EIFF 2008 Day-by-Day: Sunday 22 June

23 Jun

Roger Deakins

As Edinburgh dried out after a rainstorm of biblical proportions last night, I took myself to the Cineworld this morning to watch the new Guy Pearce, Edinburgh-set, movie Death Defying Acts.

Telling of Harry Houdini’s (Pearce) trip to Edinburgh in 1926 and his subsequent relationship with self-styled psychic Mary McGarvie, I had high hopes for this one. Sadly it’s a bit of a pointless mess, with the amazing life led by Houdini ignored in favour of made up love story with someone who didn’t even exist. The man’s life is surely cinematic gold for any scriptwriter so I’m baffled as to why they gave us this instead.

Still, it passed the time until my next screening, Transsiberian. Starring Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer, with a smaller role for Sir Ben Kingsley, this is one of the bigger budget films showing this year at the EIFF.

I have a bit of a soft spot for anything set in Russia after my own trip on the Trans-Mongolian Express in 2001. It’s an amazing trip with stunning scenery and the thought of seeing some of this again was more than a bit exciting.

Heading home on the famed Trans-Siberian Express after spending time doing charity work in Beijing, American couple Roy (Harrelson) and wife Jessie (Mortimer) meet another couple, Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara). All seems fine and they all have a lovely trip to Moscow, buying nice presents for their families and living happily ever after.

OK, I made that last bit up as to say more would spoil things, and anyway we’ve all see Hitchcock films where this sort of thing happens and does it ever turn out OK? And that’s the problem here, it’s all that bit predictable.

Transsiberian looks stunning and all the elements of the real journey are present and correct – having to get off the train as the tracks change, the locals selling bread and boiled eggs at stations, the samovar in each carriage where you get hot water for your coffee – and we know it’s a thriller and that there’s going to be trouble somewhere along the line (pun intended), but this was just a bit too obvious.

The day perked up significantly with the Roger Deakins and Seamus McGarvey talk at the Cineworld in the afternoon. I adored The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and thoroughly enjoyed No Country for Old Men, both of which Deakins acted as cinematographer.

Deakins was fascinating, his contribution to the hijack scene in Jesse James now much clearer, his passion for his job obvious.

A few hours later we had the 2008 BAFTA interview, this time with actor Brian Cox. Famous for Manhunter, X-Men and the film showing at this year’s EIFF, Red, Cox is well kent face on both sides of the Atlantic. This was another fine 90 minutes in the company of an interesting and erudite man.

I asked a question about his role in HBO series Deadwood, whether he thought it would ever come back and what it was like learning those scripts. He replied that David Milch was one of the finest writers he’d worked with and that it was a real joy being on the show.

Tomorrow I hope to catch another bundle of films and attend a talk on online journalism at the Traverse.

Photo copyright EIFF

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