Saturday 26 May 2012

ID Fest - Friday

The festival kicked off on Thursday night with a Q & A with Mike Hodges followed by a screening of Get Carter, but for me, the festival started on Friday morning with a quick train journey over to Derby followed by my efforts to not ruin everybody's festival by coughing all over them.

And so, feeling more than a little bit under the weather thanks to a bad cough and an unforeseen bout of hay fever which I've never suffered from before in my life (thanks a lot, pollination), I finally boarded a train and made my merry way over to Derby, or more specifically to the Derby QUAD, the base for all of the weekends screenings.

My first impression of Derby QUAD was "what a bloody lovely building". Having plenty of experience with independent cinemas, it's nice to see such a functional, attractive space, even if it is currently surrounded by building works and a large proportion of Derby's male population working around with no tops on. Once I'd picked up my 'press' credentials from the box office, I was shown the space set up for us bloggers to 'work' in. Containing twelve top of line iMacs and air conditioned to the point of being frosty, I could happily spent the rest of my life in that room. In fact, I'm thinking of having my wedding reception in there.

Photo courtesy of @tomsmovies

My first event of the day was a master-class with Get Carter director Mike Hodges talking about his approach to directing, specifically Black Rainbow and Pulp, two films from his back catalogue that I was less than familiar with. Whilst waiting for Mr Hodges to arrive, I eavesdropped on the two gents in front of me discussing how the screening room compared to one at Cannes. Hey, I'm not trying to sound bitter, if I could compare I probably would do too. Lucky bastards. Despite being the first person in the room, it soon filled up with like-minded film folk, obscuring my view to the point that during Mr Hodges explanations of his methods, I invented a game called 'spot the director of Get Carter'.

This took place in a room known as 'The Box', although it could more accurately be described as 'The Sweat Box', so stifling was the heat in there. To be fair, they were doing their best to combat the unseasonable warmth, placing portable air conditioners in the screen before and after the shows (not during, too noisy), and handing out crudely made but kind of effective makeshift hand fans. The film festival equivalent of Cliff Richard singing to the crowds at Wimbledon, I can't see the organisers of Cannes going to such an effort, somehow.

Choosing to talk about Pulp and Black Rainbow because they were two of his own screenplays, Mr Hodges proceeded to wax lyrical about his films, up until one fantastically embarrassing moment for a lady taking notes when Mr Hodges stopped to check she hadn't fallen asleep or passed out from the heat. He was a charming and entertaining fellow, revealing an inexplicably cool habit of referring to Michael Caine as simply, Caine.

For a festival that's celebrating heroes of cinema, you can't go far wrong by showing a Humphrey Bogart film, which was the next screening of the day. Showing in the quite fancy screen one and accompanied by an introduction by one of QUAD's resident experts, David Leicester (who has a very distinct way of saying film noir and femme fatale, but whose pronunciation I'd trust over my own), it turns out it was the Gloria Grahame role in In A Lonely Place that was under the spotlight here, so it was interesting to view the film from that angle. Having said that, as dominant masculine character names go, Bogart's Dix Steele has to be one of the all time great penis metaphors.

Watching In A Lonely Place was a bit of a slog, with festival fatigue setting in a lot sooner than expected, probably due to the heat. Luckily, I found my second wind and a shop that had an offer on Coca Cola just in time for the next film. Next up was a preview screening of Strawberry Fields, a film that fits the festivals remit of exploring identity with two good performances from its female leads. Set on a fruit picking farm in Kent, I never knew they were such a hedonistic place to work. Released in July by Soda Pictures, there'll be a full review on the way soon.

The last event of the day was a Ken Russell retrospective, wisely moved from 'The Sweat Box' to the much more comfortably air conditioned screen one. Led by a talk from Russell's biographer and friend Paul Sutton, I can safely say that he made some weird films in his life. Ranging from Women in Love to The Fall of the Louse of Usher (which starred 40 sex dolls he bought from Soho), the clips that were shown spanned the whole of his career. Having heard him speak for a while, it's clear that Paul Sutton certainly loves the work of Ken Russell (he must be the best person other than the departed Russell to talk about his work), and was visibly annoyed when mentioning his treatment by the BBC and the BFI. Mind you, if I'd just written a 5 volume biography about Ken Russell's life and career, you could expect me to be a bit passionate about it too.

Saturday begins with an early screening of one of Ken Russell's films, The Boy Friend, and the absolute gem of the festival, a Q & A with actor turned director Paddy Considine. I foolishly didn't get a ticket booked for that event which has obviously sold out, so to end this post with a bit of dramatic tension, I may try and sneak in when the ushers aren't looking.

Will I succeed or will I fail and become the laughing stock of the festival? Come back tomorrow to find out!

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