The 60th Annual Edinburgh Film Festival

S

Sir Calumn

Guest
Just got back from the Edinburgh Film Festival and it was really good - great selection of films and live interviews which I feel I made the most of, though I didnt see everything I wanted to. Anyway, many of the films I saw will be released in cinemas or on DVD in the coming few months, so I thought I'd write a few notes on each of them so you can look out for anything that interests you in the future. If you're interested to read more about the films or the festival in general, check out the website at www.edfilmfest.org.uk

Neo Ned - 6/10

The idea behind this film, a love story between a white supremacist and a black mental patient whot thinks she's Hitler, seems very interesting and really rather bold, but regrettably the film is not. It is genuinely funny in points, and the acting is very good, but the director seems to have gone to such lengths to "cover himself" that what could be an exceptionally bizarre and unique premise is rendered rather pointless. Watching the Q&A with the director, I could tell that his motivation behind making this film was just to further his own career and gain him a reputation as a ballsy director, while making absolutely sure there was no way inwhich his film could actually offend, or be controversial. It is still entertaining, and is not devoid of emotion, so it is still a film worth seeing, but dont expect anything unique or revolutionary.

Shietain - 8/10

This is without doubt one of the most screwed up films you will ever see yet, in it's own way, it is absolutely brilliant. Vincent Cassel stars as a french country yokel who comes across a group of city teenagers, one of which is a friend of his, and befriends them in an increasingly creepy manner up until the horrible climax. His performance is just superb, possibly the best yet in his illustrious career, and the weirdness and extremity of the film makes it very refreshing and enjoyable. On the surface it may seem like another teen horror movie, and it does indeed share some of the formula, but it is very different to anything you will have seen before. The acting is not superb from everybody, though generally it is very good, and some of the scenes are over the top in the wrong way, but all in all this is a highly entertaining film which is sure to horrify and amaze you at the same time.

The Aura - 9/10

The new film from the acclaimed director of the fantastic Nine Queens, Fabien Belinsky, is a two and a half hour epic which finishs very far from where it started. The story is that of a taxidermist who's primary interest is planning what he considers to be perfect crimes, but does not have the balls to put any of his plans into action. However, following a chance encounter when he stumbles into the world of a real life criminal mastermind, and accidently kills him, the anonymous star finally has the chance to see how good he really is. The film is beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and the story is enthralling. The plot progresses in an interesting manner, dispensing which characters as they become unimportant and rarely revisiting anything that has happened before, giving it a very natural feel. Some of the dialogue is rather contrived, though this may be down to shoddy translation in the subtitles, but all in all this a fantastic thriller which carries a strong gnomic warning about the dangers of intellectual pride aswell as a totally gripping story. Excellent film.

Al Franken: God Spoke - 7/10

This is an exceptionally difficult documentary film to rate as it is not really a film at all. As a piece of directorial work, it is awful, but it is still great to watch. The entire premise behind this film is to show an assortment of clips of the fantastic, hillarious and informative Al Franken from his television and radio shows, public appearances, political events and the like. That's it. The film has no natural progression, no points that it is trying to put across and absolutely no coherance, it is literally just watching Al Franken do his thing for an hour and a half. As a piece of filmmaking it is therefore awful, but, especially for those of us outside America, it is such a rare oppertunity to get a glimpse of the actual Franken, outside his books, that it is one not to be missed, and is still exceptionally entertaining and funny due to his wit. It was a totally pointless film to make, but it is one you should not miss.

Colour Me Kubrick - 5/10

This is a film which is all about a performance, plain and simple. John Malkovich takes on the role of Alan Conway, a homosexual British man in the late twentieth century who went around London conning people out of money and favours by pretending to be the reclusive director Stanley Kubrick. It is an absolutely fantastic performance, camp to the extreme and totally unbelievable, but totally amazing in its variety and effect. This fantastic performance, combined with the shortness of the film at under 90 minutes, make it very watchable, despite the fact that the film does absolutely nothing with the story, makes absolutely no attempt to actually explore any part of it in any depth and features a cringemakingly bad supporting performance from the hammiest man in British comedy, Jim Davidson. This is probably the worst must-see film I have seen for a long time - it is a bad film with a totally stunning central performance.

