Edinburgh Film Festival 2010: Day 6 (SKELETONS, Frears' GUMSHOE, Connery/Caine/Huston!)

Today I saw three movies, only one of them new. That would be Skeletons, a British high-concept comedy about a company that finds all the skeletons in your closet. They use psychic reading equipment to detect, and relive, the secrets of couples and then list them to their clients. Couples feel by showing each other their deepest secrets it will strengthen their trust in each other, perhaps, although it doesn€™t always work that way. We follow two psychic readers from house to house; the recurring image of the movie is the two of them walking across the countryside, in suits and with briefcases, from one house to the next. They are Bennett and Simon, and they are played by Andrew Buckley, who was in Extras, and Will Adamsdale. Their boss, referred to as The Colonel, is played by Jason Isaacs. I€™m beginning to think every movie should have a small part for Jason Isaacs; he€™s the best thing in it. The plot, which reveals itself gradually, concerns a woman who has lost her husband and thinks the psychic investigators can help. The concept and the way the characters move through people€™s memories is clearly inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a far better, more poignant and truthful movie. But that isn€™t to say Skeletons is worthless. It is intriguing and quite fun and the cast, made up mostly of fairly unknown actors, is strong. But I was left with the strong sense of unrealised potential. Nick Whitfield, the writer/director, has talent (this is his first feature), but the idea isn€™t as developed as you wish it were. Film festivals are generally celebrations not only of new talent but, to some degree, of older, often little-seen, works. The After The Wave retrospective at this year€™s festival features some intriguing half-forgotten works from €™70s British cinema, and today I saw Stephen Frears€™s Gumshoe (1971), his first full-length movie as director. He introduced the movie by basically apologising for it, or at least for its direction, but I think he was being unduly modest. It is a curio: a post-modern private eye movie about a compère at a bingo hall who lives a double-life as a private eye. Hannah McGill, artistic director of the Festival, described it as €˜Scouse Noir.€™ The central role is played by Albert Finney, and the movie is infused with the spirit of Bogart. There are a couple of obvious comparisons (it€™s not as good as €œPlay It Again, Sam€ or €œThe Long Goodbye,€ although it preceded both) and the movie is a little unfocused. But Finney is terrific and the script, by Neville Smith, is sharp and witty with lines that not only channel Raymond Chandler, but occasionally come close to matching him. The score is the only one recorded by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and it€™s about as obvious as your typical Max Steiner score. The print I saw, which was the best they could find, had long since lost the colour blue so had a pink glow to it, and the projector broke down half-way through, but given the shabby, antiquated nature of the main character this felt oddly appropriate. Talking of faded prints, the last time I saw The Man Who Would Be King (1975) it was a 16mm print at my local film society that was approaching sepia. Tonight they had a special screening of the great movie, directed by John Huston and starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine, at the Festival Theatre. This is the first year that venue has been used by the festival, as the other venues were simply not big enough to match the demand for the opening film. 1500 people poured in tonight for the screening, which was introduced by Sean Connery. Connery has been patron of the festival for years and is this year celebrating his 80th birthday; although Michael Caine was not there tonight he sent him a birthday message, read onstage by the director of the festival. Connery seemed touched to find himself on a stage he had performed on over 50 years beforehand, and appeared to be in a jocular mood. He was joined by Saeed Jaffrey, the film€™s co-star, himself over 80 and with well over 100 credits listed on IMDb. It was a terrific evening: a beautiful 35mm print of the movie on a big screen with a receptive audience. John Huston is one of my favourite directors, and I cherished the opportunity; how often do you get to see a movie with a crowd that size these days, especially a classic like The Man Who Would Be King? It reminded me of Truffaut€™s assertion that one of the most moving things he€™d seen was turning to the audience from the front of a cinema and seeing all those faces staring up at the screen. Edinburgh Film Festival 2010: Day 4 (Whiskey With Vodka, The Extra Man) Edinburgh Film Festival 2010 Day 3: (The Hunter, Sodebergh€™s Doc, Cherry Tree Lane) Edinburgh Film Festival 2010: Day 2 (Pelican Blood, Huge) Edinburgh Film Festival 2010: Day 1 (The Illusionist; Son of Babylon) Edinburgh 2010 Review: THE EXTRA MAN Edinburgh 2010 Review: AND EVERYTHING IS GOING FINE Edinburgh 2010 Review: CHERRY TREE LANE Edinburgh 2010 Review: THE ILLUSIONIST
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I've been a film geek since childhood, and am yet to find a cure. Not an auteurist, but my favourite directors include Robert Altman, Ernst Lubitsch, Welles, Hitch and Kurosawa. I also love Powell & Pressburger movies, anything with Fred Astaire, Cary Grant or Katherine Hepburn, the space-ballet of 2001, Ealing comedies, subversive genre cinema and that bit in The Producers with the fountain.