Morrisey had the right idea: Spending warm sunny days indoors is indeed a wonderful thing. What better way to spend a truly glorious Edinburgh day than within the friendly confines of the Filmhouse and the Cameo enjoying day one of the sixty-fifth Edinburgh International Film Festival?
My schedule for the next thirteen days is rather tight. Three films down, at least forty-one more to go. This article will be updated every day with my experiences and recommendations and will hopefully serve as a useful guide to what’s worth seeing, and what not to waste your money on.
Tuesday June 14:
After a whopping ninety minutes of sleep – my late night internet addiction probably needs to be knocked on the head – I staggered out of bed but my excitement had got the better of me by the time I arrived for the 9am showing of The Guard, a cracking, highly recommended comedy-drama from the people behind In Bruges. I thought while watching it that if I see another film this good over the festival I’ll be a happy man. The UK premiere is tomorrow night at 9:45pm at the Festival Theatre, costing £15. Well, it is the premiere…
Next up was the European drama Tender Son – The Frankenstein Project, which failed to inspire much enthusiasm from anyone in the audience if the shifting bums and constant sighs were any anything to go by. Showing on the 16th (8:10pm) and 17th (7:45pm) at the Filmhouse, but I’d spend your £9 on something else.
Finally the delightful French coming-of-age drama Tomboy was a triumph. You know that big smile you get when you see children playing? How much fun it is just to watch? Well bring that smile with you as you’re going to need it. 16th (5:45pm) and 21st (9:15pm) at the Cameo, also £9.
Well, I need a nap…
Wednesday June 15:
Having only four minutes between the end of the second screening and the beginning of the third, I arrived at Our Day Will Come to find the house lights had gone down, the film had started, and with the credit sequence consisting of small white writing on a black background, all I could make out was that the place was packed and that there didn’t appear to be any empty seats. With that being the last press screening of the day I had no other options but to sulk and shuffle home.
Still, it was nice to see the festival staff again who – presumably on day two with only the press and industry screenings to contend with have not yet been worn down to a stressed-out nub – continue to be a remarkably friendly, helpful, and attractive bunch.
The two films I did see were very good. On the Shore, a French psychological drama with echoes of Laura, is probably worth a look without having anything extraordinary to recommend it. Showing at the Filmhouse Fri 17 (9:55pm) and Sunday 19 (7:00pm) Tickets £9.00.
The Turin Horse is unquestionably a brilliant piece of cinema, but I‘m reluctant to recommend it wholeheartedly as it‘s not exactly an easily accessable one. Those familiar with director – and EIFF 2011 guest curator – Bela Tarr’s work will know exactly what to expect. Newcomers should definitely dip their toes but should be prepared for something far from the mainstream. Not for the casual film fan, that‘s for sure. Filmhouse, Sat 18 at 7:10pm; Sun 19 at 6:45pm (£9.00)
Thursday June 16:
I had a dream last night that everywhere I went I had people insisting on scanning my press pass. It seems all I’m doing these days is walking in and out of dark rooms and being scanned! Not that I’m complaining.
I overslept. After an epic 45-minute uphill power walk I arrived breathless and sweating profusely for the 9:15am showing of Studio Ghibli’s latest The Borrower Arriety with seconds to spare. This adaptation of The Borrowers is brilliantly animated of course, and a worthy addition to the Ghibli resume. Filmhouse Sat 18 (12:20pm) and Mon 20th (7:45pm) costing £9.00. It’s the subtitled version, in case you were thinking of bringing along very young kids.
The painfully po-faced Mourning for Anna is so interminable it literally put me to sleep and upon waking I walked out. If you see it at the Filmhouse on the 18th or 19th (7:45pm and 5:00pm) you’ll only end up mourning your £9.00.
