Posts Tagged ‘ EIFF 2012 ’

SVENGALI

Svengali

 SVENGALI_POSTERTEST-4

Svengali is that rare thing, a film at a film festival that is actually enjoyable and a pleasure to sit through. Directed by John Hardwick and starring Jonny Owen- also responsible for the screenplay- who is ably supported by the always reliable Vicky McClure, the film is a charming insight into the rock and roll dream as seen through the hopes and eyes of an eternal optimist. Although nothing in this film withstands too much scrutiny this is irrelevant as the characters and acting performances carry it-and the audience- along with its insouciance and humour.

 Dixie (Owen) is a Billy Liar-esque character who dreams of discovering a band,moulding them and taking them on the route to stardom in the style of a latter day Brian Epstein or more correctly-considering the film’s title and subsequent accusations levelled at him by the Sex Pistols- Malcolm McLaren. After hearing a band called the Premature Congratulations-later shortened to The Prems- he believes he has found his musical gold and so with his trusty girlfriend Shell (Mc Clure) in tow he departs his native Wales and heads to the bright lights of London to follow his dreams of creating the next big musical thing.

 What follows next is a catalogue of disasters which rather than hurrying along his failure somehow conversely conspire to take him to a position where he can pursue his ambitions and prove to the world that his intuitions in such matters are beyond doubt. Along the way he suffers rejection from those he hopes to rely upon but somehow manages to find support from the unlikeliest of corners-Alan Mc Gee makes a cameo appearance and spots that Dixie may actually be a true rock and roll believer in a world where such traits no longer count and have been replaced by suits and ‘the industry’- all the while charming everyone he encounters.

 Whilst the characterisations of the industry people Dixie encounters are heavily shaded with caricature and cliché they are also poignant and playing them for laughs is perhaps the best way Hardwick could have directed his cast. Particularly notable are Martin Freeman and Maxine Peake as a couple who own a record shop and who employ Dixie –for a solitary day as it transpires- and Morwenna Banks as a particularly feisty record company executive.

 The film really belongs to Owen though and his portrayal of Dixie as a likeable and credible character is what keeps you rooting for him throughout. At the films denouement when it feels as if all his dreams have been shattered  he still manages to evince such a sense of positivity and invincibility so you know that whatever happens he will never be thwarted in living his life exactly as he wants to, no matter how much anyone else lets him down or stands in his way.

 Svengali is definitely one of my highlights of this year’s film festival so far- already I am eight films in- and it provided more than a little light relief. Great script, great characterisation and outstanding performances all held together with a well thought out sound track-any film which deploys Mott The Hoople’s ‘Sea Diver’ is more than okay in my book- make Svengali a film worth catching. As I have said before it perhaps does not withstand too much scrutiny; but really who cares? I loved it!

 Svengali is showing at Cineworld on Fri 21st June  at 8.40pm and Sat 22nd June at2.40pm

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THE BAFTAS

The Baftas

2013 Baftas

The Baftas- award ceremonies in general actually-or The Stephen Fry show as he likes to think of it are usually one long snoozefest consisting of fatuous celebrities making insincere, tearful acceptance speeches which far outstrip any performances that have given on the screen and often bettering the one they are picking up the award for. Last nights ceremony however although I did fall asleep during its duration-less to do with the results than the fact I was spotted at 6.30am the previous morning leaving a city centre hotel after a night of partying- was something of a pleasant surprise as the winners were announced I paten found myself nodding in agreement instead of my usual harrumphing in disgust.  Leaving aside Les Miserables- please do- which still makes my blood curdle at the very thought but looking to Amour, Argo, Skyfall, Searching for Sugarman, The Imposter, Django Unchained  and Silver Linings Paybook it was almost as if the judges had had an untypical lapse into good taste.

It was especially rewarding to see Christoph Waltz be awarded best supporting actor for Django Unchained but biggest surprise was Emmanuelle Riva walk off with the best actress award for the bleak, uncompromising but truly outstanding Amour.  That this film also took best foreign film proves that it is a work of class and distinction and its sensitive treatment of a subject- Riva plays a retired music teacher who suffers a stroke and the subsequent effects this has on her and her husbands life is phenomenal as his loyalty and love is fully put to the test- that many would shy away from is brave and true to life. It is as far from a feelgood film as you could imagine but you do leave the cinema having been emotionally touched and empathetic.