Hotel Harabati - 7/10

A french arthouse film about a newlywed couple who's lives descend into distrust and paranoia when they steal a bag from a suspicious looking man at a train station. This is a film with an almost Lynchian feel about it in the way that not all is explained and that much is left for the audience to interpret, including the possibility of the supernatural, however, it does not have the same level of assurance and one is not totally convinced that the director did not just make it to be sensationalist, with no actual answers in his own mind, an possibility which was reinforced by the awful cliches he kept spouting in his Q&A, "yes, it is a puzzle, but life is a puzzle". It is a beautifully shot film and definately one that will get you thinking, everyone I know who saw it had a completely different interpretation, but you are left with the feeling that perhaps there is no interpretation and that you are wasting your time. It's also pretty heavy and can be a strain to watch at times, but if you are in the right frame of mind and are willing to engrosse yourself in it, you should get alot out.

Dead Man's Cards - 8/10

On the surface, this just seems like your typical British east-end gangster movie, but it is actually far more original than it appears. The story is one about a former boxer who had enjoyed some success, but who had fallen so low in the years following his forced retirement that he had to take a job as a doorman at a run-down nightclub run by a tight, elderly wannabe cowboy. His partner, played by Denzel from Fools and Horses in a very atypical hardman role, is a brutal but honest guy with no interest in crime and narcotics who is having to fight off attempts by a local drug ring to get him to join them and permit dealing in the club, and they strike up a strong friendship. The film is beautifully shot, despite the squalid setting, in widescreen and has a real grittiness and brutality about it. The two central performances are very good, though the films "bad guys" are really rather ordinary, and the story is also decent. It could be greatly improved by a couple of high budget scenes, such as some footage of the main character actually boxing to an audience or a large scale gunfight which, while constantly hinted at, never arrives, but this is surely due to budget constraints and cannot be held against the filmmaker. Most people will love this film, especially those from other countries no so used to the genre, but some will think that it could have been more.

Return of the Poet - 8/10

I can safely say that this is the best Armenian film I have ever seen, mainly because it is the only Armenian film I have ever seen. It is almost entirely devoid of dialogue and chronicles the construction and transportation of an enormous and beautiful stone statue during a time of great local festivities. The patience of the director is fantasitc and he takes his time over every shot, giving a fantastic glimpse at eastern europe and some beautiful panoramic views as well as excellent coverage of celebration and festival. It is definately not for everyone, some may find it very boring, but it is unlike anything else you will ever see and definately something you should take a look at in your lifetime if you feel you can take it.

Keane - 7/10

A very intense film where the majority of the shots are closeups of the face of lead actor Damien Lewis, who plays a mentally unhinged man trying feverishly to find his abuducted daughter, who may or may not exist. The story is really quite good and does genuinely intrigue the viewer up until the very abrupt ending which is totally appropriate, yet there are many problems. Because the film focuses solely on the one, isolated character, it is essential for him to talk to himself for the plot to be forwarded which results in a very artificial and unrealistic effect. Also, because the average shot duration is so short, the frequently changing camera which goes in and out of focus and closeup produces a somewhat nausiating effect, especially when combined with the high level of concentration required for the film. All in all this is a decent film but one you should not go out of your way to see.

