Saturday at ID Fest was the most heavily scheduled day of the weekend, with some of the more prestigious events on show. As a result, I had to skip out on several screenings I would have loved to attend – The Boy Friend, The Outfit, The Turin Horse and Grosse Point Blank were all regrettably sacrificed in place of other attractions.
There was going to be two big names, and personalities, at the QUAD on Saturday; both Paddy Considine and Brian Blessed graced us with their respective presence (one significantly larger than the other) later in the day. They would both do talks, which I would be attending, and I also scheduled to see Danger Diabolik, The Innkeepers, Robocop and Night of the Comet.
To kick off, I watched half of a Brian Blessed television showcase – an episode of the mid-seventies programme that, while dated, has still retained some of its appeal. Blessed, playing an oafish hunter who has set up a small society around a discarded railway cart in the post-apocalyptic setting was as rambunctious as always.
While by no means a highlight, it proved an appetiser to the next event, which was one of my most anticipated of the weekend. Paddy Considine, who hails from the midlands, was in town to deliver a master class on ‘directing actors’, with Empire’s Chris Hewitt on hosting duties.
Paddy Considine – Directing Actors
The room was packed, as you’d expect, and the ensuing hour was a joy of witty comments, complete candidness, and some real insight for budding film professionals.
Considine is not a natural actor born with talent that was nurtured from an early age. He does have it though, as was evidenced by a clip from his Shane Meadows-directed debut, A Room for Romeo Brass. He spoke about how he’d never done any acting before being asked to do Brass, but he eased into it, with the character’s distinctive accent coming to him at a completely random moment.
Since appearing in the likes of Dead Man’s Shoes, The Bourne Ultimatum and Submarine, he has now taken a sideways step in his career, choosing to try his hand behind the camera. He was “bored of acting,” he told us, though he hasn’t given it up for good.
His first effort as a writer and director was an astonishing success. Tyrannosaur, starring Olivia Colman, Eddie Marsan and Peter Mullan, was widely considered to be one of the best (and bleakest) British films of 2011, winning Considine a much-deserved ‘Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer’ BAFTA, as well as numerous other awards at festivals across the globe.
One of the points that was picked up upon was the way he directed his tri-cast of leads, with many agreeing that he induced a performance from Olivia Colman that perhaps even the actress herself didn’t know she had in her. That was, after all, what the session was supposed to be all about. He was a charismatic speaker, very funny and honest, but with the help of Chris Hewitt the talk stayed on track throughout, meaning all those who wanted advice got their fill.
Considine believes the director is God, and now it appears he is happy to have a go at playing God. His second feature is apparently written, and hopefully will be going into production soon. However, he also noted that, while he has never been wholly comfortable with acting, he doesn’t feel he has done his best work yet, so expect to see him on both sides of the camera in the following years. “Would you direct yourself?” Hewitt queried. He doesn’t think he could, but you never know what’s around the corner.
After that thoroughly enjoyable and informing session, this ludicrously camp 60s Italian spy caper made for a nice change of pace. Based on ‘Diabolik’, one of Italy’s longest running and most successful comic strips, this is far from what we expect from a comic adaptation today. More Adam West than Christian Bale.
Like Batman, the sets are ludicrous and ingenious, Diabolik’s underground base is lavish and impressive. The dialogue isn’t that different to the 60′s Batman show either, jam-packed with one-liners, though these don’t all translate particularly successfully from the original Italian. A third element that the two share is an assortment of whacky devices used by the protagonist to aid his cause – my favourite was the ‘Exhilaration Gas’, causing mirth for all those who inhale it but funnily countered by ‘Anti-Exhilaration Gas capsules‘.
What the film doesn’t have that Batman (usually) did is a plot that is at least slightly coherent. It jumps all over the place, and you never have more than half an idea of what is actually going on. The character of Diabolik is like an anarchistic Robin Hood, stealing from the rich establishment and giving to himself, taking down a few symbols of power on the way. It is extremely anti-government; in one sequence, about halfway through the film and out of absolutely nowhere Diabolik decides to blow up four or five government buildings. The sudden change from Lycra-wearing camp crusader to political terrorist is mind-boggling, particularly as it never makes this transition again.
Feeling more like a television episode than a feature, Diabolik is for the most part baffling, but also relatively fun. It’s all wrapped in an Ennio Morricone score, which adds much 6o’s pizzazz and keeps it up-tempo. One to catch on TV.
Brian Blessed – Shouting
While the Paddy Considine talk would have been the highlight on most days at any festival, he was upstaged by the arrival of a man who needs little introduction – bearded, boisterous, ten times larger than life and twice as loud, Prince Vultan himself, the irreplaceable Brian Blessed was in the building. He was here to host a live-in-conversation event, though he popped into our bloggers’ area on the first floor of the QUAD for a quick Q&A beforehand.