Conversely Searching For Sugarman is a feelgood film-it even melted my ice cold heart- but as it has the advantage of being a true story and its central character is such an unassuming and genuine character this takes it to a level far beyond the contrived lachrymose, sentimental slop we are usually served up by scriptwriters, producers and directors playing on our emotions with cheap tactics and swelling musical scores. It was therefore pleasing to hear its name being announced as the best documentary film.

With The Imposter’s creators picking up the award for best outstanding debut it was obviously a year for true to life stories- another true tale which is quite unbelievable as a missing American child is apparently found but turns out to be a foreigner five years older but still accepted by a family who seem unable to spot the difference- and Hollywood scriptwriters must be picking their brains on frustration as they try to outdo these lurid and quite unbelievable dramas. Perhaps life has started to imitate art and we are now all subconsciously living our lives as movie scripts. I have often wondered who is writing my role for me as I seem to slip further and further into some bad B- movie!

Much is made of such award ceremonies but inevitably they are just self congratulatory events for an industry whose participants need more validation than most. The fake emotions on show merely confirm this. Similarly they are mooted as some fashion and style highpoint but this has never sat comfortably with me as the dress code is ostentatious glamour for the women and standard black tie fare for the men. I cannot see how this can influence anything apart from other award ceremony attendees or future events and as this takes up a minimal percentage of our population its influence must be very limited, unless you want to look like an extra on the set of TOWIE that is.

Generally seen as a dry run for the even more prestigious Oscars the signs for that ceremony bode well but I cannot see the Americans awarding a French actress their hallowed best actress award- they still haven’t totally forgiven the French for the lack of support in the war – and it will more likely go to one of their home-grown stars. Being a celebration, essentially, of their own movie industry this is perhaps inevitable even if it is not always the right choice.

Fortunately such ceremonies do not always inform my choices when visiting the cinema-The Hunt, Untouchables Bill Cunningham New York, Martha Marcy May Marlene  and Carnage  were all notable omissions- at least this year I don’t feel they got it too wrong and quite often they were spot on. Apart from Les Miserables. Obviously!

JUST AN OBSERVATION

 Sunday August 12th

 

Well that is the first ten days or so of the Fringe done and dusted then. So far the most amazing thing is that it has been remarkably dry since last weekend with days which could even be described as summery. The rain has stayed away since last Monday night when I was making my way to a show about the Smiths and all that was going through my head was the lyric ‘The rain fell down on a humdrum town’. The show in question Half a Person, My Life as Told by the Smiths was, fortunately, emotionally stirring, thought provoking and concise. It even made me forget the dampness of my drenched clothes and at one point brought me close to tears and this is no mean feat. Especially within the world of live theatre when emotional intensity usually loses its intimacy due to the exaggerated medium necessary to appeal to an audience who don’t have the advantage of camera close ups. A full review can be found here.

Other five star shows-full reviews can be found by clicking on the name of the shows in question- are the inestimable talents of beat-boxer Tom Thum, the intense drama of Glory Dazed and if a good night out with friends is required then The Boom Boom Club is a night out like no other. Featuring fire-eating strippers, wedding ceremonies blessed by a dildo, a hula hoping slinky and a forty five minute cabaret show it will have you wondering what is part of the act and what is not. This , of course, is half the fun and my companion and I spent several minutes watching someone sweep glitter from the stage convinced he was about to do something outrageous. When he didn’t-sweeping the floor was all he was there to do- we merely turned around to be distracted by some other happening. It is a bonkers night out and for anyone who complains that a good night out in Edinburgh is hard to find then I suggest you re-consider spending twenty quid to watch a DJ who has been around since the Jurassic era and get yourself along to this.

Not far behind these shows are Marcel Lucont’s Gallic Symbol show, a great show about Oliver ReedWild Thing-, The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, An Audience with the Duke of Windsor, Bitch Boxer and  the scattergun musings and rants of Josie Long.

Slightly missing the mark-though they may have improved since I saw them- are Loretta Maine’s Bipolar and Sammy J and Randy which are both shows I had high hopes for but unfortunately both fell a little short of expectations. Beyond hope though, I fear, is Confessions of  a Grindr Addict which was very definitely a grind. This was disappointing as I feel the subject has great dramatic value and interest-especially with the recent crashing of the site due to overuse when the Olympic athletes all descended on London and started downloading/using the app.- unfortunately this show is not the one to bring these values to fruition.

