chunk of the early dialogue was in Thai. But in hindsight it would have been better if the entire film had been in Thai, or better still muted entirely. Refn’s visual treats were smeared with virtually every piece of dialogue spoken, as if large cartoon speech bubbles were spewed forth from each character’s mouth. And the characters were cartoonish. It almost played like an extended fake trailer ahead of the PLANET TERROR/DEATH PROOF Grindhouse screening we saw at Sitges back in 2007. To that end a 60 second cut might have been bareable. I wonder if Gosling chose to speak so few lines because that was all he could stomach. All deflated personal expectations aside, this was a terrible film and the only time I’m likely to watch it again is if El Cable have it on in the bar during next year’s festival (on mute)
……….Spitting blood Colin headed back to the hotel to find Shaun still in bits and looking for God’s forgiveness. Even the news that he hadn’t missed anything at The Auditori failed to fend off his funk but he dug deep and attempted to get his day back on track. Hey! Why don’t we go see an abstract film about the concept of time. That’s sure to perk you up…………….
14.15 HRS – PRADO – THE END OF TIME
We’re going to have to put this one down as mis-sold. To be fair we were warned it was all trousers and no talk but it really is a struggle to relate what was presented on screen to anything thought-provoking on the subject of time. The various segments did offer the opportunity for exploration. The boffins at CERN may have offered us something had they not been “directed” instead to merely give us a guided tour of the facilities. Urban decay and subsequent renewal in Detroit could have been linked to the cycle of life and our attempts to conquer, stem, or even reverse the unidirectional flow of time, but it all felt a bit Woodstock, man. We like lava as much as the next guy but God created National Geographic for a reason – to film lava flows. While none of the chosen themes brought any kind of timely message they did look amazing, but each segment looked amazing for at least 10 minutes too long. Chopped in half and retitled “My perception of time” and we might have given Mettler time off for good behavior.
………..Colin headed out to the Prado Cafe garden to retrieve Shaun from beneath the shade of the tree he’d crawled under to avoid his head exploding. No time for wallowing in self-pity, we’ve got a French film about Magic Mountain and the Legend of Greyskull (or something)…………
16.30 HRS – PRADO – L’AUTRE MONDE
We were not only graced with the presence of the director and cast at the screening but we also got to rub crushed-velvet Prado seats with the no-longer wild Bobcat Goldthwait. Director Stanley gave us a rousing introduction so we settled in for what promised to be an intriguing and mysterious adventure. Unfortunately, the program-advertised English subtitles had mysteriously vanished so the lengthy monologues of the Iggy Pop-esque Uranie character (which were significant) were rendered meaningless to us, which to be fair probably would have been the case even with subtitles. We were two steps behind Goldthwait for an early exit.
…..What do you mean that didn’t help shake your hangover? God damn it man! Right! I didn’t want to have to play my Joker so early in the festival but, that’s right, I’m taking you to see a film about commercial fishing shot with head-mounted GoPro cameras. The universal cure for a hangover if ever there was one………..
18.30 HRS – PRADO – LEVIATHAN
We’d gone into this with our GoPro lenses wide open, understanding that it was an experimental approach to documentary filmmaking aimed at submerging the audience into the very bowels of the subject matter. Though we were not particularly interested in the admittedly perilous, day-to-day trials of commercial fishing trawlers we were interested to see whether the filmmakers’ approach would transport us on deck. Here we have to hold our hand up and admit we lasted all of 15 minutes. This was not because we had to rush starboard side of the Prado and seasick up the gallon of Guinness from the night before mind you, but because it appeared that the filmmakers had been reluctant to leave a single second of their experimental child on the digital cutting room floor. A continuous five minute cut of fishing nets being reeled in didn’t serve to convince me I was there on deck so a one minute cut would have no doubt proved equally inadequate, but far less annoying.
……….Like the true pro he his Shaun was getting his shit back together in time for what’s pretty much become a festival evergreen. Ring-side seats in Tres Quarts to watch England attempt to qualify for either the World Cup or the European Championships. A healthy blend of ex-pat and local punters (including a young Spanish Beefy Boatham looky-likey) lent the bar a tasty atmosphere and a composed England performance saw them triumph 2-0 over one-time party poopers Poland and book their seats on next year’s flight to Brazil. We kept our celebrations rather muted as another late night could well have been one brain cell too far.
