The 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival – to give it its full title – is now well underway.
The opening night movie seems to have been a resounding success and now the public screenings really kick off. The Edinburgh Fest separates its press and public screenings (hence their slightly irritating habit of having movies on at 9am for press and industry delegates), and the triangle created between the Filmhouse on Lothian Road, the Cameo at Tollcross and the Cineworld at Fountainbridge was today full of people with passes dangling round their necks.
Keen eyes could spot such notables as Patrick Stewart, Britt Ekland and Jason Isaacs amongst them..
I have been going to these cinemas for years. I saw Citizen Kane for the first time in the Filmhouse, as well as 2001: A Space Oddysey, on a beautiful 70mm print. At an onstage with Arthur Penn a few years back, I found myself sitting next to Brian De Palma.
The Cameo is a beautiful cinema; even the mention of the faint odour of sewage that occasionally wafts into the main screen on warm days will make its admirers nod affectionately. The Cineworld at Fountainbridge (before that a UGC, before that a Virgin Cinema) has been my regular multiplex for years, and occasionally they even focus the image correctly. I guess a multiplex is generally still a multiplex, but thate cinema has supported the Film Festival for a good few years now and it’s impossible to imagine it without it.
As I seem to be offering a tip a day to those who haven’t had much experience with film festivals, here’s one for you: leave your MP3 player at home. Three movies in a day (occasionally more – I think my record’s five) can be a lot to take in, and today I was glad to go without my usual distraction while I contemplated the movies I had seen. I say this as someone with a serious iPod addiction. But it was a beautiful sunny day (complete with the faint odour of sewage at the Cameo) and I spent it chewing over the three movies I saw today.
The Edinburgh Film Festival started out as a documentary film festival and I find that documentaries are still what it is most reliable for; I always make sure I see a couple each year and they are almost always at least interesting, occasionally exceptional. Soderbergh’s documentary does away with everything extraneous and focuses completely on its subject matter: this works because Gray was already the narrator of his own life and is as much the auteur of the movie as Soderbergh is. I mean this as praise to Soderbergh as much as Gray, for a lesser director would have too eagerly filled in the gaps.
I followed this with the Iranian movie The Hunter. It is directed by, and stars, Rafi Pitts, who is on this year’s Jury for the Michael Powell Award.
I take no pleasure in saying this, as it is the second foreign language movie I have seen at the fest and having said something similar about the first I risk sounding like a complete philistine, but it is beautifully filmed, and very slow. Pitts is an able director, and his Director of Photography, Muhammad Davudi gives us some truly memorable shots and sequences, but it seemed like a lot of false starts that didn’t lead anywhere.
It starts off intriguingly, with a man who works nights coming home to find that his wife and child are missing. There may be political implications to their disappearance. The opening suggests better movies, like The Vanishing (1988), but it ultimately doesn’t come close to that masterpiece. It has one central car chase through the fog that is stunning, but perhaps Pitts needs someone else to help with the writing or simply to reign him in when he’s trying to juggle too many balls.
I wonder if Paul Andrew Williams couldn’t use the same advice; maybe I would have liked Cherry Tree Lane more if he’d had someone else work on the script. I have nothing against writer-directors (they include John Huston, for crissakes), but sometimes the freedom of having both those things can result in movies that suggest more than they offer.
I got a strong sense of déjà vu leaving Cherry Tree Lane. A few years back I saw The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael in the same cinema, and that movie gave me pause in a similar way to this one. It climaxed with an utterly horrific sequence in which a group of boys break into a house and brutally attack and rape the innocent couple that lives there. Cherry Tree Lane essentially takes this idea as its premise and runs with it: a more obvious comparison is Michael Haneke’s Funny Games. As with The Great Ecstasy… I thought it achieved what it set out to do, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it shouldn’t have been doing it.
Such films, often with a little controversy surrounding them, are another film festival staple and I was grateful to sit in the sun afterwards and mull it over; it’s not something you necessarily resolve your feelings about quickly. It also gave me a chance to observe Jason Isaacs jogging, an image I can add to the ‘did not expect to see that today’ file.
Tomorrow I have to choose between about four movies that are on at the same time, so I will have to choose wisely. In the mean time I will try to keep Jason Isaacs-stalking to a minimum.
Adam Whyte is reporting everyday from the Edinburgh Film Festival. Previously;
Edinburgh 2010 Review: AND EVERYTHING IS GOING FINE
Edinburgh 2010 Review: CHERRY TREE LANE
Edinburgh Film Festival 2010: Day 2 (Pelican Blood, Huge)
Edinburgh 2010 Review: THE ILLUSIONIST
Edinburgh Film Festival 2010: Day 1 (The Illusionist; Son of Babylon)