when my pal mark and i started to cook up a playlist for our ramshackle, dreamladen pilgrimage festival two summers ago in the scottish highlands, we were looking for films that speak of journeying, of adventure, and of transport – in every sense.
since we were pulling a 43 ton mobile cinema from a glen on the west coast and up and down a hill or two, we started with les blanks brilliant documentary on herzog’s fitzcarraldo. when we rested in the glade of ardnamurchan – having crossed by magical wee ferry, as into another time altogether – we watched brigadoon – suddenly transformed out of the slightly tongue in cheek decision to enjoy once again cyd charisse’s hollywood/bronx? scottish accent and the lurex in the tartans into a strangely moving sort of super lyrical documentary set in the very landscape we were moving through. when we camped outside the village school at cawdor – seat of shakespeare’s bloody thane, we tucked ourselves up with kurosawa’s thrilling/chilling throne of blood.
it was a trip. it was a truly dreamy trip. and peter was with us.
but every pilgrimage has a destination – and it was never any question that any other film would be the final screening of our extraordinary voyage than the film you are about to see here tonight.
you could call our pilgrimage site specific/sight specific.
we pulled our dreamscreen by the shores of loch ness – which we swam in – and through 6,000 year old oak woods.
but we were heading home: to the birthplace of our festival of the previous year – the Ballerina Ballroom of Dreams – which we held for 8 and a half days in a disused bingo hall in the wee town I live in, where we swapped tickets for home baking and appropriate dress code, where the audience sat on bean bags and deck chairs. where all heaven broke out and my bank manager turned up to the early screening of a miss marple film in his pyjamas. where kenneth anger appeared unexpectedly out of the ether during a paradjanov screening and signed our door ‘ it’s like caligari in technicolour’.
and there is no wee seaside town in scotland that could more make one think of monsieur hulot on his summer holidays than ours. it’s all there: now as i write this. i just cycled back from the ironmongers along the front: little boys with ice creams, old ladies with sunburn, shrimping nets and bucket/spade combos agogo.
some things – some places – never change. and summer holidays are somehow such a place: that inviolable atmosphere of play and company and the licence to be transported. the mark, one might also say, of a great classic films. never-ending reliable magic carpet rides. guaranteed.
this is what jacques tati knew better than pretty much any one: the awesome power of playtime.
welcome to one of the most affectionate, joyous, ridiculous, delicious love songs to escape and idleness you will ever come across.
and – by the way, this is my chance to say – heartfelt congratulations on your own pilgrimage here. believe me, if i could have been amongst you, i would, but i feel certain that what my dear friend peter has managed to plant here is a seed taken from what he rejoiced in with us in scotland two years ago – and which we continue to celebrate endlessly, everwhichwhere – the absolute life force of great company held by great cinema in a spirit of adventure and – yes – the awesome power of playtime.
my love to you all.