Never mind Cannes, Venice or Locarno, a DIY festival does not require VIP passes and saves a holidaying reviewer from withdrawal symptoms

Time for a well-earned holiday with friends and family down in the bakingly hot Tarn region of southern France. Blessedly it is an area not favoured by hordes of British tourists but — rather sadly — it lacks a plethora of multiplexes to catch up on the latest film fare.

There was not even a local film festival to overlap with my trip, unlike a holiday in Umbria a few years ago, where a tiny and picturesque hilltop town was staging a Mike Leigh retrospective. And no, much as I love Mike, I didn’t hang around to catch his appearance.

While floundering in the pool, tanning in the 37 degree heat, sampling the delightful variety of Gaillac wines and sweating on a baking-hot tennis court were all fine distractions, let’s face it, you can’t beat a good movie.

And so we created our own mini outdoor film festival. No paying guests (worry not, rightsholders, private use only), just a portable DVD player, sound system, mini projector and a white sheet pegged onto the trellis outside our charming rented property, and bingo — just the thing to keep everyone engaged post meal.

As resident film critic in the group, naturally it came to me to select the DVDs for the Fayssac Film Festival (after the dusty and empty village nearest the property) before leaving the UK. This was done rather speedily at 5am due to oversleeping and prior to the mad rush down to the Eurotunnel.

Having done my share of cinematheque and festival programming in the past, I know film selection is everything and it is particularly difficult pleasing a rowdy holiday mob who have opened their third bottle of local white and who aren’t afraid to pithily vent their views.

Approved choices included Ridley Scott’s French vineyard-based comedy-drama A Good Year (beautifully shot, amusing and featuring the delightful Marion Cotillard); Monty Python And The Holy Grail (still eminently quotable, and we were in Knights Templar territory so it felt appropriate), and — of all things — the Nicolas Cage romp National Treasure (another Templar link).

After a morning visit to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum in nearby Albi, I wished I’d brought Moulin Rouge, especially as everyone fancied the idea of an absinthe-tasting session. Sadly, the one film that felt rather dated was Luc Besson’s Nikita, with Anne Parillaud’s hit-woman coming over as whining and annoying (rather than cool as I recalled from seeing it back in 1990), though it is still blessed with some startlingly fine action sequences.

Niggle of the month

Please talk about our film, but only when we say so

I’m the first to admit that being a film critic is one of the best jobs in the world, but there are a few niggling aspects that cause consternation. Embargoes, for one. I’m constantly signing bits of paper that state I must not talk/tweet/review/Facebook about a film under pain of death (actually I have no idea what the repercussions might be — plenty of people break embargoes and don’t seem to get a telling-off). I remember, in years gone by, film companies talked about “word of mouth” as that elusive magic ingredient that would boost any release; now it is all about control of that fickle element. Worst of all, though, is having to hand over mobile phones/recording devices at media screenings (never at premieres or voting screenings, mind you). Not only do you miss possibly vital calls and e-mails and can’t play solitaire while waiting for the screening to start, but worst of all is the wait to recover your expensive communications device after the film has ended from well-meaning security guards who are not trained to be glorified hat-check chaps.


Intelligence source

In preparation for the big-screen version of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which premiered at Venice, I’ve been dipping back into the novels of John le Carré. He’s possibly the most sublime of British writers, though I stick to my view that his 1986 novel The Perfect Spy is the best of his (and perhaps all) espionage novels.

TV indulgence

I consider viewing entire TV series on DVD as something of a guilty pleasure, so I felt even more guilty when I received a bundle of all six series (73 episodes on 21 discs) of 1980-90s UK comedy-drama classic Lovejoy. It stars Ian McShane as a roguish antiques dealer/detective. Now, I just have to find the time…

Evil’s on its way

The massively enjoyable comedy-horror film Tucker & Dale Vs Evil is finally getting some kind of release in the UK. I’ve been boring anyone who’ll listen over the last year or so (I saw it at Karlovy Vary in 2010) about how good Eli Craig’s debut feature is. But don’t take my word, see it for yourself.