From Edinburgh, not only the home of the biggest arts festival in the world but also the place where famous comedians walk past you in the street frequently. I saw at least six, but NONE of them fell over in a hilarious fashion. I cried a little bit.
Anyway, in a nifty chronological story-like fashion, here is The tale of the films what I saw when I was in that festival thing place.
Monday - First off was Breath, the new film from Korean director Kim Ki-Duk. I've seen two of his other films, and I really liked them, so my expectations were pretty high for this one. Luckily, it was incredibly similar to both of them - the same slow pace, restrained style and unpredictable plotting. True to form, much was ambiguous, with the characters speaking very little dialogue, and backstories only hinted at. I thought this was a very solid effort, although perhaps a bit too similar to the director's other work.
Tuesday I went to see Mike Leigh in person. I'm actually that not well versed in his work, but he just looks so cuddly. It's interesting to hear his thoughts on writing and directing - which are that they're inseperable and the same job for him - and he obviously cares a lot about the state of British cinema. He's also a big fan of the EIFF - praising it for its 'relative informality and lack of bullshit'. After that I saw some Animation from festival fixture Mirrorball; some great, innovative promos there, my favourite of which can be seen above. Unless you're reading this not in the week when it's video of the week. ...
On Wednesday I took a chance on the Surprise Movie - which turned out to be The Kingdom, a new Saudi Arabia-set action thriller with a politically relevant edge. What the film is actually saying was sometimes a bit fuzzy - I would have liked a deeper insight into the American-Middle Eastern culture clash other than "Islam gets in the way", but the climactic shootout is spectacular, and worth the ticket price alone.
Thursday - I saw five things but none of them were films.
Friday - LYNCH is a documentary that follows David Lynch up to and during the shooting of Inland Empire. It's pretty fascinating to see this guy at work - especially on a film such as Inland Empire, which, it's revealed, was pretty much made up as he went along. The filming and editing style was pretentious to the point of distraction, but it was worth enduring it to see a master at work and play. While always cracking jokes and telling stories, Lynch seems constantly aggravated by the ineptitude of everyone around him. At one point he turns to the camera and says "What a load Einstein must have had." After that was Phantom Love, described in the festival brochure as 'a dreamscape of epic imaginative reach', and those are exactly the words I would use to describe it. But only if the question was "Hey Joel, what is that film NOT?" My goodness, this film is slow. The first half consisted of a handful of shots being repeated in all their monotonous glory, and by the time we reached the second half much of the audience had walked out, sensing that a plot was most definitely not on the way. The lush monochrome cinematography is the only redeeming feature, but there's an extent to which you can make a corridor look interesting. It has something to do with sex, the war on terror and a snake, but it's just too hard to care.
On Saturday I started off with some Family Animation, which was a set of very nice and imaginative short films. Two, however, were boring and pretty rubbish and lame. They were produced by the BBC. Boo to the BBC, then. One short, called 'Two Dreams', took the sound of two children describing their dreams while the dreams themselves were played out on screen in a fluid, manic animation. I also saw an animated feature film, the Japanese-American animé Tekkonkinkreet. This was my favourite film of the whole festival, and one of the best films I've seen for a while. It follows two vagrant orphan brothers, Black and White, through their home of Treaure Town while they scare off rival gangs and try to avoid the businessmen trying to eliminate them. The visuals are fantastic - not only is the animation stunning, but the style is such to give a sense of almost documentary immediacy; but this does nothing to negate the imaginative scope of the colour and landscapes. Also worth noting is the excellent electronic score, by British duo Plaid.
Sunday - I've never seen a film quite like the documentary Protagonist - it takes four very different men who tell their life stories to the camera, while parallels are drawn between them to question the structure of life, and even suggesting that it mirrors that of a Greek play (played out with marionettes). The men - a Mexican bank robber, a gay Evangelist, an American martial arts enthusiast and a German political activist - are honest and compelling in their accounts, providing much to think about on obsession, redemption and forgiveness. In Search of a Midnight Kiss is a considerably less intelligent low-budget romantic comedy set on New Years Eve in Los Angeles. Aiming for the wandering, true-to-life style of Richard Linklater, this too often slips into Farrelly Brothers territory, meaning that it's never as smart as it would like to be. The constant references to Myspace and PostSecret are also a little too smug to bear. I ended the festival as I started, with Korea. Park Chan-Wook's latest, I'm A Cyborg, but That's OK, is a departure from his violent vengeance trilogy - instead, it's a classic tale of boy-meets-girl. Except that it's boy-meets-girl-in-a-mental-home-because-girl's-bicycle-told-her-that-she's-a-cyborg-and-he-can-apparently-steal-people's-personality-traits-by-imprinting them-on-a-hat.
This film looks amazing - the colour and CGI are used to great effect to create a cartoon-like wonderland with a sense of childlike awe. Flashback is used throughout to explain the backstory, which leads to very little in the way of a definite plot. This means that while we're made to feel for the characters, they don't reach any satisfactory resolution by the end. The film's packed full of great ideas, and all the supporting characters are given a quirky charm, but the lack of a formal structure means that by the end you're left wanting in the way of narrative. In this way, it reminded me a lot of Michel Gondry's Science of Sleep - lots of imagination, no way to tie it down. I always feel bad when making that criticism, because there should really be nothing wrong with a film that's all ideas, but the end just leaves you a bit cold. That said, it's still really funny and better than most romantic comedies. Not as good as OldBoy, but then nothing is.
Monday - I came home and wrote a blog about everything I saw. I called it 'Guess who's back...'