The Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival or The Swiss Event for Fantastic Film, Asian Cinema & Future Images is held in the sleepy Swizz town of Neuchatel.  In July 2014, our very own Alan Jones was asked to be on the International Jury and as usual he kept us informed of the goings on in his Postcards home.




    Here I am at the Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival, alternatively billed in the English language programme as 'The Swiss Event for Fantastic Film, Asian Cinema & Future Images'. I'm here thanks to Artistic Director Anais Emery, a long-time colleague on the EuroFest circuit, who asked me to be on the International Jury and because everyone who has ever attended this bijou festival has always come way singing its praises.

    Firstly a few facts; Neuchatel is a picturesque town on the banks of Lake Neuchatel, an hour's drive from Geneva along a very scenic route. For its size the place has a large number of cinemas, all being used to stage the festival, complete with a tented village so guests can mingle in the bars and eat the street food, and so far every film has been extremely well attended. My fellow jurors are Luigi Cozzi, director of STARCRASH and CONTAMINATION, Julie Baines, producer of CREEP, SEVERANCE, TRIANGLE, BLOODY LONDON and Chris Smith's latest DETOUR, Icelandic director Julius Kemp, who gave us our Glasgow entry in 2010, THE REYKJAVIK WHALE WATCHING MASSACRE, and French film critic Edouard Waintrop. We are all staying at the five-star Hotel Beau-Rivage, which is absolutely fabulous with its breakfast terrace and spa facilities, and everything is a five minute walk from this centre of operations. It never ceases to amaze me how much these types of events in Europe attract an extraordinary amount of press and sponsorship attention. The first thing we saw when stepping off the plane at Geneva airport was a huge televisual promoting NIFFF, and in the town itself (just like in Sitges) every shop features a tie-in window.

    Being a jury member here comes with a certain responsibility as whatever we award Best Film gets a 10,000 euro cash prize. And because most festivals do tend to programme the same movies, cream rising to the top and all that, I have seen the majority of the contenders which lists BLIND, CONTRORA, THE SAMURAI, EXTRATERRESTRIAL, HONEYMOON, HOUSEBOUND, IT FOLLOWS, LATE PHASES, THE CANAL, THE MOLE SONG: UNDERCOVER AGENT REIJI, THESE FINAL HOURS, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, WHITE GOD and STARRY EYES. For the cash prize reason I have been asked not to disclose my opinions here on any of the movies in competition until the final ceremony on Saturday July 12.

    Most FrightFesters will already know though that I rate THE SAMURAI pretty highly so I was thrilled to actually meet the director Till Kleinert at a cocktail party last night. What a terrific guy and I told him I couldn't wait to see his film again playing as a Midnight Movie at the Arcades cinema. He had already read my published opinions on his erotic fairy tale and told me it wouldn't be as good the time around. Actually he was wrong and I was delighted to learn in his Q&A afterwards that he thought it could be allied to Neil Jordan's 'wolf in sheep's clothing' fable THE COMPANY OF WOLVES.

    OK so the weather is pretty dismal - it does look like we've hit a rainy period - but who cares when you have such a diverse programme including such other must-sees as KUNG FU DIVAS, DEAD SNOW 2, DISCOPATH, EAT, PATCH TOWN, STAGE FRIGHT, WOLFCOP and ZOMBEAVERS to choose from. Today is all about WHITE GOD and meeting Ivan Kavanagh, director of THE CANAL. I'll leave today's report on Luigi Cozzi telling me Dario Argento is fine after his recent accident, he's been told to convalesce for a couple of months, and that he's seriously looking at THE SANDMAN as his next movie. Get well soon Dario.

    Until next time.

    Alan x.

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    A lovely surprise yesterday on Day 2 of my NIFFF Jury duty was seeing my two friends Bruno Forzani and Helene Cattet, directors of AMER and THE STRANGE COLOURS OF MY BODY'S TEARS. I had no idea they were training it from Brussels to Neuchatel to take part in a discussion on special effects work in independent films. They brought their new baby with them, Nora, named after Italian Giallo composer Nora Orlandi (obviously!), and came laden with practically every item of STRANGE COLOURS merchandise for me as presents. I just love those two. And it was great to see Sitges director Angel Sala in town too for a few days of relaxation. He's just bought an apartment in Sitges to be nearer his October job and I told him I can't wait to check it out.

    Yesterday's movies were WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, the vampire mockumentary by the Flight of the Conchords team, and WHITE GOD, the canine Apocalypse Now shot in Budapest. In between those I had my first taste of kangaroo meat thanks to our designated hotel for mealtimes, the Beaulac, which seems to be cornering the market here in exotic far out menus. Apparently we'll be missing the crocodile tonight due to a punishing schedule meaning we have to have a packed dinner to ensure we aren't late for anything. Our guest coordinators Anthony and Savannah are precise and organised and woe betide any of us if we are a minute off our agendas! Joining us in the kangaroo feast was Ivan Kavanagh, director of the late movie last night THE CANAL, who jets off pretty quickly from here to make it to another screening in Galway, Ireland.

    The NIFFF 'village' is a great place to hang out after the final movies. Everyone congregates in the disco tent to relax with the organisers after yet another busy day and the atmosphere is convivial and party centric. I'm sure they'll have something special for the DISCOPATH event. I must also make sure I don't miss THE GO GO BOYS documentary on Cannon Films and I TARANTINIANI, a look at Italian B movies of the 60s and 70s. Many people today are anxious to attend the master class by George R R Martin, the 'Game of Thrones' visionary, but I have to see the Italian competition entry CONTRORA. Until next time.

