Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

What’s afoot in Dublin

One of these years I will attend more than just a couple of days of the Dublin International Film Festival. Actually, it is officially the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival. Does this imply that, being sponsored by a whiskey, the Dublin festival is stronger stuff than, say, the Cork film festival which, when it had a benefactor’s name in its title, was sponsored by a beer company? Given the intensity of some of the films I have been seeing, the Dublin fest is definitely a shot of some strong stuff. Anyway, as I was saying, one of these years I will attend more than just a couple of days of the Dublin film festival.

I have tremendous guilt about attending it at all. Last year, I could get away for only two days, and that is precisely when lightning hit our house in the west of Ireland. Okay, lightning didn’t actually hit our house, although it did at the same time hit a house down in Cork, which subsequently burned to the ground. In the west, the storm merely created a lot of noise and fried anything connected to a telephone line. I was racked with guilt, as I heard about all of this from the Missus on the phone and how frightened the Little Munchkin was without her daddy to comfort her. (Ouch.) The electricity was out for hours, and the phones stopped working. It turns out that modern houses, at least in Ireland, have a fair amount of surge protection built into the electrical wiring, but none at all in the telephone wiring. One phone was a complete loss and, most expensive of all, the Missus’s computer was destroyed. The woman who checks her email once every two or three months just happened to be on the internet during a freak lightning storm. The silver lining was that she was in the process of sending an email that she knew I didn’t want her to send, so it was a bit like God punishing her for going behind my back. But enough about the intrigues in our house.

This year the Dublin festival was moved up from March to February. It speaks volumes about the kind of people who frequent film festivals (or the perception people have about people who attend film festivals) that the organizers apparently had no qualms about scheduling the festival so that it overlapped with Valentine’s Day. After all, why wouldn’t hard core film buffs be free on Valentine’s Day? It’s not like they have significant others or even dates, so what’s the problem? Of course, there were a good many years in my life when sitting in a cinema for hours on Valentine’s Day would have been no problem whatsoever, but those days are over. My husbandly instincts told me that last weekend was time for a romantic getaway (and not a film-watching getaway), so that’s what we did. Nothing like racking up sweetie points when you want to go away and watch flicks for a few days. Luckily, I had already seen several of the festival’s movies (no fewer than nine), mainly at the Galway and Cork film festivals. A couple, which were part of a tribute to Spanish director Julio Medem, I had seen as far back as when I was a regular attendee at the Seattle International Film Festival.

So it was a mad dash to Dublin on Tuesday to catch at least the middle of the festival. And that’s when I began to realize that I’m losing it. I left in enough of a hurry that I didn’t even grab a map of Dublin. Why would I need it anyway? The Missus and I spent many months there during our bi-continental years before we settled in Connaught. A devout pedestrian, I had walked most of the capital’s streets many times over. But then, as I was driving east, it struck me that I had never actually before been to the hotel where I had booked myself. I knew generally where it was but not exactly. Luckily, I found it without too much trouble, got checked in, and then made a mad dash to collect the tickets I had booked before the ticket office closed.

Happily, I got there in time and could proceed to the Screen cinema to get my festival membership. It is a strange quirk in Ireland that you have to become a film festival member to see even one screening in a film festival. This is a legal requirement because, to be shown “publicly” films have to be vetted and rated by the national censor. Many films shown at film festivals never go past the censor (and some, presumably, might not even get the stamp of approval) so they have to be shown “privately.” Showing them to a members-only audience means it’s a private screening. Okay, whatever. The funny thing is, hardly ever has anyone actually asked to see my membership card on going into a film festival screening. But I, of course, always get the membership because 1) it is the right thing to do and 2) that’s how you get the nice glossy film festival program book.

Anyway, after I got my membership, I had some time to kill, so I found a place for a bite of food and to read. Then I leisurely wandered back to the Screen to see Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers. I was really anxious to see the film because it could potentially have been about me, since it was about a young American who goes to France for a year to study. When they started admitting the queue at the Screen, a fellow was asking for tickets to something called My Architect. “What about The Dreamers?” I asked. “That’s at the UGC,” he said with a fine Dublin brogue. “Where’s the UGC?” I asked, a bit panicky. “Parnell Street,” said he. I guess, once I got that nice glossy program book, I should have checked it to see where the movie was actually playing. Like I said, I’m losing it.

Fortunately, I could place the UGC. I had been there a few times when it was the Virgin Cinemas. But it was about a mile away. So I made a mad dash up to Parnell Street, knowing I could just about make it. When I got to the UGC, with sore feet and shortness of breath (reminding me that I am no longer as devout a pedestrian as I used to be), I found a huge modern building—that had been totally abandoned. Fortunately, there was a sign pointing down the street to the new UGC. So I huffed and puffed some more and found myself at an even huger and more modern building. Like some bad dream, this building had six floors, and the movie I wanted was on the very top floor. Now remember how I had said that, in my experience, you almost never get asked for your festival membership card? Well, at seemingly every escalator and stairway, there was some person asking to see my festival membership. So each time I dutifully dug it out of my wallet and displayed it and then put it away thinking I wouldn’t need to show it again. (I have since learned that this was no fluke. I have been asked to display my membership card at least once, and sometimes oftener, at every film I have attended subsequently.)

In the end, I did make it into the right auditorium before the movie started. And I even got a fairly decent seat and could give my sore feet a rest. And for two hours I was able to be 20 years old in Paris again, wandering the streets with feet that seemed never to get sore.

-S.L., 19 February 2004

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