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Pleasure and pain

Screen’s globe-trotting chief critic takes in two classy spine-tinglers, before catching Sharon Stone’s latest turn — as a UN prosecutor

The rarely mentioned truth about those of us who regularly attend film festivals around the world is that at some point you take a short break from the real work of digging out arthouse gems and spend a couple of hours at a ‘guilty pleasure’ — a movie you might not really ‘need’ to see, but one you catch for the sheer pleasure of it.

It isn’t that enjoying the best of new world cinema is a chore but simply that one needs a change of pace — especially when you’re working/watching long hours and then spend the rest of your time writing or at meetings or at industry events.

That may sound like a moan, but nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that a ‘guilty pleasure’ screening can be what makes a festival extra special. It might be the ‘surprise’ screening — bound to be a mainstream movie to keep audiences happy — that archival restoration or classic you’ve always wanted to see, or a movie you fancy just for the hell of it.

Right after Berlin, I popped over to the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival for a few days — partly because I wanted to, and partly because festival director Grainne Humphreys (an old friend) would have given me substantial grief if I hadn’t made it this year.

And I’m very glad I went. It is a great festival for the public with a smart programme and is staffed by some charming people. Plus I stayed in the Merrion Hotel, a gracious throwback to old-fashioned hotel styles and offering up one of the best breakfasts around.

I was also in Dublin for the election day, which made it even more fascinating. And if anyone from the government is reading, I have two suggestions — larger pavements and less-sluggish pedestrian crossings. The amount of time I spent waiting to cross roads was somewhat frustrating.

Stake well done

While in Dublin I went to a festival screening of arty zombie film Stake Land, which I’d missed in Toronto. And it wasn’t bad at all, plus it featured a cameo by a barely recognisable Kelly McGillis (Top Gun) as a nun.

Another Dublin guilty pleasure was Film Forum programmer Bruce Goldstein’s presentation of William Castle’s classic spine-chiller The Tingler, starring Vincent Price. When originally shown in 1958, Castle famously had certain cinema seats wired to deliver a mild electric shock to encourage the screams, or planted audience members who would wail and faint. Goldstein has presented Castle’s gimmick movies at New York’s Film Forum, and has codified the main Tingler sequence into a mini stage show.

Over in Hong Kong for the Hong Kong International Film Festival and Filmart — always an exhaustingly enjoyable event — there were plenty of new films (and some very good ones) to see and little time to spare. As a Sharon Stone completist, I managed to catch The Burma Conspiracy, the second in the Largo Winch film series, starring Tomer Sisley as French comic-book hero Largo Winch.

Actually, I’m not a Sharon Stone completist at all — I’ve missed If I Had Known I Was A Genius, The Year Of Getting To Know Us and $5 A Day (all 2008), though I have endured Basic Instinct 2. I was intrigued to see the film, having enjoyed the first in the series — 2008’s Largo Winch, which featured Kristin Scott Thomas as a businesswoman baddie — as a guilty pleasure at Unifrance’s Paris Rendezvous a few years ago.

Ms Stone plays, of all things, a UN prosecutor named Diane Francken who is out to charge millionaire playboy adventurer Largo with crimes against humanity. This involves her character wearing high heels, tight skirts and snug tops, flirting with good-looking guys (though not Largo… she is a professional) and spouting legalese mumbo-jumbo.

A guilty pleasure, indeed.

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