Tag Archives: Film Festival

How I Ended This Summer, Review

The original 1979 70 mm exclusive theatrical release of Apocalypse Now first screened with no credits and no opening titles. Perfect. I don’t want an introduction to my films. I am there to get lost in a story and if it holds up then great, but if not, I don’t want the extenuating circumstances. If the story and the actors and the cinematography, sound, location and dress don’t work together well enough to provide me with a solid experience then further explanation won’t help.

So with that in mind I was quietly enthusiastic about the screening of ‘How I Ended The Summer’ because I knew nothing about it. The ticket was from a friend who I asked to divulge nothing of what he knew. I found out there was a Question and Answer session at the end of the screening but that was at the end. Instead the director failed to appear and Mark Cosgrove was quite happy to introduce a six minute video with explanations about the movie. I feel ungrateful for being disappointed at this exclusive presentation but it didn’t help my suspension of disbelief. All I could think was that this was a creation by the young director and not a story in its own right. Ah well, it started on a low note but a brilliant movie would surely rise above it.

The plaudits couldn’t be greater, the film was the winner at the 54th BFI London Film Festival and created in a “beautifully minimalist fashion” by director Alexei Popogrebsky, apparently, who had “fashioned a taut psychological drama made all the more gripping by the isolation and desolation of its setting”.

On a deserted, windswept Russian island inside the Arctic Circle, two men spend the summer working at a remote meteorological station. Each day they take readings from their partly-radioactive surroundings, and relay them via two-way radio, their only contact with the outside world. Sergei, a gruff man in his fifties, is a polar veteran, used to solitude and now just about tolerating the inexperienced Pavel, a college graduate on a temporary posting. When Sergei leaves on a fishing trip, Pavel is slipshod in his reporting and, worse, he receives terrible news from the mainland.

The setting was isolated and desolate. It brought to mind the expansive plains of Americana rather than the images I had of a white Arctic. The depiction and atmosphere were as taut as described but the ‘thriller’ part surprised me. I wasn’t on edge, there was no heart racing, no sweaty palms. There was a sense of dread at the bad news but it was mostly tied up with the annoyance of watching someone unwilling to confront a situation. I couldn’t identify very well with either character, I could just sit back and wait for them to stop doing whatever it was they were doing.

It was interesting at best but apocalyptic it was not. Not about the Arctic, to which the actors had grown up in near proximity (I did gain something from the introduction) and seemed oblivious to its cold, or the human condition. Pretty and thoughtful? Perhaps. Amazing and gripping? Probably not.

Watershed: Wildscreen Festival

The Watershed will be host to the Wildscreen Festival from Saturday 09 to  Sunday 17 October. While others are sitting in the same room as Simon Pegg, Derren Brown, Guillermo del Toro and Michael Caine in Cheltenham, you could be admiring little creatures and environmental delights in central Bristol.

The festival provides the chance to see a selection of award-winning films from around the globe. Screenings are free and tickets are available from the Box Office on the day.

Note that due to Wildscreen’s huge popularity Watershed’s first floor (including the Café/Bar) will be a delegates only area from Monday 11 – Thursday 14 Oct until 17:00hrs each day.

Wildscreen 2010: Monkey Thieves: Searching for Sanctuary Sat 09 Oct
Even Jaipur’s temple monkeys are affected by the global credit crunch. Monkey Thieves follows their lives as troops are forced to divide, friendships are challenged and hard times come to all. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves

Wildscreen 2010: Clash: Encounters of Bears and Wolves Sat 09 Oct
Size and power square off against speed and teamwork, as mighty grizzly bears contend with powerful packs of wolves for control of the food supply in Yellowstone National Park. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Drain the Ocean

Wildscreen 2010: Drain the Ocean Sat 09 Oct
Imagine if we could drain the water from the ocean. Using the latest scientific data and state-of-the-art graphics, Drain the Ocean reveals the strange and bizarre landscapes that lie beneath the waves. Further Information

