Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018...
...by David Anderson Cutler
Wednesday 20 June 2018...
Hallelujah...the rain stayed away...
Compared to previous openings, this was a less 'starry' affair.
The opening film "Puzzle" was accompanied by director and star - MarcTurtletaub & Kelly MacDonald.
And...there was a little 'red carpet' surprise, Strictly 2017 winner Joe McFadden made a beaming appearance...
Directed by MarcTurtletaub
A bland, bitter/sweet sort of romcom with more rom than com! Definitely a film for the niche market of downtrodden, middle-aged, suburban women who have a penchant for jigsaw puzzles and a dislike for their husbands!
Puzzle hints at...but, provides no surprises. As for conflict, it's there...but, it doesn't exactly fly off the page/screen. Certainly, there were opportunites missed with this anglicised, mellow re-make...like the son who hated working in his father's garage, craving to be a chef, make the father homophobic, the son gay...and give Kelly MacDonald's mother a bit more meat to chew upon! She needed rage...alas, not to be!
A gentle, subdued film...perhaps, a little too conservative to open a this mighty film festival!
Thursday 21 June 2018...
Eaten by Lions
Directed by Jason Wingard
Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear!
Described as an oddball comedy...well, the only thing that was 'odd' about this was the writing! In [too] many places, truly cringeworthy. The two young leads did the best they could possibly do with such a dire material. Jack Carroll is funny young man...but, inexperienced. What he needed was solid direction [and a better script]. Sadly, he got neither.
Antonio Aakeel has a face any camera would love to photograph. A handsome young man, oozing charm and talent...better parts will ensure a bright career - he deserves them, choose wisely young man. When these two young men are together the film comes alive. However, it's the rest of the characters who ruin it...most are over-written and all are [hideously] over-acted. Asim Chaudhry's Irfan [and that fortune-teller] should have been scrapped altogether! Ouch!
The most frustrating thing is...there was a great idea behind this...half brothers, different ethnicity. Sometimes, great ideas should be given to more competent hands!
Directed by Paul Raschid
Low-budget sci-fi is always difficult to pull off! White Chamber tries...but, kinda falls short! It's just not that gripping.
Okay...the opening few minutes does grab the attention, an imploding make-Britain-great-again montage segues into a white, ultra-tech, prison cell where Shauna Macdonald mysteriously finds herself...with a [vocoded] voice asking her [rather mundanely]: Are you hungry?
There's some gruelling torture...and then, there's the backstory. This is where the film falters...rather than tell how she [and others] got there, in detail..why not show what they are going to do about their rather awkward situation...propel the film forwards and keep that momentum going throughout!
The climax of the film comes way before the end...a heavily purple eye-shadowed inmate bites off her fingers, eats her severed digits...and then, the film simply fizzles and flatlines out! Whatever happened to the big ending?!? Ooops!
Directed by Toby MacDonald
As bizarre a take on Cyrano de Bergerac as you could [or couldn't] possibly imagine! Think: Harry Potter without all the hocus pocus, nor the weird and wonderful...nor, the very big budget.
A school for [mostly] privileged boys...and, not a whiff of [homosexual] subtext to be found anywhere - no doubt, someone somewhere will sniff it out! And, apart from the missing subtext, this school is atypical of all schools of this ilk...scholarship snobbery, brash & unbridled bullying, the pompous pomposity [of the teachers] and potent, puerile, pimply prattish brats who will inherit their inherited inheritance. Now, if Old Boys had not be played for the 'laughs' - what a different film this would have been - indeed, a heavyweight contender for hierarchical discourse. Instead, this is lightweight fayre...albeit enjoyable and rather charming, the script could have done with a great big dollop of sardonic toxicity...just to keep it real...for the hoi polloi.
That said, the charm of the film is courtesy of Alex Lawther - he who has dug himself into a rather lucrative niche...playing the [quirky] underdog. He and Jonah Hauer-King really do save this film from being an outright fail, unlike oil and water, these two work well together. However, for film as a whole 'could do better' resonates.
The Secret of Marrowbone
Directed by Sergio G. Sánchez
A beautiful looking film...with a distinct chill...and, a killer line [that should give, anyone with a heart, goosebumps].
It definitely has that 'American Gothic' feel...which is a credit to the artistic team, Marrowbone was shot entirely in Spain. To call it - merely - a horror would be a disservice...it's a ghost story, a love story, a family story...with a generous amount of psychiatric supernatural to keep you on your tip-toes. Obviously, all is not what it seems...a family with this amount of baggage and secrets can never be squeaky clean.
There are, perhaps, just a few too many subplots...Señor Sánchez needed to prune it back just a little...to reveal more detail. But...when the great 'reveal' comes along...it will leave you thinking: I've gotta watch that again! Not a bad way for a film to leave you!
Friday 22 June 2018...
The Devil Outside
Directed by Andrew Hulme
There's nothing quite like a bit of religious fanaticism to get the juices flowing and boiling. Alas, Andrew Hulme's film doesn't quite manage to grab where it ought to have grabbed...by the ****!
The main problem is with the friendship between the boys...one is a creationist-believing, molly-coddled introvert while the other is a rebellious stooge who attends religious classes [Why?!? Some silly reason is given...but, it wouldn't stand a chance in a court of law!].
There were a couple of opportunities where the director could have made the film into something completely different. There's a soupçon of the supernatural lurking here and there...but, it's not exploited as it should have been. Then, there's the subtext...is the lay-preacher just a kiddie-diddling monster? There's a hint...but, nothing concrete. Oooh...if only the supernatural and the subtext had been squeezed to the extreme...then, The Devil Outside would have been a force to be reckoned with...all the components were there, the talent and technical ability...and, the idea!