I had to sign an embargo agreement before the first screening in Europe of Perfect Sense – a love story/thriller set against the onset of the apocalypse starring Ewan McGregor and Eva Green – so I’m unable to comment. The screenings are on the 18th and 19th (7:45pm and 10:10pm)at the Cameo, and it currently stands as the best £9.00 you’ll spend at the festival 😉 Seemingly the most gorgeous film critics in the country were in attendance, and me. I must start attending these press parties and do some hob-nobbing…
An uglier bunch were present for Cityscapes, a series of experimental short films from around the world dealing in one form or another with cities, and showing on the 26th at the Filmhouse for £6.00. Not my cup of tea, but some of it was quite interesting.
Finally Danish relationship comedy Truth About Men is not without its charms, but the idea runs out of steam a good while before the credits roll. Filmhouse on 23/25, at 8:10pm/7:15pm (£9.00)
Friday June 17:
Nothing to report today, I’m afraid. Not having had a chance to recover from that 90-minute sleep before day one and facing a job interview between screenings tomorrow, I cancelled my schedule for the day and concentrated on getting the reviews written. I missed a couple that I was really looking forward to, but I’ll catch up with them before the festival is done.
I now see it’s a marathon, not a sprint…
Saturday June 18:
No screenings today as I thought I’d focus on my job interview (which seemed to go well, thank-you.) And with my suit and tie I definitely won the prize for Best-Dressed Film Critic.
Instead I thought I’d take advantage of the marvelous Videotheque facility – not open to the public unfortunately – which has a bank of computer monitors, back-breaking chairs, and a large database of films showing at the festival. It’s not the same as the big screen of course, but it is great to be able to pick and choose what you see and when – and pause for cigarette breaks!
So I caught up on Our Day Will Come which I’d been crowded out of on day two. A violent French road movie starring the great Vincent Cassel about two psychopaths goading each other on. Nothing extraordinary but worth catching the last screening at the Filmhouse on Monday 20th (9:50pm/£9.00 )
Spanish oddity The Last Circus is certainly insane – a machete-wielding clown in a dress hacking an army division to pieces, anyone? – but it’s unclear as to the purpose behind it all. Great fun though, and I’m sure unlike anything else you’ll see in cinemas this year. Filmhouse tomorrow at 10:15; Monday 20th at the George Square theatre (both 9.00)
Sunday June 19:
Best day of the festival so far.
Things didn’t start too well with the low budget Spanish sci-fi By Day and by Night, a dull and humourless affair. Filmhouse Tuesday 21st 7:30pm, Thursday 23rd 5:50pm; tickets £9.00.
Writing up a review in the Filmhouse bar I spotted IMDb founder Col Needham buying a coffee, and again in line for The Divide, an exciting strangers-trapped-in-a-room horror that sticks to the typical formula but has an adult cast and decidedly adult content. This one is pretty strong stuff and goes to some very dark places. Recommended. Tues 21 at George Square Theatre (10:30pm), Wed 22 at Filmhouse (10:05pm), both £9.00.
Then I saw the spotlight on Col Needham. He was there as well and I couldn’t help but wonder if he was following me… Lovely bloke though, and an entertaining 90 minutes.
Back to the Filmhouse for the final showing at the festival of The Turin Horse, which I had suggested to a friend he might like (thankfully, he did, and Bela Tarr has another fan under his belt.) I had no idea Tarr himself would introduce the film, let alone that he’d take questions from the audience afterwards. Outside smoking a cigarette I found myself standing next to this master of cinema, so we had a surprisingly lengthy chat while we smoked, shook hands and he signed my ticket! A thoroughly decent guy, and disarmingly humble and generous with his time. What a legend!
Monday June 20:
I tried to watch Bleak Night – a Korean thriller that was shaping up very well indeed – but I got a little sidetracked by the free bar at the Loft at Festival House. There was a short presentation by the organiser of Bird’s Eye View, which works to promote female writers and directors. Fellow Flickfeast hack Kevin Matthews was dragged along – much to his eventual delight at securing an interview with one of the speakers, Angel’s Crest director Gaby Dellal – but as a partner-in-crime he proved useless. As hard as I tried to abuse the free booze and besmirch Flickfeast’s reputation within the industry I somehow ended up behaving myself…
My first press and industry event then! No hob-nobbing (unless you count Kevin, and that was definitely more focused on the hob than the nobbing) but I’m sure there’ll be other opportunities.
