Below is a blow by blow account of our 2008 festival experience. There’ll be more of the same in 2009 but feel free to share any of your own personal thoughts/experiences in the meantime.
DAY 1 – Napoleon, give me some of those Tater-Tots
Luckily, the first film today wasn’t until after lunch so, bearing in mind the previous night’s drink fuelled hi-jinks, we should have been in tip-top form. Unfortunately, due to the onset of old age and light-weightedness, we started the day completely in bits and, following a hearty carb-packed breakfast, we staggered out into the Sitges sun to collect our press accreditation pass.
Following a slight hiccup (what do you mean I can’t just swan into as many films I like, whenever I like?) we arrived at the Casino Prado to check out our first film of the festival EDEN LOG…….
13.30HRS – EDEN LOG – CAINO PRADO
French apocalyptic sci-fi which attempted to slowly unfold a telling tale for mankind. The film ultimately relied on a revelational punch ending without any attempt to get you there in an entertaining or a suspenseful way. When the knockout punch “swung and missed” all that was left was a bunch of confused facial expressions and pig grunting from a protagonist we couldn’t care less about. Some may point to the film for purely the screaming metaphor it is, however, there were a hundred other ways where this could have (and has been) done better.
……. We emerged bleary eyed from this torturous French film and realised that the only thing to suffice would be a sugar rush – Hello Dunkin Donuts!
Suitably refreshed, although still requiring the extra kick of a Berocca , we strolled up to the Casino Prado to check out what could have been a potential banana skin, Spanish serial killer flick RAMIREZ
17:30HRS – RAMIREZ – CASINO PRADO
Ramirez is a drug dealer and serial killer and we get to see his daily movements first hand, almost fly-on-the-wall style. It’s not clear if his first on screen kill is his first kill ever, but we learn that his drive to kill stems from inappropriate attention from his mother as a child. Shot with style, though not always polished, and carried with class by Spanish actor, Christian Magaloni. A well trodden premise was given a fresh airing. As always, we’d be interested to know how long the film took to shoot and on what budget. Anyone?
…….Thankfully, RAMIREZ got a bigger thumbs up from the team than we’d imagined. After a quick pit-stop for a beer we shot up to the Auditori to check out our next film, VINYAN. This was fairly eagerly awaited by team CS following some reports on the Internet so we arrived in plenty of time to take up top seats. Following some back and forth with festival organisers regarding whether Shaun had to demean himself by going in the same entrance as Joe public (result – he didn’t) top seats were secured.
20:30HRS – VINYAN – AUDITORI
A French/UK collaboration which boasted Emmanuelle Beart and Rufus Sewell amongst its cast and promised much yet failed to deliver on so many levels. This may have fared better if it had stuck to its primary premise of a parents renewed hope of finding their child who had been lost in the Tsunami which had devastated Thailand. Instead, any direction it may have taken from this theme was lost, and while Beart’s performance of a mother’s mental disintegration and disconnection from reality certainly took up a big chunk of screen time, as the story took the next exit to bonkersville I just didn’t care for her character or her distress. And don’t get me started on Sewell.
………..Will somebody open a window, VINYAN has just stunk the place out. We leave the cinema an angry pair after what we have just witnessed but there’s little time for negativity as we’re straight in to ROCKNROLLA
22:45HRS – ROCKNROLLA – AUDITORI
We’re all aboard the Guy Ritchie loveboat here at CorridorStyle and with ROCKNROLLA we were reminded why. With a great eye for an ensemble cast and so much style he could box up the left overs and sell ‘em at a car boot sale, Ritchie rarely fails to leave his mark. Some have pointed to his repetition of theme and presentation but that just riles us here at CS HQ. If you don’t like Ritchie’s favoured themes then fair enough, but if you ARE open to heist-gone-wrong, overlapping colourful characters using colourful dialogue to weave colourful plot lines, well, it’s hard to see how Ritchie can be bettered. Butler continues to impress and we were treated to great turns by Tom Hardy and Toby Kebbell.
………Thank fuck for that! We leave the Auditori on a high and, after discussing the merits of Guy Ritchie’s dress sense, we arrive back in the centre of Sitges at 1am looking for a night-cap. Fortunately for us, as we have a 9.30am film kick-off tomorrow, most of Sitges is closed so we retire to bed (not the same one) looking forward to tomorrow’s program of Hong Kong/Greek/Korean fayre
DAY 2 – I love the smell of fried eggs in the morning
After a slightly more subdued breakfast than the previous day. Today’s films started with a distinct whimper.
