Jim Haynes newsletters

Newsletter No. 736
The San Sebastian Film Festival
21 to 26 September 2015


San Sebastian Film Festival 2015

Monday, September 21st: Up early. Quick coffee and cereal. Jump into the shower. Shave and shampoo. Upstairs to pack. Estelle, the nurse, arrives and tells me to be "a good boy in San Sebastian". I am more or less packed. Call a taxi and am out the door and on my way. Lots of traffic this Monday morning, but it is a short ride to the Gare Montparnasse. Purchase a pain au chocolat.
The platform is announced and it is a long walk to my carriage. Soon settle into my seat and we are off, rolling slowly at first as we depart Paris and the suburbs. Then we gather speed and the TGV roars. Sit quietly and read. Suddenly we are in the Bordeaux station and soon we arrive in Hendaye. Walk quickly and get the commuter train. It is so familiar now. My third visit to San Sebastian in a year.

Some thirty minutes later we have arrived. In front of the station, look for a taxi. Almost get one, but a fellow with a small child jumps in front of me and grabs it. OK, maybe he needed it. Minutes later I manage to secure a taxi and we head for the Kursaal. Call Idoia and she answers. Tell her I am in the Café Vento Sud. She says she will come in fifteen minutes. Call Susie Parker who is here from Sydney again. She and Séamas will also come to the Vento Sud. And no sooner said and Idoia arrives with Susie and Séamas. Up we go to the apartment to deposit my small bag. Test my blood sugar level and it is fine. Give myself an insulin injection. It is suggested that we go immediately to the Kursaal to get my press pass. Out the door, say goodbye to Idoia and the three of us continue to the accreditation desk.
Everything is quickly processed. We decide to walk to the Cinema Principal for the 19h30 press screening of High-Rise. We are early, so we have pintxos in the bar across from the cinema. Jone introduced me to the proprietor last year. He is a famous boxer who once fought Edith Piaf's lover, Marcel Cerdan.
We manage to jump the queue and find excellent seats. High-Rise is directed by Ben Wheatley, Séamas and I wonder if he is related to Antonia. It is produced by Jeremy Thomas and the Recorded Picture Company in London. Jeremy is a friend, so I hope I love the film. One of my dear friends, the late Hercules Bellville, was an associate of Jeremy's. Alas I do not care for the film. A great cast that includes Sienna Miller and Jeremy Irons. Happily both Séamas and Susie Parker like the film as does the audience. Bob Flynne sits on the same row, but when the film ends, he disappears. He had mentioned to Séamas that there was an Argentine party somewhere.
We three stroll down Calle Embeltran and pass the wonderful La Muralla restaurant. I love the place. I dined there last year with Bob Flynne, one of the best meals I had in San Sebastian. Peek in the door and it looks packed. None of us are very hungry, so we continue to our beds.

  Jim Haynes and Susie Parker in San Sebastian, photo Séamas McSwiney
Jim and Susie in San Sebastian, photo by Séamas McSwiney

Francofonia, by Alexander Sokurov


Tuesday, 22nd: A great night's sleep. Once again my sugar level is fine. Susie and I head out for our morning coffee. The Vento Sud is closed. I tell Susie that there is another place, the Picachilla, just further down the street. It is open. We have cafe con leche, orange juice and pastry. Superb. We cross the street and go to the accreditation desk. Sign a copy of To Fuller or Not and ask that it be passed to José Luis Rebordinos, the Director of the Festival.
At noon, Susie and I walk to the Old Town to see the new Woody Allen film, Irrational Man. Séamas has seen it already in Cannes. It is in the Principal Cinema. I like the film, but it is certainly not a light comedy. My favorite Woody Allen film is Whatever Works. We continue to the Motorcycle Club for lunch. Séamas joins us. The Motorycle Club is cheap and cheerful. And fun. David Bumstead, David Hughes and Luis Rivero are always there.
After lunch, Susie and I walk to the Old Town to see Francophonia, directed by Alexander Sokurov. I find the film delightful. The voice-over is in Russian with English and Spanish subtitles. It is the apparently true story of the relationship between Count Franziskus Wolff-Metternich and Jacques Jaujard, the Director of the Louvre Museum. It all takes place in the 1940s during the Nazi occupation of Paris. I found the film fascinating.
We walk back in the rain to the apartment. Séamas joins us. Later the three of us walk to the bar to meet David Bumstead. Tonight is Alex Bumstead's birthday. He is David's son. I pull out a copy of To Fuller or Not and ask David to give it to Alex from me.
David rushes off and we three decide to try to dine in my favorite restaurant in San Sebastian, La Muralla. We stroll the short distance in the softly falling rain and we are in luck. There is one table in the corner that we can have. We have two sweet young women from New Zealand at the table next to ours and two couples from Chicago in front of us. Naturally we engage them all in conversation. I tell the owner, Maria Eugenia, that her restaurant is my favorite in San Sebastian, that I dined in it last September and it was the best meal I had in San Sebastian. And tonight's meal is equally divine. Our waitress, Ainhoa, is also divine. Séamas treats our dinner. We decide to have an early night and slowly make our way home.

