Cambridge Film Festival Diary: Day 4

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Sunday is supposedly a day of rest, but it’s also an ideal day for the cinema. Taking on something like the film festival requires a certain level of pacing if you’re going to see as much as I’ve planned to, so after two very full days on days 2 and 3 day 4 was the chance just to keep my hand in, before the big push over the next few days. Sunday morning’s normal routine was followed by Sunday lunch with Mrs Evangelist, eaten on our laps while attempting to keep up with Celebrity Masterchef. (Never let it be said I don’t know how to show a lady a good time.) Mrs E, as I refer to her on Twitter, is a more average film fan and is also a shift worker thanks to people rather inconsiderately being ill outside of office hours, so the festival is my chance to head off on my own and explore some of the more esoteric delights that cinema has to offer.

Sunday’s particular delights, then, were for fans of Jack Kerouac, Icelandic music and animals, but all in very specific ways.

On The Road  This adaptation of the famous Kerouac novel has taken a ridiculous amount of time to come to screen, and in the process has been throug a number of different hands; it’s a shame to say that it doesn’t entirely appear to be worth all that effort. The director who finally brings this to the screen is Walter Salles, and he’s retained his gift for spectacular scenery and mind-searing visuals; what unfortunately is lacking, in both his direction and Jose Rivera’s screenplay, is the lyrical rhythm that has made On The Road so enduring as a work of fiction, and resorting to simply reading sequences of prose out at various points simply shows the gap in interest level between book and screen, the film version never quite managing to come truly alive.

Of the main cast members, the only one that stands out is Garrett Hedlund as the mischievous Moriarty; Sam Riley is a good actor in search of the right role, being as fundamentally miscast here as he was in last year’s Brighton Rock. It’s the supporting turns from the likes of Viggo Mortensen that will live longest in the memory, and while Kristen Stewart has a certain amount of fizz, she gets very little to do. On The Road very much conforms to the stereotype of Stewart’s contemporaries, great to look at but with little of substance on the inside. The Score: 6/10

Grandma Lo-Fi (Amma Lo-Fi)  The story of an Icelandic woman in her Seventies who turned her hand to making music with a small keyboard and a variety of household sounds, Grandma Lo-Fi is small but almost perfectly formed, capturing completely the charm and eccentricity of Sigridur Nielsdottir, but also what has made her music so appealing to many. Detailing her background and her approach to her music, right through to the delightful cover art she produces for the CDs she has pressed herself, it’s an inspiration as to what can be achieved through the simple process of application. Despite the short running time, there are a few odd kinks in the tail, but if you’re looking for a documentary to give you a warm glow, Grandma Lo-Fi should suffice, another entry into what is currently proving a stand-out year for music documentaries. The Score: 8/10

Postcards From The Zoo (Kebun binatang)  Finally for day 4, a fairy tale of sorts, set in and around Jakarta Zoo in the Indonesian capital. It’s the story of a young girl, Lana, who grows up in the zoo and dreams of being able to touch the belly of the giraffe, frustratingly out of reach for many reasons. The story draws parallels with the conservation of wildlife and the issues facing endangered species in Lana’s journey through the zoo and into the city beyond in the company of a magical cowboy. However, what may sound on the page as a story book piece comes across on the screen as flat and uninspired, none of the various story elements really gelling and the characters just not working. It’s a brave attempt and is willing to explore plenty of facets of life in the Indonesian big city; it’s just a shame that it couldn’t find any to truly engage with. The Score: 5/10

Quote of the day: “Marylou, spread your knees and let’s smoke some weed!” – Dean Moriarty, On The Road

Health update: More walking, mainly to work off the pizza and, ahem, chocolate cake I had for dinner. Just starting to get slightly sore knees. Being tall is not all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to small cinema seats. Only another week to go.

Next time: Day 5, thanks to the unstinting passage of time, and my busiest day of the festival, from Estonian mortality drama to British horror with just about everything in between.

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