Saturday, 25 June 2011

EIFF Day 10: A royal send-off

Well, the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival wraps up this weekend with the UK premiere of The Lion King in 3D - an odd finale to a rather odd festival. The emphasis this year was on events, with a range of talks, panel discussions and thematic sessions exploring a variety of films and filmmaking issues. After a very low key first week, there seem to have been more parties and drinks receptions during the second week (clearly I picked the wrong week to be there!); after all, it's the mingling with filmmakers that makes a festival feel festive. The long-standing awards were scrapped this year (except for a short film competition), but at least they have continued the traditional Best of the Fest screenings on Sunday. My personal favourites are: Calvet, Arrietty, Shut Up Little Man, Tomboy, The Guard, Project Nim and TrollHunter. Full reviews of all the films I saw should be on the site over the next week or so. And here are are some final highlights from this weekend...

A Better Life
dir Chris Weitz; with Demian Bichir, Jose Julian 11/US ***
This low-key but extremely emotional drama is packed with important themes. And it knows it. While the story and characters are hugely involving, the script falters by trying to touch on every aspect of the situation... FULL REVIEW >>

King of Devil's Island
dir Marius Holst; with Benjamin Helstad, Trond Nilssen 10/Nor ****
Based on a true story, this finely made film recounts the events with raw honesty and an attention to character detail that continually draws us in. It's set in 1915 at Bastoy boy's prison on an island in Norway, where young men are kept in line by the strict rules of the governor (a cliche-busting Stellan Skarsgard). At the centre is new boy Erling (Helstad), whose determination to escape and natural leadership skills threaten the power structure and encourage the other boys to rebel along with him. Clearly an uprising is on the cards, and as the tension grows, the filmmakers cleverly put us right in the middle of the situation, using tightly wound dialog and skilful cinematography, production design and music. It meanders a bit in the second half, and could have done with a bit of story-shaping, but it comes together for a powerfully gripping finale.

The Lion King
dir Roger Allers, Rob Minkoff; voices Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones 94/US ****
This is indeed a timeless classic, full of excitement, humour, witty asides and memorable characters. Yet there is a strangely awkward relationship between the exceptionally inventive animation and the compelling, involving story. The problem is that the animals are just far too humanized--transposing Western values and society onto the African animal kingdom while pretending to respect nature... FULL REVIEW >> (of the 2002 Imax re-release)

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