Tuesday June 21:
Yeesh! That glorious day that opened the festival seemed a distant memory as I swam to the Videotheque this afternoon. My shoes gave up the waterproof racket after a half hour.
Korean drama Bleak Night had so much potential – a grieving father asks high school students about the mysterious death of his son while we see the events that led up to it – but ended up overlong and not hugely engaging. It’s been and gone from the festival, but it’ll be worth catching on Film 4 a year or two from now.
That free drinks thing was on again – this time without the presentation for some reason – so I nipped out of my Stormhouse viewing to take advantage. Got some hob-nobbing done with a nice old lady who was drinking a pint of wine and who let me share her umbrella. Unfortunately I still had the other half of the film to finish, so I dutifully squelched back inside. Absolute rubbish. Filmhouse Thursday and Friday (10:10pm/9:15pm, £9.00) but no matter how good the premise sounds should be avoided at all costs. Worst of the festival so far.
Wednesay June 22:
Flickfeast’s own Kevin Matthews and I had inadvertantly scheduled an identical day of moviegoing, so it was great to have some company for A Better Life, a well-performed, quiet little drama about a Mexican illegal immigrant struggling in Los Angeles. Recommended, and showing Friday (UK premiere) and Saturday (7:45pm/5:45pm) at the Cameo; tickets £9.00.
The Caller is an atmospheric horror with a neat premise delivered with panache. Sadly gone from the festival, but genre fans should look out for it.
Ireland’s Charlie Casanova – an intense character study of a psychopath with an excellent central performance from Emmet Scanlan – is well worth catching. The UK premiere is at the Filmhouse Friday, 10pm, or you can catch it at the same venue on Saturday at 5:30pm. Tickets £9.00.
After that it was off to Festival House for the free bar from 6:30-7:30 where I managed to get locked in a toilet cubicle. The lock was busted. I could see the problem but I couldn’t fix it. So I was forced to stand on the bowl and holler down at a couple of total strangers and fellow delegates and ask them to give the door a push. After their increasingly violent attempts to break the door in (with me stood on the bowl, pre-emptively flinching at the thought of splintered wood flying at me) I decided I’d have another go myself and eventually got out. I then ripped the lock from the door frame to stop it happening to the next person, and told an staff member what I’d done.
Traumatised and in need of a stiff drink after my harrowing ordeal, I waited fifteen minutes at the bar, where I was ignored by the staff who operated like blind snails, totally unaware of who’d been waiting the longest (clue: it was me) – until I left to complain to the house manager Martin, who was very nice. By the time I got back the bar was less busy, and it took me a mere ten minutes to get a drink. Not wanting to go through that again, I made sure I ordered three beers.
Thursday June 23:
First up was Ghosted, a powerful British prison drama that seems more suited to a television screen than a cinema. Very good, so catch it on TV.
Rabies is a quirky Israeli horror with a twist. Not exactly groundbreaking, but an assured debut from the co-writer/directors. Like Ghosted it’s left the festival – which I fear may become an increasingly common thing as the press secreenings couldn’t stay ahead of the public screenings forever.
Also long gone is Phase 7, a moderately successful Argentinian sci-fi-horror-comedy. Fans of the superior Shaun of the Dead will probably enjoy it to some degree.
At the Teviot bar I encountered one of my would-be rescuers from yesterday’s toilet farrago (please, I don’t want to talk about it. You wouldn’t understand unless you were there, man!) Anyway, he turned out to be a lovely chap called Pete MacDonald, who scored the animated short Saving Luka, which I watched at Videotheque before heading home. Good stuff!