EIFF: Final films, awards and reflections

After having my pass scanned twenty-eight times, seeing the EIFF clip twenty-eight times, signing five embargoes, the wonderful fortnight has ended.  I have seen Elijah Wood and Brian Cox, Darth Vader and stormtroppers outside the Filmhouse, and I have seen many films: some good, some bad (Hyena, I Hate the Dawn, Korso, Palo Alto, X/Y, Aberdeen, Hide and Seek, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Cold in July, Koo! Kin-dza-dza, Miss Zombie, Displaced Perssons, My Accomplice, Castles in the Sky, Set Fire to the Stars, Daughters, Hellion, Coherence, Garnet’s Gold, Joe, The Anomaly, The Infinite Man, Life After Beth, We’ll Never Have Paris, Honeymoon, Uncertain Terms, The Guvnors and I Believe in Unicorns).

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Watching all these films was tough and tiring, sometimes I was watching four in a day. The good thing was that everybody obeyed the code of conduct in the press screenings, everyone was nice, from cinema staff to EIFF volunteers. I did treat it almost like a job – watching films during the day and writing reviews at night. Most are pretty poor, I just ran out of time and I was burnt out near the end.

There were three stand out films for me: The Infinite Man, Hide and Seek (which won the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film) and Coherence. The Infinite Man especially is something that I would recommend for anyone – I will be contributing to its box office if and when it is released in the UK.

A thoroughly amazing and enjoyable experience and would recommend this to any future FimSoc member. And if there is any space next year I am taking it.

 

Final film reviews:

The Guvnors

A turf war arises in London between the old hooligans and the new hoodies. The lead actor (Harvey Sylvester) is from some band called “The Rizzle Kicks” who are a hip-hop duo. He stunningly plays Adam the leader of the teenage hoodie gang, this is the only good thing in it. For a story about gang life it has a severe lack of characterisation relying on cliché stereotypes. It is laughable, comical at times, init bruv.

I Believe in Unicorns

Davina, a sweet and innocent girl, is a home carer for her disabled mother. She meets Stirling, a grungy skater boy, and then the two fall in love. The film is interspersed with clips featuring Davina taking part in magical, mystical set pieces. I didn’t enjoy their company. They should just grow up.  Davina, if you don’t like the sex just say something, he isn’t a mind-reader. I just found myself looking for things that made her more annoying: not wearing a helmet whilst cycling, inefficient food storing in the fridge etc.

My week spot are films about teenagers – I even like Twilight – but I didn’t like this. I was seriously thinking my watch was broken – it was moving so slowly.

 

 

The Infinite Man still 7

EIFF: Just a little bit of name dropping amongst other things

Bumper post today! Highlights include Elijah Wood being genuinely surprised by a bottle of Irn-Bru, Brian Cox talking about Manhunter and five heavily pregnant teenagers grinding to the beat of “my neck, my back, lick my pussy and my crack”.

The Anomaly

First film that I have seen that has been officially certified by the BBFC (15). Two of the studios behind this are Unstoppable Entertainment and Tea Shop and Film Co, which really tells you all you need to know. Ryan (Noel Clarke who also directs) is in a van with a boy, they’ve been kidnapped. When they escape (rather easily) the camera reveals a futuristic London landscape. Time seems to have passed quickly for Ryan days, weeks and months. We see that there are two sides to Ryan: one is Ryan, the other is having his mind controlled. The real Ryan comes in bursts of ten minutes but the mind-controlled side is usually the form he takes.

The way its shot, the music and the effects (slow mo) makes it feel rather televisual. It’s a ridiculous, highly flawed script with Picasso inspired Baroque viruses. Alexis Knapp plays a prostitute who helps Ryan and wears very skimpy outfits. She is the cliché  hooker with a heart of gold. I do like Noel Clarke but you can second guess many lines.

The Infinite Man

The Infinite Man still 7

This is an Australian offbeat comedy film in which a couple go away for the weekend to celebrate their anniversary. They go to the same place as they did last year. He had planned everything they were going to do  but when ex boyfriend Terry arrives he wants her back. They only went out for two weeks and that was four years ago. But he seems to manage to win her over. One year later, he’s still at the complex. He’s built a time machine and then timelines get mixed up and he gets stuck in an infinite creation of himself.

