Archive for the ‘ EIFF 2012 ’ Category

THE AUDITION

The Audition

 Saturday night saw the 66th Film Festival close with a showing of new Disney movie Brave followed by a party at Cargo where industry insiders, press and actors all gathered for a shindig which was supposed to close the event in style. Unfortunately it did not quite live up to the hype-unless you count numerous black suits and gaudy, frilly dresses accessorised with matching ‘look at me I’m a slag’ shoes and nails as stylish- but was instead unfashionably dull.

After slightly less than an hour of talking to probably the only other handful of attendees who had not had a charisma bypass I made my way up to the Institute in Marchmont where there was the first public screening of a film by renowned photographer Gavin Evans called ‘The Audition’. This proved to be a far superior way of rounding off the Festival as well as a glimpse at some major ‘A’ List stars giving brief, spontaneous and –seemingly- unrehearsed performances. The fact that Evans was able to call on the favours of such luminaries of the calibre  of Daniel Craig, Samuel L Jackson, Ewan Mcgregor, Richard Wilson, Derek Jacobi, Michael Sheen as well as one of the very last performances by Oliver Reed indicates how highly he is regarded in his field.

The film itself, shot in 1999, consisted of thirty odd brief scenes wherein facing the camera head on each of the actors auditions for the part of a lover- the interviewees are two teenage girls- and each approaches the part with a different perspective whether it be salacious, hesitant, sleazy or simply full on confrontational. It is a hilarious expose which shows even those at the top of their game are able to laugh at themselves and improvise on the spot. Everyone will have their own personal favourites- Samuel L Jackson and Daniel Craig were mine- and it is beautifully shot in an almost hazy like atmosphere where the actors seem to drift in on a cloud and then back out again as if they have never actually been there. This only adds to the fantasy element having so many recognisable faces chat us-the audience- up.

This may have been the evening’s central attraction but it was preceded by a set by regular contributors Electric Café. It was then succeeded by an impromptu party by the film attendees which saw the night take on a party atmosphere with spontaneous live music provided by one participant. Definitely a far superior option than the official festival closing party and if Evans does decide to show ‘The Audition’ again- and plans are indicating he will- then I suggest that this time you do not miss it.

A trailer can be seen by clicking the link below

Video-Gavin-Evans-NT-Auditions-1998

The Institute is at 14 Roseneath Street, Marchmont, Edinburgh. EH9 1JH

The Audition is showing every night at 10pm for the duration of the Fringe.

Free entry, licenced until 10pm and featuring the ‘Naked Touch ‘ exhibition.

Advertisements

GOD BLESS AMERICA

God Bless America

 

God Bless America will appeal to anyone who has ever wished they had a loaded gun they could shoot at the contestants, judges and audiences of talent or reality shows. It is a sad indictment of our times that people are worshipped for seriously lacking in virtue and scruples in the clamour for fame at any cost. The central character Frank-Joel Murray- in Bobcat Goldthwait’s morbidly black comedy goes on such a spree to right the world of the evils of trashy American mass media but in the process somehow becomes a victim of the kind of celebrity culture he initially sets out to destroy.

What eventually causes him to crack and put the vengeful thoughts he has previously only harboured into action is losing his job, being rejected by his own daughter and being informed by his surgeon he has an inoperable malignant tumour. Feeling he has nothing to lose therefore sets him out on a rampage of murder and revenge on all the media types he abhors. Along the way he picks up a teenage girl Roxy –Tara Lynne Barr- who seems to share his views on the horrors of society- and most especially people who high-five- and is a more than willing accomplice in carrying out their own brand of executions.

The pace unfolds quickly and pretty soon Frank and Roxy are high profile media attractions famous for a trail of premeditated slaughter on what appears to be random victims. A gropu pf young kids who won’t stop talking and answering their phones during a movie are just one group who face the wrath of the gun wielding duo. The  climactic scene inevitably takes place in a TV Studio during a talent show –the American version of the X-Factor (now there’s an idea for the impending next series)- where a contestant who was previously mocked as a national joke has misguidedly achieved the fame he set out to attain.

