Wednesday, 23 June 2010

EIFF 8: Off the wall

It was the European premiere of the British film Mr Nice last night in sunny Edinburgh - that's David Thewlis, director Bernard Rose, Howard Marks and Rhys Ifans on the red carpet beforehand. They were there to introduce the film and gave us a lively Q&A afterwards. It was another busy day at the festival - I saw five films - with the summer weather continuing at full boil. It's too gorgeous to be sitting inside a cinema all day, but I did manage to get out into the parks in between screenings.

Here are some highlights...

Mr Nice
dir Bernard Rose; with Rhys Ifans, David Thewlis 10/UK ****
The story of notorious pot dealer Howard Marks becomes a seriously infectious movie, cleverly directed by Rose in film styles that echo the various decades of the story. It's also anchored by a lascerating performance from Ifans, who in the final act manages to twist the film into something much more sympathetic and engaging than we could ever expect. And his scenes with Thewlis (as an IRA leader) are absolutely hysterical. Yes, the film may be accused of celebrating drug use, but it's actually just a good story well told.

The Rebound
dir Bart Freundlich; with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Justin Bartha 09/US ***

A charming and observant tone helps lift this above most romantic comedies, at least until the formula kicks in during the final rather contrived act. But until then, it keeps us happily smiling and sighing along ... M O R E >

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
dir Werner Herzog; with Willem Dafoe, Michael Shannon 09/US ****

It's hard to imagine a more bonkers combination than Herzog and David Lynch (who produces), and indeed, this film is one of those love-hate propositions: thoroughly nuts and yet eerily riveting. Based on a true story, the film deconstructs a police stand-off as two cops (Dafoe and Michael Pena) try to talk a killer (Shannon) out of his house. Meanwhile, witnesses (including Chloe Sevigny and Udo Keir) tell stories that take us into flashbacks of the weeks before the murder. Besides being a rippingly well-made film, it also has some very interesting things to say about art, family and mental instability.

dir Taika Waititi; with James Rolleston, Te Aho Eketone-Whitu 10/NZ ***
From the maker of Eagle vs Shark, here's another light-handed drama set in a Maori community in which 11-year-old Boy (Rolleston) confronts the father (Waititi) he never knew - and realises he's perhaps not the hero he thought he was. The film is loose and almost plotless, focussing instead on the characters and their internal journeys. But that makes it sound like a dire drama, when it's actually extremely funny. Set in 1984, the film is awash in iconic images (including Boy's other hero, Michael Jackson), which adds a level of irony and even some laugh-out-loud gags along the way.

Me, Too [Yo, Tambien]
dir Pastor & Naharro; with Lola Duenas, Pablo Pineda 09/Sp ****
From Spain, this disarming comedy-drama takes a relaxed and insightful look into an important theme, as a man with Down's Syndrome (Pineda) falls for his colleague (Duenas). Where this goes is completely unpredictable, as the film gently challenges stereotypes and prejudices we didn't even know we had. Without ever being pushy or preachy, the film makes its point clearly. And the story itself is so sweet that you'll want everyone you know to see it too.

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