Posts Tagged ‘ EIFF 2015 ’


Just an Observation
The first two weeks of July in Edinburgh- Trades fortnight originally but I am unsure how relevant that term is today- are by tradition quiet times signalling a calm after the end of the Film Festival and before the onslaught of August’s Fringe interlopers. Not that the Film Festival generates that much interest from either the locals or outsiders although this year it was pleasing to see Big Gold Dream: Post Punk and Infiltrating the Mainstream. a film focussing on the much neglected music scene in Edinburgh and documenting its importance in the post punk era, scoop the audience prize award. The film also managed to host the best party of the whole festival.
Elsewhere 45 Years starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay won the best film award although I am not quite sure how. Admittedly the competition wasn’t that stiff but there were better films on show such as The Messenger, Narcopolis and the documentary on the doomed singer Amy Winehouse.
The most exciting thing to happen in the city over the last week was not the film festival’s closing party but the most fantastic thunder and lightning storm I have ever witnessed on Wednesday night into early Thursday morning which appeared to rip the sky open with dark rumblings and electric flashes. Thrilling stuff indeed!
As always at this time of year Wimbledon hovered into view this week and as soon as Dustin Brown’s photo started appearing on social media sites on Thursday evening I have a feeling that Emmerdale’s ratings on ITV plummeted as millions switched over to BBC2 to get a further glimpse of German hotness as he thrashed Rafael Nadal on centre court to move onto the next round. A new Wimbledon favourite I believe. And not just to win either!
The legend that is Debbie,or Deborah as she prefers to be addressed, Harry turned 70 this week. It hardly seems like thirty-seven years ago since she awoke a nation of teenage boys-and girls – from somnambulant sexuality with a Top of the Pops performance of ‘Denis’, becoming the first post-modern female in rock music who actually took control of her own sexuality playing on it as well as with it. Not bad for someone ‘advised’ by Patti Smith to ‘get the fuck out of rock and roll’ a couple of years earlier.
I have never understood Patti’s animosity towards a fellow female trying to make her way in the male dominated rock world especially as they gestated in the same scene-CBGB’S- and worked as polar opposites in so many ways. Smith had her Rimbaud and poetry as well as her own brand of sex appeal hinging on her couldn’t give a fuck androgyny. Harry was obviously a great beauty with a rampant universal sex appeal and it would be dull to imagine that this is the crux of Smith’s uncharitable-even to this day forty years later- attitude especially as Debbie has never said an unkind word about her.
Certainly when Patti retired from the music business to settle down and raise a family at the end of the seventies Debbie was probably the biggest star in the world at that point as well as being artistically active in creating some seriously classic avant-garde pop music whilst Smith had reached artistic bankruptcy.
Unlike many others in the fickle world of music I can’t actually recall a time when Debbie Harry was not hip. Even at points in her career when she has been less popular she never faced the inevitable backlash from press and public that so many others have, I think the fact she seems genuine comes across and coming to fame relatively late- she was 33 years old when that TOTP performance was aired- meant she always seemed grounded and this is something I can vouch for having met her and found her to be the most unassuming celebrity I have ever met. She introduced herself and said ‘I’m Deborah by the way’ as if I wouldn’t know who she was. Modern day ‘celebrities’ could do well to learn from her and then perhaps they reach seventy then perhaps they might generate one iota of love, affection and respect as she does.
Even when she does get it slightly wrong-her outfit at Glastonbury a couple of years back- it doesn’t diminish her credibility or damage her reputation one bit because she is Debbie Harry and she has earned the right to do whatever she wants!
Right off into the weekend sound-tracked by my new obsession the collaboration between Sparks and Franz Ferdinand, FFS, which looks like being a major live highlight during the Festival and Blondie



45 Years
Kate and Geoff Mercer seem to be happily ambling their way through their retirement and planning for their 45th wedding anniversary- the more traditionally celebrated 40th had to be postponed due to Geoff undergoing bypass surgery- until news comes that a perfectly preserved body has been found in the Swiss Alps. It transpires that the body is that of an earlier love of Geoff’s, Katya, prior to his meeting Kate and what starts off as an innocuous piece of news soon becomes a major issue between the couple with chilly ramifications that resonate through their relationship revealing cracks, insecurities and raising questions.
Starring Charlotte Rampling, in an outstanding performance, alongside Tom Courtenay and directed by Andrew Haigh who rose to prominence with his excellent debut ‘Weekend’ in 2011. Coaxing a perfectly emotionally pitched performance the film is often one of understatement but it is no less effective and often whistling winds in the background make up the only soundtrack denoting the chilly atmosphere and the haunting ghost of the past.
Taking place in the run up to their celebratory party the uncertainties Kate start to feel are compounded by Geoff’s forced admission that if Katya hadn’t died he would probably have married her. Discovering that he is listed as Katya’s next of kin is the point she realises that she perhaps knows her husband of 45 years a little less than she previously thought. After rooting around in the attic for information about her dead love rival Kate finds a selection of slides and photos which do nothing to reassure her as decisions which have informed aspects of their marriage are in those photos casting Katya as a spectre over the last forty five years. Even their names are similar.
Slow moving but effective ’45 Years’ shows a seemingly robust relationship built on shaky foundations. The film closes at the couple’s anniversary party and behind the carapace of happiness the smiles are as frozen as that body in the Swiss Alps.


