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My all-too-brief stint at the Fantasia film festival came and went in a blink. I barely had a chance to nod at my fellow Fangorians (both Mike Gingold and Tony Timpone were milling about) in attendance, never had a drink with any of my pals and only saw a handful of flicks.
But my God, there were some wicked treats in the mix…
I am never ashamed about being in love with film, and specifically horror and arcane genre film; hopefully you get that by now. And if you read my previous Fantasia blog, you’ll note that the grand old man of UK kink, Ken Russell, is a major passion of mine, and THE DEVILS is my favorite film of all time (standing up there with DAWN OF THE DEAD, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, ANGEL HEART and a few others). So seeing THE DEVILS projected in my favorite city, the glorious Montreal, was a deeply religious experience. The kind of religion that Oliver Reed’s Father Grandier trades in…reverent, with tons of naughty pleasure.
But two days after that fantastic fest kickoff, I found myself ushered into an intimate patio lunch with the man himself, Ken Russell. Yes. This is true. Lunch with the true madman of British cinema. Cult-film man about town Shade Rupe helped set up this monumental (for me, anyway) meeting, where myself, Fantasia girl Anna Phelan, Chris Chang from Film Comment and two charming British critics whose names sadly escape me got to jam together, eat bread and jam together and talk about cinema in all its guises. It was an incredible moment in my life—this after having lunch the day before with Siouxie and the Banshees co-founder Steve Severin, who was in town performing his live score for Jean Cocteau’s BLOOD OF A POET. Yeah, I’m spoiled sometimes, but I work hard, so I deserve it…
But the real treat came a few hours later…
That night, the Cinémathèque Québécois (in collusion with Fantasia) was screening one of my favorite Russell joints, the wildly eccentric and charismatic Gothic smutfest LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, as part of their ongoing Russell retrospective. It was a 35mm print. After talking to Rupe, Anna, my contact Marc Andre at Tourisme Montreal and the Russells themselves, we arranged to see LAIR with Ken and his lovely missus. The small screening room was more than half-empty when Ken and I took our seats. That’s right…I sat beside Ken-freaking-Russell and watched LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM.
If you know the picture, you must remember the Celtic rock stomper “The D’Ampton Worm” that blares over the soundtrack twice (during the reception and the end credits). Well, there we were in the dark and this tune came on and—bear in mind I have seen this picture dozens of times since 1988—I started singing the lyrics, then Ken started singing the lyrics and damn it all, I did a duet of the tune with him.
Life is an adventure…and that moment will stay with me for all of my life.
Another major highlight of the fest for me was having a couple of beers with writer/director Simon Rumley and actress Amanda Fuller before the screening of their film RED WHITE & BLUE. The pic is a major, major work of art-house horror, a deep, dark, meandering and unpredictable portrait of three vile human beings whose lives alarmingly intersect. I was absolutely stunned by Rumley’s ability to milk pathos from these unforgettable, hypnotic souls’ plights and lives, and by Fuller’s fearless performance—the most kinetic, raw and ferocious turn by an actress since Charlotte Gainsbourg in Lars von Trier’s ANTICHRIST.
My heart hurts to not be in Montreal right now. Between the Fantasia festival, the food, the vibe, the one-way streets and bold jaywalkers, the feeling of joy in the air at all times, the rhythms of the French language, the street parties (you must be there for the Just for Laughs festival, which I took time to experience) and the beauty of a city that is part New York and part Paris…well, don’t be surprised if I move there. Permanently.
You’ll find me in the Cinémathèque, humming Celtic drinking songs and dreaming of my hero, Ken Russell…
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