Peter Calder: How to survive the Film Festival

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TimeOut's Peter Calder, who has been a regular at film festivals since 1970, has a few tips to help punters emerge intact from the 17-day marathon, which kicks off at Auckland's Civic Theatre tonight.
Illustration / Rod Emmerson
Illustration / Rod Emmerson

Some people go to the movies for pleasure. But at this time of year, for thousands of us, moviegoing is a very serious business indeed.

That's not to say we don't love it: what's not to love about a festival that brings to town some of the best cinema from around the world (32 countries this year, not counting our own), a lot of it for the first and last time?

But when 150-odd movies are playing over 17 days, it pays to plan - for your own good and for the good of others (which may - see below - amount to the same thing).

First, pace yourself. You can't see everything. Plan a movie-free day here and there when you can take a walk in gale-driven sleet and remember why you like going to the movies in July.

If you are seeing a shipload of movies, make a few notes after each one. It helps to compartmentalise them in your head and stops you saying things like "I loved that bit in Folies Bergere when the alien scientists rescued the stray dogs from the Kunsthistorisches Museum."

The best place to park the car is at home. But parking's so hard to find and you will be late (see "Don't be late" below). Take the bus or train. Public transport is like the sea in December; it's fine once you get in.

Don't be late (see "if you arrive late", below). Here's the secret. Decide what time you need to leave to get to the movie on time and leave 15 minutes earlier than that. You will arrive unflustered and be in your seat when the film starts. This may be something that has never happened to you, but it's like the sea in December; you get used to it.

If you arrive late (see "Don't be late" above), the correct thing to say as the usher tears your ticket is nothing. At all. Definitely do not say in a loud voice "Oh, has it started?" because if you feel the need to ask that question, the answer is "yes" and the question is redundant.

If you are late (see above, passim), and there are 33 pairs of legs between you and your seat, take a seat in an empty row at the back.

Yes, you do like that seat in the middle of the row, which is why you booked it, but you lost the moral claim to it several minutes ago.

Having found your (or any) seat, the correct thing to say is nothing. At all. Until the film ends. This is particularly true if you said, "Oh, has it started?" a few moments earlier, because the sword of Damocles hangs on a thread above you and I have a pocket knife.

This is not a threat; just a piece of friendly advice.

Avoid cineastes. They're the ones in duffel coats carrying books about post-structuralism and talking about Bresson's influence on post-feminist documentary in West Bengal. If you feeling down in the dumps, you may eavesdrop for a few minutes for a laugh but do not, under any circumstances, engage.

Even if you don't believe in dry July, the festival is a good time to cut back on drinking. The rest of the year, adjourning from the pub to the plex may make sense, but it is foolish to take on a festival movie with a few drinks inside you. It's more comfortable and cheaper to sleep at home. No one likes sitting next to a snorer, anyway. Even if you haven't got your eye on Nuri Ceylan's Winter Sleep or Frederick Wiseman's At Berkeley, save the extra pint of Guinness for a debrief after the movie; your bladder will thank you.

The show never stops

The best places to eat or drink at festival time

Mezze
Always teeming with folks perusing their programmes during film festival time, this perennial TimeOut favourite in Durham Lane East offers everything from tapas to hearty Mediterranean fare on the menu at its cosy location overlooking Queen St.

Elliott Stables
Just a swift dash across the road from the Civic into Elliott St, this high-class food hall of 13 eateries has almost as many nationalities represented within as the festival itself. Should you be feeling especially peckish after the 230 minutes of the German village epic Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision, we can recommend sausage house Frankie's Wurstbude. Or the festival's big French main course could inspire dessert at the Torchon French Creperie, non?

Federal St
If your films take you up to screenings the SkyCity Theatre, there are abundant dining and drinking options - the Italian-flavoured Gusto at the SkyCity Grand Hotel, the Spanish tapas at Bellota, the carnivore's paradise of The Grill by Sean Connolly, or Al Brown's speedy eatery Depot in the same block.

- TimeOut

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