The welcomes might have been warm at the Karlovy Vary, St Petersburg and Sarajevo festivals, but the weather proved more inhospitable
I am fast coming to the conclusion that I’ve done something to upset the weather gods. I spend most of early summer at Eastern European film festivals renowned for their warm welcome (with the emphasis on ‘warm’) and sunny disposition (with the emphasis on ‘sun’). But sadly my main contribution was to bring the wet weather with me.
So first of all, my profound apologies to Karlovy Vary, St Petersburg and Sarajevo… and now I’m gone may the sun shine once again on your splendid cities.
There is something reassuringly smart about Karlovy Vary. Everything is perfectly organised, screenings start on time and the wines at the receptions at the Grandhotel Pupp are always tasty.
Okay so it never actually poured down in Karlovy Vary — just a run of gloomy and intermittently damp days and nights. And it didn’t stop the ever-radiant Judi Dench from attending the opening night screening of Jane Eyre, and she didn’t even object when I lumbered into her path at the glitzy opening night party.
And so to St Petersburg for the second annual Kinoforum event. Day one, all was well: sun beating down, elegant sidewalks full of tourists and a splendid social event organised every night. A day later and the heavens opened… amazingly the forecasts had lied and I hadn’t brought an umbrella.
Blessedly it stayed dry for a fabulous Kinoforum reception at the Peterhof Palace, and was down to a drizzle when I toured the legendary Hermitage Museum, a beautiful building containing some striking works of art, though sadly packed with tourists including a group of Americans dressed as Father Christmas. Odd.
I’d been reassured the sun always shone on the Sarajevo Film Festival. And there was no denying it was pleasant for Aki Kaurismaki’s delightful opening night film Le Havre and the outdoor reception.
After that it was umbrella time — at least I remembered to bring one — and plenty of rushing between cinemas, screening rooms, hotels and restaurants. But despite that, the enthusiasm was infectious — audiences were out in force and relishing the films.
Argentinian film-maker Lucrecia Martel, who was the subject of a retrospective, gave an on-stage interview with Screen critic Howard Feinstein and all her films were sold out. And despite the damp weather, the Bosnian enthusiasm for late-night partying could not be diminished. I even saw directors Béla Tarr and Wim Wenders smiling at one dinner — a sure sign something must be going well.
Party of the month
Opera, fireworks, scotch eggs and brown sauce
The party of the month award is shared between St Petersburg’s Kinoforum and the opening reception for the annual Film4 outdoor screenings at Somerset House in London. In Russia guests were taken by boat to the beautiful Peterhof Palace, sipped champagne during an outrageously opulent opera and firework display, and sat down for great food, fine wines and deadly vodka. In London, the Somerset House screenings have become a firm fixture, and the reception is one of the most convivial get-togethers in the UK film industry. Wine flowed freely and canapés included a quail scotch egg dipped in spicy brown sauce. Whether guests such as Pedro Almodovar, Mike Leigh and Grace Jones tackled them is not known… but the film biz hordes loved them.
Stephen Poliakoff On Stage And Screen is a new book from Methuen detailing the film, television and theatre work of the prolific UK dramatist. Excellent timing given that his new play, My City, is running at London’s Almeida Theatre from September 8 to November 9. Tickets are selling fast.
I’ve been told repeatedly that The Killing and The Wire are the best television crime series around. But sorry, I’ve been watching (and loving) the first two series of the brilliant Justified — adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel — starring Timothy Olyphant as quick-shooting Kentucky US marshal Raylan Givens.
The dragon roars
Sony’s trailer for David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has set the standards pretty high with smooth imagery, tight cutting and great use of music. As trivia fans know, the music is a cover by Trent Reznor of Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, with Karen O providing vocals.