MONTH END PROCESSING FOR OCTOBER 2013
Movies: Fast-cut POV shots of snowboarders, Groove Armada at full volume on the soundtrack, freeze-frames of the key players with handwritten captions: for its first few minutes, The Crash Reel feels like every other extreme sports movie you've only ever watched the first few minutes of. And then suddenly, snowboarder Kevin Pearce flies off a steep incline, falls on his head and doesn't get up. What follows is the gripping story of Pearce's slow recovery from serious brain trauma, as told by Lucy Walker, frequently applauded here as one of the best storytellers in the documentary form. There are several strands to the tale - the painstaking process of Pearce's healing, the questions his accident raises about the safety of the sport, the impact on his family when he announces that he wants to get back on the board again. Walker handles all of these strands with the minimum of sentimentality, while still getting an astonishing emotional punch out of Pearce's story. You probably missed The Crash Reel's microscopic UK cinema run, but the good news is that it's showing on Sky Atlantic TV at 9pm on Tuesday November 5th. It's better than any fireworks.
Telly: A couple of years ago, in the middle of the Nordic Noir boom, BBC Four showed The Bridge: a rather fine Swedish/Danish cop show about a murder investigation spanning the two countries, and the culture clashes that arose from it. Inevitably, other pairs of feuding countries have been keen to blag the remake rights. The recent American version moved its crime scene to the US border with Mexico: and now we have The Tunnel, which features British and French cops butting heads on Sky Atlantic. (Yeah, them again, sorry.) Whereas the Scandi original felt like a perfect balance between the Danish and Swedish viewpoints, The Tunnel feels a little more skewed towards the Brits, simply because Stephen Dillane's character can't say more than two lines in French before demanding everyone around him speaks English. But Clémence Poésy's Gallic detachment is a fine substitute for Saga Noren's Swedish iciness, a handy national stereotype behind which to explore both women's don't-mention-the-A-word approach to policing. It's fascinating to see that the basic premise of The Bridge can support so many international variations: the sidebar at the bottom of this Guardian piece has a few good suggestions for future ones, but misses out my own idea of Newcastle and Gateshead cops feuding across both sides of the Tyne Bridge. Maybe Viz could work on that one.
Travel: I'm never quite sure how to categorise general events that happen in London, so the Travel section will just have to do. The weekend before this year's London Film Festival, we prepared ourselves by going to two shorter festivals of very different types. Japan Matsuri has been running for a few years now: after establishing itself in Spitalfields and then nearly collapsing after a disastrous move to the South Bank, it's now firmly settled in Trafalgar Square. Once a year, it's the focus for a huge showcase of Japanese culture - musical performances, martial arts displays, lots and lots of street food, and much more. Of the musical performances, Fuyuki Enokido's rock 'n' roll koto was the biggest surprise, but the coolest one had to be guitarist Tomoyasu Hotei collaborating with Joji Hirota's taiko drummers on the former's best-known tune. By comparison, VegFest was a more sedate affair: an indoor celebration of the vegan lifestyle at Olympia. Again, plenty of food on offer, and some decent entertainment (especially from Andrew O'Neill and Lucy Porter's standup sets). But there's a certain dull worthiness about the whole enterprise, which can be summed up in one simple observation: there were about 85 stalls on the day selling vegan cupcakes, but not a single one that would sell you a cup of something hot to drink with them, caffeinated or otherwise. If you're trying to convince people that veganism isn't about unnecessary suffering, maybe you could start with that next year.