37th Sitges Film Festival. 02/12/04 – 11/12/04
The 37th edition of the festival was again staged in December and once more delivered an impressive programme. There was also special recognition to mark the 50th anniversary of Godzilla and 25 years since the release of Star Wars.
For our second visit to the festival we used the hotel Subur as our base. We had drawn up a short list of the films we wanted to see from the programme posted on the official festival website (cinemasitges.com) prior to the festival. Only one from the list really disappointed but this was more than made up for with three gems.
Sad though it is THE BIRTHDAY made the short list on the strength of Corey Feldman alone. That will teach us. It’s a toss up as to who had the worst night of their life. Feldman’s character Norman or myself. The film’s real-time account of events was torture. Perhaps this was a feature of Sitges. Instead of merely watching ingenious torture sequences on the screen, audience participation was it’s gimmick. Where’s my opinion of Feldman now compared to his efforts in the 80’s? Probably unfair to judge him in that way but, like the film’s main star, the elevator, it’s in the basement.
Fortunately, the guests from Korea, Spain, and the U.S.A were around to keep the party going. OLD BOY, THE MACHINIST, and PRIMER were my stand-out films of the festival.
OLD BOY stands up for itself in all ways cinematic. From the opening sequence it was substance with style. Great characters saying great things (with and without words), looking great while they’re saying it and moving a great story forward. All boxes ticked then. However, the whole is worth more than the sum of it’s parts and I’m putting that down to the Wookie, Park Chan-wook. Also of note were fantastic performances from Choi Min-sik, Yu Ji-tae, Kang Hye-jeong and, of course, the claw hammer in the hands of Oh Dae-su.
Apart from AMERICAN PSYCHO and a vague recollection of a child role in EMPIRE OF THE SUN I hadn’t really paid too much attention to the career of Christian Bale. However, his performance in THE MACHINIST was another of the lasting impacts from the festival. Some may see his incredible weight loss as sensational or gimmicky and unecessary for the role. I think it helped externalised his character’s mental state and set up many of the interactions with other characters in the film. Either way, it was vuisually striking and left me with the opinion that Bale had immersed himself in the character. I’ll be looking for his next one.
Having done nothing more than read a brief synopsis of PRIMER my expectations were neutral. As an aspiring filmaker it was amazing to see just what was possible as a first-timer with a non-existent budget ($7000), imagination, and plain old hard graft (3 years worth). Shane Carruth had a hand in everything and pulled off a gem of a movie. Thought-provoking, entertaining, believable, stylish, and a worker on several levels. It was good to see that the only objective criticism I saw of the film was aimed at the poor sound quality of some of the dialogue, something I feel completely forgiveable considering the constraints the crew worked under.
A nod also has to be given to the 7 minute long single take opening sequence of Johnnie To’s BREAKING NEWS. Some may argue it’s relevance but who cares, I just thought it was cool.
The birthday (Dir. Eugenio Mira)
Breaking news (Dir. Johnnie To)
Innocense: Ghost in the shell 2 (Dir. Mamoru Oshii)
The machinist (Dir. Brad Anderson)
Old boy (Dir. Park Chan-wook)
Arahan (Dir. Ryoo Seung-wan)
Casshern (Dir. Kazuaki Kiriya)
Final cut (Dir. Omar Naim)
Primer (Dir. Shane Carruth)
For details of all 37th edition film entries and awards go to: