YLC’s cinema connoisseur Claire Duffy on the start of this year’s festival, on lost directors and the importance of never following famous people into the bathroom.
I should perhaps start by admitting that the Stockholm Film Festival and I have a slightly chequered history. During the opening party of the first festival I attended, two years ago, I loudly gave my rather blunt opinion on the gala screening film (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – it was bloody awful) before noticing that I was standing right next to the director’s brother, then proceeded to accidentally follow Gustaf Skarsgård into the gents’ toilet (I was lost and he looked like he knew where he was going.)
The following year, due to bad luck, timing, and a bit of confusion between the Zita and Sture cinemas, I managed to see the most awful films the festival had to offer (with one exception: Safety Not Guaranteed was a gem and you should track it down if you can). I won’t name them here, but suffice to say I wondered more than once whether I could bury myself in my popcorn.
As to Stockholm Film Festival 2013, all I can say is: so far so good. Whether I’ve been luckier, chosen better or simply the standard is higher this year, I have thoroughly enjoyed the films I’ve seen so far, and – knock on wood – I haven’t yet ended up in a gents’ toilet accidentally or otherwise.
Due to work commitments, my festival proper started on Friday night with a screening of Bluebird. I’ll happily admit that Bluebird-type films aren’t normally my cup of tea. It’s a slow moving, character driven indie; laden with atmosphere and light on twists and turns. Normally, I’d be slumping into my popcorn within ten minutes, but Bluebird was absolutely captivating. Thanks in a large part to flawless performances from a great cast, including Mad Men’s John Slattery, I was drawn entirely into the quiet desperation of a a small community in remote Maine torn apart by a tragedy.
I was due to moderate a post-screening Q&A session with writer/director Lance Edmands, so when the film finished, I made my way to the front of the cinema, to find a slightly panicked Face2Face co-ordinator hissing that there was no sign of Edmands. As the credits rolled on, we flapped a little and I faced the serious possibility of going on stage alone and telling knock knock jokes in an attempt to stop the audience leaving, when a guy unobtrusively wandered up behind us.
“Umm, hi, I don’t know who I should talk to… I directed this movie?”
Lance proved to be an engaging interviewee, telling us about the real life incident that inspired the story, how the project came to be workshopped at the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriter Lab, and how his experience as a film editor (he worked on Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture) helped him to envision the project as a whole as he worked.
On Saturday morning, I was up bright and early to see Blue Caprice, inspired by the horrific Beltway sniper attacks which killed 10 people and wounded more around the Washington DC area in 2002. The film depicts the events leading up to the attacks, exploring the machiavellian hold the older mastermind had over the younger sniper. It was at times a little slow moving for my taste, particularly in the first half, but I loved how clear it was that the filmmaker Alexandre Moors understands the difference between empathy and sympathy. He let us follow and understand how the young man came to become what he did, without ever excusing his horrific actions.
A bit of a genre shift followed, with Concussion, writer/director Stacie Passon’s story of an unfulfilled housewife who becomes a prostitute after suffering a concussion. I struggled a bit to get into this one, as I didn’t feel we got to know the main character well enough in the first act to grasp her motivation, and so it all felt a bit vague and random. Once we got into the swing of it, however, I found myself engrossed in the non judgemental exploration of Abby’s journey. There was an interesting dignity to her dabble in prostitution, a mature woman’s conscious decision to explore her sexuality on her own terms, which was refreshing.
Two days down, seven to go…