Thursday, 21 June 2012

EIFF 2: Wide-screen epic

Day 2 at EIFF saw the return of David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia to the big screen where it belongs, thanks to a 50th anniversary digital restoration and a new release by Park Curcus. On the other hand, after three gloriously warm and sunny days, the drizzle set in this morning, and it looks like it'll be wet for the next few days at least. Ah well. At least we have good (if a bit blurry) memories of the opening night party last night at the National Museum of Scotland, complete with a Killer Joe bar, a fresh oyster station and a photo booth. I even had a celebrity encounter, running into one of my favourite actors, Brian Cox, as I walked in the room!

Lovely Molly
dir Eduardo Sanchez; with Gretchen Lodge, Johnny Lewis 11/US **
Eerie and atmospheric, this is yet another pointless point-of-view ghost thriller, like The Blair Witch Project (which was co-written and co-directed by Sanchez). There are some intriguing ideas here, but the script never makes anything interesting of them... FULL REVIEW >

dir Richard Ledes; with Elliott Gould, Fred Melamed 12/US **
Having its world premiere here in Edinburgh, with Gould on the competition jury, this low-key indie drama struggles to hold our attention as it meanders through its rather stagey story. Confined to one location and a handful of characters, it's about a senile couple (Gould and Judith Roberts) whose children want them to move into assisted living in the city. But Dad stubbornly refuses to leave, even though he can't quite remember why. The film is mannered and full of irrelevant details, plus a few awkwardly staged scenes that don't feel very honest. Performances are a little over the top as well, with lots of important-sounding dialog that doesn't really mean anything, plus a few theatrical plot points that feel portentous without conveying anything. Still, there are some powerful moments here and there, and some moving scenes too, mainly involving the live-in nurse (Mfoniso Udofia). But in the end the filmmaker overreaches without giving us anything to really take with us.

The Imposter
dir Bart Layton; with Frederick Bourdin, Carey Gibson 12/UK ****.
The film of the fest so far, this narrative documentary plays out like a dramatic thriller as it recounts an outrageous true story about deception. The fimakers interview everyone involved, which narrates events from every side as 23-year-old Bourdin pretended to be a 16-year-old Texan who had been missing for three and a half years. And the boy's family accepted Bourdin as the missing teen, even though he spoke with an accen and had the wrong eye colour! As truths emerges, the mystery actually deepens, involving US political officials, the FBI and a private investigator who should have his own movie. This is an extremely well-made film, with gorgeously shot interviews and re-creations that are hugely evocative. It also unfurls each twist in the tale with maximum suspense value, keeping us glued to the screen with a plot that's even wilder than the similar Catch Me If You Can or I Love You Phillip Morris. Surely a dramatic feature will be made some day, but it can hardly be better than this.

dir Patrik Eklund; with Kjell Bergqvist, Allan Svensson 12/Swe ****
Dry Scandinavian humour infuses this wacky multi-strand comedy with a sharp sense of both the silliness of human ambition and the darker corners of derailed hopes. Set in he present day in a telecoms company that looks like it's stuck in 1975, the film takes a hilarious approach to technology as we follow four company employees: the bratty boss, a beleaguered accountant, an injured technician and a cleaner who's terrified of spiders.. All of these people have to face their fears over the course of a fateful week during which the company is attacked by anarchists. Yes, there are some serious themes at work here, including scenes that are violently and emotionally intense, but the tone is comical from the start, and the film is packed with scenes that make us laugh at the ridiculousness of people who are a little too like us for comfort.

dir Koji Fukada; with Kenji Yamauchi, Kiki Sugino 10/Jpn ****
From Japan, this offbeat comedy-drama centres on a family that runs a small printing press in Tokyo. While the neighbours get up in arms about people living in shacks in heir run-down park, a new employee arrives at the shop and begins to shake up the family. The owner and his young second wife, his sister and his young daughter are all affected by this stranger, who brings his foreign wife to live with him. And as be begins to take over, his intentions are revealed through a surreal series of events that are packed with dry wit and wacky slapstick. It's the absurdity that mkes the film so so much fun to watch, especially for fans of Ozu or Buñuel, as relationships are strained and redefined forever.

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