Edinburgh International Film Festival 2008 Overview

30 Jun

Somers Town

With over 130 films shown over two weeks, seeing everything at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival was always going to be on the tricky side. At the end of the fortnight I notched up in the region of twenty-five films, four talks, a handful of industry panels and a number of shorts.

I still managed to miss some things I really wanted to see, such as Man on Wire and Encounters at the End of the World, but time was against me. I also hope that their success might get them a wider release in the next six months so all should not be lost.

Before the memories fade I wanted to get down my top five films for posterity:

1. The Fall

Glorious in both its scale and vision, The Fall was by far my favourite film of the Festival. It’s easy to be blinded by magnificent vistas and high adventure, but it’s the heart of the story, seen in the relationship between Roy and Alexandria, that really captured my imagination. Director Tarsem Singh tells how he nearly abandoned the fantasy sequences when he saw the actors in the hospital scenes and its not hard to see why – the action scenes are almost an added extra.

2. Somers Town

Director Shane Meadows and star Thomas Turgoose team up once again to show the rest of the British film industry what can be done with a low budget, simple premise and fine script. Every moment of its sparse 75-minute running time is a joy to watch, with much of the picture feeling improvised and a bit rough around the edges. The black-and-white adds a slight documentary feel at times, with the closing moments leaving a smile on the face of the hardest viewer.

3. Of Time and the City

Although it took me a while to actually track this one down – I sat through The Order of Myths by mistake, knowing there was a capital ‘O’ in the title somewhere as I read the screening guide a bit too quickly one morning – I was pleased I finally did. Unlike anything else I’ve seen at the cinema, though vaguely reminiscent of those Mitchell and Kenyon BBC4 documentaries, this ode to Liverpool was beautiful in its simplicity. As director Terence Davies narrates, his fruity tones a comforting guide through the years, his memories are heartfelt while the images of a changing city are almost heartbreaking. That’s a lot of heart.

4. Elegy

I’m not going to go into detail with this one as I still don’t really have a mass of good reasons for why I liked it so much. At the time I thought it was going a bit too slowly, Ben Kingsley’s narration a bit too smart, a bit too all-knowing. As it went on and we learnt more about him I warmed to it, with the introduction of Dennis Hopper as his best buddy a huge plus point. Halfway through I realised I didn’t have a clue where it was going and by the end I felt it was verging on being melodramatic but by this point I didn’t really mind. So there you go, I enjoyed it. I’m a bit surprised myself.

5. WALL-E

I feel a bit guilty about this one, as the huge amount of worthy fare on offer elsewhere probably deserves a bigger push than a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster. Still, this was funny, sad, clever, optimistic, epic, small-scale, human, humane and had Michael Crawford in it (sort of). I’ll be reviewing other films from the EIFF on the blog over the next week or so and will try to make up for my guilt there. Until then, if you get a chance to catch WALL-E on the big screen, please do. It’ll make you smile, and after watching the news these days, that’s something worth paying good money for at the multiplex.

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