Saturday, February 10, 2018

The 'bourne Identity: Overnight Film Festival

A very belated Happy New Year from Kunstblog. Good heavens. It's practically spring already. Been doing stuff.

Anyway..... I finally had the opportunity to spend a weekend away from stuffy London by attending the second edition of the Overnight Film Festival in Eastbourne. I had booked without seeing the programme, so keen was I to participate. Once the programme was announced, I was happy to see so many female-led and queer-oriented films included.

But, the trip itself was part of the attraction--Eastbourne is only a couple hours by train, and I whiled away the time looking out the window, spotting two pheasant grazing trackside. On my arrival in Eastbourne I took my time getting to the seaside, dragging my wheeled suitcase over the pavement, having a late lunch on Terminus Road and finally arriving at the hotel that served as both accommodation and screening site, the venerable Queens Hotel. Hotels are still an extravagance for me, being a veteran of backpacking, staying with friends, etc. This hotel screamed faded grandeur, with gorgeous high ceilings and speckled mirrors. My room was icy cold, a result of them opening for the festival, but it did warm up after a few hours.

The festival opener was The Velvet Vampire, an exploitation B-movie with feminist overtones, as it was directed by Stephanie Rothman. The acting by the couple who encounter the desert-dwelling vampire was atrocious, but she, as played by Celeste Yarnall, was quite intriguing. The screening room was the hotel's ballroom and with chairs facing blacked-out windows, it was quite atmospheric. We all had a good laugh at how pink the male lead was and the film was a good laugh.

As would prove a refrain, I passed up the opening night party in favour of an early night, wanting to pace myself over the three days. But apparently, the partying went on quite late, spilling over into an appointed party room.

I was keen to be up early enough for the breakfast, which was held in a sea-facing ground floor room, the view to the pier spoiled only by some grey skies. But, it was just what I had hoped--seaside dining. I felt quite decadent, spooning out my grapefruit segments while gazing at the sea.

Saturday was a bit of a queer revival day, with Velvet Goldmine and Bound both showing, having been programmed by guest curator Zing Tsjeng, who shared her experience growing up in Singapore and viewing the former as near contraband. When it came out in 1998, VG was a bit of a flop and I wasn't that keen on it when I saw it on TV. Viewed in a cinema (as such), its bombast made a bit more sense. The production design, music, and extravagant characters made more impact on me, but as the leads are all rather unsympathetic (and Christian Bale's wig is atrocious), it still didn't really move me. I think it's one of Todd Hayne's passion projects that doesn't connect as well as he would have liked. Great soundtrack and costumes, though.

Bound is a total '90s classic, so I was a bit bemused to hear it referred to as "lost" and "unknown", but I think this is a bit of a generation gap. As so many of the attendees and programming team seemed to be 20-somethings, I guess this film was a bit of an unknown quantity and the Warchowskis are, of course, better known for their subsequent projects. Still.... it ain't unknown. As butch released con Corky, Gina Gershon has never had such a good role, and Jennifer Tilly's faux girly act as gangster moll Violet makes perfect sense in this tense thriller. One is always questioning: is she sincere or not? Will she screw Corky over or not? Joe Pantoliano plays his usual sinister mobster figure to perfection. We gasped. We laughed. We enjoyed it very much, thank you.

Again, I passed up the glam rock party with regrets as I was just too tired to stay up. And when I went down in my pyjamas to breakfast the next morning, I was not the only one, although I had no real explanation for my hungover state, having consumed absolutely no alcoholic refreshment. I think it was a combination of long days, very dry hotel air and a bit of nervous energy. But, with some rare sun spotted, I had decided to go wandering on Sunday. Having caught the last half of a curious Portuguese faux doc, The End of the World, which takes place at the seaside, I headed out into the Eastbourne sun and wind for a brisk walk which took me to the Towner Gallery, a gorgeous multi-level space showing several exhibits. I checked out the Haroon Mirza-curated We stared at the Moon from the centre of the Sun, which took over two rooms on the ground floor. In one room were several multimedia displays, such as some projected films by Tacita Dean and Lis Rhodes sharing one large screen side by side, which was intriguing. Playful spinning Technics turntables spun in one brightly lit corner, linking their artists. The connections were a bit difficult to work out: sound, light, orbs. Mirza had drawn from the Arts Council collection and his whims determined the exhibits.

Back at the Queens, guest curator Shiva Feshareki was disappointed to miss the exhibit, as she has collaborated with Mirza and I was the bearer of bad tidings as we had a brief chat after her selection, No One Knows About Persian Cats, a film I saw at London Film Festival back in 2009. It told a real story about underground musicians in Teheran defying the authorities, but staged it with the actual participants, blurring the boundaries between documentary and fiction, which I found interesting. 

The early checkout time on Sunday proved a bit frustrating as the last film was in the evening and I had to dash to make my train. Sorry, Claire Denis. I will have to catch all of 35 Shots of Rum another time. 

It was an enjoyable weekend, although I do feel the team (all volunteers) could make much more of the location, which has numerous unused spaces. How about some cult films running on a DVD overnight? Bring your duvets and pillows and voila! Instant all-nighter. Or maybe something more sedate, such as high tea and discussion? There were salons in the lounge, but with people around talking over their drinks, it was next to impossible to hear what the curators were saying to the small groups that gathered. It's a great concept and certainly well worth supporting.

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