Friday, 22 June 2012

EIFF 3: Feel the squeeze

Another day of grey skies and driving rain in Edinburgh, perfect weather for watching films at the EIFF. The programme here is feeling increasingly Sundancey, with American and British indie dramas interspersed with offbeat foreign gems. There have been couple of standouts and a couple of duds, but nothing starry enough to grab headlines. Which is fine with me...

The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus
dir Alexandre Phillippe; with Chris Davis, Mike Stock 12/US ****
Paul the octopus achieved global fame for predicting eight out of eight winners in the 2010 World Cup, including the champions, far too accurate to be chance. This high-spirited doc tells his story while also exploring our historical obsession with oracles of all shapes and sizes. The filmmakers interview everyone from bookies and mediums to animal handlers and footballers. It's a rather chaotically structured film, with a bit too much wacky animation, but it's thoroughly entertaining, often laugh-out-loud hilarious. And it also has something important to say about human fascination with the unexplained. If you can take it on faith, that is.

The Rest of the World
dir Damien Odoul; with Marie-Eve Nadeau, Judith Morisseau 12/Fr ***
Watching films about dysfunctional families is never pleasant, partly because of the intimate nature of all that interpersonal destruction. But also because there are inevitably things we recognise about ourselves and our own family interaction, whether we admit it or not. But this film will strain the patience of even the most intrepid filmgoer as it centres on three deeply disturbed sisters, their even more messed up dad and their psychotic monster of a stepmum (a thunderous Emmannuelle Beart). Two of the sisters are especially bothered: Eve (Nadeau) has just discovered that she's pregnant by her dead boyfriend, while Judith (Morisseau) is sure that her true biological father is a mythical ex-boyfriend of her late mother. It's an observant, insightful film, but also rather exhausting.

Never Too Late
dir Ido Fluk; with Niny Geffen, Keren Berger 11/Isr ***
After eight years living all around South America, 30-year-old Herzl (Geffen) reruns home to Tel Aviv to see his mother. But he's unable to settle in, taking a job that sends him around the country, where he visits old friends and tries to come to grips with his life. The key issue is his truncated relationship with his father, who died while he was away. This is one of those nicely shot, acted and edited films that simply wanders through its running time with no sense of direction, as if the director is exorcising personal demons through filmmaking. There are superb sequences along the way that will resonate with audiences, but as a whole it feels pretty aimless and mopey. Fluk shows some real skill with long, complicated takes that retain a sense of earthy rawness, so hopefully his next film will have a bit more focus and drive to it as well.

Young Dudes
dir DJ Chen; with Wang Po-chief, Abe Tsuyoshi 12/Tai **
The lead characters in this Taipei comedy-fantasy are like Bill and Ted's bratty little brothers, two unlikely best pals (Wang and Tsuyoshi) who form a rock band and team up with a Russian girl (Larisa Barukova) to launch a one-world movement that will help humanity survive the coming apocalypse. Or something. The film is so deliberately wacky that we can't grab hold of it, with some rampant overacting, plus nutty camerawork, editing and effects as the film gets increasingly surreal. The early scenes promise an intriguing satire of internet-addicted youth, technological oppression and moral relativism, but the film simply descends into random silliness, from cute puppies to wistful star-gazing. And in the end the script itself admits that the filmmaker has no idea what the movie's trying to say. But young slackers may find a lot to enjoy anyway.

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