Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

¡Greetings from Corcho, Baja Irlanda!

Upon arriving in Cork on Sunday, I could finally stop holding my breath. I opened my laptop and pressed the on switch and—hooray!--it actually booted up. This is something I no longer take for granted ever since my experience after the first day of the last Galway Film Fleadh when the poor beast refused to stir. So far the gods seem to be with me. Even the weather doesn’t seem to be too bad, fairly mild and not too wet. Well, at least until Tuesday, when I spent several nervous moments gazing out my window at the persistent rain and wondering if the River Lee was actually rising up towards its banks.

If I still haven’t made my peace with the Irish autumn (or, as it’s called in other countries, monsoon season), I am getting plenty of help in escaping to a virtual sunny Mexico while here in Munster which, at least in Irish terms, qualifies as being about as far south of the border as you can get on this island. As I discussed at length last year, Corona beer is now the official sponsor of the Cork Film Festival. The sight of yellow beer and limes everywhere (especially in my hand) goes a long way to propping up the illusion. And, by coincidence, one of the two best Mexican restaurants in Ireland (at least as far as I have been able to discover to date) is here in Cork, Café Mexicana. And the festival is exploiting the Corona connection by screening a series of Mexican shorts. One of them preceded the opening night film, the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading. This is the second consecutive year that the festival has opened with a new movie by the Coens. Last year’s, No Country for Old Men, was actually set on the U.S.-Mexico border, which tied in really well with the apparent Mexican theme. Burn After Reading, a less impressive film, is set in an even more arid and desolate place: Washington D.C. So maybe the choice of that film was appropriate after all. I mean, we are learning more and more how the U.S. has been run economically more or less like a banana republic. Sorry, I take that back. That’s not really fair to banana republics.

Anyway, the opening night short, Hasta los huesos (or Down to the Bone) was basically a Day of the Dead party with colorful and musical stop-action animation. What better way to feel like you’re in a warm climate? There was more warmth the next night at the late night screening of the very strange movie Circulation, which was filmed in Baja California. One of the first scenes takes place in a small, remote Mexican restaurant, and I could actually smell the onions and the cheese and even the cilantro. I wanted to clamber up out of my seat and into the movie to have a plate. But it’s just as well that I didn’t since this movie too evoked the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead in that most of the characters were not in our world. Still it might have been worth it for one bite of that chile verde.

This film festival marks something of a breakthrough for me, as I am here for the first time as an accredited member of the press. I have never sought press accreditation before because 1) I have always felt I could be more honest and objective about the films I saw if I was paying to see them with my own money and 2) I didn’tthink anyone would accredit me anyway. But I was wrong. The festival director, the very nice Mick Hannigan, extended me the courtesy himself, which nearly overwhelmed me. Wondering how I was so fortunate to be singled out, I assumed that the Cork Film Festival’s crack media team was engaged in an elaborate system of monitoring press reports and blogs 24/7 to keep track of festival coverage and that I had, over the several years I have attended and written about the festival, accumulated some sort of points in an elegantly designed computer algorithm that determined where their most effective coverage was coming from. But when I met Mick on the first day of the festival, he explained how it really happened. It seems that his non-native-English-speaking partner happened to ask him what the phrase “comfortably rumpled” meant. It turns out that she had come across this page on my website. So basically he just wanted to get a good look at the kind of person who would describe him that way. As the Missus would tell me later (in her usual supportive way), the man couldn’t have had a clue about rumpled until he got a look at me.

One sad note to this year’s festival is that it is the first since the passing of longtime festival board chairman Charlie Hennessy. His comments on opening night were always a treat and he exuded a real love for the event that transcended the self-important speechifying that sometimes overtakes people in such a position. Obviously in declining health the past couple of years, he spurred a great cheer in the Opera House last year when he began his talk by proclaiming, “I’m still here!” As it turns out, he was always there. This is the first iteration of the Cork Film Festival not to have his involvement since its inception in 1956.

Please note, if any other film festival out there want to accredit me, I won’t mind. I’m even willing to travel to other countries, like, to pick one completely at random, say, France. Vous m’écoutez, M. Gilles Jacob, president du Festival de Cannes?!

* * *

I’d like to briefly take note of poassing that really has nothing to do with movies. If you are Irish and/or a serious devotee of world opera, then you know the name Bernadette Greevy and you know that this accomplished opera singer and television figure passed away on September 26. She was a native and resident of Dublin, but she was also a sometime neighbor of sorts of the Missus and me during the times we were based in the wilds of southwest Ireland. I only met her one time, but I had an extended and pleasant conversation with her at a local party. Being a clueless American, it was only after the evening was over that that I learned, from my wife, that she was celebrated in this country. I thought she was merely making a visitor from another country feel welcome as we chatted about the weariness of long-haul flights and how silly it seems that the United States requires passengers changing planes in Los Angeles to clear U.S. immigration even when they are continuing on to some other country. And she was most certainly being nice, but maybe it was also nice for her to talk to someone who wasn’t a bit in awe of her. Who knows? Anyway, she was a very nice lady and, as I have been hearing in retrospectives on the radio ever since, a very gifted singer.

-S.L., 16 October 2008

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