This rom-com is smart, original and carefully plotted. It hits the right balance of confusing(ness?) and  intelligence. This is my favourite film I have seen so far at the festival. Can’t wait for the general release!
Some quotes: “Sexual congress in five” “coitus interruptus”

Life After Beth

Zak is at the funeral for Beth, his girlfriend, who died when a snake bit her. But Beth is found out to be alive and there is a hole in her grave. Did she dig out? Is she a zombie or did she resurrect like Jesus?

Aubrey Plaza plays Beth well with her comedic deadpan style. And Jerry from Parks and Recreation has a cameo! Anna Kendrick is also in this film and plays Erica whose mum attended Jazzercise (wtf is that?) with Zak’s mum. I laughed at a maximum of five times so it isn’t without merit but in The Infinite Man I laughed that in the first ten minutes. It relies on stupid “humour”, thoroughly disappointed.

Elijah Wood (left) being interviewed
Elijah Wood (left) being interviewed

The Empire Podcast

I was at the live edition of the Empire Podcast where I saw Brian Cox and Elijah Wood being interviewed and heard from Elijah himself that there is a rumour circling that Episode VII might be pushed back to Memorial Day 2016 (May 30th). Brian Cox talked about his role as Hannibal Lecktor in Manhunter, one of my favourite films of all time. And I also got a second free issue of Empire! And sorry for the shoddy camera work!

Brian Cox (left) being interviewed
Brian Cox (left) being interviewed

We’ll Never Have Paris

I saw this in Filmhouse Screen 2 and it was pretty packed. The last time I was there I watched Blue is the Warmest Colour and absolutely fell in love with it. Sadly I didn’t with Simon Helberg written We’ll Never Have Paris. Simon Helberg plays Quinn, a perfectionist, who is about to propose to his girlfriend of ten years, Devon, but another girl confesses her love for him.

The script is clumsy, very weakly structured, pacing thrown out the window. The on-screen chemistry between Quinn (Simon Helberg) and Devon (Melanie Lynskey) is surprisingly poor. It felt long even for a 97 minute film.

Honeymoon

Newly-weds Paul and Bea, from Brooklyn, go on a honeymoon to a relatives country house in Canada. These two just irritate me. When the tone turns eerie and the story becomes a horror, I was quite pleased. Bea seems to change: can’t cook French toast any more, make coffee, started sleepwalking. And then it descends into Antichrist territory – it’s a great first date film! As a result of disliking the characters I did not find it that tense. Moral of the story? Don’t go to Canada.

Uncertain Terms

Five pregnant teenagers are in a home specifically designed for them. Their parents don’t want to/can’t look after them so are sent there. We learn about why they are pregnant and with the new handyman of the house being present, love, jealousy and redemption run rife. It’s a very understated slowly placed drama with some comedic moments. I wasn’t invested in the lead character enough to provide emotional connection. If five pregnant teenagers grinding and hip thrusting to “My Neck, My Back” by Khia is your thing then go see it.

EIFF: Shorts from the Film Academies

eiff shorts

Shorts from the Film Academies is a three-day programme at the Festival created by EIFF Director Chris Fujiwara and ECA Masters students on the Film, Exhibition, and Curation course. Each day features a selection of shorts made by graduates of ECA, Napier, the London Film School, and the National Film & Television School.

Today I checked out the programme’s second set of screenings, titled Pieces of Me, A Bit of Us. According to EIFF, the shorts in Pieces of Me, A Bit of Us ‘gently explore the fragile sensation of the “I” through different stories and unique perspectives.’ Not really sure if I would agree with this summary as some of these films explored absolutely nothing. Nonetheless, it was a good experience, so if you’d like a taste of something different at the Festival, check out the final set of screenings on Friday.

The best of the set: The Bicknell

ECA grad Genevieve Bicknell created an amusing and heartfelt documentary about her annual family reunion, which features her zillions of relatives dressing up in silly costumes. Apparently the theme for the year the documentary was shot must have been Dr. Seuss–her dad starts the movie trying to get fit into his giant green ham costume, and Genevieve is a green egg. It reminded me of Sarah Polley’s excellent documentary Stories We Tell in how it explored fascinating characters in one’s own family. At only 17 minutes, I just wanted to know more about this family.