Directed by Matt Palmer
Let us not beat about the bush...Calibre is brilliant!
Set in the Highlands of Scotland [yes, the scenery is breathtaking]...in the begining, Matt Palmer toys with his audience...yes, of course, this is going to be some sort of Scottish Deliverance...replete with country bumpkins who despise the city-dwelling, cocaine-sniffing, money-choked chiefs of industry. Yes, it is a bit like that...and then, two shots are fired and the whole thing turns and twists and writhes into a tale of lost morals and bad decisions.
The set-up is inspired. The conflict is complex. The dialogue is furious. The conclusion, terrifying. It really is edge-of-the-seat stuff...and so, so believable. There are no weak links...Matt Palmer directs with unbridled swag. Jack Lowden and Martin McCann...well, they just bounce off of each other. Let us not beat about the bush...Calibre is absolutely brilliant!
Loveling / Benzinho
Directed by Gustavo Pizzi
They don't come much better than this! The sweetest, most bitter/sweet film you are likely to see in years.
At its core...is a mother, a wonderful mother...played to utter perfection and precise conviction by [the fantastically talented] Karine Teles. She is everything...worth being. The subtlety she shows is mesmerising...the title 'Loveling' is uttered just once - blink, you'll miss it - but, it is a sharp in-take of breath...out of her four sons, her favourite is revealed. It's subtle. It's sublime.
Rarely, does a film exude such warmth and love...watch...the twins (little boys) as they hug their brother, the father as he bends over backwards to succeed and please, the big-hearted gay shop-keeper, the tuba-playing son as he finds his way...and then, there's the mother and her nest-leaving son, together - foetally - on a life-raft. Staggeringly beautiful!
This is a film that - quite simply - has to be seen by everyone. This is humanity at its very best. This is filmmaking at its very best. Gustavo Pizzi has artistry ooozing out of every pore...and, Pedro Faerstein's cinematography is what cinematography is all about...a masterclass. Stunning...really, stunning!
It will make you cry...the happiest tears!
Directed by Owen Egerton
If it's blood, guts and gore you're after...then, Blood Fest delivers.
Look...this is not the type of film we usually want to see...but, we had a couple of hours to spare...so, why not?!? Indeed, it is entertaining [if blood floats your boat]...but, the initial idea is squandered by some ridiculous and unnecessary over-thinking...and, the whole thing does come crashing down by the end!
Let's face it...it's not the type of film where you would expect complex character arcs coupled with deep & cyptic subtext. It is what it is...and, it delivers!
Saturday 23 June 2018...
C'est La Vie / Le sens de la fête
Directed by Olivier Nakache & Éric Toledano
Thankfully, nothing is lost in the translation...this is due to some razor-sharp [universally funny] writing and a mighty fine central performance.
This is Jean-Pierre Bacri's film...he carries it from start to finish with his deadpan, sarcasm-soaked repartee. He is utterly hysterical as he floats in and out of a staggering amount of subplots. Managed with a slick precision by the directors...the film glides up to a comedic set-piece that will cause you to howl, tears of laughter will stream down your face...the audience [at this screening] were bent double, holding their sides, wailing with joy...it was a beautiful thing to witness. The power of film...to induce such joy.
All that can be said is: Messieurs Nakacke & Toledano...thank you.
The Heiresses / Las herederas
Directed by Marcelo Martinessi
This really is an agonising heartbreak...on so many levels.
An elderly lesbian couple are separated by a prison term, crippling debt and a love that may have seen better days. They say opposites attract, Chela and Chiquita are opposites and their contentment has just been turned upside down. Will they ever get back to what/where they were? Do they want to?
Ana Brun's careful portrayal of the pernickety Chela is like watching a fragile flower bloom. She's a snob, she's cold, she's pedantic...but, when faced with a desperate situation, she slowly strips off her protective layers to reveal the warmth and desire that has been dormant for so long...but, there's a hint that it might be too late to seize her day!
Marcelo Matinessi's film is a contemplative, gentle, delicately detailed, tour-de-force of emotion...a low-lit resonance mumbles throughout loaded with wasted opportunities and regrettable regrets. It's a sad, sad, beautiful film...it will leave you with goosebumps and a tear.
Two for Joy
Directed by Tom Beard
Well...don't believe the title. This is undiluted misery...familial dysfunction and depression...multiplied by two! Yes...not just one dysfunctional bunch...but, an other...with an entire collection of their own problems.
Everything about this film is bleak...the other family has - quite possibly - the most obnoxious child ever to be committed to paper [think of a tatty, street-urchin-ish Nellie Olesen multiplied by - at least - 100]...she is vile, what a horrible thing to say about a child...but, Bella Ramsay plays Miranda with such delicious savagery - it's nigh on impossible to feel anything - but, contempt - for her...and that really does come as an awkward and uncomfortable surprise, considering what happens! She steals the show, ripping the rugs from under her respective [adult] co-stars...all because, you feel nothing for her! That's just wrong!
It is a tremendously acted piece...but, grim - so, so, very grim. Masochists will love it!
Directed by Andrew Fleming
On paper, Ideal Home sounded like a real hoot. Truly...we wanted to love this film...or, at least, just like it. Ooops! It missed the mark by a mile [or two]!
So...what went wrong? Just about everything! It's not a very funny comedy, there is one laugh-out-loud moment...but, that's all it is - a moment! Then, there are Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan - acting [so] gay - as an on-screen couple, they are not only improbable but utterly vile...to watch and to each other! They spit venom continuously...and most of that 'venom' is so cringeworthy that any self-respecting gay man watching will cower in shame and embarrassment...reading 'felching' instead of 'felting' contrived piffle!