DAY 5 – 16.10.2013 – WE’RE UP UNTIL THE LIGHTS GO DOWN
…………No breakfast for Shaun (additional sleep tends to trump morning sustenance for Shaun at this stage of the festival) and a gentle saunter up to the Melia for the first of a Sharlto Copley twofer………
10.45 HRS – AUDITORI – OPEN GRAVE
Straight off the bat we should make it clear that the only way we could possibly like Sharlto Copley more would be if he was Sam Rockwell, or Korean. There’s a photo of him under the entry for “Damn watchable!” in our film dictionary. And he didn’t disappoint here, along with solid, if unspectacular, support from the rest of the cast. The story is a little thin but gets away with it by hiding behind the mass amnesia experienced by the protagonists just long enough to get them from one perilous plot point to the next. Keeping Sharlto on screen helps too. We could see where this was going perhaps a little sooner than the filmmakers would have wanted us to and it was a tad lite on the horror/scare front, but Lopez-Gallego did a fine job with the film’s look and feel. Any tension may well have been diluted by the fact that the projector broke down twice during the screening. In fact the second break was never fixed so the final minutes of the film went unwatched. Perhaps it had a killer twist ending and we’re selling it short.
When Rick Skywalker (Mike Hostench) finally came out to admit “a huge mistake” for the stoppage (like the guy in the $4000 suit is going to fix a projector – COME ON!) it was comical to hear him receive abuse from the crowd. Laughable too was the speed at which people turned to Twitter to announce the stoppage and vent their anger. I mean we like Twitter, and can even get a little carried away ourselves prior to the festival, but the theatre itself should be sacrosanct. Enough is enough and it really needs to be reined in, especially at The Auditori.
……….the projector problems had wreaked havoc with the Auditori’s schedule (not to mention Hostench’s $4000 suit. COME ON!) so the next film up – MALA – was bounced and with just a short interlude we were back into the dark and…….
14.45 HRS – AUDITORI – DARK TOUCH
With all the “Carrie” chatter from the critics we expected something more in the mould of a De Palma-esque telekinetic tantrum-fest but the comparisons turned out to be just lazy journalism and any reference to King’s work unworthy flattery. The film actually attempted to drop in its own unique and serious message on child abuse but gave up somewhat in favour of a handful of well staged, if unspectacular set-pieces very much of the genre mould. The set-pieces themselves were almost inserted in lieu of any story/script, each scream-punctuated marker arriving at a timely interval, before stuttering on to the next, and eventually crossing the 90 minute finishing line not knowing how or why it had got there.
……….we have an old saying around these parts – “You can never cop enough Copley” (we don’t really say that. Around these parts or anywhere else)………
16.45 HRS – AUDITORI – EUROPA REPORT
With visuals and performances every bit believable Cordero was able to make the found-footage format of this deep space mission work to great effect. The non-linear storytelling worked too as the crew’s five year mission to Jupiter’s icy moon was broken into character-revealing segments, in and of themselves entertaining enough before even arriving at the mission’s destination. The story itself could stand on its own but credit to the filmmakers for what one must assume was sound research and thoughtful consideration for the authentic look and feel of the film’s technical aspect, at times reminiscent of Duncan Jones’ MOON. Copley again underlined why, even in space, you can hear his screen presence scream, but the main plaudits should go to Cordero for a very accomplished English language debut.
………..We were in full back-to-back mode for the day (as per the special request from Shaun’s knees) and, projector glitches aside, there are few better places in the world to spend a day watching films than the “glory of the Auditori” (until El Cable decides to throw its own film festival)………….
18.45 HRS – AUDITORI – CHEAP THRILLS
If THE WORLD’S END was the most fun-filled ride then this was the sickest (the good kind). To call this Jackass with smarts is unfair but the comparison is hard to avoid as two old school buddies duke it out in a high stakes game of who can endure the most discomfort, pain, and general humiliation for ever more tempting piles of cash. Director E.L Katz ensures excellent writing and perfect casting are allowed to explode onto the screen as this fantastically original premise is accelerated towards its blood-smeared, bone-cunched ending. While Katz is worthy of credit for this his feature debut its hard not to wonder whether the excellent cast (Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton and Champ Kind himself, David Koechner) were not just given the booze and drugs for real and allowed to have the wildest night of their lives while the cameras rolled. That’s how it felt.
………..We celebrated our Auditori four film bonanza with a few cheap thrills of our own down at the seafront Bodega, where the proprietor definitely must have had help getting into her jeans. We wondered whether she’d let us help her out of them but instead decided to move on to El Cable for obligatory nightcaps accompanied by a spot of V For Vendetta on the tivo.