The pretty much good: Cocoons

A film about people not acting their age–the kids try to be adults, the adults are like helpless children. On the one hand, this film was quite weird; on the other, its weirdness is what gave it a somewhat intriguing story (and a story in general, something many of the other films were lacking). The story centered on Stella, a young girl whose mother sits around all day trying on (and sniffing) nightgowns and her father sleeps all day. When Stella’s mother sells her dog without telling Stella, she tries to make money in an unusual way to buy her back. I quite like the concept of the film and its display of human ‘cocoons’–in one scene, Stella’s mother zips herself up in a garment bag and just lies there for a while. And I was especially impressed by the talent of the young actors.

The ehh: Thirteen Blue

There is a young girl surrounded by a lot of older women in her life. She seems unhappy, so she runs away. Not sure what else happens, or why it even matters.

The awful but short: 0.25 and Chasm

These were only 2-3 minute films, essentially about nothing. Just weird images. I feel like these were prototypical examples of bad student filmmaking. But at least they were short.

The awful but looooong: Lethe

Like the above, but 12 minutes. So long. Too long. Two French people walking and talking. Nothing really happening. So many typos in the subtitles it was distracting.

When it comes to student- (or really graduate) made films, I think 2 decent ones out of 6 ain’t bad.

If you’re interested, check out tomorrow’s final set a screenings, titled The Heart of the Matter.

Coherence still 3 _em and kev_

EIFF: Quantum physics, Scottish history and American social realism

Another day and three more films: Coherence, Garnet’s Gold and Joe.

A woman’s phone cracks mid conversation while driving to a dinner party and while at the party things turn stranger – more cracked mobiles, no Internet and a power cut. In the beginning of Coherence it felt that there were too many characters (eight in total at the party) but as the story progresses one realises that it is in fact central to the plot. They don’t know what is going on, we also don’t know what is going on. It’s confusing – but we are meant to be confused.  More weird things happen as we learn a comet is passing overhead – gravitational effects perhaps.

There are some poor moments in it though. OMG! The doorbell! How scary! Oh it was just the men that left earlier and who we were expecting to come back. It is laughable yet intriguing, it is just so bizarre. Light comic relief given by the granola candle wielding, Feng Sui enthusiast, ketamine user. This is certainly the funniest film so far.

What’s great about it is that a physics theory was chosen as the narrative structure to this film. The idea of coherence and decoherence. Where different realities mix in complicated web of entangled storylines. It is hard to conclude an idea like this and it definitely showed.

Coherence still 3 _em and kev_

I was pleasantly surprised by this amazingly paced tense film – you just have no idea what’s next.

Some great quotes from Coherence:

  • “We’re not splitting up, we’re just going in two different groups”
  • “If there are a million realities then I slept with your wife in all of them”

Great documentaries are informative and entertaining. Sadly Garnet’s Gold is neither of those. It focuses on Garnet who is short of money and maybe if he stopped smoking he’d have more. He is a man of great potential but fails to end ideas, he runs out of steam. He has no wife, no children. He found a staff in the Highlands twenty years ago and finds out that there is a hidden chest of gold meant for Bonnie Prince Charlie. Could it be in the same place as the staff was near Loch Arkaig, Lochaber? Garnet is very imaginative but it’s too optimistic about its chances and the film needs to get dragged back down to reality. All this talk about life and making the most of it was very thin and lacked any real sense of meaning. You could see Alexander Payne doing a fictionalised version with an even more eccentric Garnet. This film I would recommend but not Garnet’s Gold.

In Joe Nicolas Cage stars as the title character. A lead tree killer, who “kills” trees through poison. He comes across fifteen year old Gary and hires him. Gary’s father, Wade, is an alcoholic. Wade was also hired but beats Gary after they were both fired since his father was being lazy on the job. Joe takes Gary under his wing – the son he never had. Forces join together against Joe as he upsets numerous people with an ending that is heart-wrenchingly terrifying.