09:30HRS – THE MOSS – EL RETIRO
Every year we visit the festival we are attracted by general synopses of Hong Kong films that seem to always disappoint. Unfortunately, THE MOSS was no exception. A convoluted story that threw in everything but the kitchen sink. There were numerous plotlines which included a an orphan who travelled to Hong Kong to try to find her prostitute sister and earn a fortune on the side. Her sister is in love with a tarnished/corrupt cop who, following the disappearance of the son of a female crime boss, is tasked (by the crime boss) with the job of finding out if one of the rival crime bosses, with whom he also has corrupt ties, has killed him.
Are you still with me? Good, because we’ve still got a way to go yet. When he goes to speak to the rival boss he becomes involved in a shoot-out with a homeless hitman (honestly) which ends with the corrupt cop accidentally running over and killing the boss. The film then spirals out of control as the hitman befriends the young orphan girl, the cop discovers that the killer has beaten the older sister into a coma who also happens to be pregnant with his child and both may now perish. Phew! The killer has now also kidnapped the orphan so the cop decides that the key to everything is to find the killer, kill him, rescue the girl and bring her to her sister’s side to revive her from the coma so that everyone (apart from the killer) can live happily ever after. There were also about thirty sub-plots that I’ve missed out and Colin went into a coma of his own during the film – lucky him.
I’m not sure if it’s just me that thinks this appears to be the M.O of most HK films or I’m just generalising. Either way I’m going to be pretty much giving them a wide berth from now on.
…….Having revived Colin from his self-induced coma we took a steady stroll up to the Auditori for Abel Ferrara’s CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS
13:00HRS – CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS – AUDITORI
Abel Ferrara, director of DRILLER KILLER, BAD LIEUTENANT, and KING OF NEW YORK directs this documentary about New York’s Chelsea Hotel. There’s not actually a lot to say about this film. It’s a fairly interesting look into a landmark hotel and its long-term residents but you can’t help thinking that the people who stay there, and those who made this film, probably think that this place is far more interesting and important than it actually is.
……A fairly run of the mill documentary was made more interesting as it was followed by a brief Q&A with the director. A gruff New Yorker, Ferrara first decided he didn’t want to do the Q&A from the stage so instead beckoned everyone down to the first ten rows where he then spent the next five minutes complaining about how bright the camera lights were before finally deciding he was ready to answer questions. We can’t quite decide just how stroppy he was. He seemed annoyed that there weren’t many people in attendance and also that there hadn’t been a great deal of publicity in the festival newspaper, but finally seemed to warm to us for the remainder of the 20 minute session.
A short walk around the corner brought us back to the queuing area where, after a quick beer, we headed in to Greek film TALE 52. This was a first for CorridorStyle as the only previous experience we had of Greek cinema was ZORBA THE GREEK, anything with ANTHONY QUINN, and GREASE.
15:15HRS – TALE 52 – AUDITORI
Although we quite liked it, this film prompted more walk outs than Jim Davidson at a Gay Pride march. It was introduced by the director who pretty much summed up the film by saying “you might not understand it, you might not enjoy it, but I hope you like it”. Not the best sales pitch ever but turned out to be one of the more accurate. I definitely didn’t understand it but what I thought was going on was a GROUNDHOG DAY style story of a guy in a new relationship who appears to be able to go back in time and correct the mistakes he keeps making with this new girl. However, he hasn’t taken into consideration the fact that, sometimes, things just aren’t meant to be. As he continues to make mistakes he becomes more exasperated which, in turn, leads to further melt down of the relationship.
I couldn’t say that I enjoyed the film and the above explanation is just my interpretation of the story and could be wide of the mark but, as the director hoped, I definitely quite liked it…..sort of.
……..TALE 52 finished around 5pm and, as our next film wasn’t until 22.30pm we decided re-fuelling should be on the agenda. We high-tailed it back into town running into the lead actor from RAMIREZ on the way. We decided to stop and lay on the love with a high five and high praise for his performance. He seemed genuinely pleased that we’d taken the time but, to be honest, he was a little distracted by the car full of beautiful girls that had pulled up next to us, something that will no doubt be happening to him on a fairly regular basis from now on.
On the way back we decided that burgers were in order but for some reason decided it would be a good idea to call in at Café Del Mon first and get on the vino. I suspect we both knew at the time that this had the potential to cause problems but we also knew that we were powerless to stop it from happening. Cut to two hours later and we’ve got a full buzz on waiting to see THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD. After consuming a bottle of wine, four or five beers and a burger to boot, I defy anyone to stay awake through a two hour Korean spaghetti western in a boiling hot cinema.