For one half of CS team the night was still young and they had seen something appealing in the reviews for the next film that the other half hadn’t. With this being film number five for the day, and a post 11pm 5th film at that, it was time for the team to go its separate ways with Colin heading for his fill of nighttime, nazi, nastiness…………
23.15 HRS – RETIRO – FRANKENSTEIN’S ARMY
There were a few found-footage offerings at this year’s festival but they at least used the format to tell very different stories. Here we’re led behind Nazi lines at the end of WWII by an elite Russian army unit complete with in-house documentary film crew. Things get more than weird when they stumble across a secret laboratory where dead nazis are being reanimated, but not before they’ve been upgraded with a few tasty bits of military hardware. The faux-documentary aspect is handled well by first-time feature director Richard Raaphorst but this never feels more than the kitschy B-movie it’s intended to be. The Frankenazi monster effects are at least inventive and the instances of first person, close-quarter action provide opportunities for pantomime B-scares, but things start to feel stretched by the half way mark and the monster arrives pretty much D.O.A by the credit roll……..
DAY 6 – 17.10.2013 – FAIRLY GENIUS
……Shaun began Day 6 as he had Day 5 with breakfast off the menu. To compensate he threw in some self-pampering with a taxi up to the Auditori for the first film of the day. Colin slummed it through the Sitges back streets with the peasants…………..
10.15 HRS – AUDITORI – BIG BAD WOLVES
It’s a little difficult to see why Tarantino has called this the best film of 2013. Sure, there’s a pulpy and inventive torture scene in a cellar but beyond that it lacks any real bite or true sense of what it wants to be. The opening title sequence is glorious (so good in fact that the Auditori’s projector obligingly broke down so we got to watch it a second time when back up and running) but things falter pretty soon after and (unlike the projector) never get going again. The tricky matter of delivering dark humour on such a subject as child abduction/torture/sexual abuse appears to dizzy the film as it fails to take hold of one direction after another, never finishing what it starts. It looks and sounds amazing and there are solid performances from the leads, in particular Lior Ashkenazi (Miki) who has true screen presence, and also Rotem Keinan (Dror) who handled the task of acting while being tortured about as well as possible considering the context and the material he had to work with for a large chunk of the film. Attempts to layer confusion as to who-did-what are just clunky and both the humour and violence fall short of their intended marks. We’ll probably look out for future works by both the director and Ashkenazi but that’s about it.
……..with a couple of hours to kill the team took a stroll down to the marina but quickly realised we’d either walked onto the set of a 28 days later Spanish remake or the place was dead. We had a quick peak through the window at Nirvana to see if we could find any evidence of carnage from festival night time activity before heading for the way out. As we walked away from the marina we saw Bobcat heading in and although we considered turning him about face he seemed happy to wander alone with his thoughts so we exchanged pleasantries and moved on. A brief pit-stop at the Auditori cafe was accompanied by a rare excursion into a non-film/sport/girls/drinking conversation on UK politics and social welfare. Perhaps it was an attempt to warm-up under used grey-matter ahead of our next film in case it was needed………
14.30 HRS – AUDITORI – THE PHILOSOPHERS
A classic Sitges experience for us where we enter a film with near-zero expectations only to be pleasantly surprised with an above average offering, especially considering we were likely as far away from the filmmakers intended audience as possible. A philosophy professor lays down a challenge to his bright and (implausibly) beautiful teenage students where they have to decide who amongst them should be saved and who should be left behind to perish when faced with a hypothetical nuclear apocalypse and a bunker with space for only half their number. As the class think through several possible scenarios we’re transported visually in each instance, seeing their thought experiments play out for real. A neat and original premise well thought through and tightly delivered by cast and crew alike. It may be a little too cheesy for some, and a tad pointless to others, but this is an entertaining effort that delivers on everything it sets out to achieve.
…….in true Sitges reach-around tradition it was straight back into the Auditori for a much anticipated documentary……….
16.30 HRS – AUDITORI – JODOROWSKY’S DUNE
They don’t make ’em like this anymore. In fact, they never actually did. This is the story of the film version of Frank Herbert’s “DUNE” that never was (as opposed to the David Lynch version of Dune that most people wish never was). It could be said that they don’t make ’em like Jodorowsky anymore. Documentarian Frank Pavich rightly elects to give plenty of screen time to Jodorowsky’s emotionally charged recollections of how he set about bringing together his army of “spiritual warriors” to make not just the greatest film of all time, but the greatest human experience of all time.