The dilapidated landscape and dusty atmosphere is shot to precision by director David Gordon Green and cinematographer Tim Orr. They get the tone spot on, nothing is over exaggerated. It is highly emotional, without ever delving into over sentimentality. This is adapted from a book written by Larry Brown. The performances are all outstanding with Gary being played by Tye Sheridan and Wade played by Gary Poulter who was a homeless man in real life and sadly died before the film was released. This is where I now berate Nicolas Cage and his performance. Quite the contrary – he was mesmerising, his best performance in years. It just goes to show that if he has the write director and lines behind him he can be terrific. Nicolas Cage is, and always will be, an enigma. A black hole where nothing makes sense and reality breaks down (see Community S05E02).

After much deliberation Coherence is my film of the day – the physics aspect got me. I am now off home to watch The Bling Ring.

Films mentioned in this post:

Coherence
James Ward Byrkit / USA / 2013 / 89 mins
Emily Foxler, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Lorene Scafaria, Elizabeth Gracen / Fiction / English

Garnet’s Gold
Ed Perkins / UK / 2014 / 76 mins
Documentary / English

Joe
David Gordon Green / USA / 2013 / 117 mins
Nicolas Cage, Tye Sheridan, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Adriene Mishler / Fiction / English

Castles In The Sky still 9 - Copy

EIFF: Three embargoes and three films

On Saturday I watched My Accomplice, Castles in the Sky and Set Fire to the Stars and signed embargoes for all of them. What that essentially means is that I can’t comment or review them until the day of their premiere which is today, I hope. It so happened that they were embargoed for the same day so I put them all together into this post. Enjoy.

 

My Accomplice

UK / 2014 / 92 mins
Dir: Charlie Weaver Rolfe / Cast: Alexandra Kalweit, Stuart Martin, Dimitrina Elliott, Alan Gilchrist, Kevin Woolley, John Fitzmaurice, Angelique Smith

On a replacement bus service to Brighton, a Scottish special needs worker tries to make conversation with an East German woman. Frank clearly is attracted to Ilse but she does not offer him anything. It is the story of the awkward beginning to their relationship.

It feels rather televisual and the supporting cast drag this film down. I hated the secondary characters (a homeless man, room-mates, colleagues) and just wanted it to focus on the central relationship. The music was awful and did not fit well with what I was seeing on screen – a cute awkward love story. There was even a song about avocados (cue avocadon’ts and vege tables). Leads Alexandra Kalweit and Stuart Martin are ultimately let down by everything surrounding them. It is full of nuances and little idiosyncrasies which just irritate me: odd characters and music being played live. Apparently billed as a comedy, it is anything but. You’d be lucky to get one laugh out of this one.

It’s annoying really. There is a good proper central storyline in this film but all the waffle around makes it unwatchable.

Castles in the Sky
UK / 2014 / 89 mins
Dir: Gillies Mackinnon / Cast: Eddie Izzard, Alex Jennings, David Hayman, Laura Fraser, Karl Davies, Julian Rhind-Tutt

Castles In The Sky still 9 - Copy

This is the story of the invention of radar (RAdio Detection And Ranging) and its subsequent use in the Battle of Britain. Robert Watson Watt, a Scottish engineer, is tasked by the British Government to create the radio detector system. He is played spectacularly by Eddie Izzard. There is conflict within the Government, within Robert’s team and he barely sees his wife. The work consumes him as his relationship with his wife breaks down when he misses an anniversary.

There are some laugh out loud moments, although I think I was the only one to get the microwave one. It is full of cheeky humour. Inner spying and espionage run rife. A feel good film and I got emotional in the end. Great supporting cast especially David Hayman who plays Frederick Lindemann, a rival physicist. I could have done with more physics and explanations but that is just me.

Set Fire to the Stars
UK / 2014 / 90 mins
Dir: Andy Goddard / Cast: Elijah Wood, Celyn Jones, Kelly Reilly, Steven Mackintosh, Shirley Henderson, Kevin Eldon

Elijah Wood plays a literary professor at NYU in the 1950s.  He is tasked with accompanying the party crazed drunk poet Dylan Thomas when he tours the USA. Elijah Wood also co-produces this feature – I wonder if he tried eggs in Guinness. It is good that it focuses primarily on professor rather than the poet. This is where true conflict and drama takes place. Shirley Henderson (yes Moaning Myrtle) is in it. It is an excellent script. It is set up to be episodic but never feels like it.

