Sleepless Nights and Unwatchable Movies

The 55th BFI London Film Festival gets under way on Wednesday with Fernando Meirelles’s star-studded drama 360. For those with a press pass and time on their hands, there have already been lots of preview screenings at the BFI over the past fortnight. This week I’m really looking forward to seeing Nanni Moretti’s We Have a Pope, starring the great Michel Piccoli and the latest from the Dardenne brothers, The Kid with a Bike.

You can read my all my reviews to date here at Sound on Sight. But one movie that I won’t be reviewing there or anywhere else is Sleepless Nights Stories, a cinematic abomination I went to see in error 10 days ago.

It’s embarrassing to admit that turned up at NFT2 hoping to see Michel Ocelot’s animated anthology, Tales of the Night. But I had misread my schedule and so endured Jonas Mekas’s indescribably dull video diary. I felt foolish.

Apparently, Mekas is an 88-year-old Lithuanian film-maker and writer and “the godfather of American avant-garde cinema”. If I could be bothered to read Mekas’s Wikipedia entry or go to his website I would no doubt learn what a cultural giant this man is. Unfortunately for me, his name is now indelibly linked with the most boring hour of my entire life. Yes, I lasted that long: the exodus of reviewers started after 10 minutes and continued at a rate of one every two minutes.

Does three minutes or more watching a lizard crawling along a wall sound like a riveting watch to you? What I saw was ineptly filmed footage of people (some very famous) being both pretentious and dull as they consume vast quantities of alcohol in various bars, hotel rooms and apartments. The sound quality is poor, which doesn’t help. During one dinner party scene, I realised I’d been staring at a bottle of vodka for five minutes.

Enough said. There are some films that exist solely to remind you of the simple virtues of a proper narrative and some basic technical competence. Whatever else you see during the 55th BFI London Film Festival, please don’t waste your money on Sleepless Nights Stories.

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