Saturday, 26 June 2010

EIFF 11: Secrets and lies

It was Timothy Spall on the red carpet here in Edinburgh last night for the premiere of his new film Jackboots on Whitehall, in which he voices Winston Churchill (above). Otherwise, it was another day of movies in darkened cinemas and warm Scottish summertime outdoors in between. In the evening, a group of us journalists meet up for our annual bowling extravaganza - to take our minds off film and exercise those tired legs. I managed a respectable 2nd place in both games. Then it was off to the world premiere party for Col Spector's Honeymooner, a fairly subdued event sponsored by a certain brandy (lesson: never make cocktails out of brandy).

Here are some highlights (starting with my favourite of the festival) on the last full day of the festival, which ends with the closing film Third Star and awards ceremony tonight. Tomorrow will be a day of Best of the Fest screenings...

The Secret in Their Eyes
dir Juan Jose Campanella; with Ricardo Darin, Soledad Villamil 09/Arg *****
Gorgeously filmed with passion and artistry, this is a provocative story of the tenacity of justice as seen through the eyes of a man who can't forget the one that got away. This is literally breathtaking filmmaking on every level ... M O R E >

dir Col Spector; with Gerard Kearns, Chris Coghill 10/UK ***
This slice-of-life drama centres on a young guy (Kearns) in North London struggling with the messy breakup of a relationship and friends who insist he gets back out there. Nothing really happens in the film, but as it follows him over the two weeks that would have been his honeymoon, it's warm and endearing, beautifully played by the whole cast with likeable, realistic characters and some extremely honest conversations.

Cherry Tree Lane
dir Paul Andrew Williams; with Rachael Blake, Tom Butcher 10/UK ***
Britain gets some suburban terror in this horrific home-invasion thriller about a couple whose tense dinner is interrupted by the arrival of a trio of young guys who are determined to teach their son a lesson once he gets home. First though they have to tie up the parents and menace them in unthinkable ways. The events play out in real time, which gives the film a strong kick. And it's especially well directed and acted. But in the end it feels somewhat pointless.

dir Nicolas Philibert 10/Fr ****
On the surface this doc couldn't feel much simpler: the camera merely watches the orangutans at a French zoo, most notably grand dame Nenette, while we hear the ambient noises, including the chatter of visitors watching them in their pens. We also get commentary from Nenette's keepers - including one from her past - who tell telling and often funny anecdotes about her colourful life. The surprise is that, even with this basic structure and 70-minute running time, filmmaker Philibert (Etre et Avoir) not only tells us rather a lot about orangutans, their history and their interaction with humans, but he also gives us an engaging glimpse into the way we interact with the animal world.

Third Star
dir Hattie Dalton; with Benedict Cumberbatch, JJ Feild 10/UK ***
This year's closing film doesn't exactly send us out of the cinema smiling! It's a dark and often very serious drama about mortality centring on four 30-ish guys who head off on a long hike along the Welsh coastline. One of them (Cumberbatch) is dying of cancer and wants to see his favourite beach for the last time. Along the way there are plenty of moments of levity and even slapstick, even as the story seems to repeat itself a bit. The cast is perfection, creating well-rounded characters who interact meaningfully. But be ready for some very heavy stuff in the last act - provocative, thoughtful and extremely moving.

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