17-09-12 / INCUBATE FESTIVAL
An hour later I checked into the hotel and mooched through the festival timetable to see how many acts could be squeezed in, then scooted straight out for some swift, pre-music munch. Stopping at the first place I passed, and for reasons I can't explain, I bought a considerable plate of weird kebab contents. A whole half of said plate was taken up by a pile of tangled meat that looked a bit like bloated worms or shorn dreadlocks. Without finishing it I whizzed off to a small venue to catch experimental rap-nut Busdriver, and was bloody delighted to find that this dark little venue served Westmalle Tripel on draught (boom!). I swiped a glass of it and parked in a shadow while Busdriver was still setting up, then a bunch of his plugs caught fire and produced the most unexpected sound, like the farty rasp you get when you let go of an inflated-but-unknotted balloon. By the time the gig started thirty minutes later, the Westmalle and meaty dreadworms started having an argument in my stomach. I knew they were having a row because they were threatening to go their separate ways, so I left Busdriver to it and opted for a fresh-air stroll to the next act. Jenny Hval is described in the festival programme as a 'Norwegian multidisciplinary artist', which is a bit of a guffy statement to be fair, but she was great. Quite hypnotised, I was. Going from the rough-and-ready Busdriver experience to the sublime Jenny Hval was akin to falling through a tree of thorns and landing in a massive, warm jacket potato. Kebabgate was a distant memory. Then for another insane tangent I moved on to Anthony Rother, mostly out of nostalgic curiosity. For me, alongside the likes of Aux 88 and Dynamix II, Rother was one of the few who kept the faith in proper electro when there wasn't much new stuff being produced. Fifteen years on from Sex with the Machines, this was the first time I'd seen Rother in the flesh and from a distance it seemed like the Danish actor Kim Bodnia from the first Pusher film had took to the stage. I half expected him to whip out a couple of pistols and frighten everybody.
On Saturday I was talking on a seminar panel and spent the afternoon redrafting the short script for Stew & Punch, which we shoot in a couple of weeks (yikes). With a brainful of yet-to-be-resolved production worries I sought a superior kebab before getting myself all impressed by Yann Tiersen, whose consistently fantastic set was iced with a dazzling violin solo. Then, really showing off, he pulled out a Mandolin and I wondered if maybe he was about to start yodelling or play Balalaika with his feet. Mogwai had their work cut out following his show but they bumraped everyone's ears, regardless.
Sunday was mostly spent watching shorts and I did a little Q&A for Binaural Swimming (Beach) as part of a special 'music in film' programme organised by the ace Dutch festival GoShort. They even had a bunch of wireless headphones for people to fully experience the binaural audio but unfortunately the left and right channels were the wrong way around and the headphones weren't loud enough to drown out the main theatre speakers, so the effect was somewhat compromised. Still, it was good of the GoShort team to make the effort with headphones in the first place, and after a brief Q&A I got to go and see Laibach perform so I can't complain. As a big enthusiast of most bands on Mute Records in my 'alternative teenager' years (particularly its Industrial/Electronic quota), the chance to check Liaibach's legendary theatrical fascism was something of a box ticked. The sheer BOOM of Tanz Mit Mir performed live was an experience (see below and listen through speakers that can handle both volume and bass - sync drifts a little but you get the idea):
Finally, Buzzcocks closed the festival with such volume that my ears are still howling eighteen hours later. Then Monday morning brought some bum luck. I'd been advised to leave on the 6.30 train in order to get to the airport two hours before departure, but let's face it, only MASSIVE SQUARES do the two-hour thing and I opted to leave a bit later. I was the first person downstairs for breakfast, which was supposed to start at 6.30, and was joined shortly after by a couple of other loners. We probably all had early flights - why else would you be first to breakfast - so we sat dotted around at our respective tables while the world's most laid back chef got his arse into gear. Said chef then served up four paltry eggs and, being closer to the counter than me, the other two buggers took two each. With no other hot food to choose from and the chef having gone to meditate or something, I sulked through a piece of bread and tried my hardest to put a hex on the egg thieves, who by now were already making their satisfied, burpy exits. I checked out at 6.50 and started walking to the station, passing thief #2 en route. For some reason, I stopped to photograph an endless sea of parked bicycles while two thoughts simultaneously sprang to mind - that this brief pause could make me miss my train, and that it was a shit photograph anyway. The egg robber overtook me and spurred me into action - no way was he going to get the eggs and the train while I missed the lot. I zipped into the station and saw him stop outside the closed ticket office, crestfallen (in my mind), and relished this moment of karmic fate. That'll teach him not to snatch the last two eggs when he's not the only eggless soul in the room! For this brief moment, victory was mine as I imagined him missing his train, then his flight, then puking his eggs up at the departure gate while trying to catch his breath and being charged for a whole new flight by Ryanair. But then karma played a double-whammy and decided to kick my Schadenfreude in the nuts. On the escalator up to the platform I heard the ominous THUNK of too-many train doors closing at once, followed by the BEEEEEP of imminent departure. I stepped on to the platform to see the train cackle off down the track, missing it by, oooh, let's say half the amount of time it took to stop and take a pointless picture of bicycles.