22:30HRS – THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD – AUDITORI
From the get-go we’re thrown head first into unexpected pace and energy, both visually and audibly. There’s no five minute long, panoramic, Western-scape opening shot here. Though the film certainly has its 10-Gallon hat well and truly tipped towards Leone, from the film’s very title itself through to the use of contrasting extreme close-ups with breathtaking wide-angle two, three, and set-up shots, there’s also a distinctive Korean feel present throughout. We’re not talking about the actors here, though they excel in what one must assume is an unusual genre for them, but more the visual style, pace and pitch of the acting. The film’s plot, as in Leone’s masterpiece, plunges our three titular characters head first into an ever tightening, hell-raising, gun-blazing adventure full of twists, turns, betrayals and deceits culminating in a finale, the likes of which we’ve sort of seen before, but perhaps not with that Korean X factor.
………Colin, as usual, took it all in his stride whereas Shaun unfortunately finished up a full-blown casualty. Falling asleep after barely fifteen minutes he managed at most a third of the film which wouldn’t normally be a problem except for the fact that Spanish audiences clearly don’t react well to the sound of snoring while they’re trying to get their heads around Korean cinema’s finest.
We decided 1.30am was as good a time as any to wrap things up and so went home to dream of tomorrow’s tater tots.
Before we go, we want to state for the record that the highlight of the day was the bizarre sight of Abel Ferrara accepting an award and introducing THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD. He arrived on stage fully juiced having been in the bar since his earlier Q&A. He was still complaining about the bright lights and then proceeded to mumble his way through an incomprehensible acceptance speech before introducing the film by admitting he knew nothing about it. Highly entertaining. Now if only we can get Spielberg to turn up to The Oscars high on crack.
DAY 3 – For you Fritz, the war is over.
Shaun skipped breakfast for a bit of a lie-in as our first film of the day was not until 10am
10:00HRS – OUR TOWN – RETIRO
While Hong Kong films, to us at least, can sometimes have the lush look but lack substance, Korean films can be the reverse. OUR TOWN’S appearance was, at times, flat and washed out, though occasionally splashed with extravagantly clareted scenes of violence and symbolic death as a serial killer prayed on the town’s women. Perhaps this was the director’s intention. After all, these gruesome scenes should stand out in an ordinary world.
The film revolved around three characters from the town in the film’s title. A struggling writer and a cop who had been friends since childhood, and a model teenage citizen with something seemingly lurking beneath the surface. As the murders continue we realise that the past of the three characters winds back to a point where they’re closely entwined, something that is now unravelling as the film reaches its climax.
We’ve been somewhat spoilt with the stylised films of Park Chan-Wook and Kim Jee-Woon so it’s probably unfair to say that OUR TOWN lacked visual impact. Instead we can point to great performances from Oh Man-Seok and Lee Seon-Gyun and a well-structured presentation by director Jung Kil-Young (great name) of a nicely layered story.
……Out of OUR TOWN we moved on to the Auditori where Shaun topped up on Coke and Sobresada baguettes while Colin stuck with a good old fashioned drinker’s lunch of beer. As our next film was the “surprise session” we passed the remaining time guessing which film the festival was going to serve up. We managed to get the genre correct (horror) but it turned out to be a pretty run-of-the-mill Hollywood offering.
13:00HRS – SURPRISE SESSION – AUDITORI
A French short called THE ORION CONSPIRACY was shown Prior to the main feature. A simple but competent story was given extra weight with an unexpected and topical punch line. The film’s take on a possible near future conspiracy certainly held water. So as not to drop and spoilers I’ll leave you to visit the film’s website (www.theorionconspiracy.com) and draw your own conclusions.
The surprise session feature turned out to be an American slasher/horror flick released to coincide with the Halloween holiday. TRICK OR TREAT took a “tales from the crypt” style approach with four overlapping stories linked to the trick or treat Halloween theme. Visually similar to many of the same genre we were offered nothing really new but perhaps sufficient for a specific Halloween audience.
……After the now customary beer stop it was a case of out one end and in the other (probably the wrong thing to say in Sitges) as we headed straight back into the Auditori for RED. We are definitely using the press pass to full effect as it’s goodbye to queuing for an hour and a half with the plebs, and hello to more beers and breezing through a special entrance for prime seats. The only downside being that as the day goes on and more beers are consumed, the chances of us staying awake throughout the late showings become less and less.
15:15HRS – RED – AUDITORI
A strange choice for the Festival, RED tells the story of Avery (Brian Cox), a widower, whose best friend is his dog, Red. One day while fishing, Avery encounters three teenagers out hunting. What originally starts out as a friendly encounter soon turns ugly as the teenagers demand money from Avery. On discovering that Avery has nothing of value, the teenagers turn their anger on Red who they callously shoot dead.