I say ‘Q&A’, what followed was very much an ‘A’. He talked for thirty minutes, barely pausing for breath and never answering one question the entire time. His current fascination is mountaineering and in particular the mythology of the yeti, and he wanted us to share in that fascination. Being lectured about yeti’s by a man who looks quite like one himself is an absurd prospect in any context, and as it turns out, a brilliant one. I’ve never done anything remotely like it, cooped up in a small room being talked to by such a big personality with around ten other bloggers. It was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for all the alpacas in Mongolia.
After the more intimate talk, we headed into the QUAD’s largest screen for the ‘live in conversation’ event. It was packed, a sell out of eager listeners who were delighted to see Blessed make his way onto the stage. The following 90-minutes were utterly remarkable. Blessed talked non-stop, building up a head of steam that he’d begun to amount in the press room, evolving into a juggernaut of conversation, rattling off all kinds of stories with little continuity and great gusto. He’s almost 76, remember, but he looks like he truly believes he can live for another lifetime; he has more energy than me and I’m not even a third of his age.
He talked about a whole host of subjects – the influence of his coal-mining father, his early days of acting in school, his befriending of a young and nervous Patrick Stewart (who Blessed assures us always talked in his distinctively deep voice, even at the age of 11), his surprise scholarship to drama school, his friendship with Kenneth Branagh who he described as “such an old pillock”, his training to be a master plasterer, his love of mountaineering, science fiction and space. By this point, the audience were in uncontrollable tears of laughter, even Tony Earnshaw, who was hosting the event and futilely trying to ask a few questions, had to just sit back and bathe in the mirth, content like the rest of us to listen.
He spoke in depth about the series I, Claudius, and also his time filming The Trojan Women with Katherine Hepburn and Vanessa Redgrave. Apparently one night he was made to take them both out to dinner; after the two women started talking about sex, they turned to Blessed and asked him about his methods in the bedroom, “These days I’d rather have a good shit!” came the reply, at 2000 decibels. The amount of profanity he uses is remarkable, only matched by the amount of times he apologises about his use of profanity.
The event, along with the press room talk, was one of the most entertaining experiences of my life. The term ‘national treasure’ is bounded about a lot today, but it is surely never more appropriate than here – Brian Blessed is one-of-a-kind, and if you ever get the chance to hear him speak I advise you to make sure you do so. He made a point to talk about his current space initiative with Skylon; apparently he’s going to the international space station next year, if that appears on television it’s going to be unmissable. A true legend of screen, stage and mountain, Brian Blessed is a king amongst men.
After Blessed went a little over schedule, the beginning of the next event was thankfully shortly delayed, allowing me to catch my breath. Up next was a preview of The Innkeepers, a new horror from director Ti West. In an effort to get to the point right away – I thought it was great.
It’s a simple and effective plot filled with a handful of terrific actors (Sara Paxton in particular) playing well-constructed characters. Simplicity really is key, there’s very little to the narrative – it’s a pretty standard build up and payoff arc – and only one major location. The plot works though, with the help of a sharp script – the dialogue is realistic and often funny, and there’s a definite sense of awareness regarding its genre; it plays with conventions, knowing its audience well enough to lampoon us in a variety of ways. Although, this is no Cabin in the Woods, I actually much preferred the subtlety of the way in which it took casual swipes at the horror movie as a set of rules and principles. Sometimes the homage is laid on a bit thick, in particular to The Shining, but it’s not odious.
While not spectacular in any individual aspect, The Innkeepers is a real box-ticker, solid and enjoyable. I don’t consider myself to be a huge horror-fan, but this comes with my stamp of approval.
You’re My Only Hope! Alternative heroes double-bill – Robocop and Night of the Comet
In case you’d forgotten, the theme of the 2012 ID Fest was ‘Heroes’. This double feature late on Saturday night (mostly Sunday morning) attempted to address that topic.
Robocop is an obvious one, being thoroughly heroic throughout. It’s a real classic, and while I can never stop thinking about The Terminator’s influence while watching the film, it’s still a brilliant picture in its own right.
I had never seen Night of the Comet before, and was widely informed by those around me that I was in for a treat. They were right. This is a quintessential B-movie that excels exactly as you would expect a relatively cheap (about $3 million reportedly) comedy/horror/sci-fi with a thoroughly 80s aesthetic to do so. The music, the clothes, the hair, if you want to know what the 80s was all about, watch this movie.
It’s not merely a picture that relies on cheap thrills and tacky laughs though, there are several moments that surprise with their poignancy and beauty. The sets are wonderfully designed, depicting a desolate city where the vast majority of the population have been turned to dust by an orbiting comet. Those who have survived are either dying slowly of what one presumes is radiation poisoning, or have mutated into flesh-hungry zombies. The giant skyscraper backdrops reminded me of a few German Expressionist films; buildings with sharp edges towering over you with a shadowy menace, glowing red in the irradiated sun, it’s actually quite haunting.
With a great score to boot, Night of the Comet is an essential B-movie.
That wraps up Day 3. Check back tomorrow for the final report!