The Last Days of Pompeii

So- we’ve reached the end, and it’s been a funny few days. I’m certainly glad that tonight I’ll be hopping on the bus and heading for home, but my return has ended up rather more complicated than I’d hoped for, once again proving exactly how tiresomely complicated the world of freelance writing can be. The Guillermo Del Toro interview is still happening- but now, it’s happening on Saturday rather than Sunday. I’ve also ended up with two slots, thanks to covering it for both a magazine and an online outlet, but the end result is that my E.T.A. into London is 6am, and I’ve got to be at the hotel for the interview at 10.40am. The second one is at 2.15, and it’s going to add up to 50 minutes in Mr Del Toro’s company. It’s not fantastic, and rather frustrating, as the one thing I was looking forward to tomorrow was getting to slump in bed and not do anything- but, at the least, it’s going to be talking to a filmmaker I find genuinely interesting (and who was an absolute gem of a quote-happy motormouth last time I interviewed him) about a film that’s highly impressive. Plus, as long as all goes according to plan, I should net a healthy amount of money from this. There is, as they say, an upside to everything.

I may have succeeded in losing a digital camera- it’s George’s, and I’m certain I packed it, but somewhere between London and here, it’s gone walkabout. It’s not impossible that I ended up not packing it (after all, I did end up forgetting a towel…), but if it is gone, I’m definitely going to replace it. It’s just rather annoying, especially as I have absolutely no clue as to how it happenned. If I’m going to lose stuff, I’d rather learn a lesson from it, rather than feeling like it’s just evaporated into the air.

Yesterday morning, I climbed the hill that defeated me last time- and then found out that the path I was on didn’t lead me all the way up Arthur’s Seat. Not to be defeated, I turned back, headed down, found the correct path, and stomped all the way back up again. There, I sat for a while, enjoying the sound of the wind blowing through the grass, and felt happier than I had done for a while. It’s been tough for the second week- and I find it very easy to get depressed about a whole selection of “state of the world” issues. It’s strange, but I sometimes feel like now that I’ve passed thirty, all my hope for the future of the planet is gradually draining away, and I can’t help feeling like the human race is currently behaving like a rabbit on a motorway convinced that as long as it stares out the big, roaring, glaring thing that’s racing towards it, there’s no possible way that it can come to harm. I just can’t help feeling that I want the world to turn out to be as weird and vibrant and full of possibility as I felt when I was ten years old, and I don’t want circumstance and the potential collapse of civillisation to hammer it out of me. Being afraid of worse-case-scenarios on an hourly basis is exhausting, let me tell you, and I wish there was a better way of handling them than just ignoring them.

(Apologies for the depressive tone. I haven’t been sleeping well either- people eating crisps at 5 in the morning or snoring like a walrus have been making certain that my sleep has been fitful at best. I think it’s just been a long two weeks, and I can’t wait to be back with George.)

Okay- I might see something today, but- for the moment- this is the final movie roundup…

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE- deliciously kooky and enjoyable comedy, with a dysfunctional family on the road to get an eight-year-old to a beauty contest. Fantastic cast, and some absolutely hilarious moments, this is the model of what Hollywood movies used to be able to do, and now you’ll only find them in the studio-funded ‘indie’ sector.
COLOUR ME KUBRICK- the tale of Alan Conway, the man who pretended to be Stanley Kubrick, is a fascinating one, but this is one excrutiating mess of a movie, sloppily thrown together and meshing Kubrick in-jokes with overdone seventies-style camp humour. The fact that this features a full song-and-dance number from Jim Davidson should tell you everything you need to know.
SHOOT THE MESSENGER- a very powerful drama all about a black teacher whose determination to improve black kids’ education backfires, leading him on an odyssey of madness and racial self-hatred. It’s an angry, difficult film, but it manages to make some powerful points while telling a decent story at the same time, and there’s some fantastic performances.
THE PAGE TURNER- cool, calm and incisive French drama, as a young girl finds her dreams of being a pianist flattenned by the behaviour of a diva pianist during a music exam. Years later, she seeks out the diva and, carefully, proceeds to destroy her life. Brilliantly played, it’s a tense and carefully mounted drama that packs a serious bite.
H6- DIARY OF A SERIAL KILLER- Great. More torture horror. Playing like American Psycho (the novel) without any of the satire, this is a pretty ugly portrait of a man who decides to ‘attain immortality’ by messily murdering a series of prostitutes. Behind the veneer of Catholic guilt, there’s very little here that’s interesting- and while it’s classily shot, this is little more than ugly torture porn that’s yearning to shock because it doesn’t know how to do anything else.
THE GREAT HAPPINESS SPACE: TALE OF AN OSAKA LOVE THIEF- probably the best title in the Festival, this short but absorbing documentary is a portrait of the ‘Host bars’ you can find in Osaka, Japan, where worryingly gorgeous guys sell love, dreams and (when required) sex to whoever can afford it. One of those documentaries that starts as a fun, frothy look at an alien world, this turns unexpectedly dark, and builds to a genuinely affecting portrayal of cultural difference and the fact that in certain places in Osaka, money really can buy you happiness…
THE PRODIGY- a low budget American action thriller, this is a bizarre mixture of SEVEN and THE USUAL SUSPECTS, and if you took it purely by its dialogue or acting, this would be a clunky but occasionally effective low-grade B-movie. What pushes it into more interesting territory is the fact that it’s got some of the best-directed action sequences I’ve seen in ages, giving the film a visceral impact that it badly needs. It’s still a bit of a mess, but one with promise.
ONE FINE DAY- A sweet French comedy, all about a man ground down by the miseries of life until- unexpectedly- everything starts changing, and he doesn’t quite know how to cope with his newfound happiness. The brief musical number might be a little unwise, but this is a genuinely sweet and heartwarming movie that will send you out with a huge smile on your face.
3 DEGREES COLDER- A headscratching German relationship drama, all about the unexpected return of a woman’s ex-boyfriend after five years away, and the effect this has on the man she’s since married. It’s well shot, beautifully acted and excellently put together, but it’s also one of those films that make you think that at least twenty minutes of explanatory scenes have just been edited out at random.

Okay- I’m going to sit down, write a few more Del Toro questions, and then I’m going to do my best to have a good day.

Things may seem downcast at the moment, but I’m determined to bounce back.

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