A heartbroken Avery seeks justice through legitimate channels but the teenage killer’s powerful father (Tom Sizemore) uses his influential connections to thwart Avery at every turn. This leaves Avery with no other option but to seek his revenge down another, less legitimate route.
Strictly B-Movie Sunday afternoon fodder, it wasn’t necessarily a bad film, it just didn’t have much going for it either. I’m a revenge film fan but I’ve got serious doubts about Brian Cox’s ability to be the lead actor and carry the film. He did very little to convince you of his anger at Red’s death and it was his one-dimensional acting, and that of the rest of the cast, which let the film down. Special mention must go to Tom Sizemore who, following a spectacular fall from grace, seems consigned to puff and pant his way through this type of second class movie clunker for the rest of his career.
……….After RED we had three hours to burn until our next film. Normally this would have spelt trouble as; downtime + kitty = bar. And bar x 3 hours = going missing, however, we instead took the grownup route and went down to the press area to upload or blog and reviews. In reality, this was nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to look like legitimate journalists as opposed to two drunken idiots who’d blagged press passes. The time was duly spent stumbling around the press area scowling at everyone something akin to Dan Ackroyd in trading places. Cut to two hours later, having blagged more free stuff for The Ocho, we emerged triumphantly, having actually followed through on something we said we would do, and joined the queue for the highly anticipated, and equally controversial MARTYRS
20:00HRS – MARTYRS – AUDITORI
The film’s controversy preceded it around every corner in Sitges, yet we managed to sufficiently avoid potential spoilers to allow us to see what all the fuss was about in a relatively bias-free state of mind. Pascal Laugier (Director) gave a brief introduction prior to the screening and it transpired that this was exactly what he hoped for, that we put aside any preconceived thoughts and allow ourselves a pure cinematic experience.
The story follows Anna and Lucie, two girls who develop an inseparable bond while Lucie is recovering from a traumatic experience at the hands of unknown torturers. We see a brief glimpse of what Lucie experienced, but we only become fully aware of the extent of her trauma as events unfold. The violence is explicit and is framed in a way so as to extract maximum impact. The audience can feel it. The psychological trauma is also passed from screen to viewer and this will go on to form an important aspect of how the audience receives the film third and final act.
The controversy surrounds the explicit violence (and it’s here where a big rift is opened up in the CorridorStyle camp) but once the film concludes it can be said that this was necessary for the full force of the film’s theme to be felt. The two actresses Morjana Alaoui and Myrlene Jampanoi were incredible but I fear that their performances may unfortunately be engulfed by the storm surrounding the film.
……We left MARTYRS fired up and it was clear that CS opinions were split, with Colin on the “5 stars – two thumbs up” side of the fence and Shaun looking for somebody to get angry with. An hour later, and in the fine company of Mr.Tapas and Mrs.Cidra in Lizarran, the debate raged on, and Shaun was very nearly presented with a unwitting victim as we had our first brush with idiot Germans. They infect the place like a virus, with their ridiculous language and loud voices. They sit at the bar and act all offended when you reach past them to get at the tapas (situated on the bar as it happens). SIT SOMEWHERE ELSE YOU IDIOTS. I’M FRICKING HUNGRY!!
After our refuel we decided to close out the night with a bottle of Red at an old haunt of ours, THE ROAD CAFÉ. It’s a bar run by an Argentinean called Hernan who welcomes us like old friends. Unfortunately, we’re yet again cursed with Germans at the next table. A couple of coppas later and they finally decide to leave, but in the process knock our Red wine flying and, of more pressing emergency to ze Germans, all over our trainers. How we didn’t kick them all over the place 1945 style I’ll never know. Hernan dived in as peacekeeper, refuelling our vino and glad-handing fritz and Bruno on their way. As the Germans turned and made their brisk departure, Hernan promptly clicked his heels together and gave them a full-on Nazi salute. The man is pure class
DAY 4 – You can’t handle the truth.
Feeling a little the worse for wear, we trudged out gingerly for our first film of the day..
09:45HRS – TOKYO GORE POLICE – RETIRO
“A group of mutants that can regenerate any wound into a weapon of destruction”. You’ve just got to go and see that movie. It’s unlikely be showing on the BBC anytime soon.
The futuristic tale of a privatised Tokyo police force that has had to raise its game, and its gore, to match a gruesome adversary. This isn’t aiming for best foreign film at the Oscars and is instead content to set new records for the most use of corn syrup in a motion picture. A poke at Japanese culture’s acceptance of violence is there perhaps, but only with tongue firmly on cheek.