As they try to get to Yale their relationship strains. Poet has children who are starving. The denouement happened very quickly and as a viewer I could have done with more time to digest and fully comprehend what I have just witnessed on screen. Thomas is played perfectly by Celyn Jones, who is also the co-writer. A stunning lively original score by Gruff Rhys. This film told me about a poet I knew nothing about and I have been listening to “And death shall have no dominion” a lot. Thoroughly recommend this.

EIFF: Fractured families and fractured bodies

Sunday, a quite day for some. Some go to church. Read the newspaper. A roast perhaps. For me it involved three films, one German, one American indie and one mainstream American and an hour long Q&A session.

First off it was Daughters set in Berlin. A dead female is discovered and a student ID is found on her but does not match the dead body. The ID belongs to a missing person whose mother, Agnes, is out searching for her. Agnes, a school teacher stays in a hotel room and after a bad meeting with the lead investigator she drives back drunk. She runs over Ines, a homeless girl, who sublets her studio when she’s broke. The film focuses on their strange relationship. The problem is it’s not that riveting nor engaging enough to carry the film forward. It needs to be more substantial to sustain the course of the film.

In Hellion 13 year old Jacob, an adventurous motocross prodigy is caught trashing up a pick up truck and is sent to in school suspension – instead of school he goes to a prison. His single father Hollis, a past baseball star, loses control of him and is constantly reminded of the untimely death of his wife, Rebecca. When his other son, Wes (10 years old), is taken away by Child Protection Services things go from bad to worse in this dysfunctional family. It ends with a gripping finale and it is hard to look back. Jacob is played by Josh Wiggins, in his first major role, who absolutely fills the screen with emotion. This kid will go places. My affection for this film has grown throughout the day, and will probably through time.  Hellion is my film of the day.

Hellion

I then attended a Q&A session with Chris Hewitt, News Editor of Empire Magazine. Empire Magazine, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, recently released “The 301 Greatest Movies of All Time” (of which I got a free copy) and sadly my number one does not agree with its. Who’s right? Me. Listening to him speak about his job made me feel a hint of jealousy (who wouldn’t want to be threatened about being sued by John Malkovich?). Although I do feel very, very grateful for my chance to cover EIFF.

Lastly I watched The Fault in Our Stars. Although not part of the EIFF I thought I’d just put my review in here. Why not? Who reads this anyway? So the film starts with Hazel, a 16 year old cancer patient, telling us that this “is the truth” but I can’t help but feel it isn’t. She joins a support group and meets Gus, an older teenager who has lost his right leg. They hang out and dangle on the cliff of love. They fly to Amsterdam to meet Peter Van Outen, the author of An Imperial Affliction, which his a book they first bonded over. The author, played by Willem Dafoe, is a drunk and an awful human being. They want to know what happens after the novel because they need to have something to drive forward and not get dragged down by the disease that has afflicted them.

While in Amsterdam there is a scene where they visit the house of Anne Frank which some have said was ill-judged. It did make me uncomfortable, not the story just the production of it, I felt as though I was intruding in a sacred place. I don’t believe this is a film primarily about cancer. It’s secondary, tertiary even. Full disclosure: I’ve never had experience of terminal cancer and I am very fortunate but I did feel it to be too mawkish at times. Both look amazing all the time, he is a hunk and she is absolutely stunning which, I think, is not the “truth”. There is constant, monotonous crying, sorrow music, and everything slowed down so that you are almost forced to cry.

Another issue I have is the use of mathematics in certain speeches – if you are going to use it research it properly! Hazel says that the infinite number of numbers between 0 and 1 is less than that between 0 and 2. Which is just wrong. In the film they even quote Cantor! What they should have said was that the set of natural numbers {1, 2, 3, …} has fewer numbers than all the numbers between 0 and 1. This incorrect statement through me off because we’ll now have a generation of young adults who will see this film and be uneducated. Anyway this film is good for its intended audience which isn’t me, an over-analysing mathematical physics student.