Talking of the Olympics, most of them have passed me by although I did get emotional last night when Tom Daley won a bronze model-what is it with me and emotion at the moment? A transient phase or fad I hope- and am beyond hyper excited at the prospect that Kate Bush ‘might’ be performing ‘Running up that Hill’ live- her first live performance since 1979- at the closing ceremony. This would be an amazing coup and the reclusive singer would satisfy several generations of fans by simply being there. As I write this I am listening to the perennial classic ‘Hounds of Love’ album very loud. The thing I love most about Kate Bush-apart from the obvious genius she possesses- is the way that when you listen to her you actually enter in to her universe to inhabit a world she has created for you. She is just so unstarry whilst being a huge star in possession of a gargantuan talent and this is re-assuring in these days of reality TV non-entities and wannabes who possess little ,if any, talent whatsoever.  I may be induced to sit through the whole proceedings just for this one moment alone.

The Olympics are also bearing the brunt of the blame for the Fringe being quieter than usual. It is noticeably quieter on the streets compared to the last few years and many venues are expecting it to pick up after the Olympics are over. The good weather also contributes to the more relaxed atmosphere as usually the rain forces everyone to rush to where they are going pushing past anyone who gets in their way. Or perhaps that is just me!

Manners do, by tradition, take a back seat around this time of year in Edinburgh as everyone considers their route to be the most important and anyone in their way merely an inconvenience. Spending a substantial part of my day waiting in queues has admittedly tried my patience on several occasions- I am not renowned for my patience at the best of times-but at least it is not raining.

Today sees a drama about Agatha Christie’s Marple and the big screens most enduring image of her as portrayed by Margaret Rutherford. This is followed by Australian comic Asher Treleaver. The rest of the week includes another show based on the Smiths –Unhappy Birthday- an adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, dramas about Tony Hancock and Tommy Sheridan as well as a promising show by Edinburgh veteran Ruaraidh Murray called Big Sean, Mikey and Me. I have sensibly decided to round the week off on Friday evening- I avoid reviewing shows at the weekend as it is too busy- with Fringe stalwarts and super-fun megastars Frisky and Mannish who never fail to impress.

Also on the agenda this week is the first ever Edinburgh International Fashion Festival and I am looking forward to the opening launch party on Wednesday at Summerhall.  Showing nightly at the Institute  is Gavin Evans’s short film The Audition featuring Oliver Reed,  Daniel Craig Samuel .L. Jackson and about twenty five other major A-list stars . The venue also houses his much discussed and controversial ‘Naked Touch’ exhibition. It is free entry and the film screens every night at 10pm. Apart from that it is work all the way so off out for a dose of murder in the form of Marple. Perfect Sunday afternoon entertainment suited to my tweeds and brogues!

SEARCHING FOR SUGARMAN

Searching For Sugarman

 

With the horrifying realisation that the return of the X-Crutiating Factor –consuming weekend viewing schedules in the three month run up to Xmas-is  imminent this film about a genuine musical entity devoid of ego, greed and ambition is a more than willing antidote to the wannabes, desperadoes and plainly deluded  in search of fame in the botoxed and veneered world of Simon Cowell and co. The artist in question is known simply as Rodriguez and for the past forty years has languished in relative obscurity and apparently, despite phenomenal sales in South Africa, missed out not only fifteen minutes of fame but forty years worth.

A charismatic character even at the time of the release of his debut album, Cold Fact, in 1971 Rodriguez has remained elusive and cloaked in mystery ever since. After the first album failed to live up to commercial expectations despite rapturous critical appraisals the release of a follow up which also stiffed with the public, Rodriguez slipped off the radar. Everywhere but South Africa it would seem where his debut was as common place as  Abbey Road or Bridge Over Troubled Waters but the man himself was conspicuous by his absence.

His disappearance was fuelled by rumours –obviously unsubstantiated- of his onstage suicide achieved by dousing himself in petrol then setting himself alight or alternatively taking a drug overdose whilst in a prison cell. The truth however was that after being dropped by his record company Rodriguez simply attuned himself to a simpler life never seeking to re-ignite the fame which had eluded him so far.  Even unaware of his South African success he never received a solitary penny in financial recompense despite generating worthy sales.

