It turns out that I wouldn’t have been able to get into the ceilidh last night anyway, as no one was leaving since the knees up was being led by none other than Sean Connery. Sounds rubbish.
The day begins with The Crab, a tale of an Nuyorican intellectual with ecrodactyly, or claw hands syndrome. More significantly, he has a self-destructive tendency, drinking himself into a stupor, picking fights on the street, robbing prostitutes and doing a great job of offending everyone he meets. His bellicose exterior, however, belies a passion for the Romantic poets: in fact, he could have been an academic but, too self-absorbed to acknowledge other people, he refuses to add citations to his thesis. He becomes infatuated with his best friend’s new girlfriend, a smart and beautiful woman who takes her deafness in her stride, which leads him into an even deeper spiral of despair. A bold take on issues of disability and identity, with strong performances, but the film is overlong.
I feel the need to watch something more upbeat, so pick Thunder Soul, a documentary celebrating the Kashmere Stage Band, an all black high school group from Houston, Texas that hit the big time in the early 1970s. While other school stage bands at the time were churning out the same old sanitized jazz, band director Conrad “Prof” Johnson moved with the times and wrote funk tunes for his band and choreographed dance moves to turn their set into a dazzling show. They toured internationally, recorded records (sampled by DJ Shadow) and became a source of pride for the local community. On the occasion of Prof’s 92nd birthday, the original members of the band, now in their late 40s, come together to stage a celebratory concert. The film is an uplifting love-in, but unfortunately too niche to make it onto UK screens beyond the festival circuit.
I take time out from films to attend an industry discussion about the recent report commissioned by the UK Film Council, ‘The Cultural Impact of British Film: 1946 2006’. Mark Cousins, who chairs the event, is wearing a tie belonging to Michael Powell. Researchers examined a selection of films, both those in the canon and a random selection of forgotten films. It will be interesting to see whether the new government will be convinced about the cultural value of film beyond its economic impact.
After a catch up coffee with Lesley Anne Rose, who has just finished working at Northern Film and Media, I buy a ticket for Nnette upon the recommendation of a random person I meet in the Filmhouse bar. The latest documentary by Nicholas Philibert (of tre et Avoir fame) is a gentle portrait of the 40 year old orangutan exhibited in the menagerie at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, the oldest inhabitant of the world’s oldest zoo. The film consists of 68 minutes of static camera shots focused entirely on the beast, the outside world only glimpsed through the occasional hazy reflection in the glass of the enclosure. Commentary is provided by the humorous conversations that visitors to the menagerie have between themselves desperate attempts to decipher the animal that remains a mystery throughout with the waves of excited hubbub followed by disconcertingly silent periods after closing time. A handsome and thought-provoking gem of a film.
I stay in the Cameo for The Hunter, a revenge thriller set in Tehran, written by, directed by and starring Rafi Pitts (It’s Winter). An ex-con and night watchman finds out that his wife and daughter have been killed in the crossfire during a shoot out between police and insurgents, so he goes on the rampage picking off policemen at long range with his hunting rifle. It was nominated for the Golden Bear at Berlin, but personally I found it unengaging.
Earlier in the day I spotted one of the actors from Vacation!, my favourite film so far, in the Filmhouse (only just resisting the temptation to ambush her and ask if I can be her new best friend), so was plotting to watch it again at the public screening. However, by this point I’m feeling my eyelids droop so opt for my pyjamas instead.