If I’m at home on a Saturday afternoon, I will usually be listening to Movies and Musicals on Lyric FM. Not only do they play beautiful film scores and jolly songs from Mary Poppins and the like, they also don’t feel the need to give me a running commentary about every game of sports that is currently happening anywhere in the world. And I really appreciate that. A few weeks ago, my disdain for sport was rewarded when I won a season pass for the Jameson International Film Festival on the show – a truly excellent prize. Two tickets for as many festival films that I could see in 9 days!
I was delighted! I imagined going into the box office and coming out with a stack of tickets to rival the Fringe Festival judges or the Next Stage participants. Sadly, the film festival was all about e-ticketing this year which meant I booked all my movies online and was sent a pdf file of tickets. Instead of flipping through the stack of tickets, I scrolled through the document on my phone to find the right bar code. Using a bar code on your phone to get into the cinema feels like past and future colliding.
On the first weekend, each day’s films fell into themes. On Friday I saw recession stories. I Can Quit Whenever I Want is an Italian comedy about a group of academics, who due to lack of funding at their universities are now working in low-paying jobs as dishwashers or petrol attendants. They are brought together when one of their friends loses his research funding and decides to start making and selling drugs instead. Using their expertise in chemistry and anthropology, they become very successful businessmen until the local drug-dealers get involved, and it all comes crashing down. It was clever and very funny about a pretty depressing topic. My second recession movie of the day – 99 Homes – was much less upbeat. It was set in America and focused on the people losing their homes due to the financial crash and the businesses that set out to make money from that situation. With hundreds in the courts fighting repossession orders in this country, it feels very contemporary and the situations people find themselves in is heart-breaking. The performances are great and it’s the perfect film if you want to feel lucky to have a roof over your head, but a bit on the depressing side.
On Saturday I saw two very different fairytales. I spent Saturday afternoon with Studio Ghimbli’s wonderful Tale of the Princess Kaguya. This beautiful visual piece of art was also funny and moving. It’s stunningly beautiful, particularly the cherry blossoms and the Princesses run through the snow. It was also great fun with lots of silly, headstrong characters – the magical princess and her adopted parents, her hopeful suitors and her ladies in waiting. The Princess was a more independent, complicated character than Cinderella, who I saw in the evening, though that film was charming in it’s own way. Cate Blancett as the glamorous Wicked Step-Mother and Helena Botham Carter as the Fairy-Godmother were both fantastic and all the costumes were incredible.
It was one of the more glitzy affairs of the festival; held in the Savoy cinema on O’Connell Street, with the red carpet outside and the director Kenneth Branagh in attendance. He introduced the movie and did a Q & A session with Gráinne Humpries afterwards. He was chatty and very interesting to listen to. His passion for the project was very clear. He wrote a mouse script for the high-pitched, speeded-up squeaks of the mice. Apparently cheese features heavily.
Sunday’s movies were about work. In the afternoon, I saw She’s Lost Control about a woman who works as a sex surrogate and Listen Up Philip about an arrogant novelist who is so selfish and rude that he alienates everyone around him, apart from an equally unlikeable, older novelist. She’s Lost Control was slow and dark and hard to watch at times. The second movie was a nice palate cleanser because it was funny and nothing too terrible happened to anyone in it. It felt like it was about rich people’s problems and that were of their own making. None of the characters were particularly sympathetic.
The following weekend I saw Clouds of Sils Maria, Lost River and The New Girlfriend. There were no clear links this time. Clouds of Sils Maria is about an actress and her personal assistant. It dealt with ageing and fame and gossip and work/life balance, combined with stunning alpine scenery. I really enjoyed the relationship between the two women (Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart) and Chloë Grace Moretz was suitably bratty as the young rising star. Despite being a bit too long and with an odd ending, I enjoyed it a lot. Lost River was very strange. This was introduced by Saoirse Ronan, who is also in the movie, and I feel like she could have given us a little bit of an idea about what to expect. For at least the first half hour, I didn’t figure out that it wasn’t set in the here and now. I’m still not sure when it was set – an alternative present? A distant dystopian future? The near future? I don’t know. I had a lot of questions after this movie but it was full of fantastic images, Christina Hendricks is a dream to watch and I’m still thinking about it a week later, which can’t be a bad thing. The New Girlfriend was a French film about a grieving husband and how the death of his wife brings him closer to her best friend, and teaches him something about about himself. It was very funny, even though it started with a death, and very visual with a few strange dream-sequences or possible dream-sequences – it was an odd kind of movie. The characters were very French. I really liked it.
I’m sorry that I didn’t see more European cinema because they do have a different take on the world that the American movies that I mostly saw. I probably should have seen at least one documentary. I had a great time with my season pass and I will definitely be going back for more at next year’s festival!
I did notice very quickly that very few of the films I saw passed the Bechel test. (To pass the Bechdel, a film must a scene in which two or more named female characters have a conversation about something other than men.) This isn’t the festival’s fault – I choose the films! Mostly based on the photo and description in the programme and my own availability. Tale of the Princess Kaguya passes, as does Cinderella, if you count the Ugly Step-Sisters bossing her about as “a conversation about something other than a man”. She’s Lost Control passes easily and so does Clouds of Sils Maria. The New Girlfriend sort of does. Lost River scrapes a pass for a conversation between Cat and Billy at work. In the others, the women barely features and only in relation to the men in their lives. I must try harder to see more female centric films!
Self-confessed film fanatic Marya E Gates is doing just that in her A Year With Women – “in 2015, every movie I watch (at home or in theaters) will either be written by, directed by, co-written by or co-directed by women.” She talks about She’s Lost Control on her YouTube channel (her cat features heavily in this video). I follow her on twitter (@oldfilmsflicker) and love her enthusiasm for movies.