EIFF films mentioned:

Daughters (Töchter)
Maria Speth / Germany / 2013 / 92 mins
Corinna Kirchhoff, Kathleen Morgeneyer / Fiction / German

Hellion
Kat Candler / USA / 2014 / 98 mins
Aaron Paul, Juliette Lewis, Josh Wiggins, Deke Garner / Fiction / English

 

Koo Kin-Dza-Dza still 3

EIFF: The Kin-dza-dza galaxy and zombie sex

Today I started with the Russian animation Koo! Kin-dza-dza.  It opens with a bright colourful concert, showing off its beautifully drawn animation. On the way home the uptight lead cellist meets a laid back DJ, who claims to be his nephew. Together they transport to the desert planet Pluke after an encounter with a junkie (akin to The Legion of Mad Fellows). and we follow them as they try to get back to Earth. Although funny in places, I feel some of the comedy is lost in translation. When they get near journey’s end it gets convoluted with little story lines that are set up and resolved in a few minutes that could have been done without (love interest of the DJ’s, fraudulent engines). I got impatient and just wanted them to hurry up.

Koo Kin-Dza-Dza still 3

Reading into it I learnt that apparently it is a satire on 1980s Soviet Union. Although I had no idea of this commentary (I am not an expert of 80s USSR) I feel that there is enough there to justify it: a hierarchy based on colour of pants, you have to perform a mantra for richer people and the restricted lexicon,  kew = socially acceptable obscenity, koo = all other words.

Next was Miss Zombie. A black and white Japanese film about a female zombie who, essentially, becomes a slave for a doctor’s family. They get her to do chores around the garden, mainly the monotonous cleaning of the porch. The story lends itself to a more comical tone whereas what we have is an art house zombie film with minimalism at the forefront. However, two handymen do provide some comic relief but things take a nasty turn as they proceed to rape the female zombie. If it’s trying to be funny, it’s not. If it’s trying to be scary, it’s not. Is it trying to say something about sexual violence against women? Perhaps. But it’s just silly and ridiculous. Interesting premise, shame about the execution.

Miss Zombie still 1

 

I then watched a Swedish documentary entitled Displaced Perssons. Pelle Persson drove a land rover from Sweden to Pakistan forty years ago. He started a family in Lahore and this film follows their journey to Sweden as they search for a better life. In the beginning it shows the gender inequality that exists in Pakistan. Pelle believes he is free (he can have donkeys) and it’s an easy going lifestyle in Pakistan, in contrast to Sweden where everyone is uptight and time means money. But his daughters are unable to go out to see friends and can’t go shopping by themselves.

Displaced Perssons still 1 _Foto Mats Lund_

It really gets into its own when they get to Sweden. It’s joyful and happy and it is very hard not to like the lively Perssons. As they get bogged down in Swedish red tape (Pelle has to prove he is alive to get the correct ID, but to prove he is alive he has to show the correct ID) it gets quite sad, heartbreaking at times. There are laugh-out-loud moments as cultures clash and I couldn’t help but get emotional in the end. Thoroughly enjoyable, Displaced Perssons is my film of the day.

 

 

 
Films mentioned in this post:

Koo! Kin-dza-dza (Ku! Kin-dza-dza)
Russia / 2013 / 90 mins
Dir: Georgiy Daneliya, Tatiana Ilyina / Voice Cast: Nikolai Gubenko, Ivan Tsekhmistrenko, Andrey Leonov, Aleksey Kolgan, Georgiy Daneliya / Lang: Russian
Click here to book tickets for Koo! Kin-dza-dza

Miss Zombie
Japan / 2013 / 85 mins
Dir: Sabu / Cast: Ayaka Komatsu, Makoto Togashi, Toru Tezuka, Riku Ohnishi, Taro Suruga, Tateto Serizawa, Takaya Yamauchi / Lang: Russian
Click here to book tickets for Miss Zombie

Displaced Perssons (Familjen Persson i främmande land)
Sweden / 2013 / 85 mins
Dir: Åsa Blanck, Johan Palmgren / Cast: Pelle Persson, Shahmin Persson, Mia Persson, Zahra Persson / Lang: English, Swedish, Urdu
Click here to book tickets for Displaced Perssons