    Alan x.

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    Helene Cattet, Luigi Cozzi, me and Bruno Forzani.




    Quite a long haul yesterday on Day 3 of my NIFFF Jury duty. I was lucky in the fact that I'd already seen three of the five films on the schedule - the end of the world saga THESE FINAL HOURS, the werewolf-in-an-elderly-community horror LATE PHASES and the Cannes sensation IT FOLLOWS. All I had to see was CONTRORA: HOUSE OF SHADOWS, an Irish/Italian co-production about covering up past child abuse, and the latest Takashi Miike THE MOLE SONG: UNDERCOVER AGENT REIJI, another demented Yakuza fantasy.

    I've been impressed by the audience numbers in Neuchatel so far. Every film has been packed that I've attended and it apparently has nothing to do with the unseasonably cold weather. Even if it had been sunny the attendances would have been solid so I'm told. Must mention that the ritual here prior to each film is to join in with the ident logo, beginning with aping the signal of a TV set, loudly intoning 'hello' when one of the dancing skeletons speaks, and then laughing maniacally as it heads off into the distance. It's been a tradition for years according to the organisers.

    I must mention the whole IT FOLLOWS story here. Originally we planned for David Robert Mitchell's critical favourite to close FrightFest this year, but we were told the film was being withdrawn to undergo slight changes to the finale. But not only is it playing in Neuchatel in the same form I already saw it, and goes on wide release over the next month, it is also playing at other EuroFest's, Sitges included, so I don't quite get what happened. Because I have already seen this and written about it, I can say that watching it a second time is quite an eye-opener. What I thought were plot holes/lapses in logic aren't at all, it is thematically structured in a quite surprising way, and it's far tricker in terms of audience manipulation than I ever grasped initially. The first scare still works a treat, with the audience leaping out of their seats as one, and the major set-piece on the beach is the best for years. I love Mitchell's class act, how unusual it is, and truly think it is one of the year's best.

    Will my fellow jurors agree with me? Tonight is deliberation time and from what I have divined so far, everyone's tastes are all over the place. Looks like it's going to be an interesting meeting, and I have no idea at this point what's going to happen. I've promised myself I will not be screaming and shouting at everyone though, it's only a movie after all. Except in this case one that comes with a 10,0000 euro reward. Will report back on everything tomorrow,

    Until next time.

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    As it was the International Jury deliberation last night at NIFFF, and we managed to agree on a deserving title in a professional and non-screaming match way - unlike the Critics Jury who were still shouting at each other at midnight - I can now tell you what I thought of the the few select titles I hadn't already seen coming into this extremely well-run festival.

    Like The Vicious Brothers EXTRATERRESTRIAL that I have to say almost plays like an alien BEYOND THE VALLEY OF THE DOLLS. For their second feature together after GRAVE. ENCOUNTERS, the Canadian duo offer a mash-up of 'The X-Files', WAR OF THE WORLDS and COMMUNION, complete with Michael Ironside playing a grizzled Vietnam vet/conspiracy theorist/cannabis farmer. Basically five teens go to a cabin in the woods unaware the area is a close encounter hot spot and end up being whisked aboard a standard issue UFO populated by the cliche alien invaders. While the final pull back shot is quite something, and it does feature the best anal probe sequence ever, this ET is as daft as a brush and soap opera hilarious.

    BLIND by Norwegian director Eskil Vogt is one of those worthy art-house heightened reality affairs with Meaning, capital M, that will find favour with the pretentious but no one else. It's about a girl who has recently gone blind projecting all her insecurities on her husband by making up scenarios involving him in an extra-marital affair. After the first fifteen minutes featuring some hardcore kinkiness, Vogt's deconstructed ramble fizzles out by simply being boring and way too up itself in terms of cleverness. One for the London Film Festival methinks.

    So many people have told me how much they rate Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, the vampire mockumentary by the Flight of the Conchords mob, that I was really looking forward to seeing it. But apart from a few gags, I don't understand what all the fuss is about, and it resembled exactly what it is - a sitcom idea stretched out to a meandering 90 minutes. Okay, the coffin wank and the line "We are werewolves not swearwolves" made me laugh, but that was really it. Quite the best part about the whole enterprises were the make-up effects, especially the 8000 year-old Nosferatu. Otherwise, so what!

    Winner of the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, Hungarian Kornel Mundruczo' WHITE GOD doesn't quite convince but the scenes of rampaging dog packs through Budapest taking revenge on those who mistreated them is brilliantly done. With Sam Fuller's WHITE DOG quoted in its own title, this is a political movie about exclusion that glides between LASSIE COME HOME and Apocalyptic fantasy with some daffy precision. Think a canine THE BIRDS and that's this technical achievement in a nutshell with the dogfighting sequences a real eye-opener.

    Today we have the surprise film, which I've already seen (clue, it stars Elijah Wood and is showing at FrightFest) and tonight is the closing ceremony at the town's casino which we'll be introduced to the audience and hopefully they won't boo our Best Picture choice. Tomorrow it's back to London where FrightFest preparations begin in earnest, starting with a screening of on of our world premiers. I've really enjoyed being in Neuchatel and hope to return very soon to what is an extremely friendly and convivial EuroFest.

    Until next time.

    Alan x.

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Alan Jones & Till Kleinert

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