H6: Diary of a Serial Killer - 9/10

This fantastic, gore splattered film is as good as any of the great insane serial killer movies such as American Psycho, Se7en and Silence of the Lambs. The story is that of a man who has just been released from a long prison sentence, from battering his wife to death which we see at the beginning, and inherited a ramshackle old guest house from a deceased aunt. He uses this laberinthine building to conduct a series of vicious yet calculated rapes and murders against prostitutes, pimps and other lowlife characters. He chronicles all in his diary, which provides the basis and structure for the film. The psycopathic main character is a fantastic creation and the acting is superb, as is the wonderful classical score and beautiful shots of such a seedly, harsh setting. The story is equally compelling, with a good twist at the end, and the way it is presented is unique and entralling. Nothing is held back either with several explicit sex and rape scenes and extremely graphic violence, which all add the the authenticity of the film. As long as you can take scenes like this, you are bound to love this film, either as just a basic splatter movie or an intense psychological profile.

The Uncertain Guest - 9/10

Another fantastic film, this is a monumental suspense movie as close to Hitchcock's work as what the man himself was doing. It is about a young architect who lives alone in an enormous house following a divorce from his wife who slowly develops a fear that there is someone else secretly living in there with him, a fear which begins when a man arrives asking to use the telephone and then disappears without trace inside the house. The first hour is a fantastic, suspence filled ride which is beautifully shot and very well scripted. There is a slight lull after this where the film almost turns on its head, in a way I wont descrbe so as not to spoil it, which is a very good idea but does somewhat destroy the atmosphere, but the ending is just as excellent as the beginning and, which is very rare for a film like that, is fully satisfying and explains everything, which you would not have expected to be possible. This really is a must see film.

The Night Listener - 6/10

A new psycological film starring Robin Williams in one of his new style intense roles, this film is formulaic and predictable to the extreme, but still somewhat engrossing and enjoyable. Based on a true story, it chronicles the telephone friendship between a late night radio host and author a young boy, dying of aids, who has just written a monumental book about his terrible experiences. However, all is not what it seems, even to the extent that the boy may not even exist. The film co-stars Toni Collette, who is my least favourite actress working today and puts in a trademark awful performance, but Robin Williams is good enough to make up for her awful hamminess. The story is predictable every step of the way, the idea is one which is retraced time and time again even if the actual premise is quite original, and the ending is far too definate and assured for a film of this nature in a twist which the filmmaker obviously thinks is shocking and exciting but which is actually predictable and cliched. It's still a film which is worth seeing as there are definate positives and some people may enjoy it, but do not expect great things.

The Prodigy - 10/10

This intense debut feature from William Kaufman should have secured him a career for life as it is just plain awesome. An action packed yet wholey original film, it delivers in every respect with superb shoot-outs, amazing sequences, a rivieting story, great performances and an ending which leaves you gagging for more. The story begins with a drug deal which goes drastically wrong as a mysterious killer appears on the scene and guns down everybody, and the rest of the film basically revolves around tracking him down, to oversimplify. The story is not that complex, but then, it doesnt need to be, and despite sounding like a tired premise, you can take my word for it that you have not seen anything like it before. I'm not going to say anymore except to advise you that if you want to be absolutely amazed and gripped for two hours, watch this film.

Life and Lyrics - 7/10

The first sentence about this film in the programme synopsis, "a hip hop drama starring Ashley from So Solid Crew", was enough to disgust and put me off, but I went anyway because the person I was with wanted to see it and, to be honest, its not as bad as it sounds. The story is one you have seen over and over again, a contemporary street adaptation of the romeo and juliet story, but there are original elements to it and the acting is not all that bad. The sound track is entirely hip hop and rap, which I cant stand but which does kind of work, and the camerawork is also pretty good. Alright, it's a cliched, unoriginal story and is full of horrible use of the english language, you have to be prepared to put up with the word "innit" being used in almost every sentence, but it is also kind of enjoyable in a dont admit it kind of way.

