The pleasure of being able to relax, the quality of the films and the plain old good company made Day Five the best day yet at the London Film Festival, for me at least. I don’t think I’ll be able to top it during the second half of my ten-day stint here in the capital. Rushing from one location to another is, surprisingly, no less stressful when accompanied by a loved one – their welcome presence is mitigated by one’s concern for not only yourself but for them as well. So to be able to remain in Leicester Square, a homely hub of the LFF, for the duration of Tuesday was something of a delight. Thomas and I took in a few sights, had a few moderately-priced sit-down meals, and generally tried not to wander too far from Vue West End. At least, I did. Thomas has a curious habit of turning the wrong way out of near every exit we pass through; I don’t know if Londoners think he’s trying to escape, the number of times I’ve had to pull him off the tube in the direction of the Way Out signs.
A lunchtime stop at the imaginatively-titled London Chinatown restaurant (at least that’s what was on its menus, but don’t hold me to it), after which I had planned to scribe a review of yesterday’s A Girl at My Door, ran too close to the commencement of film #1 today, which left me worryingly far behind on my work. Never mind, once Thomas goes home tomorrow I’l have plenty of free time – too much, possibly, if I’m lucky! Film #1 was the documentary Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, a film that I booked to see purely on the strength of its critical reception out of Cannes. It’s a compilation of raw video footage from the Syrian conflict in 2011, taken from dozens of video libraries from ordinary Syrian citizens, and new videocamera footage from the doc’s creators, Ossama Mohammed, a director in exile in Paris, and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, a woman trapped in the ravaged city of Homs. It’s the kind of film that rly should be thoroughly horrifying, and that it is. The heartfelt honesty of Mohammed and Bedirxan’s artistry and the sheer visceral power of the footage they’ve been granted access to combine to produce the most harrowing film I’ve witnessed in a very long time. The screen at Vue was unfortunately empty – it’s not a film that has received much publicity, and it probably never will, though it deserves to; it would probably have fared better in one of the festival’s many arthouses. The audience was remarkably still and silent, however, even for a British crowd, and, tellingly, there was no applause after the film. Not that it wasn’t appreciated by those in attendance: one viewer toward the rear of the screen tried to start up an ovation, but that was roundly rejected by the rest of us. It was clearly not only me who was so intensely moved by the film, and Thomas, who’d expressed that this had been the film he had least been looking forward to seeing, exited the cinema proclaiming it as his favourite of his trip so far.
With the time we had between screenings, I completed some work, indulged in a Costa Creamy Cooler, accompanied Thomas to Trafalgar Square – home of the National Gallery, the subject of Frederick Wiseman’s documentary which I viewed on Sunday – and stopped in at a pub for a few beers. After all, this evening’s film was Mia Hansen-Love’s French house music scene biopic, Eden, so what better condition to take it in than in utter inebriation?! That wasn’t my plan, ok, and it wasn’t what occurred either – I was only a little tipsy by the time the film commenced, thankfully. On the way to the cinema, we passed by the red carpet hosting the premiere of LFF’s centrepiece gala film, Testament of Youth, and caught a glimpse of Kit Harington, one of the film’s stars. Funny that he spends much of his year living in the same city as me, and it’s only now that we meet… lol jk we didn’t meet plz with all my bodyguards he couldn’t get fucking near me. And, inside Vue for the screening of Eden, I observed Mia Hansen-Love, there to introduce the film and to participate in a Q&A afterwards, and actor Alba Rohrwacher, who was seemingly there on recreational grounds, since she’s not in the film.
Kate Taylor, a festival programmer who has been a presence at a number of the screenings I’ve attended, is a wise and eloquent interviewer with an incisive understanding of cinema. She introduced Hansen-Love, who introduced Eden, which introduced me to a wealth of terrific dance music I feel ashamed at not having noticed until now. A film can do that to me, enhance my appreciation of music I’d previously ignored – I almost became a Stone Roses fan after watching Shane Meadows’ recent documentary on the band last year. But much of Eden’s soundtrack is right up my street, and it was perhaps that element, alongside the general excellent filmmaking courtesy of Hansen-Love, that elevated Eden for me, beyond being a basic biopic. It’s a vibrant and deeply-felt portrait of its musical subject, and the film’s human protagonist, based very closely on Mia’s brother Sven, who co-wrote the film. And the Q&A thereafter was an enlightening experience, no matter how urgent my need to go for a slash might have been. Mia’s responses, in a second language, were dense and detailed, and illuminated upon the very finest aspects of a very fine film, providing valuable contextual information, and enriching my appreciation of Eden and the events it catalogues with admirable precision and a palpable respect.
Thomas leaves tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to that, but I am certainly looking forward to the first film I’ll catch without him since National Gallery, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s Cannes Critics Week winner The Tribe, which promises to be one of the most unique films on my schedule this year. Before that, though, we’ll together be seeing Ulrich Seidl’s documentary In the Basement, not to be confused with Todd Field’s In the Bedroom, by any means. More on that tomorrow, though. For now, just be happy I bothered to write five fucking paragraphs for your perusal. It’s more than you deserve!!
#rly #yesrly #yehiwentthere