The Swell Season and An American Werewolf in London

AFF Day 9

As the 31st Atlantic Film Festival comes to a close, I decided I would go out for one last night to check out some films to tie me over until next year.

The first feature was The Swell Season, a documentary on the band by the same name, which charts their rise from obscurity to unexpected Oscar winners to festival headliners. I like the band quite a bit, but not as much as my girlfriend who is absolutely obsessed with the group. Last summer we flew all the way from Halifax to Ottawa to watch one of their two Canadian performances of the year (she subsequently returned the favour when we flew to New York to watch Pavement reunite at Central Park). I hadn’t heard much about the band before that, but they really brought it live.

When I saw them play they had the same time slot as festival headliners, Rush, and if you’ve ever heard The Swell Season, you know they’re a pretty nuanced band that needs to be experienced in a quiet setting.

But frontman Glen Hansard wasn’t going to let Geddy Lee’s wail get in the way of him rocking out. He proceeded to play his acoustic guitar as fast as humanly possible while screaming like an Irish Black Francis, attempting to drown out the Canadian rockers, and it actually made the concert more exciting due to the tension between the two stages.

Glen Hansard is awesome, and this documentary is a testament to that. When you get a chance to see the film, scope it out even if you haven’t heard the band before. It’s one of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen (minus Radiohead’s Meeting People Is Easy).

So after walking around the Public Gardens for an hour and dodging multiple piles of vomit (seriously, whoever did that, you should go see a doctor) I headed for the surprise midnight screening, An American Werewolf in London.

Although not being a new film at all (in fact, the screening used a legit reel of the film from 30 years ago), this screening was probably one of the top highlights of the fest.

Midnight film screenings are kind of funny because you get three kinds of people attending them: stoned teenagers who have nothing better to do, awkward teenagers who really like the classics, and adults who seem a little to old to stay up that late anymore and bring coffees into the theatre (that was me).

The atmosphere is always a little delirious due to the exhaustion, pot, and awkwardness, and it kind of adds to the whole weird experience. This viewing was especially weird because there were, at best, 20 people in the audience.

The film was introduced by one of the AFF staff members who proceeded to give a few tidbits about the film. For instance, did you know this was the film that initiated the Oscar category for best special effects? I did not, but it totally makes sense. That werewolf transformation scene is pretty freaky. He asked if many people had seen the film before, and I was surprised most hadn’t, but judging from the laughs it seemed like everyone had a pretty good time.

For a film that was 30 years old, An American Werewolf in London has totally held up over time (the same can’t be said for its sequel, An American Werewolf Paris).

Why the AFF chose to show An American Werewolf in London, I don’t know. It really has nothing to do with anything relating to the festival, but maybe that was kind of the point. After a week of watching brand new flicks, some good, some bad, it was kind of nice to sit back and watch a classic. It made me forget I was at the fest as a critic and allowed me to just enjoy a film simply because it was entertaining.

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