Cambridge Film Festival Day 5: Roland Klick: The Heart Is A Hungry Hunter, Machete Kills, The Strange Little Cat
Day 5 is the Monday of the festival, and is the point in last year’s festival where I hit my peak, watching six films in the day. That was no longer possible at this year’s festival as there were no late screenings on the Monday, but I was attempting to have a slightly quieter year anyway. Last year, in the eleven days of the festival I saw 42 films and one programme of shorts during it, as well as two other films not in the festival, and in one of those (Killing Them Softly) I swear I began to hallucinate. Even my madness has its limits, it would seem.
So this year I used the morning to attempt to catch up on some of my press commitments for Take One and Bums On Seats, as well as my own blog. The film festival offered the use of a press room, which sounds grander than it really is; a meeting room next to the entrance to the screens which was a useful place to charge my laptop and to catch up with other fellow journalists and the occasional film-maker, but was quite often out of use due to being locked or for being used as a green room for the aforementioned film-makers, so much of my writing was done in the bar with the use of wi-fi anyway.
Consequently my Monday had a late start, and a late change when an appeal for attendees to a documentary with a Q & A saw me abandon plans to see Ain’t Them Bodies Saints; probably for the best as Terrence Malick leaves me cold and almost every review I read drew that comparison.
My original plans for the festival hadn’t included any of Roland Klick’s films, much to my regret, as he was one of the big names of the festival and due to be making an appearance (more on that later). However, the documentary on his life by Sandra Prechtel gave me the first opportunity to understand more about the man as, I’ll be completely honest, I’d never heard of him before laying eyes on the Festival brochure. Despite his relative anonymity, he’s a twice winner of German Film Awards and has a legacy which includes Alejandro Jodorowsky citing him as an influence, so he’s clearly a subject worth examination.
Prechtel’s documentary does a great job of three things. Firstly, it manages to put into context Klick’s achievements and his position in German cinema and beyond. Secondly, through picking selected highlights from Roland Klick’s career it manages to demonstrate why he may have fallen from favour. Lastly, it manages to make both the man and his films seem completely compelling, highlighting Klick’s humour and honest appraisal of his own career, and encouraged me to seek out at least one other film later in the week. As biographies go, The Heart Is A Hungry Hunter does an efficient and thorough job at covering the career of one of cinema’s unfortunately forgotten greats.
Sandra Prechtel gave a Q & A session after the film, and in the process further convinced me to add more Klick to my schedule for the rest of the week. She also gave valuable advice to anyone looking to make such a documentary that you don’t need to be completely exhaustive to truly understand your subject.
Not for the first time, the Festival also extended its reach from the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse down the road to its neighbouring Cineworld. The cinema had two strands of the Festival, a Gothic season and the FrightFest strand, showcasing the best of the London horror festival’s recent weekend. Although I made it to London for a single day of this year’s FrightFest, there were still a veritable feast of delights available across the strand that I hadn’t seen.
So Machete Kills is the sequel nobody really demanded to the film based on a film based on a trailer for a film that didn’t really exist, except not only does it now exist but it has a sequel, and that sequel begins with a trailer for the sequel to the sequel. Confused? Wait until you see Charlie Sheen credited under his real name as the President of the United States, or Walt Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas and Lady Gaga, who are all playing the same character.
As the original pretty much did the Grindhouse inspiration to death, the sequel promptly kills off one of the original’s stars in the pre-titles sequence before spiralling off into a strange parody of the Bond series, casting Mel Gibson as a Hugo Drax-like bad guy with aspirations for a space station and a reboot of the human race. Grindhouse is never short of ideas, but it’s got an attention deficit disorder and never truly hangs together. Given that it also features Mel Gibson fighting at one point with a Klingon bat’leth, it’s never quite as much fun as it could be. Danny Trejo’s character of Machete is also now a one note joke running a little thin. Still, for those with aspirations it’s moderately enjoyable in an undemanding fashion.
The last film I saw at last year’s festival was Holy Motors, and it had a peculiar effect on me: while I was moderately taken with it on first watch, I couldn’t get it out of my mind for days afterwards. The Strange Little Cat couldn’t be more different in terms of content and approach, but it created a similar resonance in my brain which lasted a good proportion of the week.
Ramon Zurcher wrote and directed the film, inspired loosely by Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and from an idea originally worked on at a workshop the director attended with Bela Tarr. It’s a remarkable day in the life of piece for a family spanning several generations, with small objects such as an empty ketchup bottle having a significant effect on the members of the household and each having their own independent stories that overlap and interweave. It’s visually compact, close static angles leaving as much to the imagination as is captured in the frame and sound is as important as vision with rhythms and the tempo becoming as important as any visual clues. It’s a perspective on family life shot at a child’s eye level, but showing a maturity and insight beyond many longer films and older film makers.
Zurcher was present for a Q & A after the film, where he gave further insight into his production process. This included the differences between handling his adult and child actors, Tarr’s involvement in the production of the film and the level of choreography that went into making scenes work. He was also annoyingly young, handsome and talented and it’s fair to say I was a tiny bit jealous. Maybe that was just the lack of sleep talking.