The 2013 Locarno Film Festival program was announced today. 2 Guns. A whole lotta George Cukor. Chinatown and Faye Dunaway. It begins on Wednesday, 8.7, and runs until Saturday, 8.17. A smart, elegant, sophisticated gathering. Locarno is in Switzerland, of course, but it’s really northern Italy in almost every other sense — culturally, atmospherically, architecturally. Scores of gelato stands and foodie joints. Pizza, pasta, etc.
I attended ten years ago with Jett and Dylan, who were then 15 and 14. Europe was suffering at the time through one of the worst heat waves in meteorological history, and I remember how we were constantly damp and sweating. (I remember Roger Ebert‘s face being all pink and sweat-beady during an outdoor discussion panel.) The guys and I took an afternoon swim each and every day in Lake Maggiore.
“I can say with utter confidence, however, that we’re here, we’re credentialed, and we’re rockin’ and sockin’,” I wrote in an 8.5.03 filing. “That last verb refers to the fact that the dirty socks and T-shirts are boiling in a big pot of water on the stove. I realize this is not the best way to clean clothes, but we’re on a budget. If you stir the clothes around in the steaming water and then cool them off and wring them out and then sun-dry them on the sundeck, they’ll at least feel cleaner when you put them on later.
“How about a ten-cent observation about Switzerland? The kids and I were having breakfast Thursday morning on the outdoor terrace at the Hotel Arcadia, where most of the journalist freeloaders are being put up, when film critic and scholar Harlan Jacobson walked over and said hello. ‘Welcome to Switzerland, guys,’ he said to Jett and Dylan. ‘It’s a wild place. Drugs and girls are very plentiful here so you’ll have a good time.’ Harlan was being droll, of course. He was alluding to Switzerland’s figurative reputation as the world capital of complacency. Staid, regulated, tidy.
“On the other hand, a guy was openly smoking weed on the train from Zurich to Locarno on Wednesday morning, and someone else was openly turning on later that night while sitting in the middle of a big crowd watching an open-air screening of Vincente Minelli‘s The Band Wagon. Watching Fred Astaire, Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant stoned…I have doubts.
Montage from 2003 Locarno Film Festival.
“On top of the fact people seem to be whooping it up in bars and clubs here as much as they do anywhere else. Plus Jett says Swiss MTV is more sexually brazen than the American version, with the occasional bare breast or ass popping through.
“We arrived after an all-night train ride from Paris in a second-class compartment — six bunks in a space the size of a large foot locker. (We had to shine the rental car at the last minute — don’t ask.) It’s 9:30 am Friday as I write this, and all I can say for certain is (a) it’s scenically beautiful here, (b) the pizzas taste better here than in Paris, (c) black and yellow leopard-skin motifs have been printed on every exploitable object and surface here in Locarno (that breed of cat being the festival’s theme) and (d) the festival looks, smells, walks and talks like a class act.
“I could tell an hour after arriving that the Locarno organization is tip-top and well-funded. The festival headquarters is located smack dab in the heart of town, and the staffers are as helpful and gracious as any I’ve ever dealt with. (Special thanks to staffer Anna Gabutti, who took care of us like a total pro when we first arrived.) It’s also apparent after looking over the different issues and themes explored within the festival’s program, and after reading through the smartly- written program guide (printed in four languages), there’s a highly intelligent, film-culture sensibility anchoring the whole shebang.”