Saturday, 23 June 2012

EIFF 4: Searching for paradise

And so we come to EIFF's first weekend, and I'm only mildly backlogged on writing these blog reviews. Still, I'm taking tonight off to attend the festival's annual ceilidh, which I have never managed to go to before. I only wish I had my kilt with me - it's not doing much good hanging in my closet in London! At this halfway point in the festival I've seen 26 films. The best so far have been Tabu and The Imposter...

dir Miguel Gomes; with Teresa Madrugada, Laura Soveral 12/Por *****
Acclaimed and awarded at this year's Berlinale, this artful Portuguese film is simply magical. It's a three-chapter exploration of the idea of paradise, with distinct stories connected by three women who live next door to each other in Lisbon. The prologue is a historical myth about a despondent king, the middle bit centres on the offbeat interaction between the three women, and the third, longest story is an extended flashback about one woman's exotic, romantic life at the foot of Mt Tabu in Africa. All three segments confront Portugal's colonial history in Africa, but filmmaker Gomes does this in an ambitiously personal way that draws us straight into the emotional interaction between the characters. Shot in pristine, timeless black and white, the film is so playful and breathtakingly intimate that we would happily sit there watching it all day. Engaging and haunting, it also refuses to fit into our expectations of movie structure - a real masterpiece

dir Magnus Martens; with with Kyrre Hellum, Mads Ousdal 11/Nor ****
Like Headhunters, which was also based on a Jo Nesbo story, this Norwegian thriller almost plays more like a black comedy than an action movie. It's packed with hilarious characters and situations, but is also rather intensely gripping and gleefully violent... FULL REVIEW ...

Flying Blind
dir Katarzyna; with Helen McCrory, Najib Oudghiri 12/UK ***
It's terrific to see the wonderful McCrory in a leading role as a strong, intelligent and sexy middle-aged woman. And she's superb as a top aerospace expert who falls for much-younger Algerian man (Oudghiri). Yes, in her role as a military contractor, having a torrid romance with a Muslim looks a bit iffy to her colleagues, but this is precisely why she refuses to give in to outside pressure. On the other hand, the script lays in so much suspicion and subterfuge that her actions start looking downright silly as the story develops. And there are more than a few contrived twists and turns before the movie strains itself into political thriller territory. It also doesn't help that the film is shot largely in close-up, like a TV movie, which is what it feels like. A superior one, perhaps, but not as complex as it should have been, especially with such a fine performance at its centre.

One Mile Away
dir Penny Woolcock; with Dylan, Shabba, Zimbo, Yt 12/UK ****
Woolcock returns to the scene of her 2009 rap musical 1 Day for this documentary about the two main feuding gangs in Birmingham, the Burgers and the Johnsons. But what makes this film so notable is that it centres on one guy from each gang who is committed to finding a route to peace between the gangs. Dylan, who starred in 1 Day, is from Burgers turf, and immediately finds some high-profile assistance in his neighbourhood. By contrast, it takes Shabba a full year before he gets support from any Johnsons. Along the way, we meet all kinds of people who have telling insights on the situation, which has resonance for conflicts around the world. And even more interesting is the way the film probes into the reasons behind this black-on-black violence (mainly the male ego!), as well as the whole issue of police racism, which is vividly documented on-screen. So since the film's climactic section encompasses the August 2011 riots, it says even more than Woolcock could have intended when she started.

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