Monday, 20 June 2011

EIFF Day 5: Man and beast

The 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival will carry on without me this week, as I am returning to London today. With the festival so low-key this year, I felt that staying for the full two weeks was a bit extravagant, but I've seen films showing all through the week, so the blog will march on. And I'll rely on my colleagues to let me know if there's any news to report, as the festival press office hasn't been reporting very much. My main curiosity is about the box office: has their drastically altered programme affected attendance? Hopefully we'll find out. Meanwhile, here are some highlights for Monday...

Project Nim
dir James Marsh; with Stephanie LaForge, Herbert Terrace 11/UK ****
This thoroughly entertaining doc twists and turns as it tells the remarkable story of Nim, a chimpanzee born in a research centre in Oklahoma but raised from just a few days old as a human in New York. It was the 70s, and Nim was the subject of an experiment into whether it was possible to teach a chimp to communicate with humans using sign language. But of course, maintaining the project was tricky, and Nim was moved around through his life - to a rural study centre, back to Oklahoma, to an animal testing lab and to a home for abused horses. The people in his life are fascinating, and they tell their part of Nim's story with humour and honesty that's absolutely riveting. It's also very funny and sometimes quite sad. And filmmaker Marsh (Man on Wire) assembles it with real skill.

dir Craig Viveiros; with John Lynch, Martin Compston 11/UK ***
This dark British prison drama is a bit too overwrought to keep us engaged right to the end. Without much subtlety, it tells an inflammatory, somewhat contrived story of guilt and redemption. But the actors make it worth seeing... FULL REVIEW >>

The Last Circus
dir Alex de la Iglesia; with Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre 10/Sp ***
This almost outrageously lurid Spanish drama-thriller takes its characters to the brink of insanity and then pushes them off. It's about a sad clown Javier (Areces) whose life has been a series of tragedies and insults. But he has a good job with a travelling circus, working for the boss, the happy clown (de la Torre), while trying not to lust after his sexy aerialist wife. But things go badly, so Javier's innate sense of revenge kicks in. Spanning several decades of Franco's rule (and including one hilariously outrageous scene in which he appears), the film has such a richly textured look to it that we are unable to look away even when things get very grisly. Not everything about the story works, and it spirals out of control in the final act, but it's so audacious that we can't help but be gripped.

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