The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, the Telegraph's David Gritten and the Scotsman's Siobhan Synnot have each drawn up lists of potential highlights of this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival, running through June 27. Pelican Blood, a title that resonates now in ways Irish director Karl Golden surely didn't expect when he made the film last year, is on two of those lists and it screens this evening.
Gritten notes that it "marks the clash of two topics rarely found together in a single narrative: birdwatching and suicide websites. Harry Treadaway takes the lead as Nikko, a young man who joins a group of obsessive bird-spotters. He's still trying to piece his life back together after breaking up with his girlfriend Emma Booth; they had a pact to 'end it all together' but only one of them was serious." For Synnot, it "may prove to be this year's Trainspotting."
As David Cairns noted yesterday in his 4-out-of-5-star review, Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist was last night's opener and it's been received mighty well. For the Guardian's Xan Brooks, it's "one of the most purely satisfying pictures I've seen all year." Graeme Thomson, writing for the Arts Desk, found it "haunted by old ghosts. Not only the private phantoms of the late comic all-rounder Jacques Tati, who wrote the original script, but also memories of Edinburgh's past. The audience even enjoyed the strangely dislocating experience of seeing the venue they were sitting in, the Festival Theatre, depicted on screen in its earlier incarnation as the Royal."
"The family of Tati's illegitimate and estranged eldest child who live in the north-east of England, are now calling for Helga Marie-Jeanne Schiel to be recognised as the true inspiration for the film," reports Henry Samuel for the Telegraph. "They say the tale reflects Tati's shame at having abandoned his first child, who he never recognised and who spent time in an orphanage in North Africa. The script, they say, remains the only public recognition of her existence."
Interviews with Chomet: Fiachra Gibbons (Guardian) and Chitra Ramaswamy (Scotsman).
The Scotsman's Alistair Harkness is less enthusiastic about The Illusionist, but he does recommend Boy: "This sweet coming-of-age film is the latest from New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi, a sometime collaborator of Flight of the Conchords who made his feature debut with the egregiously quirky Eagle vs Shark a couple of years back. That film had its moments, but often felt too beholden to its leftfield influences (Michel Gondry, Wes Anderson) in a way that Boy effortlessly transcends, courtesy of a more personal feel, a greater sense of place and some lovely performances from the mostly young and inexperienced cast."
IndieWIRE's Peter Knegt will be in Edinburgh. "And it turns out some friends from another Scottish past will be joining me. Tilda Swinton, Mark Cousins and seemingly everyone that joined them on last year's 'A Pilgrimage' will be holding a flash mob dance in Edinburgh's Festival Square to the tune of Avalon Boys' 'soft shoe ditty' 'At the Ball.' And they want us all to join in." From the call: "It's a song from Laurel and Hardy's funniest film Way Out West. In the film, Stan and Ollie do a wee dance, which is rubbish compared to Cyd Charisse or Gene Kelly, or any trained dancer, and yet it's one of the most charming, amusing, gentle, child-like musical numbers in the whole of cinema history."
So that'll be happening on Saturday, June 26, at 11 am, and my guess is, you wouldn't have to be on the Square, or even in Edinburgh to join in:
The occasion, by the way, is the launch of Swinton and Cousins's new initiative: "8½ is a great age to fall in love with cinema, and so the 8½ Foundation aims to give all children an 8½th birthday, glimpses into new worlds and cultures, into magic and the heights imagination can take you to."
Sean Connery, "probably the most famous Scotsman alive today," will be on hand "for a gala screening of one of his most famous films: The Man Who Would Be King." Sandra Dick reports in the Scotsman on all he's done for the festival, starting with his investment in its main venue, the appropriately named and previously mentioned Festival Theatre.
"The Festival features a total of 22 world premieres, 12 international premieres and 133 features from 34 countries," notes the Guardian's Tom Allan. "Running side by side with the Film Festival is Doc Week, a week of events, talks, training and screenings of documentary film, organised by the Scottish Documentary Unit and Initialise films."
