Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Missing in action

Once when I got a cold, my friend Dayle was sympathetic to me. But that lasted about 20 minutes, the same length of time as the cold lasted. Okay, the cold didn’t literally last only 20 minutes. It lasted a day or two. But Dayle was disgusted that she had wasted sympathy on someone who was sniffly for “only 20 minutes.” Colds are supposed to last longer than that. The fact is, for most of my life, I have rarely been bothered by colds or flus and, when I have been, they have usually been mercifully brief.

Then I moved to Ireland.

After my first few years on the Emerald Isle, I started to worry that I had developed some chronic condition. I had a cough that seemed to have lasted more than a year and sniffles that never went away and a sore throat that came and went. Surely, there was something seriously wrong. I went to my G.P., but he wasn’t worried a bit. He explained that, as a foreigner, I had a whole lot of new viruses to be exposed to and develop immunity for. But, I pointed out, I had been having a cold that had gone on for months. No, he assured me, it was a series of different colds. They only seemed to be a persistent single cold because one would take hold more or less the same instant that the previous one had been vanquished. By way of example, he explained that his wife, who was English, “was sick for two full years after she moved here.” He laughed as he said it, as if the memory of it was a frequent source of amusement for him.

Eventually, I got to the point where I didn’t have a cold all the time, but I still get colds more often than I used to you. I suppose it is just part of the sacrifice I made (as I never stop reminding the Missus) when I left my own country. Sometimes I feel as though I am Oisín, the poet/warrior of Irish myth who was lured to Tír na nÓg, the “Land of Youth,” where time more or less stands still, by Niamh of the Golden Hair. After what seemed like three years to him, Oisín returned to Ireland for a visit to find that 300 years had actually passed and everyone he had known was dead. He had been warned not to set foot on the soil and so stayed on his horse. But he stopped to help some men load a stone onto a wagon and fell to the ground. Suddenly three centuries caught up with him all at once and he became a very, very old man. I can sympathize. Ireland can do that to a fellow.

Okay, it’s not fair to blame an entire country for every virus that takes hold in my body. There could well be other factors, like, uh, age. Or the fact that my sojourn in Eire coincides with having a child in school. My friend Eric went through an extended period of viruses after his small nieces and nephew, who lived in the same house with him, started school. He gave them full blame for the situation, calling them “human petri dishes.”

By now, you are wondering what this is all leading up to. I suppose this is my excuse for not getting to the Corona Cork Film Festival this year. This breaks a seven-year streak that I had going, beginning when we first moved into the house where we are living now. Maybe it was the pressure of maintaining the streak that made me crack. Or maybe it was whatever virus was making its way through my body and making it feel as though it were being tied into knots. (I am hoping it was the H1N1 thing, and that I have it over with, but there is no way to know for sure, and I didn’t particularly want to bother my G.P. for a test, in case I should get another gruesome story about his wife.)

Fate also played against me in that the festival was pushed back on the calendar this year, into November, because October had become so crowded with the Cork Jazz Festival and other events. Maybe I lost courage because my impressions of post-film fest Cork is one of deluges and floods. Part of the ritual of going to Cork was always coming home and then watching news reports about how places I had spent a week walking over were now underwater. But that really is rather wimpy of me. I never let a cold—even a fairly severe one—or the weather stop me from going before. Heck, I even went last year even though I was almost certainly legally blind. But my good sense told me that heading south could well spell disaster (what would be worse than spending a week sick in a hotel room?) and so I reluctantly gave it a skip.

So what did I miss? The usual unanticipated gems will go forever unrealized and I won’t even know what they might have been. But I know for a fact that I missed such intriguing possibilities as Scott Hicks’s The Boys Are Back, Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, Atom Egoyan’s Adoration, Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air, Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant!, Margaret Corkery’s Eamon, Martin Provost’s Séraphine, the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man, Julien Temple’s Oil City Confidential (with Temple himself in attendance), Alexis Dos Santos’s Unmade Beds, Daniel Barber’s Harry Brown (featuring Michael Caine in raging vengeance mode), Lynn Shelton’s Humpday, Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control and John Hillcoat’s bleak post-apocalyptic The Road. Ow. I think that reviewing that list is going to make me sick all over again.

I’ve promised myself I’ll make it up to myself. I’ll find another film festival to go to later on. Maybe I’ll go to the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, which I have not attended the past two years and have never spent as many days at as I would have liked. Or maybe I will make good on a longtime desire to go to the Deauville American Film Festival in Normandy. Except that’s a long time to wait since it isn’t until September. Or maybe I’ll get really ambitious and make my first visit to the Santa Barbara International Film Festival which, as it happens, overlaps with the Dublin film festival.

But as long as I have devolved into pure dreaming, why not just plan to go the next Seattle International Film Festival, my favorite one in the whole world for overtly sentimental reasons? Well, in this dream world I am conjuring, there is one possible reason not to. It conflicts with the Festival de Cannes.

-S.L., 12 November 2009

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