The Chilean director initially comes across as a bit of a prick, a little too comfortable letting everyone know how great he is, but once you tune into his wavelength you realise it’s not arrogance it’s just passionate belief, it’s not grandeur and pomp, it’s just bonkerdness. We see the extents he went to to realise his artistic vision, and how fortunate encounters (as if it was his destiny to make the film) enabled him to bring behemoths such as Pink Floyd, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dali on board. All this serves to heighten the sense of “what could have been”, though the film lays somewhat flimsy claims that Jodorowsky’s efforts while not resulting in an epic film, influenced future generations of science fiction classics such as Alien, Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Matrix and more. We’re not so sure about that but we can’t help but wonder what might have been.
………There’s only one better way to finish off a Sitges day than with a good film and that’s with a good film followed by beers. We paid another visit to the sea front Bodega just to make sure the proprietor was still comfortable with her clothing. While attempting to impress with secondary school Spanish we learnt, much to our dismay, that we’d been pronouncing the name of our favourite bar wrong all these years, and that El Cable was truly pronounced “cab-lay” (as we’d been told several times but refused to adopt). We entered “Kabul” an hour later somewhat sheepishly, suspecting everyone knew us for the frauds we were. We quickly ordered beers and tapas to hide behind but our cover was blown when Shaun decided to throw his beer all over the poor couple at the next table. Feeling this was surely the end of an era and we’d soon be out on our ear we were slightly surprised to instead to receive a must-have, special edition El Cable festival T-Shirt. Actually, Shaun received one so the bar’s beef may well only have been with Colin after his Saturday night antics……..
DAY 7 – 18.10.2013 – WE’RE ONLY HERE FOR THE BAD GUYS
…….Our final full day is always a sad affair but the organizers had at least made it a potential belter to see us off in style. We’d decided to kick it old-skool and keep our schedule with the Retiro and Prado in the heart of the town………
10.30 HRS – RETIRO – THE MACHINE
“Can machines think?” Alan Turing proposed this question in 1950 as part of a test to determine the ability of a machine to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. We could also ask “Do androids dream of electric sheep?”, probably a more appropriate reference for The Machine with all its Blade Runner-esque look and sound. It helps that the android here could be considered a “pleasure model” but the skin tight lycra is just one of the many visual elements that works. So too does the underlying premise of artificial verses human intelligence to drive a story set in a near future where top secret military projects race to perfect the ultimate soldier, a highly specialised and intelligent killing machine.
Toby Stephens and Caity Lotz are excellent as creator and creation, but the plaudits go to writer/director Caradog James for a well crafted, thinking-man’s sci-fi with sensory treats a plenty.
………..back-to-back Retiro is somewhat of a rarity but we’re always keen to sample the festival short films on offer although, in hindsight, we probably should have tried some shorts in El Cable instead………….
12.15 HRS – RETIRO – FANTASTIC SHORTS III
While the six Spanish shorts on offer weren’t really our thang, TIMOTHY was a well made example of what we consider a “Fantastic Short” to be. The same could possibly be said of BLINK but director Diego Latorre seemed like a bit of a knob (as he and the other 5 filmmakers appeared on stage to present their films) so we’re probably guilty of pre-judging his work.
………..no time to waste as we headed straight up to the Prado for what we’d highlighted as one of our must-see films of the festival and potential Golden Clawhammer winner………
14.30 HRS – PRADO – THE DIRTIES
Here was an example of a filmmaker persuading us to pre-judge his work in a positive way. We’d already read good things about writer/director Matt Johnson and his feature debut but when he turned up at the intimate Prado theatre and proceeded to introduce his film with humility and humour it served to cement his place in the CS beer hall of fame.
But it wasn’t because we were now wearing Johnson-tinted glasses that we thought The Dirties was one of the best films of the festival, it was because it’s funny, well conceived, well executed, oozes film references and puts it all out there for better or worse. All the more commendable because Johnson has taken his personal experiences and reactions to the weighty, and life-altering subjects of bullying and school shootings and channelled them through his passion for movies to deliver something original, intelligent and mature. And we haven’t even mentioned the fact he’s a teenager and he basically made this film with 4 mates for around $10,000. Without doubt a filmmaker to follow from here on.
………Matt Johnson had not disappointed and certainly put himself in the frame for top CS honours of 2013 (for which I’m sure he was rightly pleased with himself). We headed to Hotel Romantic (don’t ask) to hook up with our friend Karen and her pooch. Having previously swerved the Romantic on, admittedly, unfounded fears we were pleasantly surprised to find a great bar and garden, though we suspect frequenting it during the evening as just a twosome may still offer some challenges (as did the mosquitoes during the day). No time to dwell on such trivialities as we’d got a Korean double bill for the potentially perfect finish to the festival………….
