Saturday, 18 June 2011

EIFF Day 3: Around the world

Rain arrived at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival today. We've had a gorgeously sunny week, and this is more typical weather for the festival, frankly. Much better for sitting in a warm cinema with a huge cup of coffee (bigger by the day to make up for decreasing hours of sleep) while travelling the globe on film. Here are some highlights from the festival today...

Perfect Sense
dir David Mackenzie; with Ewan McGregor, Eva Green 10/UK **
This high-concept thriller starts very well, as a mysterious illness sweeps the world causing people to experience horrible grief before losing their sense of smell. Gorgeously sensual cinematography combines with terrific acting (McGregor plays a Glasgow chef, which adds a superb wrinkle). And then we realise that Danish screenwriter Kim Fupz Aakeson has written himself into a corner: the story and characters have nowhere to go beyond bleak acceptance of the inevitable. While the internal logic of the premise and the structure of the central romance simply don't work, no matter how excellent the cast is and how clever Mackenzie is at wringing out tension and emotion. It just sits there on screen looking pretty, heaving nowhere we want to go.

dir Hiromasa Yonebayashi; voices Mirai Shida, Ryunosuke Kamiki 10/Jpn ****
With its usual mixture of breathtaking artistry and involving storytelling, Studio Ghibli adapts the classic children's novel The Borrowers, creating a beautiful film with something to say to all audiences. The story of two young people, a sickly boy and a tiny girl who lives in the walls of his house, is hugely involving, capturing a lovely sense of the relationship between them as well as each one's personal struggles. In addition, each scene is packed with witty touches that keep us laughing, from the crazed housekeeper to the fat cat, plus moments of raw emotion and pulse-racing tension. And visually, it's simply stunning, with a marvellous sense of light and texture, plus a vivid 3D effect without needing to actually use 3D or those silly specs.

dir Dominic Allan; with Jean Marc Calvet 11/UK *****
One of the most involving documentaries you'll ever see, this film follows the painter Calvet as he narrates his life story, retracing his steps from France to Miami to Costa Rica and eventually Nicaragua, with a sideroad to New York and a return to France to answer some big questions from his past. Along the way, we relive the events of his life through his offhanded humour, raw emotion and startling willingness to openly share even the most horrific details as he abandoned his family to work for a gangster and ended up as a drug-addicted nightclub owner whose near-death sparked a previously unseen gift for painting. It's an all-consuming film that's impossible to forget, and Calvet emerges as one of the most likeable, inspiring movie characters we've ever met.

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