Let us speak of sun and sea and San Sebastian. I haven't taken the time to explain to you what, where or why the international Festival of Cinema at San Sebastian lured me here. It wasn't hard.
As San Sebastian is city is a city full of 140,000 quite proper people, full of beautiful gardens, marble statues and bridges over the River Adour. It's on the Bay of Biscayne where France and Spain share their waters, and at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains- Basque Country!
The Town of San Sebastian wraps around s small bay called the Concha (seashell) and we walk the esplanade there gazing down on the sunbathers when we're not sitting in the dark of a movie theater. The Festival has been going on for 43 years so the people have gotten used to it; but then the festival folks don't create a hullabaloo like they do at Cannes. No half-naked starlets causing a ruckus, no American stars surrounded by body guards looking down on hordes of fans.
The fans come. They crowd around the fenced off hotel Maria Christina (architecturally a wedding cake), and they shout "Keanu, we're your fan club from La Mancha!" or "Vittoria, your eyes cause my limbs to melt!" (I'm translating loosely here.) They are the fans everybody hopes to have, so the stars stop and sign autographs and smile the paparazzi.
The films are shown all over town, but the main theater is a little jewel with two tiers of opera boxes in which a bored local can snore in the back corner-all the way through LEAVING LAS VEGAS-to the mere amusement of the audience.
People walk slowly along the wide boulevards, smoking and pondering the movie preferences. Not many ideologues here, until suddenly like summer smoke, the Basques throw a few home-made Molotov cocktails along a side street. A small riot brings out the well padded riot squad, and twelve minutes later, all that remains are the shards of glass, the spilled trash, and the abandoned street. I happened upon one of those the day before yesterday....the cops invited me to proceed, not to be afraid; it was over. "Your cinema is over there."
Did I mention the food? They're careful not to schedule any important film or event between the hours of two and five. We eat fish at the old Port are eat Basque duck or thick tortillas (actually omelets) filled with asparagus or crab. And the local wine is ambrosia, and nobody is on a diet! Cholesterolis not even a concept here.
The San Sebastian Film Festival is one of the best kept secrets of the festival circuit. They deserve to be very famous but please don't tell the French, the Germans or anybody from McDonalds.
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