Ideal Home is far from being representative of a gay couple...played for laughs-that-don't-come. Sentimentality that will make you gag. And then, there's Steve Coogan's camp...as camp as a tent flattened by a herd of stampeding elephants. On a brighter note...the film's end credits are quite lovely...a photo-montage of real same-sex families...shame Andrew Fleming could not have instilled some of the solid sentiment and true representation that these photographs possess...into his film!
Directed by Adam Morse
When ambition and idea cost more than the budget...problems arise.
Lucid has two strengths...neither of which were capitalised upon: Billy Zane and the idea. Dreaming, a serendipitous cornucopia of ideas...quite literally, you can go anywhere and everywhere...but, with this budget, the dreams were tethered to - basically - one location. Adam Morse needed to spread his imaginative wings much further...dreams are the playground for absurdists. Be - unashamedly - absurd!
Now...Billy Zane...why under-use an actor of Mr Zane's standing and charisma? Here, he is [almost] unrecognisable and has...not enough screen-time...and, to make matters worse, cast - completely - in the wrong role! There's an over-acted [and over-written] brutish thug who has more screen-time than Mr Zane and would have benefited [greatly] from his talents...rather than being [just] an outright, detestable villain, introduce some light and shade to the character thereby making him a more useful and interesting foil to the central character.
Lucid has some well-constructed moments and flashes of inspired imagination. It's a thoroughly watchable film...it could have been gripping...like everything in this world of ours...recognising and playing on the strengths...is, erm, everything!
Sunday 24 June 2018...
Directed by Kevin MacDonald
She didn't stand a chance!
Kevin MacDonald's film will have you spitting at the screen...Bobby Brown, Whitney's contemptible father, Dee Dee Warwick all will make you seethe. Bad, really bad people. Her brothers and her mother come off little lighter...but, watch Nick Broomfield & Rudi Dolezal's 2017 film Whitney: Can I Be Me to get the full story...they ain't squeaky clean either!
As good as this documentary is...there is one glaring omission: Robyn Crawford [Whitney's 'secret' paramour] speaks not on camera! Obviously, compromises have been made, in exchange for personal appearances. Appearances that are so bizarre...you can almost hear their respective lawyers screaming "DO NOT INCRIMINATE YOURSELF" - Bobby Brown flatly refuses to talk about his and Whitney's troubles with drugs...to the point of denial. Cissy says nothing of importance...as for the brothers, not a brain-cell between them! What they will all do without the Bank of Whitney to support them? Well, let's just say: We care as much as they cared for Whitney. Nada!
Jaw-dropping and - truly - tragic.
We the Animals
Directed by Jeremiah Zagar
Take the old worn out cliché: Over-protective mother + distant father = gay kid...turn it on its head, rip it to shreds, smash it up until it becomes unrecognisable, add a distinctive filmmaking talent and one of the most beautiful-looking kids you will ever see...and, you have: We the Animals - a stunningly original feature debut from Jeremiah Zagar.
This film is soaked in artistry...yes, it is arthouse...but, with such an all-embracing narrative, it pulls you in and never lets go. Not only can you can see the turmoil this kid is going through, you can feel it. It's both heartbreaking and joyful. Mr Zagar's direction is as inventive as it is imaginative, he really does get the best out of all of the kids...but, it is his skill at wielding a double-bladed sword, everything/everyone has an ambiguous edge...the father, the basement-dwelling 'friend', the mother...but, the scene that nails it is when the boy sits on his father's knee and snuggles into his protection...I got myself a pretty one...killer line, killer scene, killer film.
Debuts do not come better than this...a veritable work of art.
Directed by Michael Noer
There's the good new: It is nowhere near as bad as expected. And, there's the bad news: It's nowhere near as good as the original.
Charlie Hunnam looks - uncannily - like Steve McQueen and Rami Malek does a rather strange impression of Dustin Hoffman. It really is a case of fresh actors bringing an old story to a new generation. Nothing wrong with that in principle...however, when both writer and director fail to bring something new to the table, comparisons will always be made and the original will always win!
Charlie needed to embrace the part more...yes, he certainly looks good and even after a rather lengthy stint in solitary confinement, he still looks [too] good to be believable. But...if it's eye-candy you're after, look no further. There's a strange dream/hallucination sequence where Rami ditches his Hoffman and does a Marcel Marceau, replete with mime and white face...a most beguiling decision from the director.
Still...if it brings new audiences to old stories, job done. It just needed to be dirtier, skinnier, grimmier and grimmer...and, a bit more emotion would have helped enormously.
Monday 25 June 2018...
The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches / La petite fille qui aimait trop les allumettes
Directed by Simon Lavoie
If the narrative had been as artistic and carefully planned as the cinematography...then, this ridiculously titled film would have been an odds-on favourite for some major awards.
Talk about a missed opportunity...Simon Lavoie has taken quite a few liberties with Gaétan Soucy's novel...that, in itself, is not a bad thing: Filmmakers are visionaries, they interpret the words.
Alas, some directors should not write and most writers should not direct. The book was concerned with alienation, seclusion and isolation. Simon Lavoie managed the alienation bit...by alienating his audience. Scenes that expected too much from the audience without giving anything in return...she's a girl, raised as a boy - because, his penis fell off...c'mon!?! Over-acting is a bit of an issue. But, the straw that broke this camel's back...scenes that just went on for far too long...including that final scene! Talk about driving the audience out of the cinema...for what seemed an eternity, screaming!
