Sorry, Thomas. People who stay in hostels tend to be of a select few varities, two specifically. There are the loners, like myself, often silent and solitary, though occasionally the opposite: over-eager to socialise. And then there are the groups, usually between three and six in number, more often male than female, generally young, slim and Mediterranean. So, yeh, sorry Thomas, but I’ve been perving. There’s just too much talent in The Royal Bayswater Hotel for me not to. These boys deserve to be ogled. You’re not here, Thomas, I need something to look at. Plus, a lot of them wear tight white briefs. That’s not even fair.
Here are the rules regarding the films I’m seeing at LFF: they have to be films, and they have to be showing at LFF. Bruno Dumont’s Li’l Quinquin was made as a mini-series, and it’s easy to detect its mini-series structure even as it shows here as a feature film, since the four episodes are each preceded by a chapter title. It premiered at Cannes in May, though, as a feature, rather like last year’s Behind the Candelabra, and that was before its TV broadcast in France (or anywhere else in the world), so technically I’m justified in considering it a film. As a director, Dumont – whose films include 1999’s excoriating Humanity, and the recent Camille Claudel 1915, starring Juliette Binoche at her incomparable best – is tough to love, and sometimes even tough to admire, but his defiant singularity and his command of his craft always provide his films with much to ponder, far more depth than their stark, breezy aesthetic and enigmatic stares imply. Li’l Quinquin sees Dumont turn his hand to comedy, at least for as long as he can sustain it (his predilection for human horror eventually inescapable), and with impressive ease: Li’l Quinquin doesn’t feel like the work of someone stretching their abilities or testing their boundaries, and the humour feels ingenuous and wholly appropriate. The story involves one of Dumont’s specialities, a rural community in Northern France, and the fumbled investigation into an ongoing series of murders in the region. One can see why it was opted for TV – similar stories have been at the heart of so many recent European TV successes, like The Killing, The Bridge and Sean Durkin’s under-appreciated Southcliffe. I found the film as oblique as ever from Bruno Dumont, but unfortunately not as stimulating as his best work. It’s hilarious, though, absurd and politically incorrect, and also chilling – in particular the horrible, unforgettable final scene.
With Li’l Quinquin running over two hours, I had mere minutes to use as wisely as I could before my next film, so obviously food. The National Film Theatre, or BFI Southbank, has an unnerving procedure of announcing upcoming films, declaring things such as “Last call for _____” about five minutes prior to the scheduled start time. For someone such as myself, obsessively punctual, that’s the sole ingredient required to create the perfect panic pie, though I understand why they do it – middle class people have a tendency to expect everybody else to wait for them, including cinema staff, and middle aged people have a tendency to be extremely slow to boot. The audience for Pedro Costa’s Horse Money reminded me of why I’d been so glad to return to dirty Belfast blockbuster audiences after last year’s LFF. Some guy who looked like he’d packed up have of South London in his numerous bags was in my seat for some inexplicable reason, so he moved over one into a seat which also wasn’t his, as I discovered when a late arrival resigned herself to taking another seat rather than asking him to pack up and fuck off, because we didn’t have all year. Two seats away from me sat a pair of bona fide nerds, essentially pimples with legs and opinions. Pleeeease not more opinions. Opinions on films! Definitive opinions, straight out of the school thesaurus by way of Total Film, real faux-intellectual bullshit. They discussed Ulrich Seidl’s In the Basement with a misplaced assurance that left me with the certainty that they’d never even heard of Ulrich Seidl before booking those tickets. Why were these philistines seeing a Pedro Costa film?
I felt like a bit of a philistine myself exiting the screen, though. I just have to keep reminding myself that I did explore Horse Money, I did examine it, I did attempt to interpret its design as something less obvious, more complex than it appears. I suppose I failed, and I don’t know if I’m to blame or if Costa is. Horse Money allegorically concerns the legacy of Portuguese occupation in Cape Verde, the film a heady sensorial and cerebral poem about a nation’s collective pain and grief. That poem is expressed in the disturbed and detached experiences of Costa’s lead, Ventura – a thoroughly magnetic performer. But, no matter the film’s considerable beauty in a great many regards, Costa’s technique is too blatant and too direct to probe as deeply and as broadly as it intends to, the themes he engages in too obvious. For a film of such artistic integrity, it doesn’t break any new ground, not really. As poetry porn, it’ll attract limitless raves, and hopefully extensive discussion over years to come, perhaps making it as viable an artistic document, in my eyes, as Costa’s other works to date.
I had intended to do quite a lot of work, plus catch up on quite a lot of missed TV shows, in the evening of Day Seven: Horse Money was over by 17:30, and I hoped to avail of the serviceable Wifi at BFI Southbank to achieve all of this. But this old laptop was not playing ball, not at all. Wifi issues at every location I visited made accessing the internet on this poor old dear an impossibility, and money woes prevented me, initially, from being able to afford computer access at the hostel’s internet cafe, this after a long and stressful journey back from the cinema. Eventually, I got as much done as I could on the hostel’s computer system, and tried to get an early night. I tried, but for the energy that an evening of anxiety, furious work and plentiful Dr. Pepper had stimulated in me, and there wasn’t a lot of hope that sleep would arrive soon. And then, this happened: a commotion erupted in the hostel room which, in my half-sleep and in whispered voices was fairly difficult to make sense of. By the time one of the hostel employees had arrived in the room and switched on the lights for a good half hour, the entire room learned – one particularly soused individual had pissed himself… in bed… on the top bunk. Basically, he pissed on some poor sod’s face, and all over his and his girlfriend’s belongings. Escorting him out of the room was far from an easy task. Getting to sleep was scarcely any simpler.
Writing this diary, on the morning of Day Eight, I still don’t know if Wifi plans to operate properly, and Im about to find out. I’m not sure that I want to. It’s been a relatively optimistic morning so far, despite the woes of last night, principally due to the fact that on my slate today I have Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, three films which I’ve been very keen to see since they premiered at Cannes. Wish me luck with Wifi, bitches!