I was writing this on the train home from the airport and realised that it would have made a more colourful story had I actually missed the flight, which I caught by the skin of my teeth, curiously lamenting how all the fannying around amounted to an eventless ending. Then fate stepped in again when I got off to change trains and left my bloody suitcase on board, bound for Birmingham.
01-09-12 / WRITING-WRITING-WRITING / BRAIN SOUP / INTERVIEW
26-06-12 / CANNES LIONS JURY
I was on the Film Craft jury and therefore spent the majority of my time in a darkened room watching exactly 1349 commercials. Our way-too-heavy schedule meant anything from 12-15 hour days, which in itself is bad enough but when you consider such hours with a minimum of food it's easy to appreciate how a less patient group of people might have tore each other apart. What I personally found most difficult was being completely out of sync with the outside world by the time a day was over, surrounded by too many people who had already spent their day getting utterly shitfaced. The pressure to catch up, in order to wind down and eventually sleep, was dreadful.
On reflection, it amazes me that the jury held it together, which is testament to how cool they are (not to mention poor Lisa who had to babysit us the entire way). I only have to think back to some of the other juries I have been on (film, not advertising) to know how punishing the Cannes schedule was, and yet nobody walked away, nobody irreversibly offended another, and they still found the energy to sing Happy Birthday to me (twice) early on the final morning. As for the work, we awarded the Grand Prix to one of the few commercials I had already seen before attending (above). Simply a masterpiece on every level. And here's another little gem that cracked me up:
11-06-12 / HAMBURG SHORT FILM FESTIVAL
The two pictures above show it screening in Zeise and Metropolis cinemas. Many thanks to festival photographer Xenia Zarafu for the shots. I was very touched to be presented with a 35mm print of the trailer during the awards ceremony, along with a 'lifetime accreditation' pass to the festival's legendary 35ml bar, hehe. And here's something quite brilliant - the release of Short Film Top Trumps (!), which includes Soft as a contender alongside 30+ short film classics. I have already played it a few times and have been happy to lose to my own film on several occasions. We aren't talking about some rinky-dink home-printed cards here either - these are the real deal, produced by Weltquartett (check out the media controversy from last year regarding their Adolf Hitler card).
Despite the surprising choices made by the international jury there were some strong and extremely varied films on show, including Gunhild Enger's Premature (Norway, and my overall favourite), Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels' Oh Willy (Belgium), Semiconductor's 20hz (UK), Julia Ducournau's Junior (France), Rafael Urban's Dinosaur Eggs in the Living Room (Brazil), Phil Collins' The Meaning of Style (Malaysia), and Till Nowak's excellent The Centrifuge Brain Project (Germany), which was the obvious (and deserved) choice for the audience award before it was even accepted into competition. Outside of the competition it was fantastic to see Jay Rosenblatt's excellent The Smell of Burning Ants, which I hadn't seen since my first film festival back in 1996.