…..with our heads slightly fried and some time to burn we decided to head to the hidden gem that is Café (yeah) Roy to snag some of their free wi-fi and relieve them of the odd beverage of two. The only downside was that the computer of the guy on the next table was right in my eye line as he surfed a number of gay “dating” websites. I use the term dating loosely as it appeared that the sites consisted mainly of pictures of naked men with abnormally large penises. Some of the images I saw will remain with me for some time, but not in a good way.
Looking to take our minds off the “odd thing” or two, we were relieved to find that it was time to head for our first Korean film of the day..
14:15HRS DACHIMAWA LEE – RETIRO
An Austin Powers style story of a 1940’s Korean spy and his attempts to recover “The Golden Buddha” from a joint Japanese/Chinese evil organisation. It would be pointless to go into the plot in any more detail than that as, with a film like this, it’s fairly unimportant. In general, this got a big thumbs up with laughs throughout. With “hat tips” to big budget Western produced films such as INDIANA JONES and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, great set pieces, inventive physical comedy, and excellent performances from the whole cast, this turned out to be an unexpected festival hit.
…With little time to spare it was straight on to the Auditori for a back-to-back session (yet again, a poor turn of phrase for Sitges). First up, a bit of Brit horror….
18:00HRS EDEN LAKE – AUDITORI
A Brit horror from first time director James Watkins brings us the story of a couple who visit a remote village in the Midlands to spend a lazy weekend camping on the shores of a picturesque lake. Whilst there they encounter a group of teenagers who take an immediate dislike to the couple and proceed to harass and intimidate them. After an uncomfortable afternoon the couple spend an edgy first night camped by the lake. Unfortunately, the next day the teenagers return and, after a frightening confrontation with their Rottweiler, the couple begin to fear that events may escalate beyond simple juvenile high jinks, and that even their lives may be in danger.
Films with similar themes seem to be the flavour of the moment yet Watkins keeps this fresh with a tight, tense pace and direction. Excellent cast performances helped keep the drama real and intense and the film avoided slipping into any potential cliché traps, especially as events raced towards it’s climax….and beyond.
…..After a pitstop a Ferrari F1 team would be proud of it was into our second Korean film of the day, and the one we’d been eagerly waiting for..
20:00HRS – THE CHASER – AUDITORI
A packed Auditori was treated to an introduction from the film’s director Na Hong-Jin and, as we’ve witnessed previously with Park Chan-Wook, you can’t help but feel that our Korean friends feel genuinely humble and grateful for the audience’s participation in their film. In this case, Na Hong-Jin chose to display his gratitude more than most when, via his translator, and with small bows of thanks, he invited the whole audience back to his room to celebrate after the film……”if we had nothing better to do”
THE CHASER combined all that we have come to love and admire about Korean cinema since our OLD BOY baptism in 2004. Although not something I purposefully look for in a film, it has to be mentioned that the Koreans have mastered the perfect technical combination to compliment their distinct brand of story telling. With a genius eye for the visual, from expressive character actors and unique locations, to pitch perfect cinematography and mood-setting lighting to capture the film’s every heartbeat. Their use of original score never intrudes and yet can carry a scene’s hope and joy beyond the limit of the visual, or drive it beneath the surface of its darkness and despair. And they seem to have brought through a generation of directors who can harness these powerful elements so that the story remains held aloft not hidden beneath smoke and mirrors.
And THE CHASER is a great story. An ex-cop turned pimp now exists on the dark side of the world he inhabited during his time on the force, though we learn that the boundaries between the two are more blurred than at first appear. He’s dragged back unwillingly into confrontation with his former life when a number of the girls under his watch disappear, and he has to call on all his former detective street-smarts when he realises that one of the clients is the culprit and the clock is ticking before another girl disappears and possibly the killer too.
We’re once again presented with a flawed hero the Korean’s seem so skilful at crafting, this time brilliantly portrayed by Kim Yoon-Suk. We’re not sure if we’re supposed to like him and we’re pretty sure that he doesn’t care whether we do or not, however, we find ourselves rooting for this underdog as the odds are stacked evermore against him. Our antagonist too is intelligent and utterly believable, most menacing when he’s at his most innocent. The audience can’t wait for the two to meet and we run every step of the chase as Hong-Jin cranks up the tension and the pace driving us to near cardiac arrest.
