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San Sebastian Film Festival Roundup

Posted by: Matthew Turner 07/10/2011 @ 14:19
Subject: Film

Films seen so far this year: 374
Films seen in the last week: Dark Horse, Sleepless Nights Stories, Shark Night 3D, Midnight In Paris, Headhunters, Like Crazy, Pariah, The Future, Wuthering Heights, Natural Selection, Dreams of a Life

FILM OF THE WEEK: Midnight in Paris

San Sebastian Film Festival Roundup
This year I decided to stop merely promising myself I'd go “some day, maybe next year” and actually attend my first ever international film festival. Fuelled by a combination of jealousy at colleagues raving about it and the fact that I speak passable Spanish (as a result of living in Madrid for three years), I opted for the San Sebastian Film Festival. And I have to say, it surpassed every expectation I could possibly have had. Everything about it was wonderful, from the food (whenever I told anyone I was going they all said the same thing - “OH MY GOD, THE FOOD IS AMAZING!” - and they weren't wrong), to the people (I met several lovely European, Australian and American journalists), to the gorgeous scenery (my photos from the trip are all here), to the weather (okay, so it rained for four of the eight days but the other four were glorious) and, oh yes, the films.

I saw a total of 24 films over the eight days I was there and of that 24, at least 20 of them were excellent. Other highlights from the festival included: meeting Miss Bala at the Opening Night Party; interviewing Tyrannosaur star Olivia Colman with a group of international journalists (one of whom became a firm friend afterwards); hanging out with actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher and the Wild Bill team; attending the Jacques Demy retrospective with the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw; stalking Michael Fassbender (don't ask) and just generally gazing at the stunning scenery all day while eating, without exaggeration, the best food I've ever had in my life. You don't get this in Edinburgh.

Frankly, I had an amazing time and I'm now totally hooked. I intend to go back to the festival every year until death (if they'll have me). Here's a list (complete with review links) of the ten best films I saw in San Sebastian. Note that I haven't included films I saw in the UK beforehand (like Tyrannosaur) or films that I missed in San Sebastian owing to having the leave a day before the end, like The Artist.

1. Arrugas (hands down my favourite film of the festival, an animated feature based on a graphic novel by Paco Roca, about a man with Alzheimer's going into an old people's home).
2. Wild Bill
3. Martha Marcy May Marlene
4. Where Do We Go Now?
5. Shame
6. La Voz Dormida
7. Either Way (a gently amusing Icelandic comedy-drama about two men doing road works in the middle of nowhere, that I saw at a midnight press screening).
8. Miss Bala
9. The Deep Blue Sea
10. George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Incidentally, my tweets from the festival are all archived here.

Films I Am Dying To See: My Week With Marilyn
Despite the fact that I've got an ongoing Marilyn Monroe Picture Project on Twitpic (which is more about finding weird, funny or rarely seen photos of her than about pictures of Marilyn per se), I wouldn't describe myself as a Marilyn obsessive. However, I was aware of My Week With Marilyn from the moment they cast Michelle Williams, although I haven't read the book it's based on and I didn't know the story. That said, I'd forgotten that Emma Watson was in it, so I laughed out loud when she popped up in the trailer with a weird looking hair-do (“Marilyn Monroe fancying you? Come on!”).

Set in London during the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, the film is about a relationship that develops between Marilyn and Laurence Olivier's young assistant Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne), the author of the book. The trailer promises the usual round of Marilyn biopic clichés (“Shall I be her?” / “All people ever see is Marilyn Monroe”, etc) but Williams looks like a pretty decent Marilyn and Redmayne seems well cast as Colin. I love Kenneth Branagh's scenery-chewing portrayal of Laurence Olivier (his acknowledged idol), too, particularly the bitterness he gives the line “I wouldn't buy the little girl lost act, if I were you – I think Marilyn knows exactly what she's doing ...” at the 1m15s mark.

The cast list on the imdb offers some potential joys that aren't glimpsed in the trailer – I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh, for example. The film officially opens in the UK on 18th  November but, for my money, I think it's very likely to be the Surprise Film at the London Film Festival.

Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):Three new entries this week with Woody Allen's delightful comedy Midnight In Paris, Paddy Considine's powerful abuse drama Tyrannosaur and harrowing, self-explanatory documentary Four Days Inside Guantanamo all making it into the top ten. If you are thinking of catching either the excellent Tomboy (one of the best films of the
year) or Mademoiselle Chambon in cinemas I suggest you do it this weekend as both films are perilously close to the end of their runs. I will also put in a good word for Anna Faris comedy What's Your Number?
(bumped to 11th place), which has had an undeserved trashing in certain quarters but is one of the better romcoms I've seen this year – it's much more of a Friends With Benefits than a No Strings Attached, if you see what I mean.

Interview-wise this week we have an exclusive interview with Tyrannosaur star Olivia Colman (which I did in San Sebastian) and an exclusive interview with actor Ewan Bremner, who has a minor supporting role in this week's Perfect Sense, though I mostly used the interview to ask about Julien Donkey-Boy and whether he and fellow Trainspotting alumnus Kevin McKidd ever get together and prank-call Robert Carlyle.

Elsewhere you can still read our semi-exclusive interviews with Tinker Tailor director Tomas Alfredson and star Colin Firth; a semi-exclusive interview with Warrior stars Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton; a press conference interview with Abduction (or rather Twilight) star Taylor Lautner; our exclusive interview with A Lonely Place to Die star Melissa George ; an exclusive interview with André Øvredal, writer-director of TrollHunter; and our semi-exclusive interviews with Kill List writer-director Ben Wheatley – something of a must-read if you've seen the film - and Kill List actors Neil Maskell and MyAnna Buring.

Come back next week for interviews with Albatross and Downton Abbey star Jessica Brown Findlay, departing London Film Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron and Morgan Spurlock, director of the upcoming product placement doc The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.

1. Melancholia
2. Tomboy
3. Kill List
4. Jane Eyre
5. Midnight In Paris
6. Tyrannosaur
7. Drive
8. Mademoiselle Chambon
9. George Harrison: Living in the Material World
10. Four Days Inside Guantanamo

DVD of the Week: Point Blank (out now, RRP £15.99)
This week's DVD of the Week is French thriller Point Blank, directed by Fred Cavaye. Gilles Lellouche stars as hospital orderly Samuel, whose pregnant wife Nadia (Elena Anaya) is suddenly kidnapped. Samuel then receives a phone call, ordering him to break heavily guarded patient Hugo (Roschdy Zem) out of hospital if he ever wants to see his wife again. Samuel manages to get Hugo away from the police but things quickly go from bad to worse as he discovers he's caught in the middle of a vicious war between ruthless criminals and corrupt cops. When the police name Samuel as a fugitive, he realises he's going to have to join forces with Hugo if he's going to have a hope of rescuing Nadia.

This is essentially an adrenaline pumping chase thriller that doesn't waste a second of its 84 minute running time, thanks to fast-paced direction, skilful editing and a pounding score by Klaus Badelt. It also has a pair of terrific performances from Lellouch (who has a nice line in eye-rolling exasperation) and Zem as well as strong support from Gerard Lanvin as the ring-leader of the crooked cops. In short, this is one of the best thrillers of the year and you have to wonder, as the French continue their run of excellent thrillers (see also: Anything For Her and Tell No One), why the British aren't making films like this.

Extras include a 50 minute Making Of documentary, a photo gallery and the trailer, but sadly no commentary or deleted scenes.


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