Screen’s chief film critic tries to develop the peace of mind needed to wait in endless lines for screenings surrounded by queue jumpers and film bores.
Being English, one of the few great skills that tends to come naturally is that of queuing. You know us: see a queue and we’ll politely join the end of it just on the off-chance it might lead to something useful or interesting.
But after stints at the Venice and Toronto film festivals let me tell you, my capacity — let alone enthusiasm — for queuing is pretty much depleted. Yes, getting there nice and early does guarantee you a seat but standing in line is an intrinsically wearying pursuit as you stave off boredom by waving to friends, checking e-mails and becoming more and more annoyed as sly folk cajole or charm their way into the line ahead of you.
I’ve been doing the film festival queuing thing for so many years now that I’ve tried to adopt a Zen attitude. Don’t let things wind you up is my new mantra… but gosh hasn’t that been tested to the limit.
At Venice this year, most of the early press screenings (which sometimes mixed in members of the public) were held at the cavernous Darsena cinema. With 1,300 seats available there’s always a good chance you’ll get in, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a variety of ruses tried by some to force their way into the queue at an earlier point. Some try the old ‘friend holding a place’ routine; others adopt the ‘phone glued to ear and not really aware there was a queue’ policy, while some are just plain rude.
Mind you, it was so hot in Venice that the outdoor queue was rather wearisome, though at least the security folk didn’t snaffle water and liquids of any kind as they did in Cannes this year. Oddly there were three queues set up for the Darsena depending on your badge — from priority daily press through to periodicals — and all were let in at exactly the same time. An odd logic, but at least it speeded up the process.
And if Venice screenings are defined by the super-cool security folk on the doors — chosen for their model looks rather than ability — then the Toronto screenings are distinctive for the well-meaning enthusiasm of the orange t-shirted volunteers, who often seem to outnumber film-goers on the streets.
Toronto favours long, winding queues that weave back and forth, like being in a bank or an airport baggage drop-off. In the case of screenings at the Bell Lightbox this also involves going up escalators, marshalled by grinning volunteers and festival folk with annoying headsets. But while frustrating they are quite well organised — until you are left outside a film that is late starting due to a digital problem, and have to put up with film folk around you pontificating on every film they have seen.
Okay, time for the Zen chants to try and calm down…
In praise of pop-up clubs
The pop-up shop and pop-up restaurant are now commonplace around busy cities, but there can by no denying the master of the pop-up club is Soho House. As a long-time member — my main claim to fame was taking Quentin Tarantino to the original Soho House for late, late night drinks one time in the late 1990s — I’ll admit it is still a pleasure to see how smooth the Soho House operation is. Like many I do miss those Cannes parties at the Chateau de La Napoule, but with permanent Soho Houses now in Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Berlin the film world is pretty well catered for, and during the Toronto Film Festival the pop-up House was a haven for celebs, cool young things and tired-and-emotional Screen staffers.
I was at a screening of the Footloose remake the other day — which was oddly enjoyable — and the trailers and posters in the theatre were forJurassic Park and The Lion King. I was concerned I was in a 1990s time warp… or maybe it is just the circle of life.
The glory of Rome
The best Blu-ray I received recently has been the stunning restoration of Ben-Hur. The 1959 classic has undergone a $1m frame-by-frame restoration from a scan of the original 65mm camera negative, making it the highest resolution restoration ever completed by Warner Bros. And boy, does it look fantastic.
Critical acclaim for the film of John le Carré’s classic Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has led to renewed interest in DVDs of the impressive 1979 BBC series. It stars Alec Guinness as spy-chaser George Smiley and is available in a DVD double bill with the sequel Smiley’s People. It might be uncool, but the audiobook is also well worth tracking down.