Quite a few walked out...those who remained, left with their ears ringing...with disappointment. The vision was there...sadly, the story-telling was not.
The Parting Glass
Directed by Stephen Moyer
This is ensemble acting at its very best.
The is the Stephen Moyer's directorial debut...rest assured, Mr Moyer, this may be your first...but, certainly not your last.
The writing, Denis O'Hare's catharsis...autobiographical, flinching yet unflinching, fuelled by emotion...and, as slow-burning and scarring...as grief itself.
This a a mature film held together by mature performances...Ed Asner asserts himself - with poise - as the head of the family - as each member reflects back into happier times with their sometimes bubbling 'nut-job' of a sister. Anna Paquin's scenes are as ethereal as her happiness...to his credit, Moyer refuses to give Ms Paquin's face the screen-time it [so] deserves...she's not there, their baby-sister has gone...faces fade, memories fade, each will remember something different...and, Ms Paquin gives to each, something different.
It's so tender [at times], it's so sad [most of the time]...then, there's the anger, there's the denial...the collateral damage that follows suicide...The Parting Glass is the fallout.
No question, this is a difficult film to watch...simply, because...it's so damn truthful. And, sometimes [most of the times], the truth hurts.
Let your tears run freely.
George Michael Freedom: The Director's Cut
Directed by David Austin & George Michael
So...what does the director's cut bring to the table? New revelations? No. Just a few extra minutes of personal footage.
The glaring omissions are still there...as well as those unnecessary additions, Liam Gallagher et al. Needless to say there will be further documentaries about Mr Michael [at least one other is in post-production at the time of writing]...but, for the time being, this is what George wanted the world to see. It's personal, it's vague and it's truthful to a point...made even more poignant by his premature death.
Recent allegations will keep his memory alive for a few years to come. When that interest fades...all that will be left behind is his music...and that is exactly how he should and will be remembered...as a mighty fine musician.
Directed by Ben Elton
Be aware...this is not the Ben Elton of yesteryear...and, neither should it be. For, like us all, Mr Elton has grown and mellowed...but, his razor-sharp edge is still there, lurking in the background rather than the 'in-your-face' as once it was!
There's an underlying message running throughout Three Summers: If you can't laugh at yourself then you're absolutely folked! Yes...stereotypes are in abundance...as they are in life...hey Bruce, hey Sheila, take it with a pinch of salt, it's all just a bit of rib-poking fun. However, some of the pokes have mighty sharp points...indigenous land rights, immigration and, racism to name but a few!
At its core, Three Summers is a romance and - sadly - is the weakest part of the film...but, when it segues to the radio station [hilarious], to the camper-couples, to the butch bouncer looking for a little sapphic love, to the theremin-playing et al. - it really does come alive with laughs and music aplenty.
Then...there are the tear-inducing, emotion wallops. Yes, they may be a little preachy...but, Mr Elton has something to say and he says it...rather well. Who would have thought that Morris dancing could bring a tear to your eye?!?
A 'folking' funny and tearful film. Loved it.
Tuesday 26 June 2018...
Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour
The production values are sky-high. The acting is top-notch. It's a quality production...and, it will certainly educate those who know nothing about these young [early 19th century], priviledged, romantic radicals. Anyone can be a radical when money is no object!
But...with [unacceptable] inaccuracies and omitted crucial events...Mary Shelley is only a semi-fabricated, fraction of her story. It's not that the time-frame is extensive, Mary met Percy when he was 21, they ranaway together when she was 17 and he died when he was 29...during those years, Mary had 3 children - all died in infancy, her 4th child survived into adulthood, had a miscarriage [maybe more], had Frankenstein [anonymously] published at the age of 21, dealt with quite a few suicides (most notably Percy's pregnant wife), mingled with some of the greatest literary names, suffered depression, fought a custody...and, never stayed in the same place long enough to let the grass grow around her...or, the allow debtors at their door. An eventful, harried and hectic life indeed. This film...not so!
So...where did it all go wrong? The writng and the focus...there was an obvious agenda from the off. Mary Shelley was the daughter of - perhaps - the first [polyamourous, heterosexual] feminist...Mary never knew her mother, she died shortly after giving birth. Mary grew with her mother's idealism instilled in her...the film portrays her as a strong, single-minded woman...when, in reality, she was a one-man-woman who was cajoled by the libidinous Shelley and accepted anonymity...all in the name of compromise...of a tragic life. Not quite the feminist!?!
Bio-pics need to be accurate...this film harks back to the golden days of Hollywood...when writers made up any old twaddle about historical figures. Mary Shelley's truth is infinitely more interesting than this negligent and erroneous, fact-mangling interpretation.
My Friend the Polish Girl
Directed by Ewa Banaszkiewicz & Mateusz Dymek
There comes a time - in every film festival - when you have to sit through the worst film ever committed to a memory card! This is it!
Directors, screenwriters and producers, Ewa Banaszkiewicz and Mateusz Dymek, should end their collaboration [now] if they want their careers to progress in a positive direction. 87 minutes of sub-standard not-good-enough-to-be-film-school drivel...when you hear a 'supposed' documentary 'supposed' filmmaker say: Act as if I'm not here - that's when you should leave. Sadly, we sat through the whole thing, wishing we had taken our own advice.
Seriously, to say something positive about this film required a thorough 'deep-digging' - nope, not even the 'Black & White' looks good, we dug and dug, uncovered a tissue of subtext, dug a little further...then, bashed our collective brains against a subterranean concrete wall.