 

Hide And Seek still 1

EIFF: Hide and Seek

UK / 2014 / 80 mins
Dir: Joanna Coates / Cast: Josh O’Connor, Hannah Arterton, Rea Mole, Daniel Metz, Joe Banks

Four fragile young people escape their ordinary lives and move into a house in the country. They set up a rota of who’s going into the bedroom where the can perform their wildest fantasies. This is told in a way that we were never really sure what was going on in the beginning. An ex boyfriend of one of the participants shows up and learns, as we do, that they have formed a cult, a highly sexualised one. When he is unwilling to take part in proceedings he quickly leaves and the group continues on. And we learn some details about their past, most still left as a mystery.

Hide And Seek still 1

As I settled in I fell in love. Mesmerised by the film’s beauty. They perform charming skits at night: a chat show, a mime and a campfire. The director Joanna Coates employs a delicate and flirtatious style with camera work and deftly handles it with care and attention. She challenges our own ideas of love, relationships and sex.

One of the characters thought he’d be in “utopia” when he moved but then he quickly realised that you “have to work for perfection”. I was in utopia while watching this film. I first of all thought that this was going to be another arty farty, pretentious piece but rather it has a living, beating heart. The performances don’t seem real, rather fake, but I think this actually helps as it is all about ideals and happiness not realism and truth.

They join because they are missing something in their lives. They “hide” in a house then they “seek” what the want. Some advice: hide in the cinema and seek out this film.

Click here to book tickets for the World Premiere of Hide and Seek

Peter Ferdinando as Michael

EIFF: Hyena

UK / 2014 / 112 mins
Dir: Gerard Johnson / Cast: Peter Ferdinando, Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell, Elisa Lasowski

 

Meet Michael Logan, a police officer at the head of a task force investigating serious drug trafficking. Not the stereotypical cop – a drug abuser himself – and his team often cut deals with the drug traffickers. When rumours of internal investigations surface and when two Albanian gangsters arrive on the scene, in true London style, it all goes Pete Tong for Michael. This is not your average run-of-the-mill box standard Danny Dyer London thriller. This is something much more invigorating and dirty.

The performances throughout the film are all outstanding. The organic and naturalistic acting help authenticate Hyena. Although Peter Ferdinando plays Michael excellently, for me it is Stephen Graham, who plays David, and Elisa Lasowski, who plays Ariana who stand out. David, an old colleague of Michaels, takes over the task force as we hear that Michael had angered David earlier in his career and Michael believes David has returned for revenge. Ariana is an abused and trafficked woman and is played to devastating reality by Elisa.

Peter Ferdinando as Michael
Peter Ferdinando as Michael

The city of London plays an extra character in Hyena. This sprawling and vast city, with a mixture of culture and race and a large and seedy underbelly sets the characters in place. The film looks and feels vibrant with frequent forays into vividly lit sets, thumping music and the hand-held camera work elevates the films otherwise morbid tone.

The director, Gerard Johnson, shows real artistic flair but, at times, the film does lose narrative structure. Where style is deemed more important than substance and this diminishes the films overall impact. It does take a good quarter of an hour to get used to this style and I did lose attention several times in the beginning. The ending may seem an easy way out and is annoying initially but in retrospect it is the right ending.

At its heart Hyena is a character study. Never just black and white in this film, every character is painted in a shade of grey. A  man always conflicted between the choices of good and evil, even when the two have the same outcome. Dark, bloody and tormenting. This is London. This is cinema.

Hyena has already opened the Edinburgh International Film Festival. A UK-wide release date is TBC.

EIFF: Aberdeen, HK and Texas, US

Second day and I have a further three films. One set in Aberdeen, Hong Kong (not north Scotland) and two in Texas.

I started the day with Aberdeen which is set in Aberdeen, a suburb of Hong Kong. The film revolves around a family with a grandma who had past away some time ago. The widow, the grandfather, a Taoist priest, has recently fallen in love with another woman. They had a son who is a tutor and married to a model who, in turn, have a child, Piggy. They also had a daughter, a tourist guide, who is married to a cheating doctor.