Wednesday, 23rd: Slow start to the day. Susie showers. Then I shower. We go down to Vento Sud and have a 10 out of 10 breakfast. Susie goes upstairs to send a few e-mail messages. Séamas joins us.
We decide to see the noon film from Georgia, Moira. It is the story of a family struggling to survive. A brother borrows money to purchase a fishing boat and they name the boat, Moira, a goddess of fate. It is a sad story that looks to end badly. I only last 45 minutes.
I sit outside the cinema and see my friend, Jone Karres, when the film ends. She will join us in the Motorcycle Club. We stroll the short distance and join David Bumstead.
After lunch, Séamas, Susie and I are guided to the Trueba Cinema by David Griffiths to see a wonderful Spanish film entitled Isla Bonita. It is very Woody Allen-ish. It is directed by Fernando Colomo and he also plays one of the principal roles. We decided to see this film because Susie Parker shared a ride from Bilbao airport with one of the actors, Lluis Marques. We all three find the film a lot of fun. In fact, it is my favorite film of the festival.

  séamas McSwiney and Jim Haynes, photo Susie Parker
Séamas and Jim, photo Susie Parker

Los Exiliados Románticos


It is sad that the film, Los Exilados Románticos (The Romantic Exiles), directed by Jonas Trueba and shot last year in my atelier in Paris is not in the festival.We walk to the apartment for a wee siesta. Then at 8, I go down to Vento Sud for three croquettes. Séamas and Susie collect me and we three walk to a big gala reception and awards event in the Old Town. Late Jone Karres calls a taxi and Susie and I ride home. And to bed.

Thursday, 24th: Susie is up and off to Bilbao to visit the Guggenheim very early this morning. It's a lovely sunny day. I have a much slower start. After the shower and shave and the medical tasks, I head down to Vento Sud for breakfast. Séamas comes to join me.
We decide to see the film, Les Chevaliers Blancs (The White Knights), based on a true story about a French attempt to save 300 Chadian orphans that ends in a disaster. I manage to stay about half way through it.
Dine as usual in the Motorcyle Club with David Bumstead, David Hughes and Luis Rivero. Jone Karres passes briefly. Purchase cold medicine from a pharmacy and head for the apartment and a long siesta.
Vento Sud for pintxos. Walk slowly to the old town and meet Susi and Séamas in the Principal Cinema for a children's film from Catalonia. Alas it does not do much for us and we slip out after about thirty minutes. We find a rickshaw and Mario, from Mexico, peddles Susie and me to the apartment. Another early night.

Friday, 25th: Awake at 8. Susie is talking on the phone via her computer to Denver, her boyfriend, in Sydney. He fell yesterday and managed to break his left leg in two places. Oh damn. Susie wants to cut her European sojourn and fly to Australia to be with him. He tells her not to do it, that he will survive. Denver and I chat a bit and I try to commiserate with him.
Susie and I go down to Vento Sud for our morning breakfast feast. Séamas joins us. We walk across the bridge to see the film, Black Mass, with Johnny Depp playing the role of Jimmy Bulger, the notorious Boston gangster and murderer. It is a little bit too violent for me.
Séamas and I wander into the Old Town and have lunch in Zibbibo, sitting outside in the warm sunshine. More delicious pintxos. Then it is back to the apartment for a wee rest.
At 4.30 we see the film, After Eden, at K2 about a porn star. The director and stars are all in the audience. It is a bizarre film. We three head for Principal Cinema to see our last film, London Road, a musical. I love musical theatre, but it is not my cup of tea - to coin an expression. We stick it out to the end.
I suggest we try to get a table in La Muralla. We are in luck. There is one table and we can have it. Another fantastic meal. A perfect way to end our brief visit to San Sebastian. We thank our hostess, Maris Eugenia, and our waitress, the beautiful Clara Aizpun. We walk slowly to our beds.

Saturday, 26th: As usual, Susie is up before me. We quickly wash, dress and pack. Then it is down to Vento Sud for the last breakfast. Séamas joins us.
Susie crosses to the accreditation desk to return the umbrella we borrowed. Susi has arranged with the Film Festival for us to be collected at 11.30 and driven to Hendaye where we will get our TGV to Paris. It is another San Sebastian Film Festival until next year. Bob Flynne was right when he highly recommended this festival. As always there were a number of films I wanted to see that I managed to miss. And I was sorry not to encounter Jose Luis Rebordinos, the Director of this wonderful festival. Or to meet Gemma Beltran, the woman in charge of foreign journalists.
I hope to be in San Sebastian again next September. And to dine in La Muralla once again. The San Sebastian Film Festival is wonderful and the city of San Sebastian is very special.



Jim Haynes
October 2015

Atelier A-2,
83 rue de la tombe Issoire,
75014 Paris France




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