Winter Is Coming

Alex And Paul's Quite Reasonable AdventureIt was a very Prince Charles thing to do, and I don’t mean having your wife bumped off once she’s furnished you with a couple of heirs. I'm talking of course about the Prince Charles Cinema, described by people in the know as "the most depraved and beautiful movie theatre in London." They have a reputation for supporting cult cinema, and for putting on extraordinary events, and this counted as both - at the beginning of April 2022, they staged an entire weekend of films featuring Alex Winter, a man best known for playing William S. Preston Esq. in the Bill and Ted series. And they had him fly over to give talks before or after every single one.

The Belated Birthday Girl and I aren't particularly rabid fans of the actor, but we know a good film binge when we see one. So we picked one film from each day of the weekend to see - one was my choice, one was hers, and the third we hadn't seen before. It wasn't until a day or so before the event that we realised that we'd effectively committed ourselves to spending the weekend in the company of one guy, and, well...

...what if he turned out to be a dick?

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What Lies Beneath: #JFTFP22 (part 2 of 2)

Given all the psychological torment that's depicted in First Love, I've chosen to go for a still from it in which a couple appreciate some sausages.It's fun looking back at my writeup of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme from two years ago: a set of films I saw shortly before the entire planet went tits up, but written about after that. My main issue at the time was that the cost of tickets - particularly at the ICA - ruled out the sort of full-season binges we used to do in the old days. After the anomaly of 2021's free online fest, we're back in meatspace for 2022's programme What Lies Beneath, and sadly the ticket prices are still as bad as ever.

The bottom line is this: if you came here wanting reviews of Eternally Younger Than Those Idiots, Will I Be Single Forever?, Kiba: The Fangs Of Fiction, Tomorrow's Dinner Table, Blue, The Lone Ume Tree, The Confidence Man JP: The Movie, Life: Untitled, Aristocrats, The House Of The Lost On The Cape or The Sound Of Grass, then you'll have to look somewhere else. As for the other nine films in this year's programme, I reviewed four of them in part one. Here are the other five, all watched in London over the space of a single weekend.

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What Lies Beneath: #JFTFP22 (part 1 of 2)

Oi! Down in front!It shouldn't be such a big deal coming back to the cinema for the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme - after all, I spent a fair chunk of the tenties experiencing it largely at home, thanks to all the press screener discs arranged for me by MostlyFilm. But it has to be said, one year on from the 2021 programme which was held entirely online, there's something comforting about returning to the ICA for 2022. Junko Takekawa is still giving the introductions, and making us fill in surveys afterwards asking what we've learned about Japanese life: the films are still prefaced by a unique mix of adverts for Japanese tourism and Yakult: and the ICA's cafe is still run by staff so slow-moving that you feel it must be a performance art piece of some sort.

The official title of this year's programme is What Lies Beneath: The Intricate Representations Of A 'Dark Mind' In Japanese Cinema. Which is a long-winded way of saying that the 20 films on show across the country are largely about people trying to conceal things. It's a similar theme to that of 2018's programme (Un)true Colours, and as a result The Belated Birthday Girl can be currently heard going around the house while doing her best Timothy Spall/Mike Leigh impersonation: "Secrets! And lies!"

None of this will, of course, stop us from watching and reviewing a reasonable number of those 20 films. They're going to be all over the UK from now until March 31st, but from the run at the ICA I'm going to report on four now, and five more soon.

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#PreCodeApril

Warner Archive DVDs are a bit basic, aren't they? Remember those days when DVDs used to claim interactive menus were a Special Feature? Warner Archive do.This isn’t our first encounter with the Hays Code. This was the document which came into force in 1934, and delineated precisely what sort of behaviour was unacceptable in Hollywood movies for the next three decades. It was also, by implication, the marker for the end of Hollywood’s Pre-Code era – that glorious four-year stretch between 1930 and 1934 when mild immorality ran wild on the big screen. It’s an era of filmmaking that’s been frequently celebrated by the British Film Institute, most notably in BFI Southbank's excellent 2014 season, Breaking The Code.

Shortly after that season took place, The Belated Birthday Girl bought me a four-pack of Pre-Code DVDs as a birthday present. Forbidden Hollywood Volume 7 was one of a small-run series of collections by the Warner Archive label. It contained one film from the BFI season, and three others that were unfamiliar to me. A lovely present, of course, but like most of the discs in our joint collection it was a question of when we would find the time to watch them.

That time turned out to be April 2021. My MostlyFilm colleague and Porn Valley High alumnus, FilmFan, set up the hashtag #PreCodeApril on Twitter, and invited everyone he knew to watch some Pre-Code films and write about them. If you follow the hashtag, you can see it’s been a roaring success: half the images in my timeline this month have been in black and white, as Film Twitter has rushed to post countless stills and GIFs from these films to accompany their reviews.

I don’t really do film reviews on Twitter. So here they are.

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This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 3 of 3)

Little Miss PeriodWell, you've missed it all, I'm afraid. The 2021 edition of the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme was only online between February 19th and March 10th, and now it's all gone apart from a few of the accompanying webchats (specifically the season introduction, a discussion on realism in Japanese cinema, and a chat about Bizen pottery that ties in with one of the films I didn't see). Yes, the final part of this writeup of what I saw in the season is a bit late, but at least it's not three months late like last year's.

