Friday and the Leeds International Film Festival #LIFF27

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It was a no-brainer.

The beef casserole and Swedish red cabbage was in the oven on a timer, the chicken soup (conquered after two decades of trying) was simmering on the hob, and a chocolate ginger cake was cooling on the rack. The house was in scarily tidy post-show no-studio-phase sort of way, and I reckoned if I got my act together I could just make a 3 o’ clock film showing of a 1970 French cop flic at Leeds Town Hall and be back in time for Friday night dinner.

I hadn’t seen Le Cercle Rouge, a classic heist thriller starting Alain Delon and Yves Montand (both worthy of gazing at over a couple of hours in their day) and it was time to rectify that. I adore French cinema from that era. Only slight downside was the length (140 mins) on the hard seats at the Town Hall. Everyman seating it is not. And in concerts you normally get a break. Unlikely in this instance unless the projector went on strike.

It is currently the 27th Leeds International Film Festival, an annual event which only adds to the joys of living in Leeds generally. The festival has an amazing packed programme and my only regret is that each year I don’t ever manage to clear my diary early enough to do more indulgent daytime viewing.

There’s something very strange and surreal about lurking in the Town Hall foyer mid-afternoon with a small disparate group of other solitary figures. Who were they? How had they freed themselves up on a Friday afternoon? Did they feel as guilty as me?

Unlike normal cinema showings, festival
film screenings start at the precise time indicated with no ads or trailers. So the group darted through the doors at 2.58pm, and was presented with hundreds of seats to choose from in front of the large temporary screen. I opted for fairly close up (subtitles) but not too close (neck ache possibility) and found myself in pleasant isolation in the middle of the dark chamber.

The film was great. Slow, precise action and Clouseau-style belted trenchcoats much in evidence worn by baddies and goodies alike. A few barely believable scenes (an empty Place Vendôme; a car driving across a muddy field without getting stuck; and the slowest imaginable escape run from a train) and some classic 1970s Parisian interiors which transported be back to memories of the first flat I lived in in Paris in the mid-80s.

I hardly noticed the seating or the passing of time.

I’m now studying the programme with serious intent and planning out the next week. This afternoon is a domestic drama set in Berlin, and this evening I’m tempted by an Israeli crime thriller. The big challenge though is a nine hour Kobayashi film being screener over three days next week. I’m very very tempted.

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