….Buzzing at the sheer brilliance of THE CHASER we walked back into town to address our next task; getting our drink on! We finally manage to find one of our favourite bars, El Cable, open and settled down for beers, tapas and a bit of THE MATRIX: RELOADED on the bar’s giant plazma screen. We were kicked out of there at 11:30pm (not for misbehaving, they had randomly decided to close, as is sometimes their want), so decided to wrap up the night kicking back at Hernan’s while discussing the US economic crisis, the state of British cinema, and whether the guy who dresses up as a pantomime cow and gives out free Ben & Jerry’s outside the cinema realises that he’s probably hit rock bottom.
DAY 5 – I’m like Derek Zoolander, I can only turn left.
Getting up for the early starts is becoming tougher each day, and still slightly buzzed from the night before we headed into the near tongue-twister debut film from Charlie Kaufman..
10:45HRS – SYNECDOCHE NEW YORK – AUDITORI
We were drawn to the film by Philip Seymore Hoffman but with some trepidation as to what writer/director Charlie Kaufman would serve up. Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a theatre director wrestling with the seemingly everyday matters of life and death as they begin to engulf his every thought. His inner turmoil begins to spill out into every facet of his daily life so, in order to face and hopefully address his fears, Cotard decides to play out his day-to-day life on stage. The stage production and real life begin to ebb and flow, overlapping and intertwining, with Kaufman able to give intimate direction to his own written material, material which perhaps closely mirrors Kaufman’s own mid-life issues. Any fears we may have had about the film were quickly banished as Kaufman, with an excellent turn from Hoffman, delivered a touching and original perspective on how we humans experience and come to terms with the very things that make us human – love, fear, loss, mortality.
…Following a quick discussion on the emotional reaction colin had to SYNECDOCHE (he had his own shit going on), we joined the queue for a film neither of us were looking forward to…
13:00HRS – TOKYO – AUDITORI
Three filmmakers with contrasting styles paint three tales on the same canvas – Tokyo. Perhaps the common thread is the claustrophobic sensation a big city can impart on its inhabitants. This could apply to London, New York, Sao Paulo or countless others. However, Tokyo fits the bill best for three stories laced with a touch of Sitges fantasy.
Michel Gondry tells the story of a young couple who move to the city in the hope of finding a distributor for their small but treasured independent film. As the man is lifted with his film’s enthusiastic reception, the woman begins to feel left behind and surplus to requirements.
Leo Carax delivers the second tale of a strange visitor who emerges from the city’s sewers to create evermore havoc on the surface. His strange appearance and mannerisms, coupled to the fact that nobody can understand him lead to him being treated like a monster. An unwelcome immigrant that the city rejects and ultimately destroys.
The final story is brought to us by Bong Joon-Ho and tells of a man who decides to remain imprisoned in his own home as he can no longer stand contact with the outside world. His actions affect a young pizza delivery girl who visits his home and this ultimately requires him to leave the confines of his own four walls and once more confront the world he hid from.
…Tokyo certainly didn’t disappoint in disappointing us and, with a couple of hours to spare before our next film, we decided to Blog like men possessed before collecting tickets for the next day. Collecting tickets is always a bit of a chore as Spanish people appear to have little spatial awareness and tend to show queuing no respect whatsoever (or perhaps we’re being a little too English). They can, however, cook one hell of an omelette so we continue to cut them some slack. After a delay with our tickets it was a mad rush to our next film, diving in to the Retiro as the lights went down..
16:30HRS – HIDDEN FORTRESS: THE LAST PRINCESS – RETIRO
This film made the short list on the strength of the original Kurosawa version being cited as inspiration for George Lucas and STAR WARS. This review will be brief as we’re somewhat ashamed to report that we walked out after thirty minutes. We can be a bit moody here at CS and this kind of Japanese film generally doesn’t float our boat. Set in a time (about who gives a f*ck) where three bordering lands are at war as one seeks to dominate all. After one of the empires is destroyed its surviving princess, along with its salvaged war chest, must find safe passage to their ally if the aggressor is to be prevented from total domination. Tasked with escorting the princess on her dangerous journey, three bandits must find the courage within and ensure that good triumphs over evil…….and I got all that in the first half hour! Let’s face it, we all know how it’s going to end and STAR WARS did it better with more bells and whistles.
…as it turned out we needn’t have rushed. Shaun was asleep before the opening credits had finished and Colin hung on in there for half an hour longer just for the sake of the Blog. Our first walk out of the festival but they do happen occasionally at Sitges.
We hit Café Roy to surf the net, write, and wake ourselves up with Roy’s finest grind. An hour later we walked back to the Retiro for our final film of the day GENIUS PARTY, for which we again had relatively low expectations.