So, assuming we can skip the basics because you've already read part one and part two, here comes part three of my review of this year's programme, which of necessity has to start by explaining why the photo at the top of this page is meant to represent a menstruating woman.

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Glasgow Film Festival 2021

In other years, this design would probably have made for a pretty sweet t-shirt.It's been an interesting twelve months for online film festivals, as long as you don't think too hard about all of the stuff happening outside which has forced us to have online film festivals in the first place. On this site, I've reviewed a few of my favourite real-world fests that have successfully pivoted to video (LFF, Sheffield Doc/Fest, JFTFP): and I've also covered a new one that was set up entirely from scratch (We Are One).

But here's a category I've steered clear of until now: real-world festivals that I've never got around to attending before, which are now open to me because they've moved online. Glasgow Film Festival has a perfectly fine reputation, but I'd never considered taking time out of my schedule to travel up there to be part of it. But if you put it all online and charge people a tenner a go to see a programme with some surprisingly hot movies in it, then you have my attention.

So, for one year only - hopefully, and I say that without any malice towards it - welcome to the only Scottish film festival worth a damn. (I believe the young people call this 'subtweeting'.)

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This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 2 of 3)

ExtroAs is traditionally the case with the annual Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme, we need to spend a little time poking fun at the utterly generic season title and theme. To quote from their website: "Everybody wants to be part of something, no matter what you do or who you are... But what is it that people mean when they say ‘my place’; when they refer to their sense of existence and belonging?"

So, it's a season of films about people in places. Got it. To be fair, there are a couple of movies in this programme that explore a common theme in Japanese cinema, where someone fails to fit in to what's generally thought of as a very conformist society. But there's not so much of the opposite of that, where people find themselves part of something that outsiders simply can't understand. When the theme of this year's programme was announced, I hoped that they might have found room for Tonde Saitama, which we saw unsubtitled during our 2018 holiday: sure, many of the local references may not travel, but the idea of a small community revelling in how much it's hated by the big city next door is universal, and the end title song sums that up perfectly.

Sadly, we didn't get that one in this season, mainly because it was ridiculously popular and award-winning, which probably put it out of the Japan Foundation's budget. So instead, following on from the first part, here are four more films that they could afford.

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This Is My Place: #JFTFP21 (part 1 of 3)

It's not a particularly exciting poster this year, but at least it's not the eyeball-inside-a-mouth horror that 2020's was.It's a difficult time to be thinking too hard about what'll happen in the future. But I suspect that whatever happens, in years to come we won't be hitting the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme as heavily as we have been in the past.

I said that back in June last year, when I was writing about the 2020 iteration of the film festival (which I'll be calling JFTFP from now on, because life's too short). After more than a decade - we'd been going there since 2008 - of indulging in their annual collections of recent and classic Japanese cinema, finally the sheer cost of seeing these things at the ICA had just become prohibitive, with every single discount we used to get being whittled away. There were times in the past when the number of films we saw at JFTFP went into double figures, and that's not even counting the years when I was getting freebie screeners from the Japan Foundation so that I could preview them for MostlyFilm. But not any more, it would seem.

Unless, of course, there was some sort of catastrophic chain of events that resulted in the 2021 JFTFP shifting online and becoming free. So here we are.

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Sheffield Doc/Fest 2020

About a year ago - well, yes, a bit more than a year ago now, ha ha, shut up, I've been busy - anyway, last June The Belated Birthday Girl and I went to Sheffield Doc/Fest for the first time. Over the space of two days we saw six feature-length documentaries, one short film (by accident) and an on-stage interview with Werner Herzog, which you can now watch over on the left there. (See what I meant at the time about Annie Hall cosplay?)

"I suspect it won't be our last," I said at the end of the 2019 festival, having no bloody idea what 2020 would have in store for us. Mind you, let's be honest: the main barrier to future visits to Sheffield Doc/Fest was that it was in Sheffield. And this year, it wasn't. Doc/Fest transitioned to video, making a decent-sized collection of films available online from June 10th to July 10th via their Doc/Fest Selects online platform, together with a bundle of pre-filmed introductions and post-screening interviews. Best of all, the films were competitively priced at £4.50 each. Although if you were some sort of film-obsessed lunatic, you could pay £36 to have the opportunity to get a 30 hour rental of every single film over the space of that month. But who could possibly consider that kind of commitment?

Deep breath.

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We Are One

Obviously, there are lots of incredibly pressing problems that need to be solved on the planet right now. But there's been one particular problem that's been preying on my mind ever since the lockdown started in March. It's this - how are film festivals supposed to work now?

You have to sympathise with the BFI, who had to consider that question more urgently than most. Their second biggest festival of the year, the LGBTIQ+ fest that they nowadays call Flare, was due to start on March 20th but had to be cancelled just a few days beforehand. In a herculean effort, they pivoted to video in virtually no time, and had a reduced series of films running on their online player for the duration.

Their biggest festival - the London Film Festival - is coming in October, and some fascinating hints have already been dropped as to how they're going to make that happen. We'll talk about that here nearer the time, of course. But in between Flare and the LFF, the BFI was one of a number of organisations involved in the creation of We Are One, a free film festival that literally spanned the entire planet. This was back in June, so you've already missed it. Luckily, I didn't.

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