ONLY in Dinard will a request for the bill at the end of a meal be turned down. Not because your money is no good in this small Breton town, but because in Dinard the word for “receipt” is not recue but a Britishism: “ticket”.
“They think they are British,” a Parisian shrugged. But it’s more than that – in Dinard, they also really love British film. Even Brits won’t go that far.
In this small town, with streets carrying names like Rue Winston Churchill, and covered with more union jacks than Southend during the World Cup, this reaches a peak every October, when Dinard celebrates British film with a four day festival featuring tributes to British film icons such as James Bond and the mildly angry young man of the 60s Sir Tom Courtenay, red carpet premieres of new British pictures, and a closing ceremony where a jury drawn from the French and British film indursties award Hitchcocks – statuettes depicting the master of suspense with a bird (geddit) perched on each shoulder.
This year, upcoming pop biopic Good Vibrations won for Best Screenplay and Plan B’s Ill Manors was given an award for cinematography and the Heart Award. The Public Prize and the ultimate Golden Hitchcock, went to Shadow Dancer, which got its UK premiere at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival.
Now in its 23rd year, Dinard may not be as famous as the May Cannes Film Festival, but it’s more accessible to local film fans. Movies are screened in local cinemas, and some makeshift conversions including a church, the promenade’s Palais Des Arts and, my favourite, Salle Hitchcock: an inflatable building that has the bulky, spongy profile of its namesake. A Friday morning screening of Loneliness of A Long Distance Runner had to turn people away; the enthusiasm is on a par with gallus Glasgow audiences at the Glasgow Film Festival, the chief difference being that British films often attract a much warmer reception at Dinard than on their home turf.
“In Britain, people can be very dismissive of homegrown films,” one filmmaker told me. “Here, the same films are loved. Audiences stand up and cheer at the end.” Jury member Celia Imrie backs this up, recalling that last time she came to the festival, she introduced Thunderpants, a film about a boy who could break wind at will and with great ferocity. Despite a co-starring role for Rupert Grint, the movie got a raspberry in the UK. So how did it go down in Dinard? “How do you think a film which goes ‘pfft’ went down?” said Imrie, crisply. “They loved it!”
Unlike many festival sponsors, Dinard’s festival partners also seem game to take a risk. M Luc Le Gendre of Grande Ouest has been sponsoring one of Dinard’s film screenings for the last four years, inviting favoured clients to a French premiere with the chance to rub shoulders with the film’s stars afterwards. It’s a highlight of the Ouest year, although few of his invited clients speak English, and they don’t know what film they will be seeing: “It’s a gamble,” he admits. Yes, indeed especially when we’re making films like Thunderpants.
Everyone agrees it’s a very relaxed, convivial festival but its award choices are often shrewd: they were the first to recognise a young director called Christopher Nolan, who was honoured here for his first film Following, while Danny Boyle’s Shallow Grave recieved a Golden Hitchcock by Rampling last time she was here. Last year Dinard screened a French documentary about the work of Peter Mullen: even Scottish TV hasn’t got around to that yet.
At this year’s awards, attentive starspotters whooped when Patrick Bruel, this year’s jury president, displayed an impressive grasp of idiomatic English, when he made a point of recommending Timothy Spall’s new film Wasteland at the closing ceremony. Bruel may be an unfamiliar name even to Francophiles in the UK, but as a singing star of the 1990s who has moved into acting, he appears to be France’s craggier Gary Kemp.
On the British starspotting front this year, Charlotte Rampling, all lynx eyes slink, made a brief appearance to support her edgy new film I, Anna, directed by her son Barnaby Southcombe. Michael Winterbottom introduced Everyday, and Tom Courtenay was visibly touched to be the subject of one of Dinard’s tribute retrospectives, before suggesting that he might not fulfil all the qualifications. “I notice the others are John Schlesinger and Charles Dickens,” he said. “And I also can’t help noticing that they’re dead, and that I am not.”
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