Before last weekend I’d never been to a film festival. It’s something I’d always wanted to do, but the idea of it felt very daunting. I applied for press accreditation, which was accepted and I started making plans to go down on the first weekend (9th/10th October). Because Tabby was coming with me, we had a look at the public screenings that were available and hadn’t sold out, and managed to book Last Night in Soho, Ron’s Gone Wrong and The Velvet Underground without any hassle. After checking daily (almost hourly) we then managed to get tickets to the sold out screening for The French Dispatch when a few more were released online, so extended the hotel a night and also got tickets to The Tender Bar (which we had looked at originally but would have missed the last train home without the extra night at the hotel). Doing it this way did mean that I didn’t get to go to an actual press screening, due to the schedule. However, I have been watching the online screenings and will hopefully be able to watch even more in the next few days. Cop Secret was a great joy to watch.
So Friday came around and we made it down to London. It was my first trip since March 2020 and to be honest I was a little nervous. Being on a train again and in London had me filled with anxiety. I shouldn’t have worried at all. Everyone was relaxed and while there was barely anyone wearing masks, it felt comfortable to be walking around. At points it felt like the last 18 months hadn’t happened and everything was just continuing as normal.
The Hotel, a two minute walk from Trafalgar Square, was really nice. I slept reasonably well and we both woke up bright and early ready to get some breakfast and make our way to the first screening of The Velvet Underground documentary. Getting to the Royal Festival Hall was simple enough, almost a straight line. I did find the actual building a little confusing as there were no signs, but some helpful staff helped us find the correct entrance. I really enjoyed The Velvet Underground. They are a band that I quite like, but I’m not a die-hard fan. I feel like I might become one after watching it. I have a review coming soon.
After that we got some lunch and it was straight into the world premiere for Ron’s Gone Wrong. We got to walk along the red carpet, get a goody bag which included a Ron plush and find our seats. We had to put our phones in a little bag, so I couldn’t get pictures of the writers and cast on stage. I really loved the film and it was clear that everyone else in the audience did as well.
After Ron’s Gone Wrong finished we had a little over an hour before the evening gala for Last Night in Soho. Online it said there wasn’t a dress code, but I didn’t want to feel underdressed so we went back to the hotel and got dressed up. I wore a suit, no tie and went back to the Festival Hall. I was very overdressed. There were a couple of people scattered throughout who were dressed up really nicely, but there were a lot more in jeans and t-shirts. I absolutely loved Last Night in Soho. It was everything I hoped for and more.
On to day 2. The French Dispatch started at 6pm so we went for a walk around London, looking for the Liberty Store which featured in Cruella, one of my favourites from earlier in the year. It took us a while, and some random detours due to rain and finding somewhere to sit down for lunch, but we found it in the end. Just before we found it, we turned a corner and found Carnaby Street, which I had no idea was so close. We walked through that and then made our way to the hotel, dinner and then to The French Dispatch, dressed in jeans and a jumper this time around.
I was disappointed with The French Dispatch. To be honest I think I expected too much. It just didn’t have the same punch that over Anderson films had. Everyone around me seemed to be loving it a lot more and when we did leave people were raving about it. It’s something that I’m planning on watching again when it does get released. Maybe a second go around will make me love it.
The screening was worth it, for the magazine we got that gives a lot of background on the film and its inspirations, and Bill Murray turning up as the credits started to roll to ask if we all enjoyed it. He was funny and it honestly was the highlight of the weekend.
Straight after The French Dispatch we had our final film, The Tender Bar. This is my favourite film of the festival. It is very sentimental and wholesome in places, some of the dialogue is a little clunky, but Ben Affleck is superb, the story is emotional and I absolutely loved it. I kept waiting for something to happen in the film that would ruin it, but it kept it up for the entire run time. It was phenomenal. It’s something I probably would have missed if it wasn’t for the festival, so I’m really glad we got to see it. George Clooney introduced the film, making a joke about Affleck being a great actor, who has had some bad roles, then followed it up with a quip about how he was Batman too. It was a great end to the two days.
Sadly it came to an end Monday morning. I was hoping to get up early to make it to the press screening of The Power of the Dog, but the exhaustion of the past few weeks caught up and I slept through my alarm. I’ll see it at some point. I still had a lot more fun at a film festival than I thought I would. Every film flew past, feeling like half an hour or less. There is something special about being in a room of people who are incredibly excited about a specific film. There’s a real buzz in the air as it starts. Next year I will be going down for the whole thing, and have already started planning and saving.
Thanks for reading and until next time,