Hey...what would a film festival be without the stinkers?!? It's all part of the fun...the opportunity to berate and moan with a mighty large Gin or two - afterwards, with chums!
Directed by Anthony Byrne
Now...here's a film that demands concentration. Pay attention...or, you will get lost. Notwithstanding all the twists and turns - there is a slight problem, if you can see what's coming...it kinda ruins it! So, we'll pretend we didn't see it coming!
This is - for sure - Natalie Dormer's film, she co-wrote it with her [directing] husband...and, she is rarely [if ever] off-screen. Thankfully, she is rather commanding as she drives her character through this labyrinth of missteps and murderous revenge. Now, In Darkness starts with a murder heard...but, unseen. Bet that premise rings a few bells?!? Blow Out/Blow Up - but, if ever a film goes off-piste, this is it. Lunging and lurching as it does...until, in walks Jan Bijvoet as Radic - his speech in the back of the car is stuff that [drama students'] auditions are made of...ooh, he'll make your skin crawl.
Taken with a [massive] pinch of salt, In Darkness is a thrilling ride...that really does take you to the darkest side...of humanity.
Directed by Vaughn Stein
Oooh when a film is this stylish, it better have the substance to match!
The lighting is - quite possibly - the best you are likely to see [this year]. As with all good lighting, the cinematography needs to be right up there too...tick. Yes...it is a stunning looking film. But...does it have that substance!?!
You have to exercise a little patience...it's a little derailed in places, deranged in others...but, when it all starts coming together, it works a treat. Stangely, Terminal has received some rather scathing reviews?!? Did they see the same film??? Okay, the writing may be a little too Alice-in-Wonderland-ish in places...but, this is as slick as a well-oiled pole-dancer's pole...replete with an eye-watering conclusion!
Margot Robbie is delicious throughout. Max Irons does himself justice...and then there's Mike Myers...wow! So, forget the negative reviews - for they know not what they saw - and 'enjoy' - although 'enjoy' is not exactly the appropriate word!
Paris is Burning
Directed by Jennie Livingston
Not going to say much...it's all been said before. Jennie Livingston was in-attendance...but, refused to be photographed and/or interviewed - that's what her handler - rather gruffly - said.
Anyway...film festivals have a certain knack at throwing a few surprises...standing outside the Filmhouse, look who we bumped into - Bill Forsyth, director of the timeless classic, Local Hero - he was gracious and courteous and even posed for a few photographs...
There's a lesson to be learnt there Ms Livingston!
Wednesday 27 June 2018...
Several Conversations About a Very Tall Girl / Cateva conversatii despre o fata foarte inalta
Directed by Bogdan Theodor Olteanu
Whoever said that this was Romania's answer to Blue is the Warmest Colour [aka La Vie d'Adèle] obviously had never seen Abdellatif Kechiche's 180-minute, intense, erotically-charged pièce de résistance - just because they are both about two young lesbians, there is - simply - no comparison between these two films.
For these 'conversations' are as flat as a purposefully squashed pancake - if watching someone else's Skype call floats your boat...then, this here is the film for you. Otherwise stay [well] clear!
As for the 'climax' - yes, it all builds towards an inferno of sexual arousal with lesbian lips a-smacking here, there and everywhere...erm, what happened? Perhaps, Romania's lesbians don't do erotic...or, which is probably the case, Bogdan Theodor Olteanu had no idea (1) what lesbians do in bed...and, (2) how to direct a sex scene.
Not just a stinker of a film...it's a mercifully short [70-minute] monotonous stinker! Want to see how a lesbian sex-scene should be done...watch Disobedience.
Directed by Jamie Jones
This is why we need film festivals...to show, grow and promote this kind of homegrown nascent talent.
Feature debuts from both director and star...and, if this is anything to go by, we'll be seeing alot more of them both. A film with a limited budget and unlimited talent...
The backdrop is the 2011 London riots...with rich kids slumming it in the gutter, poor kids stuck in the gutter...screaming to get out. Leon's screams are silent...but, deafening. Marcus Rutherford embodies the frustration of being stuck in a maze with no way out, glimmers of hopes, flashes of possibilities all come crashing down. His choice is oh too simple: Either go with the flow or swim [for your life] against the current. The odds are stacked against him...a drug-addled drunken mothers concedes her worth...in what can only be described as one of the most beautifully acted, tender and clawing scenes seen in the entire festival.
Obey is raw. It packs a mighty powerful political punch and an even mightier emotion one. This is a film that deserves to be seen. A film that deserves distribution.
Swinging Safari / Flammable Children
Directed by Stephan Elliott
As daft as a bunch of pimply teenagers [hellbent on getting off their tits] at their first music festival...in the 70s...with a beached whale...and, some fabulously-dressed swingers!
Oooh the kiddies [aka Snowflakes] ain't gonna be liking this one, for sure!!! Because, in the 70s, political correctness was a thing of...erm, it didn't exit! People said what they felt...with nada repercussions! Like it or lump it - you knew where you stood. Those were the days, my friend...we thought they'd never end...but, alas, they did. Nowadays...it's all walking on eggshells and pussy-footing around lily-livered, over-sensitive snowflakes!
So...to fully appreciate Stephan Elliott's [fantastic] film, you need to be of a certain age, with a viable memory...and, have [most importantly] functional hips. Because, the soundtrack - alone - will make you wanna f*^%ing dance!
All we have to say to all the dissenters is: Grow up...your time will come, when nostalgia will give you a warm fuzzy feeling...and, who could have possibly lived without a K-tel record selector?!?
Thank you, Stephan...fabulous, darling!
