Partycrashers is an on-going series of video dispatches from critics Michael Pattison and Neil Young.
Vienna, one month ago: Neil and I, in town for the city’s annual international film festival, get wind of a nearby press screening for Spectre, the new James Bond picture. Both of our upcoming schedules suggest that if we’re to get in on this cultural phenomenon, if we’re even to see it, we’ll have to wait till at least mid-November, owing to the slim chances of there being undubbed, original-language screenings in any of the far-flung locales we’re traveling to next. The wind changed—twice. First, we were welcome to attend the press screening in question so long as we didn’t mind the small fact that it was going to be in German. We did. But then came the prestige: it was going to screen in English after all. Smashing.
If you’re going to crash a party, do it proper. Each of the two international guests who watched Spectre in Vienna that end-of-October morning caused, in his own way, a minor ruckus. First, I looked up from my notepad ten minutes into the film to find my view blocked by a giant, Dave Bautista-shaped silhouette. A security guard, from thin air, insisting I turn my phone off. “It’s a torch,” I told him, demonstrating how the gadget functioned and blinding him into retreat. Neil, a fellow proponent of torch-lit note-taking, went one further, getting dragged into a snappy exchange with the local to his immediate left about what constitutes work in a press screening and what doesn’t. For those of you wondering: the discreet, downward glow of a torch is acceptable, and the upward glare of a phone screen isn’t.
After the crash, flight: on 3 November, we walked, as we do, to the Eventhotel Pyramide, a conference centre in Vörsendorf about eight miles south of Vienna. This charmingly blunt building, incongruously situated by a motorway and opposite the biggest shopping mall in Austria, was familiar to us from Picture Perfect Pyramid (2013), a short film shot in vertical cinemascope by Viennese experimentalist Johann Lurf. It seemed a suitable place to record a conversation about Spectre. The Pyramide, with its glass, sloping sides that converge at a striking apex, is just the kind of venue where 007 would rendezvous with some foreign counterpart. Though Lurf and Bond make unlikely bedfellows, Partycrashers cares little for cultural hierarchies: blockbusters and the avant-garde are both invited to this shindig.
The building was closed. Seldom defeated easily, we traipsed next door, into the lobby of an adjoining hotel. Did a recce, found a spot, sat down, pressed REC. Forty minutes later and the talk’s in the can. How we roll. Maybe we can get this uploaded tonight, so goes our unsaid optimism. Eager to see if both our heads are in frame for the whole thing, and that the sound’s okay (no guarantees with a two-man cast-and-crew), we play back the whole forty minutes and discover that my camera, a substandard, digital antique, has stopped filming after five. The walk back is like something out of Van Sant’s Gerry.
Tech-savvy pals help to cut this long story short. That same night, Vienna-based Texan Lawrence Tooley, director of Head Shots (2010), steps in to save our stress with a camera that makes mine look daft. In a cosy backroom of one Heuriger Schübel-Auer, a centuries-old wine tavern in the 19th district of the city, we sit down, once again, and speak. Forgive the odd wheeze of off-cam laughter, here: that’s John Osborne, our Californian friend who happily agreed to supervise proceedings and ensure the day saw no further unforced errors. —Michael Pattison