God Bless America is a film with a message but it is often unclear what that message is. Frank’s disdain for mass media hype and the generation it is destroying is comprehensible but what isn’t his method of deali g with it. Dopeople really deserve to be shot simply for having bad taste? It is very droll and tongue in cheek however and it will enthral anyone who-like me- absolutely abhor the new form of celebrity of being famous for doing nothing or even simply for being stupid.

ANTON CORBIJN:INSIDE OUT

Anton Corbijn : Inside Out

This profile of photographer and director –his debut film Control won the prestigious Michael Powell award at EIFF in 2007- is probably the most intimate portrait of an elusive character we are ever likely to  get. Totally immersed in his work, the creation of original photos which his clients adore as it captures them as they would most like to be portrayed, it emerges he has little time for interpersonal relationships and his shyness does not make him an easy or typical interviewee. Despite this, director Klaartje Quirins manages to draw some insight out of him as regards the way he approaches his subject matter both in photography and film.

First registering in the public’s consciousness for his early work with the legendary Joy Division, Corbijn’s intimate photos of the band threw up many lasting iconic images which contributed to their myth. One particular image, in particular, captures perfectly the haunted despair of doomed singer Ian Curtis shortly before the pressure got to him and he took his own life. This was followed up by the posthumous video for ‘Atmosphere’ which acted as a metaphorically visual epitaph.

Following this successful partnership such luminaries as David Bowie, U2, Depeche Mode, Elvis Costello, John Lydon and more recently Arcade Fire enlisted his services in creating images for them. Bono waxes lyrical-as is his wont-on how Corbijn manages to capture and reflect light and somehow simultaneously has both humour and melancholia running through his work. Even professional curmudgeon Lou Reed shows something akin to pleasure when first handed the prints Corbijn took for his recent collaboration with Metallica.

It is the scenes with his family which reveal the most however. His sister explains how the family worry he is burning himself out by never standing still and always chasing the next project with scant regard for his health or any calm in his lifestyle. It is a strange dichotomy though as the man who is positioned at the centre of this maelstrom of creativity seems totally at peace and resolute with no sign of the frantic lifestyle he has created for himself.

Perhaps one of the more telling scenes is when he reveals his self portraits of him as famous rock stars. Janis Joplin, The Beatles and Kurt Cobain are all treated to his interpretation and it is perhaps his ability-and perhaps desires to be a rock star himself- to capture their iconic looks which allow him to create such empathetic images for others.

When it comes to film his debut, Control, was about the fated Ian Curtis and became a highly critically and commercial success. The follow up The American featuring George Clooney was less well received but this was probably more down to an uninspired and implausible script as it was still visually arresting and beautifully filmed.

Anton Corbijn : Inside Out is a very worthwhile document of an exceptional and inspiring talent who has helped many major bands realise their visual ambitions. He is a quiet and unassuming character who although reticent and shunning any publicity somehow always manages to have a strong and extremely identifiable presence in the works he creates.

Anton Corbijn:Inside Out is showing at Cineworld on Thursday 28th June at 6.30pm and Friday June 29th at 8.40pm

TABU

Tabu

 This Portuguese work directed by Miguel Gomes is a film of two halves. Opening in modern day Lisbon and focussing on three elderly women, Aurora, her maid Santa and neighbour Pilar , showing them all in a form of stasis or decline unsure of their role in life. The second two thirds of the film concentrate on a young Aurora and a love affair leading to a fatal mistake which has plagued her life ever since and reveals an insight into the  mental instability which dogs her in the latter stages of her life.

The film begins with the awkward dynamic which exists between the three elderly women and the inability of each to cope with the other whilst also needing the support and companionship the others provide. There are droll moments of humour which are delivered deadpan providing much needed light relief as the action often seems disjointed and difficult to follow. It is only when the drama moves to the past that a more coherent narrative starts to emerge.