This all changed in the mid-nineties however when two fans, Stephen Segerman and Phil Bartholomew, accidentally stumbled on the news he was not in fact dead but very much alive and living in Chicago as a handyman of sorts. Wasting no time they persuaded him to perform live in South Africa where his fanbase remained huge. The returning concert is a highly charged emotional moment in this film and it cannot fail to melt even the most stoic and icy of hearts.

That is the major strength of this film that it is simultaneously heart-warming and heart-breaking but never slides into the realms of syrupy schmaltz. One beautifully shot scene where Rodriguez tramps through the white snowscapes of the Chicago streets cloaked in black is a powerful visual tool which articulates more about his solitary nature than a thousand interviews ever could.

With such a genuine figure at its core the film plays on very real emotions and the fact its central figure- I hesitate at referring to him as a star as there is nothing starry about him whatsoever- still lives a simple life struggling financially whilst donating his musical income to family, friends and charity is a lesson to us all. The only jarring feature is the attempt to portray him as some sort of anti-Apartheid hero and I don’t think that sort of glorification would sit well with Rodriguez himself. The music though is wonderful and Malik Bendjelloul’s direction restrained and sympathetic. So whilst the blockbusters may be putting bums on seats this summer this film somehow puts a little faith in human nature and a bit of sunshine in your life and let’s face it these are things we could all do with at the moment.

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.

JUST AN OBSERVATION

Friday  June 29th

 

The last two weeks have been filled with the EIFF and as could have been predicted about an hour before the Festival kicked off a gathering of black clouds appeared in the sky and the rain poured. It has hardly stopped since. There must be something about the words Edinburgh and Festival residing in the same sentence which inevitably results in abysmal weather as anyone who has ever been here for the Fringe in August will be able to testify. Despite this the Film Festival has seen some great films and serious talents emerging and a full list of reviews can be found in the EIFF 2012 category on the right.

Standout films include the Festival opener Killer Joe, outstanding documentary Future My Love- which looks like it may win director Maja Borg an award- and the twisted, very black comedy love story Unconditional. Also worth catching is a documentary, with original hip-hop soundtrack from one of the participants, called One Mile Away detailing the ongoing feud between two rival black gangs in Birmingham. It is an intriguing piece of work which culminates in last summers riots and shows a community in search of resolve but unlikely to ever find one.

Went to see a band called New Tango Orquestra at a party in the Liquid Rooms the other night and they were simply astounding. Hailing from Sweden their music features heavily in Future My Love and helps that film achieve the right mood at many crucial junctures. The music is slow, building and positively breath-taking and the atmosphere as they played was almost one of reverence.

With rumblings about the X-Factor auditions in the press anyone who feels the same sense of dread about this dross cluttering up our screens would be well advised to catch a film called God Bless America at the festival. It tells a tale of a man diagnosed with a terminal disease who goes on a rampage killing the celebrity driven fame seekers who inhabit this media created world. It is beyond black humour but will strike a chord with anyone who wishes they had a gun loaded with bullets bearing names such as Gaaary Baaaarloooow, Simon Cowell or Louis Walsh. A full review can be found here.

As an alternative-or indeed addition- to the EIFF closing party on Saturday Night Gavin Evans is showing his very own, never seen anywhere before film from 1999 called Audition. Starring such luminaries as Oliver Reed-in one of his last performances- Ewan McGregor, Daniel Craig, Derek Jacobi and Michael Sheen amongst many others the film is showing at 10pm Saturday night at the Institute in Roseneath Street, It is one not to be missed.

Also at The Institute they have an excellent exhibition opening on Friday called The Doomen by Robert Ormerod which is simply stunning. The pictures capture the all-consuming world of  men- and one woman- who sleep, eat, and live for their pigeons. It is an interesting world which seemingly flourishes in some of the poorer housing schemes eventually becoming a necessary part of life for its converts.

Elsewhere the always excellent Neu! Reekie is on this Friday at The Scottish Book Trust. Back with another great line up including Liz Lochhead, Sue Tompkins and Scott Hutchinson of Frightened Rabbit it looks like this will be another memorable night to compete with the others.c

On the other end of the spectrum the Psychedelic Furs are on at the Liquid Rooms tonight. I really wish I could make this gig but it doesn’t seem likely I can fit it into myschedule. Shame, as I am sure it will be a great night

There was a slight let up in the rain last night but I notice it has very much returned again this morning. Maybe Edinburgh should simply cease having festivals- or at least calling them that- and see if that makes any difference to the weather. Doubt it.

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.

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