18:45HRS – GENIUS PARTY – RETIRO
A late call on this Japanese animation proved to be ill advised. Seven short stories from some of Manga/Anime’s big hitters fell woefully short. We made it to story number five before deciding on an unprecedented second walk out in a row. As with HIDDEN FORTRESS, we have to chalk this down to personal preference as the Spanish audience seemed to love that which we did not.
….Disappointingly, another walk out, so we decided to head into town to discuss where it had all gone wrong over a few beers. Fortunately, El Cable was open and a couple of cervejas, some mini-cheeseburgers, and some patatas bravas later, and we were hatching a cunning plan to make a short film based around the Sitges film festival, which would guarantee the film making the festival short-list, along with free passes, lavish parties, and fame and fortune for your entrepid bloggers.
DAY 6 – People are strange, when you’re a stranger…….
The final full day of the festival and we can’t believe how quickly it’s flown by. Shaun decides he’s too upset to face the tater tots so skips breakfast. Another four film day begins with Japanese offering 20TH CENTURY BOYS
10:00HRS – 20TH CENTURY BOYS – RETIRO
At a lengthy 2hr 22mins this needed to grab us early and keep us hooked, especially considering the previous days back-to-back walk out. We start with a quick flash-back to 1974 where we first meet our main protagonists enjoying happy childhood days. We’re then fired forward to 2015 where two prisoners held in solitary confinement whisper the beginings of a tale of when the world faced impending destruction by an evil force, only to be saved by a band of brave friends. Finally we settle back to 1999 where we’re introduced to our childhood friends grown up and living in the big world. A cult is growing in power and it soon becomes clear that it’s leader, known only as “Friend”, has sinister plans to bring the world to an end at the turn of the century. It’s only as more details of the cult’s plans emerge that the group of childhood friends realise that the plan to end the world is based on a “book of prophesy” they wrote as children. They set out to find the identity of “Friend” and thwart is plans.
This film adaptation of a highly regarded Manga body of work would have been more effective had it been darker and more edgy, both visually and in the writing and character development. Instead, it relied too heavily on childhood flash back sequences to provide back story and character elements and this left our soon-to-be heros too comedic and the evil cult too lacking in any real menace for any dramatic tension to build. Perhaps this is also the flavour of the Manga comics but, having sat patiently through one flash back too many, from a cinematic perspective we were denied any real pay-off.
………That was a long haul and we took some satisfaction from the fact that we’d managed to go the distance. We needed to get rid of our arse-numbness (we really should think before we use phrases like that) so the stroll up to the Auditori was welcome, however, expectations were not high for our next screening.
14:00HRS – DONKEY PUNCH – AUDITORI
With a background in video clips and advertising, and with several drama shorts to his name, Brit director Olly Blackburn turns his talents to feature film territory for the first time.
A group of Brit adolescents get together while holidaying in Mallorca and decide to take the partying to the next level with the help of drugs and alcohol aboard a luxurious yacht. Suggestive flirting soon turns into a full blown orgy and the audience’s imagination can take a back seat as our eyes are given an explicit front seat to several of the party enjoying each others finely formed bodies (did someone say great lighting and camera work?). However, one bizzare sexual act, the titular “donkey punch”, goes horribly wrong and any bonding between friends and newcomers alike soon deteriorates as nerves fray and accusations fly.
Unfortunately, what appeared to be an interesting premise on paper failed to unfold on the screen as the audience never quite buys into what’s occuring. I found myself waiting to hear the director shout “cut” in most scenes as I really felt like a bystander on the set. Probably unfair to draw a comparison with Phillip Noyce’s 1989 classic DEAD CALM purely because both are thrillers set on a boat, but I believe DONKEY PUNCH missed a trick by failing to exploit the claustrophoby and isolation of the enviroment to better dramatic effect.
………We hardly had time to discuss Brazillian bikini waxes and innovative camera angles before heading straight back into the Auditori for the second of our back-to-back films
16:00HRS – ANAMORPH – AUDITORI
With Willem Dafoe as the lead and a dark and moody New York in a supporting role this should have raised a cheer from the CS team. Unfortunately, it only managed to elicit a slow hand clap as the story’s pace just left us waiting around for either Dafoe or NYC to produce anything to get the juices flowing.
Dafoe plays Stan an experienced cop investigating a series of murders which may, or may not, be the work of a copy cat killer referencing a case Stan failed to crack five years previously. Each murder scene is artistically set with the corpse as the centre piece, taunting Stan to dig deeper and find the clues to help solve the case. Anamorphosis is a visual technique which manipulates perspective of an image to produce an alternative image and Stan eventually realises that this technique features in each of the murder scenes and previously unseen clues begin to emerge.
