The Belfast Film Festival is currently in full swing at venues all over the capital, and looking at the number of sold out venues is due to be even more successful than usual. On Friday night I was lucky enough to attend a sold out Q&A session at The Black Box with the UK’s premier film critic Mark Kermode. Chaired by Brian Henry Martin this ‘cinematic cross examination’ asked various questions of Kermode to which he provided his answers in his usual effusive, erudite and emphatic way.
With the questions ranging from ‘What is the best film to watch on a first date?’ (the answer to which was two fold, either The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Kathryn Bigelow’s underrated Near Dark), to ‘What film has the best soundtrack?’ Kermode is never without a witty riposte and a genuinely fascinating story to go with it and, as usual, the man argues his point so well that even if you disagree, you can’t refute his assertions and his affection for cinema is infectious. He’s a man with an absolute passion for cinema, as recounted many times throughout the night, this passion stemmed from an early age, viewing double bills at The Phoenix cinema, watching and loving a Magic Roundabout precursor, and sneaking in to Blazing Saddles as a 14-year-old, in an anecdote that involved stacked heels and Jodie Foster, and finding it the funniest film ever.
These stories are interspersed with a range of clips of, or related to, the films in question, and provide a context to the man’s love of film. Whether it’s a clip showcasing his love of Zac Efron (a point it’s hard to disagree with) or why he feels Quentin Tarantino is the most self-indulgent filmmaker of the moment (a point nobody who’s seen Django will disagree with), they all present a critic who always will never lie about what he likes or dislikes, even if it’s not the cool thing to do.
The only drawback to the evening for me was if you’ve read Kermode’s two books (It’s Only a Movie and The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex; both highly recommended by the way) a lot of the stories have been recycled here. But that’s hardly a big criticism as, to co-opt a section of the night, Kermode tells us he knows everything a person can possibly know about his favourite film, The Exorcist, (Kermode’s Desert Island Disc, incidentally) as evidenced by a frighteningly in-depth analysis of the film’s poster (during which Kermode informs us that he knows what happened to the car in the poster and that the lamppost that Max Von Sidow stands in front of is no longer there), but it doesn’t stop him from enjoying the film each time he watches it. It’s the same with the stories here; I may have heard/read them before, but it doesn’t stop them being any less entertaining, especially when told directly from the person who experienced them.
All in all, a highly enjoyable night, during which I got to ask the man himself a question regarding his defence of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (a film which, in my opinion needs no defending) as well as shake his hand and get a photo (below).