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February 2013 (Jameson Dublin International Film Festival) In Review

Man. That was exhausting. 29 events spread across 11 days, including classic films. It was a hell of a festival, with quite an impressive programme put together. In fact, by any measure, it was actually a stronger festival than last year’s, even if I didn’t catch a film that was quite as good as The Raid this time around. Using the 4-point audience award scale, the numbers stack in this year’s favour. Indeed, I gave one more “4” than last year and – most impressively – I actually managed to avoid giving out the lowest grade at all, the dreaded “1.” Maybe I’m getting a bit softer as I get older, but I think that’s an indication that I had a pretty good Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.

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There were a few hitches along the way. After a long day of film-watching, the last thing you want is to have to restart a film. Three of the films I saw as part of the festival suffered from subtitle-related problems. Cherchez Hortense and Blancanieves had to be restarted after about twenty minutes. Cherchez Hortense suffered in particular because the aspect ratio was incorrect and the projectionist had to adjust the film as we were watching it. Given that that the alternative was starting the film a third time late on a Friday evening, I can’t complain. My French was just about decent enough to understand the one or two French talking points in Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story. I understand The Body had a similar problem.

That said, I am sympathetic to the problems with running a large-scale film festival. I understand that sometimes films with subtitles get shown in cinemas that aren’t used to showing films with subtitles. Still, when time is so very tight between showings, it would be nice for the footage to be tested before the start time. To be fair, I know that there are some tests done on the weeken mornings at least, but it would be nice if that approach could be rolled out to at least every subtitled film.

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Still, that’s a minor complaint. I got to see the movies in the end, and they were all quite enjoyable. I did have a similar problem to last year in the Savoy on the final day, as those attending films were herded out and placed at the back of the line for the next film. With the occasional start time delay and Q & A session, that means that you could be joining a long queue for a sold-out show. I always thought the festival should reward loyal customers who had bought tickets to multiple successive shows in the same cinema by making it a bit more convenient for them to attend. On the other hand, there wasn’t anything quite as painful as jogging out the back of the Savoy after This Must Be the Place to grab a truly terrible seat for Death of a Superhero.

The Surprise Film was a little problematic too. I can’t help but feel that the festival’s location on the calendar restricts the movies we can possibly show in the slot. I know that something like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives or Danny Boyle’s Trance would be an impossible premiere for a festival like this, but there must be some middle ground that isn’t Welcome to the Punch. The Glasgow Film Festival managed to show Spring Breakers, which seems a great deal more exciting (and more polarising) than the generic “Britain does Hollywood action movie” feel of Welcome to the Punch.

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That said, what do I know of such things? I actually really liked Casa de mi Padre last year, if only because it was such a brilliantly surreal choice for a film festival audience. Hearing and watching the audience react to Will Ferrell in Spanish was great fun – it was out of left field and a little brilliant. On the other hand, the other surprise film last year, This Must Be the Place was far too conventional a film festival pick, and really deserved a higher-profile place on the bill as a film produced in Ireland. I can’t help but wonder if the Surprise Film is a little past its sell-by date.

Still, I sound like I’m being a bit grumpy. Those are really the only complaints I could level. Event he individual films that I didn’t love, I generally felt that they belonged on the programme. I might not be the biggest fan of Blood Rising, but I appreciate its attempts to raise awareness of an important and overlooked political problem. I also think it is great to give the covetted “closing gala” slot to an Irish film, let alone an Irish documentary. Perhaps The Summit would have been a more triumphant finalé to the festival, but the festival’s heart was in the right place.

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Otherwise, it was a wonderfully organised festival. Although close to the release dates, it was nice to get a preview of films like Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond the Pines, Stoker, Side Effects and Robot & Frank. It was also great to get a sampling of films that might not find easy distribution in Ireland, movies like The Look of Love, A Hijacking or Le Capital. It is always a joy to attend a good movie with an audience that is clearly in the mood for fine cinema, and the festival does an excellent job attracting enthusiastic film goers. While there wasn’t an audience quite as electric as the audience for The Raid, the screenings were generally good fun.

The Q & A sections and the guests were also fantastic. Danny DeVito is a natural storyteller and an engaging presence. Joss Whedon was fantastically good-humoured with the crowd. Both worked well with talented interviewers. Rick O’Shea brought a delightful nerdiness to a celebration of DeVito’s finest roles, while John Maguire kept the audience on-point for Whedon’s all-too-brief interactions. There were a number of lovely smaller moments, from James D’arcy describing Cloud Atlas as a “total mindf%$k!” to Nick Ryan’s palpable awe at introducing his movie in the Savoy.

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As ever, the festival was also a bit of a hub for film-lovers over the eleven days. I attended several movie-related events that weren’t just film screenings, all of which were very well organised:

Anyway, here’s a list of the films I attended. I’ll be adding reviews and links as I go, because I haven’t had a chance to publish everything yet. They are listed in rough order of preference, because ranking films is an imprecise science.

FOUR STARS

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THREE STARS

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TWO STARS

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