Wildscreen 2010: Deadly 60: South Africa

Wildscreen 2010: Deadly 60: South Africa Sat 09 Oct
Presenter Steve Backshall and his team are on a fun-filled, adrenalin-fuelled journey to find the 60 deadliest creatures on the planet – creatures most people spend their lifetime avoiding. Further Information

Watershed, Work1 Canon’s Road, Harbourside, Bristol, BS1 5TX, +44 (0)117 927 5100, info@watershed.co.uk,

Review: Lovers on the Road

The mini film festival Visible Secrets: Hong Kong’s Women Filmmakers is currently showing at the Watershed in Bristol. I saw Lovers on the Road on Monday 25 January 2010.

The cinema is small and comfortable and there are only a few of us waiting for the movie to start. The movie ticket was £3.50 and I am the only person in the second row. My jacket is flung over the seat to my right, my bag is to my left and I am comfortable in my chair and ready to drift away. Midlake by Roscoe plays before the movie starts and it seems as if there could be no place more mellow than this room.

The lights dim, the curtains slide open and a girl is packing a suitcase in a room that has a garish pastel blue wall. She’s harried and frenzied and a silent young man stands behind her. There have been no trailers yet so I assume that this is a cheaply made anti-piracy promotion of some sort. Nope. This is the movie and it takes some effort to suspend disbelief due to the quality of the production.

There is little communication and the two main characters easily depict the pleasant lack of intimacy while indicating a yearning for something more. By easily, I mean they act as if they are in a high school production of a play. I feel as if I can almost read the stage directions: [put arms around Lei] [Lei stands still] [Lei shrugs off arms and walks away]. The acting is disjointed and comforting at the same time. I slip into its Beijing pace now and then but occasionally I am jolted back to my seat in the Bristol cinema.

I find parts of it charming but I can’t tell if certain scenes are meant to be funny on purpose. There is a security guard who buys and eats an ice cream and fans himself,  I assume, to indicate [show don’t tell] that the temperature is hot in Beijing. Not quite sure what the heat adds to the story and Lei’s t-shirt and shorts worn throughout the 75 minutes could have been enough of a depiction.

The theme is detachment and estrangement and there is little music to the soundtrack, instead there is mostly a buzzing noise of constant city sounds. The couple live in a one bedroom apartment which has a broken window on which Lei slices her hand. There are scenes of her alone in a similar way to Lost in Translation with Scarlett Johansson, although while the latter was actively depicted in a sexual way [see opening scene of Scarlett’s bottom] Lei is female but not selling her femininity.

One of the [perhaps] comic moments occurs when a woman drags her into a hair dresser’s and  she quickly runs out when a man appears with scissors. She walks back in a few moments later and has her long tresses cut down to how her hair was when she first met her boyfriend. Starting afresh and all that.

The physical contact is as detached as the relationship between the characters and the only overt friendliness for the main character occurs between her and a Japanese man, Masa, she meets at a bar. Lei isn’t a journalist but is interviewing people about why they moved and what they missed about the place they left. Adam from Sheffield misses the fact that people in England can drive; Masa misses the moment that has just gone.

Lei’s partner turns to her as they sit by a river and asks why doesn’t she interview him. He reminds her that he has moved away from home as well and she laughs. “I never thought of that” she replies and she listens to his answer, when she is far from him, in a hotel room. He misses her and it’s a reminder that they are out of sync. Lovers on the Road is choppy and intimate at the same time. The scenes are mostly close-ups and the characters seem to crowd the screen.

There are only three songs in the movie and one of them plays over the end credits. The silence and lack of communication prevail and the rough edges to the acting help the film’s message. Walking the same path and having the same experiences with someone doesn’t mean that it’s a smooth journey or even that you’re sharing it. “You always miss the things I notice” she says and while he fails to respond she is off on a trip with someone else.

I wonder if the ‘visible secret’  is that we walk alone even when we are together? I’m not sure but the movie was thought provoking, my evening was enjoyable and the trip home was close but not lonely.