Shifting back several decades we find ourselves in Colonial Africa and the young newly-wed Aurora. Her marital bliss is about to be ruptured however as she embarks on an affair with the devilishly handsome, sexy and charming Gian Luca. Matters are complicated even further by the fact she is already pregnant when the affair begins and it is clear to the audience that this situation is not going to end well for someone although it is never clear who will suffer the most. The outcome when it arrives is surprising but like almost everything else about this film it almost feels understated.

Tabu is a well crafted film in black and white-furthering the sense of cinema and hazy recollection- with the present day action resembling an Almodovar film but drained of the entire vivid colour scheme which resonates through the Spaniard’s work. The return to the past is delivered like a silent film with a sympathetic voiceover narrative which never seems to judge or cloud issues but merely deliver the facts. It is more a great cinematic experience than a great film but it is consistently visually arresting and the voice over technique lends it an original appeal.

Tabu is released in September

BLACK’S GAME

Black’s Game

 

This fast paced Icelandic film set in Reykjavik is not one for the squeamish or faint of heart. Full of jerky freeze frames, collages and throbbing techno it is not wholly original but it does have an appeal of its own despite this. Directed by Oskar Thur Axelsson and featuring a great lead role played by Thor Kristjansen it does not hold back and from the off its statement of intent is clear as we are instantly propelled into a violent storm which results in central protagonist Stebbi-soon to be re-christened Psycho Stebbi-finding himself in prison for aggravated assault. This is only the beginning however of his descent into the tawdry underside of Reykjavik with its buffed up, tattooed drug tsars and their own set of laws and morals.

On his release the morning after he commits the assault Stebbi bumps into an old acquaintance, Toti, who offers to help him find a lawyer whilst at the same time introducing him into the inner circle of the demi-monde controlling the underworld. His ascent within the ranks is instantaneous and soon he is captivated by this lifestyle of designer suits, grade a drugs, liquor and constantly available women. There is, of course, a price to pay for this and in this case it is having to deal with the ever evolving demands of head honcho the darkly malevolent Bruno who is the true psychotic of the piece. .In comparison Stebbi comes across as an innocent deeply out of his depth despite the Psycho prefix to his moniker

A simple act of carelessness on Stebbi’s part however leads to the police gaining access to the inner circle and his position is compromised as they ask him to act as informer whilst also letting him know they already have an informer within the ranks already and this merely feeds the paranoia of everyone involved. Things reach a climactic outcome and events rush toward a bloody conclusion taking few prisoners along the way.

As stated before this film does not hold back in any way but this is to its advantage and the characters are all well thought out,  and if not all are wholly rounded they are  not merely one dimensional.  A collage of childhood photos at the beginning of the film is a clever touch and reminds us that even psychopathic, hardened criminals were once children. It is details like this alongside the compelling performances which raise the level of this film above the standard fare of what is fast becoming an overworked genre.

SHADOW DANCER

Shadow Dancer

 

Featuring two stand out performances from its leading actors, Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough, Shadow Dancer is a taut, suspenseful thriller full of intrigue and a perfect encapsulation of a pre-peace process Belfast where no-one is really able to trust anyone else. It is a world of terrorists who are constantly outmanoeuvring each other whilst on the other side a special police squad who are simultaneously using the same tactics on each other, so there is little chance the situation will end well for anyone.

Every scene is fraught with a bitter hatred, both of opposing factions and those who are fighting the same cause. It is a lesson in self preservation and how far people will go to protect what is closest to them whatever the consequences of which there are bound to be many when treachery is involved. Director James Marsh manages to sustain the tension right through to the very end and the cinematography captures the sheer dull drudgery and weariness a life spent under tumultuous circumstances inevitably leads to.

After failing to set off a bomb in the London Underground in 1993 Colette- Riseborough- is enlisted by the Special Forces to spy and then inform on her brothers and their cohorts who are at the heart of the IRA. Promised protection by Mac-Owen-thingse not quite what they seem as his superiors have allowed him to enlist her as a means of deflecting from a longstanding informant. In essence Colette is being offered up as a sacrifice as it be comes obvious to the terrorists that she has to be the informant due to the timing of event and the fact she evades custody on several occasions and those around her assume she must be bargaining with information. The plot has several twists all of which are wholly plausible and well acted without ever slipping into cliché.

