Friday, August 26, 2005

Day Seven - "I'm gayer than the average bear - and bears are wicked gay."

Day 235
Film total today: 3
Films seen so far this year: 218 (17 to go)

Still no bears, despite the quote above (from the Joss Whedon Q&A). The weather is crazy, though - gorgeous sunshine for two days, then freezing cold and rain for two days, then sunshine again for two days and so on. On the plus side, it's the hottest Edinburgh weather since 2001. On the minus side, it's also the coldest.


British Dogme film, starring Pauline McLynn as an unhappily married woman who befriends an attractive young refugee and her mother.

Structurally ambitious film that remains enjoyable, even if some of its more audacious elements don't quite come off. This is one of those films that tells the same story from three different points of view and it's clear that each character remembers events slightly differently, Rashomon-style. Set in Margate, the film stars Pauline McLynn as Helen, an unhappily married woman who's fed up of looking after her teenage daughter's baby and cooking for her uncommunicative husband, Paul (Paul McGann). She befriends an attractive Czech refugee named Tasha (Chloe Sirene) and her mother, played by Rula Lenska. The next section of the film is from the husband's point of view and the final section tells Tasha's side of the story and reveals a number of surprising twists in the tale. (Warning: spoilers follow). Basically, if you're going to do this type of film, then the revelations in the second and third segments have to really pay off. With Gypo, they do and they don't, but the film kept me watching because of the differences in the way the characters remembered the events and I kept wondering where that was going. It's also brilliantly acted by everyone except the girl who played Helen's daughter (Tamzin Dunstone), who screams her lines like she's learned them phonetically and doesn't understand them. I liked the subtle cheekiness of some of the revelations (what we think is blood later turns out to be ketchup) and the fact that some of the important details were not explicitly mentioned but left for the audience to work out for themselves (e.g. that Paul had slept with Tasha when she was a prostitute). It also has perhaps the most surprising lesbian scene in recent history. (Lesbian scenes in movies don't usually do it for me, but this was the exception.) Four stars.


American independent film starring Alessandro Nivola and Embeth Davidtz as a recently married Chicago couple who make a family visit while attempting to persuade a reclusive artist to sign with their gallery.

Enjoyable, superbly acted, relatively low budget American indie flick that (according to My New Friend Alessandro Nivola) only received funding because of the presence of Benjamin McKenzie, better known as 'Ryan from The O.C.' It's directed by Phil Morrison and has a great soundtrack, courtesy of Yo La Tengo. Actually, the opening credits sequence made me think it was going to be a lot more like a Wes Anderson movie, but it soon settles down into something different. Embeth Davidtz plays Madeleine, a gallery owner in Chicago who has recently married George (Alessandro Nivola) a man she has only known for a short time. When her job takes her down to the backwoods of North Carolina in order to see the work of a weird reclusive artist ("I couldn't fit General Lee's cock in the frame so I continued on the back"), George suggests that they visit his family. However, his mother is less than friendly towards Madeleine, his father is more preoccupied with other things ("Where would I be if I was a screwdriver?") and his brother, Johnny (Ben McKenzie) is openly hostile towards him. Only his heavily pregnant sister-in-law Ashley (an award-winning comic performance by Amy Adams) welcomes both him and Madeleine with open arms. The set-up of the film sounds fairly generic, but the mood of the film lifts it out of the ordinary. There are some terrific scenes - highlights include: George singing a beautiful hymn with the local church group, to Madeleine's astonishment; Johnny experiencing a bout of Video Panic while trying to tape a programme on meerkats for Ashley; a shocking scene involving a spanner (the unusual aftermath of this scene is typical of the film's offbeat nature); and a heart-breaking scene between Ashley and George in the hospital. Recommended. Five stars. (This is also in my Festival Top Ten).

Now and Then

Low-key French drama about a shy young woman (Julie Depardieu) who becomes obsessed with the disappearance of her illustrious predecessor, when she accepts a job on a landscape photography project in an Alpine town.

The Festival write-up refers to Now and Then as "delicate, cerebral and carefully understated" - it's a good description, but it doesn't quite prepare you for the way the film sneaks up and subtly takes hold of you. It's a quiet, unusual film, but I really enjoyed it. Julie Depardieu (daughter of Gerard) plays Alice, a photographer who is offered a job on a landscape photography project, largely because her mother's ex-lover wants to get back in contact. She's shy, seemingly a little unstable and certainly lacking in social skills: her standard response in an uncomfortable situation is to say "Excuse me" and quickly leave the room - it's almost like it's her comedy catchphrase. The job involves continuing the work of her illustrious predecessor, a famous English photographer who has mysteriously disappeared. In the course of finding and duplicating his photographs (a year-by-year record of the Alpine countryside), Alice comes to see through his eyes and becomes more and more obsessed with his disappearance. She also seems to open up in the process - she takes a lover (perhaps because her predecessor did the same thing?), befriends the Englishman's ex-lover and begins to socialise with a holidaying group of hang-gliding fanatics. She also discovers her artistic side, where she had previously described herself as "a technician". Depardieu is an engaging actress - she does very little but you really want to know what she's thinking. The film also has a great final shot involving the photographing of a group of sheep as they appear over the top of a hill. Great use of HMS Pinafore, too. Magnifique. Quatre etoiles.

Joss Whedon ReelTalk Event

Very enjoyable - Shane Danielson's intro was particularly amusing, quizzing the crowd to find out who had paid the most for a ticket on e-Bay (£210) and then explaining that it was alright, because he was doing lots more Q&As throughout the festival and that people who had missed out would have several chances to see him again. Joss talked about script doctoring, about turning a failed movie into a successful TV show with Buffy and then about reversing the process and turning a failed TV show into a (hopefully) successful movie with Firefly / Serenity. He also gave some passionate, heartfelt advice to a film student who told him she had learned more from his work than from her entire course ("Just squeeze every last drop from the course that you can - take advantage of all their facilities and try everything you can -sound recordist, cameraman, directing, lighting- just so you can develop those skills.") It was also nice that Nathan Fillion showed up to support him in the audience (the row behind us) - this allowed for a few comedy insults from Joss, to which Nathan retorted, "I can hear you, you know!"

Green Street Party

No photos this time. The Serenity guys must be well and truly sick of me by now. It's probably a good thing they're all leaving tomorrow. Still, at least I got to ask Nathan Fillion what it was like to kiss Julie Cooper, even if I didn't get to explain my theory about how his character is basically Captain Kirk. I also talked to Gina (lovely, lovely Gina), Sean (no longer shy and very chatty) and Jewel again - she told me that she was going to choose her next role carefully and didn't want to just take the next thing that came along. Wise move. I'm looking at you, Dushku. Soul Survivors, indeed. Anyway, Biggsy was there again and we had a brief chat but his promises to come over later came to nothing. I did have a long chat with Alessandro about Junebug though, in which I learned, a) that it really was him singing in the amazing hymn scene, b) that Benjamin McKenzie is a lovely guy and comes from a highly academic family background, and c) that that was Alessandro's real arse in the sex scene. Elijah Wood was at the party too (it was his film, after all) but he just went straight to the back and sat on a table with his friends for the whole night - contrast that with the Serenity guys who were dancing, joking and chatting to people all night. Shame though, because I'd wanted to tell Elijah that I'd loved him in Avalon. Ah well.


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