As noted on Monday, Mark Sinker previews the retrospective After the Wave: Lost and Forgotten British Cinema 1967-1979 for Sight & Sound.
Update, 6/19: The Telegraph's David Gritten meant to see SoulBoy, a British film about Northern Soul, but found himself in a screening of Soul Boy, a Kenyan film, "a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy who has to save his father, who is living under a curse, by completing seven tasks in a single day." And? He's glad. "Who knows whether there’ll ever be another chance to see this small film in Britain? In the end, my mistake turned out better than I could have hoped."
Updates, 6/20: David Cairns: "Donkeys, originally called Rounding Up Donkeys, is a sequel of sorts to Red Road, a Scottish arthouse hit based on a scheme devised by Lars Von Trier and Lone Scherfig: three writer-directors were given a group of characters and told to make three movies using them. [Director] Morag [McKinnon] asked LVT what she should do if she couldn't find ways to use all the characters from Red Road. 'Oh, just use the ones you want and have the rest go by in a bus.'... This is the alternate universe sequel to Red Road. Also, it's a comedy."
"Edinburgh is, of course, synonymous with variety and comedy and even if the film festival now sits apart from the other August events with which it used to share packed pubs and streets, it's still a fitting place for a British comedian to make his debut as a director." The Observer's Jason Solomons: "Ben Miller, working from a play that he wrote with Jez Butterworth and Simon Godley, made a fine job of Huge, the story of an unlikely comedy double act, Warren and Clark, played rather nicely by Johnny Harris and, impressively working against type, Noel Clarke."
Updates, 6/21: David Cairns on two from the After the Wave retrospective, Peter Watkins's Privilege (1967) and Kevin Billington's The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer (1970), "co-scripted with Peter Cook, John Cleese and Graham Chapman (who all appear). While Privilege is set in a 60s vision of the near future, the Billington is resolutely contemporary, yet seems far more prophetic. It was nice to learn that the drones of Watkins's dystopia are watched over by a coalition government, 'since there is no longer any difference in policy between Labour and Conservative,' but Rimmer's idea that party politics are rendered redundant by the overwhelming power of the PR department is more sinister yet."
"As far as Edinburgh goes, its identity as a 'festival of discovery' does appear to have had an impact on its programme," writes the Guardian's Andrew Pulver, "even if it's hard to disentangle it from the simultaneous effect of its move from August to June. Although there's the usual sprinkling of Hollywood tasters (such as Toy Story 3, World's Greatest Dad and The Rebound), the dominant strain of film appears to be first or second films by young directors who are yet to make a name for themselves outside the festival circuit. Of course, Edinburgh has always programmed film like this, but the balance looks to have altered; I miss the kind of classy international art film that Edinburgh seems to be avoiding."
Updates, 6/22: Jason Goodyer posts a first roundup at Little White Lies. Among the films covered is József Pacskovszky's The Days of Desire: "Filmed in crisp black and white and full of long, elegant takes and graceful camerawork Pacskovszky's film is likely to draw comparisons to the work of fellow countryman Béla Tarr. However, The Days of Desire lacks the philosophical density of a Werckmeister Harmonies, say, instead opting to tell its fable-like story with a feather-light ethereal fragility."
In his first roundup for In Contention, Guy Lodge recommends Arvin Chen's Au Revoir Taipei: "[T]his one-night romantic caper emerges as both the best debut feature and date movie of 2010 thus far, the kind of knowingly feather-light entertainment that Hollywood struggles to produce these days without resorting to twee clever-cleverisms." As for Chris D'Arienzo's Barry Munday and Ashley Horner's brilliantlove, not so much.
Updates, 6/24: David Cairns: "The season of neglected 70s British cinema continued with Savage Messiah — a rarely screened, emotionally devastating masterpiece from Ken Russell, who attended the screening, chortling loudly at his own dirty jokes throughout." And here in The Daily Notebook, David's reviewed Mike Hodges's 1972 caper Pulp, his follow-up to the iconic Get Carter, also starring Michael Caine.