Adventures in Public School / Public Schooled
Directed by Kyle Rideout
Kyle Rideout's second feature and as different from his first [Eadweard, 2015] as can be possible...from a cinematic historical bio-pic to awkward high-school teen-flick...such a gigantic leap in only 2 years. The obvious question is: Where to next?!?
Daniel Doheny, on the otherhand, is doing - practically - the same thing as he did in [the rather delightful] Alex Strangelove, playing a 17 year old. And, it has to be said, he does 'doing a geeky 17-year-old' very well indeed. Unlike in Alex, he's playing it straight...with such geeky charm, that you will just want to pinch his [facial] cheeks from start to finish. He's really that adorable!
It's a lovely, warm-hearted little film...however, aficionados of home-schooling will be a trifle miffed - it's not exactly a glowing recommendation for such a practice...does social awkwardness trump intelligence? You'll have to watch it to find out! Honestly, you won't be disappointed. Charming.
Thursday 28 June 2018...
Wild Nights with Emily
Directed by Madeleine Olnek
Do not go into this film expecting a re-hash/re-make of Terence Davies' [quite lovely] A Quiet Passion - or, you will be woefully and sorely disappointed. For this is a cheap, irreverent, [obviously] reverential, playfully fictionalised spoof of Emily Dickinson's life and works.
How Madeleine Olnek managed to get permission from Harvard to use Dickinson's poems and letters is - indeed - a feather in her cap! They must be reeling with rage! Or, do the Harvard elite have an unexpected and surprising sense-of-humour? Because...you need one, an acquired one at that, for this rather ragged film.
As we saw with Mary Shelley, filmmakers take liberties with [rather well-documented] literary figures, they re-interpret and abuse the facts until their agenda is fulfilled...to Hell with credibility. Madeleine Olnek's posthumous politicising of Emily Dickinson as being a lesbian feminist hero is - for want of a better word - a nonsense. Cue: a series of heated debates and some obligatory H8-mails!
The less-serious will probably say: C'mon, climb down from your high-horse, it's all just a bit of tongue-in-cheek fun! Touché!
Directed by Eric Bilitch
It ends many miles away from where it starts!
This prima facie [heartbroken] rom-com soon shifts gear into something quite different. It ought not to have...although the idea behind it is stoic and sturdy: An almost angelic [straight] young man ready to absorb all that life throws at him crosses paths with a rather demonic and libidinous [bisexual] club kid...water and oil...repel or attract?
Both actors do their roles proud. Josh Peck is cheek-tweakingly adorable replete with those baby blues. Finn Wintrock knocks it out of the park, he is deliciously vile and sweet and vile... Of course, these two would never - not in a month of Sundays - ever get on...but writer/director - Eric Bilitch - adopts a nifty little mechaism to keep the credibility afloat...he's a writer-in-the-making with absolutely no life experience...and, has a desert-hike thirst to lap up every interesting character he meets.
This is where the film works best...when he meets different people with their small [and large] surprises that make every life interesting.The warmth that is duly generated - especially with his landlord - is both cosy, touching and charming.
Then...it all goes dark. Unnecessarily so. This 'dark' storyline could have been a film on its own, it would have reaped the benefits with and from more clarity. But, hey...that's just an opinion!
Locating Silver Lake is a lovely film...without that dark-side! With it...well, let's just say, it didn't need it. A little less is - quite often - a lot more.
Directed by Stephen S. Campanelli
Welll...the catholics [certainly] get a [well-deserved] bashing as they bash [both] the [mental and physical] living daylights out of everyone they righteously think they have the right to convert! These nuns just ain't nasty, these nuns are evil! Now, let them stand in a court of law and justify their stomach-churning malice...obviously, swearing on the bible as they do so! Let those retrospective convictions continue...until each and every [hypocritical] sinner is behind bars. And, not forgetting...where there's a priest...there's buggery!
This is a mighty subject...worthy of big budgets, big names and - quite possibly - more disposed to being a mini-series than an under-funded feature. Mr Campanelli does his [very] best with with what he had at hand...but, it's the scope of the story that presents problems, it spans decades. A small budget cannot handle such a sprawling time-frame.
By focusing on one section of Saul's life - obviously, the religious residential school [euphemistic for 'abusive pious prison'], the film would have been more manageable and effective. Voice-overs rarely work and, here, the are intrusive. It's a lazy way to tell a story. Still, it's a story that needs to be told and this is a valiant effort.
Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing...they knew exactly what they were doing! Netflix should be sniffing all around this!
Number One / Numéro Une [aka Women Up]
Directed by Tonie Marshall
French feminism and big business...a lethal combination? No, not if this film is anything to go by.
Just by reading the blurb...you expect this to be a straight-for-the-jugular-man-hating extravaganza. It's not...and, that's the problem. Indeed, every man in the film is a low-life scum-bag...but, the film - on the whole - leans towards civility rather than embracing the back-stabbing arena it's perceived to be!
There's a subplot involving a drowned woman...it's a little contrived, too distant from the protangonist and, perhaps, simplistically sentimental. Especially when...there is a tragedy on her actual doorstep [of which she contributed to] that really doesn't get the attention it [so] deserved...there's no need for humanity in big business!
Production and performances are all top notch...the only thing it lacked...[more] cold, callous conflict...from and by the women! This is a film that could have/should have left you seething...alas, it didn't.
The Negotiator / Beirut
Directed by Brad Anderson
Good grief...what's with all the bad reviews?
Admittedly, Tangiers doubling as Beirut is stretching it a bit too far...but, what seems like an avalanche of snowflake sensitivity has befallen this film. For goodness sake, it's only a film! And not a bad one at that!
