Film total today: 4
Films seen so far this year: 229 (9 to go)
No bears or sheep again. Horrible dog scene in Nordkraft though - even worse than the one in Tsotsi.
Multi-layered horror film about a famous reclusive director making a snuff movie. Or is he? Etc.
I really don't understand why Snuff Movie was so bad. I'd always thought of Bernard Rose as a good horror director - Candyman was trashy, but suitably scary and fun with it and Paperhouse was a very effective creepy children's fantasy. Snuff Movie is bloody dreadful though. It's supposedly very clever and multi-layered, so that you're never sure what you're meant to be watching (is it a film-within-a-film? A film-within-a-film-within-a-film? Or, er, just a film?) but none of it works. The basic plot is this: a successful Kubrick-like horror director (Jerome Krabbe) becomes a recluse after the murder of his wife in a copycat killing from one of his films. Years later, he invites four actors to come to his house and "audition" for his new movie, although they all sign contracts before they get there. Then -gasp- it turns out he's making a snuff movie on the internet! Or does it? And so on. It doesn't help that the acting is extremely bad, particularly from the lead actress. (Admittedly, she's supposed to be playing a bad actress, but later on she appears as "herself" and she's still a bad actress. If you see what I mean.) It also doesn't help that the same actors keep cropping up in different roles (e.g. the three women who performed the copycat killing 20 years ago show up looking exactly the same) - if this was meant to be part of the joke then it backfires badly. It did have its moments (the internet jokes as the boyfriend discovers the snuff movie; a particularly energetic sex scene; a bit with a severed head being tossed up in the air) but mostly it's poorly scripted, badly acted and nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. One star.
The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael
The festival’s most controversial film, about a group of bored teenagers in Newhaven, who indulge in a bit of the old ultraviolence.
Edinburgh wouldn't be Edinburgh without at least one controversial movie to stir things up a bit. In previous years we've had: Gaspar Noe's Irreversible (violent rape scene), Catherine Breillat's Romance (explicit sex), Michael Haneke's Funny Games (explicit violence) and Bruno Dumont's L'Humanite (explicit sex again. Or was it violence? I forget.) Usually, however, those films have something to recommend them beyond the explicit sex and/or violence. In the case of The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael, what we have is a pretty good film, with an appalling, horrific, indefensible final rape scene that screams nothing more than "Woooo! Look how much I love A Clockwork Orange!" It's impossible to believe that the scene wasn't included just so the film could garner outraged tabloid inches (Daily Mail sadly not available for comment) and indeed, the director (Thomas Clay) did little to dispel that idea when confronted by angry audiences at the Q&A afterwards. The sad thing is that the film is actually an accomplished piece of work up until that point. Robert (Daniel Spencer) is one of several bored Newhaven teenagers. When his friend's cousin (Danny Dyer) is released from prison, Robert falls in with a bad crowd, which eventually leads to the horrific finale. There's a tiny hint of the sexual violence to come when Robert is seen frantically masturbating to a Marquis de Sade novel, but that doesn't really prepare you for what happens. The odd thing is that Clay already has a powerful rape scene in the middle of the film - a group of lads take a drunk girl back to their flat and she's taken into a back room. The camera stays outside the room while a DJ spins records - we occasionally hear the girl's screams as the other boys enter the room. This scene is horrific but not explicit and it renders the final scene superfluous. The rest of the film is composed almost entirely of long shots and medium shots (there are no close-ups that I can remember) and is extremely effective as it follows a few different characters around. Sadly, as is the way with most controversial films, it has been picked up for distribution, by Tartan Films, so you will get to see it eventually. I urge you not to though - or if you do, beat the rush and walk out before the boys enter the house at the end. Two stars.
Nordkraft (Angels in Fast Motion)
Danish drama focussing on the stories of a junkie, a pusher and a “drugs frau”.
The write-up in the EFF brochure describes Nordkraft as "like Trainspotting crossed with Les Amants de Pont Neuf" and that's pretty accurate. I confess, I liked the kinetic opening sequence more than the rest of the film, because it quickly settles down into a more conventional style. The story concerns three characters who only interact in a peripheral way: Maria, a "drugs frau", who only seems to be involved with drugs because of her pusher boyfriend; Allan, an ex-pusher and user trying to stay clean; and Steso, a junkie torn between his love for his girlfriend and his love of smack. The film is well acted and the stories are engaging, but it never really matches up to its opening sequence, in which Maria almost gets caught delivering drugs. Actually, what I liked about the film were the little details, such as the Turkish dealer who shaves off his moustache out of love for Maria. (This bit was like a mini-version of Le Moustache and the details of how he'd had the moustache ever since he was old enough to shave and how his father and grandfather had had moustaches all their lives made me laugh). There was also yet another brutal scene involving dog abuse - I just don't understand why film-makers seem to have it in for dogs this year. (The scene where Maria's boyfriend realises his dogs are "junkie dogs" was amusing though). I'd be surprised if this gets a mainstream release, as there wasn't really enough here to make it stand out above the other foreign films in the festival. Three stars.
Same Sex America
Documentary about the battle to maintain the legality of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts and several couples who decide to get married while they still can.
This was a "Showtime" TV movie (bit of a cheek having it in the festival, really) so it's unlikely to be appearing at a cinema near you anytime soon. The film centres on several gay couples who have chosen to get married in Massachusetts while the law still allows it - there's an ongoing debate throughout the film that results in the law being suspended, then appealed, then -- well, frankly, I lost sight of how it ended up and it may well have changed again since then. The couples are very well-chosen though and there's some serious scene-stealing by a couple of adopted children (one 5 year old Chinese girl in particular). There's a lot of love in the film - you'd have to be a hard-hearted Conservative indeed to deny these people the right to be legally married. There's also a nice running gag with the county clerk, where the film-makers keep asking him where he stands on gay marriage and he refuses to be drawn...until the very end of the movie. Two stars.
Scottish Screen Party
There’s not much to tell about this, really. It was held in the nightclub they used for the same party last year and I wasn’t really in the mood for all the chunga-chunga-chunga, as my friend Esteban used to say. Still, I chatted to the producer and director of Night People again (I hadn’t realised they were partners) and also to My New Friend Alessandro Nivola about the various Jury films he’d seen. I’m guessing they’re going to give the award to Tsotsi, which would be a very deserving winner and has coincidentally just knocked Serenity off the top spot for the Audience Award. Finally, just as I was about to head off home, I met The Lovely Neve McIntosh and was delighted to discover that she’s just finished filming the second series of Bodies and that there will be ten episodes this time round, instead of six. I told her that Bodies was easily the best British TV drama I’d seen in the last couple of years and also that I loved Psychos – she explained why they hadn’t made a second series of it, but I couldn’t hear what she said, what with it being A BLOODY NIGHTCLUB and all. I also did some more shilling for Pucker Up: The Fine Art of Whistling, which I’ve basically been recommending to everyone I meet. It’s definitely my favourite film of the festival.