So, it's a relief, and
a joy, to find a festival that actively engages with the medium, and
whose programme is as exciting and varied as the festival it nestles
right in the centre of.
Latitude Festival, for the uninitiated, is Festival Republic's attempt
at 'doing a Glastonbury' in the Suffolk countryside, mixing big name
bands, poets, authors, actors and all kinds of weird and wonderful
cabaret acts in a big, horribly middle class way. It's also absolutely
wonderful, as long as you don't think too hard about what attending a
festival sponsored by Pimms says about your personality.
The film tent
is a large, dark shed sitting between a pie shop and the comedy arena,
and its main purpose appears to be to confuse and disorientate
revellers wandering in from the sunshine - it's pitch black and as
quiet as the grave, so there is a steady stream of punters passing
through looking to do as little as possible.
Ironically, Friday is bookended by musicians. The great Michael
Nyman, Oscar-winning composer of just about every heart-wrenching
piano score in British film history (well, The Piano, at least)
plays a selection of his works solo, followed by a Q&A. It's a sober
and beautiful start to the festival, and a mark of how inventive
Latitude really is that they've invited him down.
At the other end of
the day, quirky rockers Guillemots have decided, to the dismay of film
purists everywhere, to rescore David Lynch's nightmarish debut
Eraserhead with their own composition. It's become a cliché to
suggest that frontman Fyfe Dangerfield is a kind of cultural polyglot,
but, hey, here he is, shrouded in darkness, making odd reverberating
noises in front of an exhausted and confused crowd of Franz Ferdinand
fans. A nice idea it might be, but as much of Eraserhead's terrifying
magic comes from its unnerving score, stripping this, and the dialogue
away hampers the film rather than improves upon it, and we go in
search of midnight revellery elsewhere.
The tent is, throughout the weekend, host to a number of talks by
filmmakers critics would pay good money to see in any other setting.
Director of the new Joy Division documentary Control Grant Gee is on
hand to take questions after a screening of the rapturously received
film, and on his career-defining Radiohead documentary Meeting
People is Easy. His first question is about the Soviet influences
of his montage editing technique, telling you all you need to know
about his audience, and most of the festival goers.
writer Patrick Marber's talk is much less pretentious - after a
screening of new Sam Taylor-Wood short Love You More, which he
wrote based on his experiences growing up with The Buzzcocks, he
reveals a deep admiration for Amy Winehouse and an aversion to working
more than an hour a day - something that resonates with all
journalists in attendance.
Despite screening features like Angus, Thongs and Perfect
Snogging and The Escapist, by far the most interesting
aspect of the tent over the weekend is the proliforation of short
films, which punters, eager to race between stages, can digest in a
few minutes. The quality varies - the simplistically-animated but
utterly terrifying Rabbit, by Run Wrake, and the Oscar winning
puppetary of Peter And The Wolf, by Sue Templeton, are
highlights, but Brian Crano's blow-up doll comedy Rubberheart
fails to impress, despite an introduction by the film's star, Rebecca
One of the weekend's highlights is Liverpudlian director Chris
Shepherd's curation of much of the last day. His softly-spoken and
cheerful demeanour hides a dark imagination - of his own shorts,
Silence Is Golden and Dad's Dead are intense,
claustrophobic experiences, and even a short claymation film made as a
teenager is a weird and wonderful introduction to his world. A
feature, he promises, is in the pipeline.
And it wouldn't be an alternative music festival if we weren't
treated to some musicians doing something a little 'different' in the
arts tents. After the blistering excitement of the Buzzcocks set on
the Saturday night (which you can read more about in the music
section), English roots troubadour Johnny Flynn, who has already played
once over the course of the festival, steps up to the plate again to
play a set of songs and poetry.
Better live than on record, the
Dylanesque Leftovers and Tickle Me Pink were incredibly evocative,
both old as the hills and thrillingly new - and astonishingly mature
for a 25 year old. He can even write poetry, to a point; a tale of a
rabbit and a cat's love life punctuates the performance, and they end
by showing a specially-shot video from the weekend's festivities to
Tickle Me Pink.
Electro princess George Pringle also bounds onstage
for a low-key set, but her chanteuse reciting of poetry over
aggressive blips and scratches is a little wearing, despite her
smoldering looks reducing many of the male members of the audience's
knees to jelly.
Latitude Festival's joys are almost limitless, as the reviews you
will find here and in other outlets will attest. Many, however, miss
the care, imagination and attention that the festival organisers have
put into the arts outlets - especially here in the film arena. For
this, they must be applauded, and can rightly consider so far ahead of
any of their competitors they are almost out of sight. Same time next