As with it’s theme there may be more to the plot of this film than meets the eye when first viewed, however, if there is a twist included with the aim of giving the story more depth, it really isn’t conveyed to the audience, either directly or in a way that begs us to look closer. The film visually aimed for Fincher’s SEVEN effect but the images lacked punch without the backup of the story.
………With a good four hours to brood over ANAMORPH we decide it would be best in the company of a full-bodied red so we head back into town. An overheard conversation diverts us to our hotel and the television to catch up on the slight matter of the global meltdown of the world’s financial markets. Ho-hum, fact can be weirder than fiction but we’ve got a Swedish vampire film to see so we decided to shut the world outside once more and head back to the Auditori.
22:45HRS – LET THE RIGHT ONE IN – AUDITORI
This turns out to be so much more than another vampire movie though that aspect does add another layer to this beautiful tale. The film adaptation of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel of the same name introduces us to Oskar (the impressive debutant Kare Hedebrant) a sweet but troubled twelve year old who’s parents have separated and who frequently suffers at the hands of school bullies. Then into his world comes new neighbour Eli (the equally impressive debutant Lina Leandersson) a twelve year old girl with a dark secret.
Director Tomas Alfredson handles the material and the actors superbly, though one wonders how difficult this was as Hedebrant and Leandersson turn in incredibly natural performances and Cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema makes everything look beautiful. A wonderful story of friendship and love this film has already been slated for a U.S remake in 2010. It’s hard to see why as this version captures everything perfectly.
………..We technically had one more film to go in the festival, the Saturday morning surprise session. However, having already found out that the film was PONYO ON THE CLIFF BY THE SEA, a Japanese animation about the adventures of a five year old boy and his relationship with a sea princess who longs to become human, we decided to call it a day and end on a high with LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.
We felt we’d worked damn hard during the week (!) so decided to congratulate ourselves with a late night call in to see Hernan at the Road Cafe. A great way to finish off another great Sitges festival
DAY 7 – Planes, trains and automobiles.
A short footnote to tell of our final moments from this years festival. Having binned the surprise session for the morning we had cleared our diaries to allow us the rest of the day in Barcelona. Firstly, we found a couple of great bars worth mentioning. BAR BORN on the Passeig Born behind the church of Santa Maria del mar is a small but class bar serving a small selection of tapas to go with your Estrella damm. As a little bonus they also serve Argentinean bottle beer Quilmes. BAR DOSTRECE at the back of the Mercat de la boqueria is also class with a great lunch time menu.
Shaun succumbed to temptation and invested in a new bit of Nike apparel before we headed off to the airport. The extremely straightforward journey from Barcelona Sans to the airport was somehow completely screwed up by your intrepid travellers who, having inadvertantly taken the wrong train, one which explored most of the Catalan coastline without actually stopping, then had to take a taxi back to the airport or risk missing the flight home. Well, we have only been doing this for six years now.
13.10.08 – 41st Sitges film festival. That’s a wrap.
Well, we made it back in one piece from what was another great festival. We can’t beleive how quickly it flew by but perhaps that’s what happens when you’ve got a four film a day program. We worked out that overall we managed a winning score draw in terms of the good and bad films we caught.
Head over to our ‘SITGES FILM FESTIVAL’ page and check out our Blog for more details of what we got up to. In the meantime, here’s a little taster of the films that got the CorridorStyle thumbs up. They may have already hit your screens or they may be coming soon, they may never even make it to a cinema near you but we suggest you track them down if you want a flavour of what we think makes a good Sitges film.
The Koreans were back on cracking form with THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE WEIRD, OUR TOWN, DACHIMAWA LEE, and the simply brilliant THE CHASER. And all this witout a Park Chan-wook in sight .
Though not strictly a Sitges film (it only appeared as it was the film’s Spanish premier) Guy Ritchie’s ROCKNROLLA was class and the Brit camp was further boosted by a solid effort from James Watkins’ EDEN LAKE.
Spain’s RAMIREZ heralded the arrival of Director Albert Arizza and lead actor Christian Magaloni as ones to watch for the future.
It may pop up on your radar for the wrong controversial reasons and it’s still splitting opinion here at CS HQ, however, French film MARTYRS certainly provokes a response and that’s always a good thing.
SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK should be more accessible to most and, while not everyone’s cup of tea, makes you ask a few questions
We finished the festival off with the beautiful LET THE RIGHT ONE IN from Sweden and it would pay to see this original before the Americans get hold of it and Hollywood-ize it next year.
The festival has now wrapped so head to the official website at http://www.cinemasitges.com for a full listing of the films shown and awards presented.