Julian Fellowes' From Time to Time a really satisfying family film


Julian Fellowes. Photo: John McDougall

Glasgow Film Festival blog

Paul Gallacher

Paul Gallagher. Photo: Dan Mayers

Tuesday 23 Ferbruary

Cary Grant would, I think, have approved of some of the goings-on at the party held in his name last night. As an iconic figure of class, cool and control he took many opportunities to puncture that image in some of the all-time-classic screwball comedies; that spirit was definitely present last night, when a festival staffer who had taken full advantage of the free bar asked the director Peter Callahan, in all seriousness, if he had met Peter Callahan. Then there was the young individual who clearly hadn’t learned from Mr Grant’s example of how to drink enthusiastically yet retain one’s dignity, and ended up looking very much the worse for it, for all to see. Thankfully, Eddie Harrison – film critic, Q&A-master and general lynchpin of Glasgow Film Festival – was on hand to add ‘knight in shining armour’ to his job description, ensuring the inebriated youngster was safely taxi’d away, earning himself my honorary ‘Cary Grant of the evening’ award.

Another shining example of dignity and class is Julian Fellowes, the Oscar-winning writer of Gosford Park, who was in town yesterday for the Gala screening of From Time to Time, a really satisfying family film that he’s written and directed. I got the chance to have a cup of tea with him in the afternoon, and he couldn’t have been more generous with his conversation and time. He’s a natural talker, and chatted to me for almost an hour about anything I cared to bring up, from his thoughts on Glasgow - “a real city, which thankfully hasn’t demolished too much of itself” – to his philosophy of directing – “good actors are very unlikely to be uninteresting, that’s why they are successful, so I think you just have to get out of their way and let yourself be surprised” – to whether he could see himself making a 3D movie – “I suspect it’s too late to get the skill into me. But I wrote a script adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, a project that is currently frozen in time, but now, post-Avatar I would love to see that as a 3D movie”.

He also had some great stories about working with Robert Altman, saying “he changed my life, no question about it. He was an immensely powerful man, and I don’t mean in a [Hollywood] way, I mean in himself. But never in the whole 12 weeks of shooting Gosford did he turn to me and say ‘look, I’m a world-famous director, who the bloody hell are you?’ We were just these two big fat men shouting at each other behind the camera, and the cast got completely used to it. But he had decided I would be useful to the making of this film, and that was it really. It was an extraordinary experience.”

I was also curious to find out about the film Fellowes has recently written for The Lives of Others director Florien Henkcel von Donnersmarck. It’s called The Tourist and is shooting right now with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, whom Fellowes admiringly calls “two of our most mysterious stars”. All he would say of the story was to expect “chills and thrills, and a kiss in the middle”, but it’s clearly going to be big, and I could tell that he’s particularly excited about it. Later on in the evening I met him again, happily doling out screenwriting advice – “in America, it’s basically a case of ensuring the least bad version of the script makes it to the shoot” – and I know that everyone who spoke to him came away happy.

I encountered a few other filmmakers throughout the day, including Nathan Miller, a very friendly French director who apparently once appeared in a Truffaut film, and Edinburgh-born Faye Jackson, whose bizarre Romanian vampire folk tale Strigoi had some well-received screenings in the last few days. I can’t say I loved her film, but it’s nice to find a British filmmaker who is doing something distinctly different from gritty social drama or low budget comedy. Jackson is intent on sticking with genre filmmaking too, and told me her next idea is a sci-fi that takes place within the London Underground and has something to do with surveillance. Sounds fascinating.

We’re now past the festival halfway point, and I’ve just been informed of a bunch more filmmakers and actors arriving today, so I’m off to investigate. Also, due to my Julian Fellowes interview I actually missed North by Northwest yesterday, so my quest to see some big-screen Cary Grant continues. Today it’s Notorious, which I’ve actually never seen before. Here’s hoping…