It's tense and taut with ample twists and turns...and, shifts gear when it really matters. Jon Hamm & Co. all deliver cast-iron performances in this dialogue-driven clash between West-meets-Middle-East - where neither side comes out looking [even slightly] respectable. Terror is not only a dirty business...but, a political pawn...Tony Gilroy's writing makes an attempt in showing the back-stroking/stabbing deceit adopted by all the players.
A decent thriller...with obvious flaws.
Friday 29 June 2018...
Anna and the Apocalypse
Directed by John McPhail
A musical with teens, zombies...and, a tiny budget!!! Heaven help us!
Do not presume, do not pre-judge...because, hold onto your horses, Anna and the Apocalypse will [and does] give any big-budgeted zombie flick a [serious] run for their money!
This is good...so good - in fact, we may become a trifle hyperbolic! The last time a cheap little British musical [with a silly idea] and some great songs made waves was - way back - in 1975, The Rocky Horror Picture Show - forget the waves, it was more like a tsunami! With the right kind of marketing and distribution, Anna and the Apocalypse could follow in Rocky's footsteps...albethem millennial footsteps! This has 'cult musical' written all over it!
John McPhail has embraced what every filmmaker should embrace: It's not what you don't have...but, what you do have...that [combined] makes a good film! Script, cast and those songs!! Pure and not-so-simple...talent...all helmed by a director who has a [very] bright future indeed!
We laughed, we cried...were amply horrified. Bloody - and, it is bloody - marvellous!
The Gospel According to André
Directed by Kate Novack
André Leon Talley is an imposing and polarising character. You either love him or loathe him! It really is that simple.
Well...if ever a film was made that tectonically shifted opinion...this is it! We love you [now], André!
From the opening scene, the mood is set...André, sitting on his porch, moaning at the gardener...hey, you don't get to where André got by not being a perfectionist. But, alas, perfectionists to the hoi polloi are usually regarded as pedantic and pernickety pains-in-the-butt. Sounds like: Not a film for the hoi polloi!
Therein lies the rub...or not, as is the case here. For Kate Novack has been rather clever, understanding André's polarity...get him at his grumpy worst...thereon in, the only way is up.
From the humblest of beginnings, André clawed his way up the Haute Couture ladder, luck played a part, intelligence was a good support, hard graft took the lead...all awhile he accummulated an enviable and incomparable encyclopaedic knowledge of the great fashion houses and offshoots...and, a personality and persona to match.
The film features many a famous face bestowing verbal accolades upon this 'giant' of a man. But, as his story unfolds, [mainly] through his anecdotes, the hoi polloi starts to see the man beneath the extravagance...all that hard work and that [ultimate] sacrifice he made...
"Listen, I have no love life. I've never had a love life. I've never fallen in love, experienced love."
It's too easy to say that André is one-in-a-million. Though true, it's just not accurate enough...André is - truly - unique. There will only ever be one André Leon Talley. A treasure.
Thank you for sharing.
Directed by Tiago Melo
There's nothing worse than having to sit through a bible-bashing...especially when that said bible-bashing is delivered by an 'actor' who couldn't act even if it were the difference between life and death.
That's the problem with casting a non-professional cast...the weak links will cause the project to coming crashing down all around the good intentions. Tiago Melo did strike lucky with Valmir do Côco...but, despite a worthy [and credible] performance...he, alone, cannot save this film.
Think of Azougue Nazaré as an unfinished tapestry...because, this filmmaker either ran out of money and/or ideas and/or time...there are so many unresolved subplots as well as quite a few subplots that weren't needed in the first place, serving no purpose whatsoever - what was with all the 'spooky' stuff?!? Totally redundant.
Despite the strong beginning and ending, the intervening minutes were a messy string of underdeveloped storylines. Filmmaking is about storytelling, when the storyteller loses focus, the audience loses interest...and - rather quickly - they start to disappear.
Hearts Beat Loud
Directed by Brett Haley
How many times can you listen to the same song?
Well, Hearts Beat Loud answers that question by playing the eponymously entitled tune over and over again...way too many times!!! Give it a rest, whydontcha!
So...is this film a musical? No, not enough [original] songs. Is it a drama? Erm...there is a smidgen of conflict but nothing that would challenge a novice-in-training conflict counsellor! Gotta be a comedy then? Ted Danson does inject a bit of humour...but, nothing rib-tickling.
What Hearts Beat Loud is...is a schmaltzy, sentimental, saccharine-soaked liberal-father-and-lesbian-daughter tale in a near-perfect middle-America - where neither Trump nor tensions exist. And, for those with a sweet tooth...it's very, very sweeeeeeet indeed, achingly so!
Nick Offerman's man-child performance is so laidback that it almost seems half-hearted...if you can swallow the premise that said father wants his destined-to-be-a-doctor daughter to give up her medical studies to form/join a band with her dusty dad and tour the country forever more - then, this - really - is the film for you!
The Butterfily Tree
Directed by Priscilla Cameron
How do you make light of grief, suicide and cancer? Well, in truth, you don't...however, Priscilla Cameron has taken the decision to inject these debilitating themes with colour, eccentricity...and, butterflies. This is Ms Cameron's debut feature, limited by budget but not imagination...The Butterfly Tree is a gentle, ephemeral splash of colour...with deep shadows.
To be awe-struck by the first wave of love is something we all experience...and, perhaps, want to forget...to be young, to be in love...are the ingredients for foolishness, Ed Oxenbould manages to instil in his character that fumbling/bumbling naivety that - for sure - we all want to forget. Meanwhile, his father - in grief - is acting - in love - not just foolishly...but, irresponsibly...playing with others' hearts to mend his own. These matters of the heart have thrown a wedge between father and son!
