Belfast Film Festival Event – Desert Island Flix with Mark Kermode: Review by William McClean

MARK Kermode was Brian Henry Martin’s cinematic castaway at this year’s Desert Island Flix event at The Black Box in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The night has become an annual fixture of the city’s film festival, with Henry Martin asking a dozen of cinematically inspired questions, designed to probe his guest’s cine psyche.

Speaking to a sell-out audience for nearly two and a half hours, Kermode often referred to as the ‘good doctor’ appeared in a reflective mood. Just about to turn 50, he took the opportunity to look back at a career in film journalism that has lasted roughly three decades, but a love-affair with cinema that has lasted a lifetime.

He described himself: “As the luckiest man in the world, I’m doing what I love every day.” He is currently writing a book about film criticism itself and his biggest tip to any budding young film journalists was to simply never review a film they hadn’t seen and be true to themselves. His love for all things cine remains as strong as ever, promising the audience: “If I start to simply watch films professionally, I promise I’ll retire.”

Kermode has become well aware he has become infamous for his on-air rants about the films he passionately dislikes, stating his tirades against films like Sex and The City 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean have attracted thousands of hits on the Wittertainment YouTube, memorably he described Sex and The City 2 as nothing more than ‘consumerist pornography.’ In his opinion as a critic it’s easier to simply talk about the films they dislike rather than the ones they really enjoyed, as they’re putting themselves out there and on the line.

Sunday Times reviewer Anna Burnside once described Kermode as a ‘film critic with more opinions than Delia Smith has baking trays’, and he didn’t disappoint, talking in-depth about a variety of his celluloid favourites. He claimed that Quentin Tarantino’s cinematic back-catalogue needed to be ‘edited down with a chainsaw’ and it was his opinion that Jean-Luc Godard was one of the most overrated directors working within the industry, with his films proof that cinematic auteur theory wasa load of rubbish.

Even more surprisingly still, he picked Zack Efron as his most underrated actor, describing the High School Musical star as: “An old school Hollywood actor who can sing, dance and act.”

Kermode took time out to praise the locally produced feature, Good Vibrations, which received its word-wide première at last year’s festival. He told the audience, which included the film’s directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn that it was a film that perfectly captured the wonderful joy of pop music, before adding: “If it isn’t in my top 10 movies of the year, it must have been a bloody bumper good year for cinema.”

He closed the evening by picking his all-time favourite movie, unsurprisingly for those who have followed Kermode’s career he picked William Friedkin’s 1973 horror classic, The Exorcist, describing the feature as: “A film that despite repeated viewings has never let me down.” Adding: “I know everything about every single celluloid frame of that movie.”

Those who missed the good doctor’s whirlwind visit shouldn’t have to wait long until his return to Belfast. His movie nights have become a perennial part of the city’s Cinemagic festival which will take place later in the year.

By William McClean

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