Characters try to overcome different issues; the model deals with diminishing looks due to old age, the tourist guide has leftover mother issues, Piggy is teased about her looks. Several dream sequences occur in this film: one where a Godzilla-like creature roams through an Aberdeen town model with Piggy chasing behind, one with weird taxi drivers and bizarre mobile phone covers. A few sweeping shots of this model were included in the beginning which, at first, felt out of place and could have been handled better but towards the end they do add something towards the dreamy landscape.

Aberdeen still 6

It didn’t look particularly great. You can tell they tried to but usually it just looked like a trainwreck of reflections and lights. But I can’t help but think that this film is trying to tell me something about life. I’m just not sure what it is. A reference to a signpost saying “All Destinations” is repeated. We learnt some life lessons from George Lucas’ remastering of Star Wars. And a stranded hunchback whale. Or “Life is just about… inhale … hold your breath … exhale”.

Next came We Gotta Get Out of This Place. Bobby and Sue are going to college soon and BJ, Sue’s boyfriend, steals money from Giff, the local extortionist, for them all to have a leaving party. When Giff finds out about the stolen money he tells the teenagers to get it back by stealing more money from a gang leader “Big Red” in a cotton mill. A love triangle between the three forms as Bobby and Sue have an affair behind BJ. Love, revenge and greed melt into this thrilling, heart-racing journey which questions our own beliefs of what is good and evil. The repeated strums of a guitar help the tension build and build. This is directed by the brother pairing of Zeke and Simon Hawkins I am very excited to see what they will do next. Who knows? Are these next Coen brothers perhaps? This is my film of the week.

We Gotta Get Out Of This Place still 2 _Drive_
Sue, Bobby and BJ in We Gotta Get Out of This Place

For my final screening of the day I watched Cold in July. The film opens with a home invasion. A husband, armed, looks around his home after his wife hears a noise. He goes into the living room, sees an intruder, unarmed, and shoots him in the face. Blood is spattered over a beautiful landscape picture, a sign of things to come. The husband becomes distraught and tries to cope with his brutality.  He is then threatened by the intruder’s father, who is currently on parole. During this opening storyline, with the revenging father, risk and danger do not feel that great. But when the wrong identification of the intruder surfaces, the tempo picks up and then plot twists run wild. Who was the intruder? Who is the fathers son? Why the cover-up?

My qualms with this film is its use of sexual violence as a thematic subject. It adds a very dark tonal shift which does not fit with the rest of the film – originally set up to be a Fargo but turned into something much, much darker. Filmmakers should stop using it as a cheap way out unless its inclusion is warranted. This subject needs to be treated with the seriousness it deserves. In this particular film, a wacky cowboy giving some comic relief during this time was not welcomed. I do, however, acknowledge that I am critiquing this film unjustly about this specific point and my criticism is with the use of it in general. At least 4/9 films I have seen at the EIFF so far either reference it or depict it in some shape or form. It either fits with the film or does not, in this case it does not.

Cold In July still 1

Having said that it is a good film. The performances are great, a haunting score seeps throughout (reminded me of Halloween‘s) and everything in this film looks immaculate, the costumes, the decor and the characters. A shame, for me at least, that it goes one plot twist too many.

Tomorrow I will be taking a brief hiatus (come on I’ve seen eight films in the past two days) but my review of Hyena, the festival’s opening film, will be up then. I had to sign an embargo for it!!!! I’m living the dream!!!

Films mentioned in this post:

Aberdeen (Heung Gong Jai)
Hong Kong, China / 2014 / 97 mins
Dir: Pang Ho-cheung / Cast: Miriam Yeung, Louis Koo, Gigi Leung, Eric Tsang, Ng Man-tat, Carrie Ng / Lang: Cantonese
Click here to book tickets for Aberdeen

We Gotta Get Out of This Place
USA / 2013 / 90 mins
Dir: Simon Hawkins, Zeke Hawkins / Cast: Jeremy Allen White, Logan Huffman, Mackenzie Davis, Mark Pellegrino, William Devane
Click here to book tickets for We Gotta Get Out of This Place

Cold in July
USA / 2014 / 109 mins
Dir: Jim Mickle / Cast: Michael C Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson
Click here to book tickets for Cold in July

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