Dame Dench and Coogan ready to take capital by storm
I've not been feeling quite myself recently. My concentration has been poor, I've taken to organising small piles of paper and pens in odd places (on the stairs, beside the bath or the loo) and wandering about the house muttering under my breath.
My pulse rate speeds up from time to time and I have developed what to the outsider might seem to be an irrational fixation with the calendar and the contents of my wallet.
My wife is unconcerned about these symptoms. She's seen them before and knows what to expect. When a neighbour dropped by the other day and saw my behaviour, she expressed concerns: "Is Richard all right?"
"Oh, don't worry about him," said my wife. "He's like this at this time of year."
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"What's the problem?" asked our neighbour.
My wife gave her a look. "Festivalitis!"
It's true. Ever since I got back from holiday, I've had all the symptoms of the film junkie going cold turkey and needing a massive fix in order to stabilise the system.
The summer is an awful time for someone like me who prefers independent and foreign-language films to blockbustery. Even The Broadway in Nottingham (my regular venue for previewing Society films) hasn't been immune (though I did see 'What Maisie Knew' there recently – a delightful film starring Steve Coogan incidentally, who seems to be everywhere at the moment. More about him later.)
But while others despair as summer's light and heat fades into the memory and autumnal gloom descends, a bumper crop of film festivals is under way and I know it won't be long before I can feed my habit.
Now, you might think I've had enough of film festivals, what with helping organise the Lincoln event in June. Not a bit of it.
A film festival gives you the chance to meet old friends and make new ones (I'm talking films here you understand, rather than people.)
Putting together our event was hard work and took up a lot of time, but it was worth it because I didn't just discover how good the films of my youth actually were (rather than how good I thought they were), I also made some exciting new finds.
And that's why I get twitchy come the start of September. Ever since Cannes in May, I've been monitoring film news, because Cannes is where you get an idea of what will be on when the festival circuit gets fully into its stride.
There are no fewer than nine in different parts of the world at this time of year. Telluride (in the US), has just come and gone, Venice finished last Saturday, while Deauville (France) and Toronto are about to begin.
Towards the end of the month the San Sebastian Festival opens in Spain at the same time as Raindance UK. New York will be starting up as the month comes to a close, then in October, Dinard begins (France, again) and almost as soon as that's over, the London Film Festival will be under way.
If I were a professional film writer, I might be a touch blasé about being obliged to follow these events round the globe. I know from experience that attending a film festival can be as much ordeal as pleasure – though I'm not saying I would object if the Echo were to send me to Cannes or Venice (hint, hint).
There is so much to see and when you are only there for a short time, you have to fit in as much as possible (up to four films a day).
Anyway, the programme for London has just been announced. There are over 350 films of different types and I've started sorting out my itinerary.
Fortunately, London spreads all the newsworthy stuff throughout its 11 days rather than at the beginning and end. And there are some excellent films being shown.
Philomena with Judi Dench and Steve Coogan (who wrote and co-produced) has generated huge buzz (and Oscar talk) since it arrived on the festival circuit.
The Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis got Cannes excited, as did Alexander Payne's Nebraska. The Invisible Woman is Ralph Fiennes' directorial follow up to Coriolanus and Steve McQueen's new film 12 Years a Slave is a must-see.
Salvo is a cracking-sounding thriller from Italy, Stranger by the Lake (France) and We Are The Best (Sweden) look intriguing, while if Mystery Road (Australia) is anything like as good as Animal Kingdom, it should be great.
I just need to narrow down 350 films to 12, break open the piggy bank and start counting down the days. It promises to be a vintage experience.
Showing at The Venue:
September 18th: Breathe In (15) 2.30 & 7.30pm.