18.15 HRS – RETIRO – NEW WORLD
The Koreans have been wooing us with pre-screening introductions at the festival for years now and Writer/Director Hoon-jung Park was no exception as he humbly accepted The Retiro’s warm welcome.
This sprawling Korean gangster epic may seem like a bit of a stretch at two and a quarter hours (it was too big an ask for one member of the team) but the film never drags and the extended run time allows its characters and the world they operate within to fully form. That’s down to great writing by Hoon-jung Park and perfectly weighted performances from the three key characters (Jung-jae Lee, Min-sik Choi, Jeong-min Hwang). We’ve seen several Hong Kong and Japanese gangster efforts fail for the very reasons that we never become invested in their protagonists and we remain detached from their violent, back-stabbing ways. New World gets us on board early and though at first we’re not sure whether to cheer for good guy or bad guy, cop or criminal, we soon realise you can shout for them all as each freely choses to operate beyond any and all moral boundaries. The plot is tight and the twists wind it tighter. The main leads constantly out do each other with bristling performances, and the violence (and there is violence) is never unnecessary but servant to the story. One particular epic fight sequence culminating in a close-quarter blood bath inside an elevator is one of Korea’s finest yet. How do you say The Godfather in Korean?
……….with only one half of the team seeing the New World through to the end the pressure was on our Korean brethren to prove they still had midas touch at Sitges………..
21.15 HRS – PRADO – FATAL
Writer/Director Donku Lee didn’t let the side down with yet another quietly spoken and gracious introduction to his debut feature in front of the appreciative Prado audience. And what a quietly spoken but very accomplished debut it was.
Although a story of revenge and retribution FATAL doesn’t really follow the standard Korean format for the sub genre. The look and feel is less polished compared to some of its compatriots slick and violent offerings but it’s also the story itself that approaches the act of taking an eye for an eye from a different angle. The familiar vengeful elements are there, and equally violent when they come, but it’s how we arrive to the point of their execution that sets Donku Lee’s story apart. The director asks a lot of his young leads but both Yeon-woo Nam and Jo-a Yang deliver realistic and emotional performances, one scene where Yang’s character finally releases her hidden torment to her friends being particularly powerful. There are perhaps some faults with pacing and story but Lee can certainly be forgiven those for bringing an original and powerful story to the crowded Korean arena on his first attempt.
……….unfortunately, Fatal too was only seen out by one half of Corridorstyle so the team reconvened in L’avinyet where a brief postmortem of the state of Korean cinema could take place. While sat outside we were left slightly opened mouthed as an old friend/adversary Twitchy sauntered past hand in hand with the belle of the ball. He was obviously walking the walk and reminded us never to underestimate some folk. We were due to hook up with Karen for one last farewell but crossed wires meant we saw out the rest of the evening once more as a two-ball in the corner bar around from the Prado………..
DAY 8 – 19.10.2013 – HE LOVES THE VAUXHALL
With one half of the team on the first flight out of Dodge there were a few hours for team member number 2 to negotiate without the “sure-to-end-in-tears” prospect of hitting the bars. I know! Why not take in a bit of Takashi Miike retrospective at the Prado…….and why not try it with only Spanish subtitles for a laugh!
10.45 HRS – PRADO – SHANGRI-LA
We’ve never really taken to Miike over the years though the festival clearly loves him and he is undoubtedly one of cinema’s iconic directors, but what started out as a means to stay out of the pub turned into a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours. With the topical backdrop of financial crisis we follow the owner of a small print company as he struggles to stay afloat when his biggest client falsely files for bankruptcy in order to protect his large personal wealth. Fate offers the printer salvation when it delivers him into the arms of the eccentric “mayor” of a small shanty town who just might have a plan for how to save his business and his honour. Unashamedly low budget but high on laughs and lovingly crafted, this showed a side of Miike we’d probably never have given him credit for.
12.45 HRS – PRADO – THE CITY OF LOST SOULS
With only 30 minutes before my train for the airport I took the chance to sit in on the start of the second Miike retrospective film at the Prado as the man himself was there to introduce it. His decidedly dodgy attire aside Miike was every bit the gentleman, leaving no doubt that the festival love was a two-way street.
As I had to dip out after only 15 minutes all I can say is that the film’s opening was suitably bonkers. Going from dusty Sergio Leone territory (except that dude’s got no pants on!) to big budget jailbreak Stallone-type vehicle complete with helicopters and explosions. God knows how many more genres it took in its stride from then on, but probably not nearly enough as far as Miike was concerned.
………and so, as quickly as she comes around each year, the festival was heading off into the sunset, and so were we………..