Clermont-Ferrand: Day 7

Director of Programming James McNally is attending this year’s Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival from January 31st to February 8th

I’m feeling a lot more zen about things today. A good night’s sleep helped, and the weather today has been fantastic (sunny and 14°C). I’m just seeing what I want now, and so I spent most of the morning shopping in the Centre Jaude and the Galeries Lafayette. Picked up a couple of DVDs at FNAC. First, Michel Gondry’s latest film L’ecume des jours (which will be released as Mood Indigo in North America, at some point). Even though the disc doesn’t have English subtitles, I know the imagery will be amazing and I’ve heard that it might be cut when it does come out in North America. Second, Fast-Walking, a 1982 film starring James Woods and part of an interesting series of “films criminels” put out by Warner here. The booklet that comes with the film is 60 pages long and discusses each of the 20 films in the collection.

I even stopped for lunch today at Pizza Tino, a pizzeria kind of hidden away downstairs off the Place de Jaude. So feeling refreshed and fed, I headed for Cocteau for the 2:15pm screening of I3. I got to see my friend Gwyn in No Kaddish in Carmarthen again, but the real knockout here was the first film, Un pays de silences (image below), by Montreal filmmaker Paul Tom. It’s a personal documentary about the filmmaker returning to his parents’ country of Cambodia for the first time. What I loved is that he was able to make the personal into something more universal. The title is evocative and layered with meaning, and the soundtrack, by Man An Ocean, contributes immensely. To be honest, the film kind of emotionally wrecked me, perhaps because it explores that most difficult of relationships, the one between father and son.

Still from Un pays de silences

I booked some time tomorrow morning at the market video library and also picked up my ticket for the Closing Ceremony at 6pm on Saturday. It’s where they hand out the awards, so I don’t want to miss that. I pretty much skipped the market today, especially the Happy Hour, which wasn’t making me very happy at all, and I’m all the better for that.

Spliff Records

After a quick browse at Spliff(!), the record store next door (image above), I stopped back at the apartment for a quick update (wrote the first part of this blog post and caught up on email) and then back out to La Jetée (which turns out to be about a five minute walk from my place) for US2. I’d already seen Stefan Nadelman’s 2002 Terminal Bar (image below), a documentary about the closing of a bar in the Hell’s Kitchen neighbourhood of New York managed by his father, who over the years took hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos of the bar’s colourful patrons. But seeing it on the big screen, projected from 35mm film, was a real treat, and it made me realize how innovative the film must have seemed to the documentary world when it came out more than a decade ago.

Still from Terminal Bar

The other standout for me was Matthew Lessner’s utterly crazy Darling Darling (image below) from 2005. Starring an impossibly young Michael Cera, it features a lot of improvised dialogue in his trademark awkward stammer. The plot takes the traditional uneasiness of “meeting the parents” to new heights. Or maybe depths. In any case, I loved it, but am not sure the French subtitles could convey the extent of Cera’s discomfort.

Still from Darling Darling

Just around 9pm, I tried my luck again at Avenue and, to my delight, was able to get one of only 8 tables in their tiny space. Run by a friendly young couple, the restaurant is notable for its excellent (and bilingual) service as well as incredible food. I started with a butternut squash soup that had chopped hazelnuts in it, and then had the beef cheeks in Morel sauce. One of the vegetables it came with was a large piece of beet, which happens to be a favourite of mine. I left hardly a morsel on my plate. Dessert was panacotta with a mango coulis, and then coffee. All that and a small 250ml carafe of a lovely red Côte-du-Rhône came to 40 Euros, which for the totality of the experience was a bargain.

The restaurant is obviously popular with English-speakers because there were two other tables of them in the restaurant at the same time, including a table of five next to me who were also attending the film festival. We didn’t speak to each other, but I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation. It appeared to be a film teacher (American) from Aberdeen eating dinner with some of his female students. It was nice to hear so much English at once. It’s oddly comforting right now.

So all in all an excellent day, and I look forward to making the rest of the trip just as pleasant.