Guy Lodge has reviews of five more films at In Contention, "each one slightly better than the last," but "no true gems." Skeletons is in this batch: "One to file under 'intriguing attempts' rather than 'unlikely successes,' British comedian Nick Whitfield's feature debut is an ungainly but largely winning hybrid of apposite genres: existential comedy rubs shoulders with broken-family drama and low-fi sci-fi as the film follows a pair of professional 'emotional exorcists' (Andrew Buckley and Ed Gaughan, the latter particularly engaging) who travel across an geographically unspecific stretch of rural England, ridding clients of unwanted memories and family histories.... [T]he fusion isn't an altogether happy one, but it's as ambitious and thoughtful as any Britcom this year."
Updates, 6/25: "The 'international indie' was on the topic at the Edinburgh International Film Festival [Wednesday], with Screen International's Mike Goodridge moderating a talk with two Edinburgh International Film Festival filmmakers, Obselidia's Diane Bell and Postales' Josh Hyde." Peter Knegt reports for indieWIRE.
"Modern Love is Automatic, the icily erotic and quite fantastically titled sophomore feature from 20-something indie climber Zach Clark, was among my favorite discoveries of last year's Edinburgh fest," writes Guy Lodge, "so I didn't even need the ringing endorsement of one Chad Hartigan [a commenter at In Contention] to eagerly anticipate the director's latest. And certainly, in its punchy, poptastic first half, Vacation! earns its exclamation mark."
"The Film Festival has shown two newly restored British classics directed by the supreme Alberto Cavalcanti — Went the Day Well? and They Made Me a Fugitive." David Cairns concentrates on Fugitive.
Tim Robey's got a fresh roundup in the Telegraph: "Anyone not feeling a sense of discovery must have bypassed the documentaries, which have been at least addictive and at best superb."
Alistair Harkness carries on sending batches of reviews into the Scotsman; here are yesterday's and today's.
Update, 6/26: "Based on the bestselling autobiography by the happy-go-lucky boyo from the Welsh valleys who became the nation's most wanted man after trafficking hundreds of tonnes of cannabis to the happening world's hungry lungs, Bernard Rose's Mr Nice is a journey of high highs and low lows," writes Jason Goodyer at Little White Lies. "Mr Nice was always going to be a fascinating story about a fascinating man but thanks to somewhat bitty structuring it doesn't quite hum with the heady potency of a hit of fluffy sativa hybrid." Also in this roundup: Edward and Rory McHenry's "deranged debut feature" Jackboots on Whitehall, Pelican Blood and Paul Andrew Williams' Cherry Tree Lane: "An easy watch it is not but seen as a straightforward dramatic interpretation of urban paranoia there is no denying its power."
Updates, 6/27: Skeletons has won the Michael Powell Award for the festival's best new British feature, reports the Observer's Jason Solomons.
"Edinburgh's indie-skewing Sundance-in-the-Highlands approach may turn up its share of duds," writes Guy Lodge in a final roundup for In Contention, "but that's par for the course in a fest that specifically brands itself a 'festival of discovery' — and in five days, I mined enough gold to render the trip worthwhile, and still left with the sense that I missed a gem or two. For some of those, and another defense of the fest as a whole, I direct you to Tim Robey's neat Daily Telegraph overview."
Update, 6/28: And that's a wrap...
Update, 6/29: "British cinema's current crop indicates an industry in a creative funk, and since the homegrown section provided the bulk of the world premieres at the sixty-fourth festival, many of the (ahem) discoveries were less than inspiring." A summing up from Trevor Johnston for Time Out London.
Update, 6/30: Jason Goodyer posts a final roundup at Little White Lies.
Update, 7/9: Tim Hayes posts a modest roundup in the Critic's Notebook.