Here are some more highlights from the festival - and I'll have one more roundup in another post with the award winners...
dir Patrick Hughes; with Ryan Kwanten, Steve Bisley 10/Aus ***
Kwanten is clearly the draw here, an Aussie actor who's now a household name thanks to True Blood. So it's nice to see him go home and make a gritty little thriller like this (amusingly, the first image we see of him is as he gets dressed, and he keeps his clothes on for the rest of the film). He plays a young cop who moves to a rural town with his pregnant wife, but on his first day at work is thrown headlong into a full on conspiracy-nightmare. The plot is a little obvious, but it's extremely well made, with some genuinely tense moments.
dir James Huth; with Jean Dujardin, Silvie Testud 09/Fr ****
Dujardin remains in his OSS-117 spoof mode for this hilarious Western, which has heavy echoes of Blazing Saddles in its story of an ace gunslinger who reluctantly takes a job as sheriff to clean up an outrageously rowdy Utah town. That it's in French is half the joke, as are his sidekicks Calamity Jane, Jesse James and Billy the Kid (hilarious performances from Testud, Melvil Poupaud and Michael Youn). And the visual style is simply gorgeous, recreating the original comic strip images with vivid colour and snappy humour.
Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World
dir Viv Fogenie; with Edward Hogg, Jodie Whittaker 10/UK **
This offbeat and extremely ambitious British drama starts promisingly as brainy geek Ollie (Hogg) struggles to cope with a terrible tragedy and literally feels his life spiralling out of control. At first it's great to see Hogg in a restrained, believable performance, but he quickly tips over into nutty mania (as usual) as Ollie's imagination gets out of control. It's an intriguing premise, well played by the cast, but the film is just too repetitive and indulgent to really come together.
dir Javier Fuentes-Leon; with Cristian Mercado, Manolo Cardona 09/Peru ****
Homosexuality is a very touchy issue in Latin America, and filmmaker Fuentes-Leon takes a beautifully sensitive approach to this story of a fisherman (Mercado) who believes his manliness lies in the fact that he's married, his wife is pregnant and he's a leader in the church and community. The fact that he's in love with his childhood pal (Cardona) is almost irrelevant - but it's also something he can't escape. The story takes a turn that combines strong emotion with magical realism as it looks at how things should be, but aren't. A strong story, lyrically well-told.
Au Revoir Taipei
dir Arvin Chen; with Jack Yao, Amber Kuo 10/Tai ****
One of the rare films in this festival that sends you smiling and dancing out of the cinema, this charming comedy from Taiwan stirs romance and crime into the intertwined lives of its colourful characters. It helps that the cast is almost shamelessly likeable, and the film is strikingly shot - packed with vivid colours and witty camerawork. In the end, the criminal element of the plot gives way to an open-hearted approach that draws both laughter and happy sighs all around. A lovely surprise.