Snow Cake - 8/10

They say that all you need to do to win an oscar is to play someone who is mentally disadvantaged and, if that is the case, it seems to be the main reason why Sigourney Weaver has chosen to take on this film and it will probably work as her performance is excellent, even though one can tell her heart is not in it. This is also about the only time I have seen Alan Rickman in a lead role and, while it is totally opposite to the likes of Hans Gruber and the Sheriff of Nottingham, he still plays it to perfection and proves that he can also do deadpan. The let down is Carrie Anne Moss who is in a supposedly sexy role but puts in an incredibly bland and unsexy performance, kind of like she did in the Matrix sequels. She is the only weak performance, however, and the story is actually very moving in places and generally quite enthralling. It is about a man who has just been released from prison and is on a long journey to visit someone, when he reluctantly agrees to give a lift to a young girl. Just as he is really starting to like her, his car is hit by a truck and she is killed. Destroyed by guilt, even though it wasnt his fault, he sets off to explain the situation to her mother, not knowing that she is severely autistic. It really works and, although it doesnt really go anywhere, it is pretty complete. This wont be to everyone's taste but I can imagine that quite alot of you would really like it and, even if you are bored by the story, you will atleast have two very fine acting performances to admire.

Shut Up and Shoot Me - 7/10

If ever you needed evidence that the world is becoming desenstized to violence this pitch black comedy, which kills of characters horrifically as and when it pleases without batting an eye, is it. It's about a newlywed couple who are on their honeymoon in Prague when the wife is killed in a freak accident. The man, so upset by this, wants to commit suicide but doesnt have the balls, so he hires an incompetant driver to do it for him. This results in lots of failed attempts and lots of innocent bystanders meeting unpleasant ends. The film is very light and quite entertaining, totally unrealistic but then, that doesnt really matter. There isnt much in the way of laugh-out-loud moments but it is funny in parts and the comic acting is not too bad, especially from the Czech driver. By no means a great film, not even a great comedy, but worth watching nonetheless.

I also saw three amazing older films from the 70s which you should definately try to get on DVD - The Laughing Policeman, Little Murders and God Told Me Too, the latter being the best, a totally awesome theological film by the brilliant Larry Cohen.
 

Tom

That Nice Guy
Sir Sir_Didier_Drogba said:
The Night Listener - 6/10

A new psycological film starring Robin Williams in one of his new style intense roles, this film is formulaic and predictable to the extreme, but still somewhat engrossing and enjoyable. Based on a true story, it chronicles the telephone friendship between a late night radio host and author a young boy, dying of aids, who has just written a monumental book about his terrible experiences. However, all is not what it seems, even to the extent that the boy may not even exist. The film co-stars Toni Collette, who is my least favourite actress working today and puts in a trademark awful performance, but Robin Williams is good enough to make up for her awful hamminess. The story is predictable every step of the way, the idea is one which is retraced time and time again even if the actual premise is quite original, and the ending is far too definate and assured for a film of this nature in a twist which the filmmaker obviously thinks is shocking and exciting but which is actually predictable and cliched. It's still a film which is worth seeing as there are definate positives and some people may enjoy it, but do not expect great things.

have to say im a bit disapointed this isnt better. Heard bits about it a few months ago, and i thought the mix between a serious Robin Williams and Toni Collette (who i dont mind) would be pretty good. Admittidly, not surprised you say shes hardly fantastic, but i am surprised that it wasnt better. Brilliant premise for a film aswell :(

Great post mate (Y)
 
S

Sir Calumn

Guest
Yeah, the premise really is rather good, and it is original, but they treat it in a very formulaic way. Empire gave it a glowing four star review but most of the other reviews I have read have agreed with me. As I said though, still worth taking a look at.
 

Tom

That Nice Guy
it's Empire, unfortunately, they give a lot of films four stars on the basis of it seeming original. Or so ive noticed. I am surprised though, was Williams by any chance co-director or producer or something? You'd think at this point in his career he'd be trying to get into things on that side of the camera.

But then, R.V....
 
S

Sir Calumn

Guest
I dont know but I dont think he was involved on the production side. Totally agree about Empire, I am growing more and more mistrustful of their reviews. Five stars for Superman? Come off it.
 
S

Sir Calumn

Guest
Yeah, I missed it but it doesnt really matter as it comes out in the mainstream UK cinemas on the 8th September so I will catch it then.
 


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