Shadow Dancer is a superior piece of intelligent drama which draws its audience into the uncertainty and squalid life of a community which has become exhausted with the constant troubles around them which, at the time, seemed beyond resolve or solution. A tightly coiled work which adopts its own pace and never falters it keeps the audience gripped through to its unexpected conclusion.

UNCONDITIONAL

Unconditional

 This very dark twisted comedy features extremely strong performances by its three main protagonists Liam, Owen and Kristen-Christian Cooke, Harry McEntire and Madeleine Clarke respectively- to create an impressive work which tackles taboo subjects with humour and pathos. It details the desperation of the two teenage twins-Owen and Kristen- in their quest to escape the drudgery of an existence in a housing estate and acting as carers for their disabled mother. The arrival of the handsome and charismatic Liam, who resides somewhere in the region of sleazeball, awakens dreams of escape initially in Kristen but it is Owen who is the actual recipient of his attentions. However things are more complex than they appear as his entry into their lives immediately signals something more sinister than the flash suits, expensive car and smooth chat. He is essentially a pressure cooker of seething intent just waiting to explode and events do reach a dramatic and fraught conclusion which few could predict.

Bored with their dead end existence Owen and Kristen have few chances to create relationships outside of each other so when Liam shows an interest in them Kristen instantly leaps at the chance to acquaint herself further. However he asks Owen out for a drink and during the course of the evening takes him back to his flat and seduces him into carrying out his own personal fantasy. The initial signals are that Liam is gay but unable to admit this-even to himself-  he asks Owen to take on a role which he believes allows him to indulge his sexual preferences in public without anyone being aware of his proclivities. Or so he thinks.Perhaps the most telling scene regarding Liam’s psyche is when he accepts a chocolate and gazes at the wrapper and announces he is always seduced by the packaging and this is in line with the image he tries to create around himself.  Even going as far as introducing Owen to his parents  who are both aware of the true scenario being played out in front of them and this precipitates a crisis of epic proportions culminating in a climactic breakdown scene in a bridal shop where his deluded fantasies have somehow led him.

Unconditional is a film which manages to grip its viewers throughout. As said before the three central performances are excellent and director Bryn Higgins coaxes the best out of his actors as well as ensuring the plot is alternately disturbing but  humorous. It is an interesting comment on love as control with the manipulator able to offer an escape from a prison like existence but merely offering a prison of a different kind. A feeling that all this is going to end very badly pervades throughout and the tension in the confrontational scenes is palpable. Things spiral out of control very quickly but at the films denouement Owen seems to have used his experiences to reach a point where he can now take control of his life so the horrors he endures are not totally in vain.

Unconditional is showing at Cineworld on Mon 25th and Wednesday 27th June at 6.30pm.

What Is This Film Called Love?

 

Director Mark Cousins’ travelogue cum road trip takes in a three day sojourn in Mexico City where nothing has been planned beforehand. Drawing on an imaginary companion-Russian director Sergio Eisenstein- to accompany him  narrate his journey to as he weaves his singular way through this sprawling city, incorporating the contemporary alongside the historical, it becomes a rhythmic paean to Cousins’ own understanding of himself.

Shot as a collection of visual interludes Cousins Tramps around the city articulating his thoughts and observations to a hand held photograph of Eisenstein creating a collage with expertly selected aural accompaniment-P.J. Harvey and the Vertigo score are most notable although a woozily dreamy saxophone led piece worthy of a David Lynch movie also stands out- capturing the shifting moods and scenery. It is an exercise in simplicity and concludes with a return to Edinburgh in the grips of winter-from the heavy snowfall it looks like the big freeze of 2011- as a stark contrast.

Although What is this Film Called Love is enjoyable enough I feel it will appeal more to film makers and those in the industry than to the public at large. This is not to decry it however but it does possess limited appeal on its own merits.

What is this Film Called Love is showing at Filmhouse 1 at 6.30pm on Tuesday 26th June and Cineworld on Saturday 30th June at 7.45pm