Through the Air (La Resistance de L’ Air)
The debut feature film from Frederic Grivois is an interesting, complex and powerful thriller which often hits its mark. It is a wry observation on male pride and capitalist gain with Reda Kateb in the lead role of Vincent whose frustrations with his life force him into making some questionable decisions and utilise his skill as a top marksman to relieve his financial pressures but inevitably a whole new series of problems arise instead.
Ambling along but struggling to afford the finer things in life, Vincent feels pressured by his wife to try and improve their social status by constantly comparing their lifestyle with that of her sister who married successfully and is more than comfortably off. A new house designed by the couple to their own specific specifications has landed them into even more difficult financial territory and the pressure on Vincent is mounting. Matters are worsened when his sick father comes to stay and upsets their routine further whilst also not holding back on commenting on the problems he sees in their relationship and lifestyle, as he sees it.
Meanwhile to relieve stress and claim some time of his own Vincent immerses himself in rifle shooting at a local club where he is approached by an enigmatic stranger who charms him into using his skills with the offer of vast financial gain for a few minutes work. Inevitably the work is as a hired assassin and Vincent finds hi,self more and more drawn into a world that he cannot escape from even when he decides that he wants to.
Grivois manages to build tension throughout this film but doesn’t always capitalise on it. Thus some scenes which are set up as being taut and tense lose momentum as they seem to fizzle out in preference for close ups of the actors in deep thought. This works in some scenes but often it falls a little flat and the moment passes almost unnoticed. Not that the actors are in any way to blame for this as they all give arresting performances. Vincent’s frustrations with his life, in both its incarnations, are clearly felt as is Delphine’s bewilderment with what is going on around her.
What Grivois does do successfully is expose capitalist gain and male pride as being weaknesses as opposed top strengths. This observation is probably the film’s strongest message and in that it succeeds. Unfortunately the plot often feels convoluted and relies on restraint a little too often. This however does not prevent it from being an accomplished and interesting thriller which possesses intelligence over action scenes.


The Incident

Jane Linfoot’s debut film –she wrote and directed it- shows a lot of promise with its strong cast, eerie but beautiful setting and its theme of lives becoming intertwined via circumstance and chance meetings. The whole thing is very easy on the eye –not least its two exceptionally attractive stars Tom Hughes and Ruta Gedmintas- with its designer house encapsulating sleek and modern living alongside the tasteful beige and muted tonal colours of the wardrobe choices of the two lead charcters but somehow the whole thing feels slightly unsatisfying and underwhelming; it almost feels like stumbling into ninety minutes of awkward moments.
Joe and Annabel-Hughes and Gudminstar- seem to be the embodiment of a modern metropolitan couple, he a successful architect and she a gallery owner, but beneath the carapace of sleekness lies a desire to break out. This is all too easily captured at the film’s beginning when Tom approached by a young girl Lily(Tasha Connor) offering him sex for money accepts a little too readily and without too much persuasion. This seemingly random act sets other situations in motion although it never becomes clear how or why.
Very quickly the whole veneer of the couple’s life begins to crack and unravel revealing flaws beneath the surface that make them question their whole life together. It would seem that their particular brand of success doesn’t guarantee happiness or even emotional security.
Personally I found this film beautiful to look at but ultimately frustrating, indulgent and really not very interesting. It is hard to care about characters when they feel underdeveloped and not the sort of people you can actually care about. There seems to be a lot of supposed soul searching and gazing out of windows and no-one- particularly Joe and Annabel- feels comfortable within their own skins. In essence the film feels like being trapped in an awkward moment for most of its duration and makes for quite an unsettling experience which I suppose may actually be the point. Unfortunately ‘The Incident didn’t register enough for me on an emotional scale for it to have any long lasting effect or even be thought provoking or challenging. Instead it felt almost unfinished and therefore ultimately unsatisfying.