And then...there's Melissa George's Evelyn - a beauty, if ever there was...and, delicate...so, so delicate. There are moments in all our lives, when we have to dig deep to see it through, Evelyn digs and keeps her perfect countenance...but, behind the mask, she aches. Both character and actor, consummate performers.
Limited by budget but not imagination, Priscilla Cameron's debut is a resonant and melancholic joy...let her budgets get bigger to unleash the true extent of her glorious imagination!
Saturday 30 June 2018...
Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story
Directed by Tiffany Bartok
Kevyn Aucoin died way back in 2002...it has taken years for his story to get to the big & small screens...and then, just like your long-awaited bus...two come along at the same time!
In the same year, Lori Kaye made Kevyn Aucoin Beauty & the Beast in Me and Tiffany Bartok has made this one: Larger Than Life: The Kevyn Aucoin Story. Just like the two 'Whitney' documentaries, each tell the same story from a slightly different perspective...and, with varying degrees of professionalism. What sets these two films apart is the proximity to the subject...Tiffany Bartok is a make-up artist-cum-filmmaker. Her appreciation for Kevyn's skill is obvious.
So...what sets Tiffany Bartok's film apart? Well, interviews with Cher and Isabella Rossellini help. But, it's Tori Amos who really grabs your attention...she talks a rare truth...it's so monumentally moving that a tear or two may escape from the corner of your eye.
Kevyn Aucoin died too young, he fought his demons too hard. He lived in constant pain, increasingly relying on painkillers...until his light slowly - at first - was extinguished.
This film is both atonement and praise...his artistry is beyond dispute, it's plain to see...on the covers of magazines. His friends...fairweather whatever weather...better late than never.
A fine tribute and an overdue obituary.
Wild Honey Pie
Directed by Jamie Adams
Considering the amount of producers...and, not one noticed that (1) swallowing this relationship is one almighty ask...and, (2) he's a doormat and she is indescribably vile! Apathy soon sets in.
The production values are low, the likability is even lower...cheap, little independent films need to fight tooth-and-nail to get noticed, they rely - if they are lucky enough to be chosen - on [complimentary] words-from-the-mouths of film festivals attendees. No-one was talking about Wild Honey Pie!
Independent filmmakers - all too often - forget about their [potential] audiences. Directors...give them something to work with...give them something to like, something to admire...an over-acted, actor-ish central performance [accompanied by some slapstick] is not the way to go.
Jamie Adams needed to direct his actors and re-write his characters...then, perhaps, the audience would be talking about his film - in a more positive light - at the bar, somewhat sozzled, afterwards.
Miss María, Skirting the Mountain / Señorita María, la falda de la montaña
Directed by Rubén Mendoza
A simple life blighted by blind devotion...religion certainly exploits the under-educated, the vulnerable...and, those with learning disabilities. Mis Maria - without doubt - has learning disabilities!
It takes 9 minutes before a word is uttered...yes, we understand the whole 'setting the scene' - but - GAWD - make it interesting to watch!
There really is too much of nothing...elongated scenes of wood-chopping, water-carrying, stove-lighting...will put any self-respecting viewer at battle with rapid onset sleep!
Alas, the occasional burst of cacaphonous music...will ensure the continuation of sleep deprivation...which, surprisingly, turns out to be a good thing!
After, what feels like an eternity...Maria's [seriously] complex story starts to unfold...
Maria is a survivor, neither afraid of hard-work nor hardship...but, her life has dissolved into the indistinct blurriness of both fact and fiction. Not surprising since her untreated epilepsy was regarded as demonic possession...with a priest-on-hand to kick the demon out! There are more revelations...but...
Maria's faith is unshakeable...it gives her sanctuary. And, safety is what she needs...Maria was failed by her family and fought to be herself...here, she stands...a woman with a great big, loving & neglected heart.
An honour to have spent time in your company.
Sunday 1 July 2018...
Swimming with Men
Directed by Oliver Parker
Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water...at your local swimming pool!!! Beware: A mixed bag of badly-synchronized-men-swimming-badly are in-training...
British comedy at its most eccentric and very best...both daft and dark...this is an antidote to middle-aged, marriage-in-crisis, stuck-in-a-rut, near-to-broken, life-threatening-loneliness. And...the stars of this show are Rob Brydon and Oliver Parker...oh, and the editor [some of those transitions are - quite frankly - bloody marvellous].
Mr Brydon is - surprisingly - rather reserved throughout which is in-line with his mundanely-monotonous accounting character - well-observed, Mr Brydon. However, he does let-rip in the final minutes...with, as bizarre a conclusion that ever was...a heart-warming, crowd-pleasing, tear-inducing spectacle.
Mr Parker makes a [welcome] return to form, not seen in quite a while...this is familiar ground for Mr Parker...but, what sets Swimming with Men apart from his other 'light' comedies is...the artistry. There a few moments that will make you...gasp and think...perhaps, reflect. Men have been getting quite a bashing of late...well, this is a [very welocme] film that celebrates the man-child, his foibles, his humanity and his...vulnerability.
But...Beware, at your local swimming pool...there may be badly-synchronized-swimming-men-swimming-badly...in-training...a great wee film.
As per usual, a massive thank you to Edinburgh International Film Festival, the press office, the volunteers, the celebs, the filmmakers, the photographers...and, to all at DDA PR.
Sadly, the films we wanted to see...but, schedules clashed:
Make Me Up by Rachel Maclean
Unicorn Store by Brie Larson