The Violators
A riveting and powerful drama from Helen Walsh, making her debut as both writer and director to great effect in this film set in Cheshire. The film details the troubled and dysfunctional existence of teenager Shelly- an outstanding performance for newcomer Lauren McQueen- who takes care of her younger brother whilst simultaneously attempting to keep the older one out of trouble while both parents are absent; their father incarcerated in prison for abuse and her mother just disinterested. To complicate matters further she is also approaching an age where she is receiving male attention from both good and bad sources but circumstances force her into making misjudged choices.
Matters become even more confusing when Rachel (Brogan Ellis), a teenager of similar age but totally different background, mysteriously insinuates herself into Shelly’s life but even she has an agenda of her own. Frustrated by the circumstances of her existence when local loan shark Mikey- a perfectly pitched performance by Stephen Lord- offers her a way out she is initially reluctant as she realises that the only currency he is willing to accept from her is sex. Matters soon escalate into a situation which is spiralling out of control until Rachel steps in with a suggestion she initially balks at but allows herself to be persuaded that perhaps it is the only solution. Things are never that simple however and the plot takes on new twists and turns with revelations and shocks revealed at regular intervals to great effect as often they are underplayed.
‘The Violators’ often feels like a film which isn’t trying too hard and this is perhaps its greatest strength. The performances are taut and never falter or stumble towards high drama. Instead it is almost downbeat, although the subject matter is serious and situations, which are really very disturbing and thought provoking, are never actually discussed therefore relying on the viewer to form their own conclusions. It is an interesting and often harrowing work which makes great use of a strong cast and well thought out screenplay.



Homelessness is a very serious problem in our society and usually discussed and viewed in grim terms. This film starring Peter Mullan, who plays the film’s eponymous protagonist, and directed by Jake Gavin however takes a lighter hearted approach as it follows the travails of Hector McAdam as he navigates his way between Glasgow, Newcastle and London.
Taking in various encounters en route to a regular Christmas break at a London based shelter whilst simultaneously seeking some sort of resolve with his family who he hasn’t had any contact with for fifteen years the feeling throughout is one of hope rather than the usual despair and negativity associated with homelessness and those who find themselves in such a situation. Opening up the idea that it can happen to anyone –in Hector’s case he lost his wife and child in a tragic car accident after a marital argument and blamed himself for their deaths this preventing him from continuing with his life as it was then- the film is awash with pathos and shows others who empathise and support those who have found themselves in these circumstances.
Mullan gives his usual solid performance and he is surrounded by a top notch cast including Stephen Tomkinson, Gina McKee , Ewan Stewart and Keith Allen. The feeling throughout is light but still acknowledges the serious problem of homelessness without ever having to drive the point home in a negative way. The encounters he has along the way provide the story with its body and some more use could be made of this in showing how Hector and those in a similar plight survive on a day to day basis. Often however these tales feel sidelined by the more obvious and less fascinating tale of his attempts at reconciling with his estranged siblings.
‘Hector’ is an amiable enough film but despite its central matter plays safe and never pushes any boundaries which make it more palatable to a wider audience. At the same time it takes the very serious issue of homelessness and treats it almost as a comedy of errors. This does not mean however that it doesn’t have its moments and some very entertaining ones combined in the strong script and clever dialogue as well as several very strong performances alongside Mullan’s to ensure that it is never dull throughout its duration.


Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow and All Music has Disappeared
Art terrorist who burnt a million pounds on a bonfire, reluctant and confrontational rock star with the KLF one of the biggest bands of the early nineties who deleted their back catalogue and general all round provocateur are just some of the soubriquets that Bill Drummond has acquired in his time in the public eye. This film goes behind the difficult image and allows some insights into the man as he embarks on his project The 17, a conceptual choir made up if various contributors who are assisting in the making of a piece of music which will put all the disparate strands collected together in this film to be played only once and only to those who have participated and then deleted. Radical eh?
The concept behind this film, directed by Stefan Schweitert is in its title and it was borne out of Drummond’s observation that our lives are now so overly saturated with music that we can now carry our entire record collection around in our pockets on our phones resulting in the fact we all take it for granted and deny it the value that music once had both on and in our lives. It is indeed an interesting concept and one that I have often argued myself but Drummond decides that he wants to make a piece of music that is created after all music and all knowledge of music has been erased from our society- record/CD collections destroyed, iPods wiped etc- and how we would go about creating a piece of music without this prior knowledge or these influences to draw upon.
His solution to this is to travel around and ask different groups of people, all basically non-musicians with no musical knowledge, to contribute different three minute sections of vocal performances-some musical others not so much- in order to splice them together to create a whole that is refreshing and original.
With typical perversity –and ultimately frustratingly for the viewer- we are unable to decide for ourselves as Drummond does not allow us to hear the fruits of his labour at the films denouement as it is solely for those who have been involved in the process. Although it is frustrating it is also clever as the process and the samples we have heard along the way allow our minds to create its own version of the piece of music he has denied us from hearing. I am assuming this is the point and as such it is one well made.
‘Imagine Waking Up Tomorrow and All Music Has Disappeared’ allows Drummond to extend his reputation as a provocateur.
The people he encounters and engages with along the way provide different levels of assistance and resistance to his project but he always draws something out of them. A particularly amusing moment comes when a child confronts him about the burning a million pounds on a bonfire moment and one senses a feeling of slight regret over this as his own children have apparently questioned his reasoning regarding it. I must admit the long drawn out seascapes eventually became a little tiresome especially as they seemed to be setting the scene for a piece of music we never actually got to hear-except in our own imaginations- though they were exceptionally beautiful.