Festival Fizzle


Edinburgh. Photo by Chris B.

Essentially a limp rag, I contemplate the end of this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival largely from outside. I head that Johanna Waegner, a student from my film department at Edinburgh College of Art, has won the Scottish Short Documentary Award supported by Baillie Gifford, for her film PETER IN RADIOLAND, which is excellent news. The last day of the event is also The Best of the Fest, which translates into “what prints do we still have knocking about that we can show again?” But sometimes these films really ARE among the best, so don’t think I’m knocking any.

I’m feeling a bit silly because I slagged off the science in MOON, and it turns out there really IS something called Helium3 which you use for fusion power, and it’s to be found on the moon in great abundance. We could potentially power civilisation for thousands of years, cleanly, if we could harness it. I do slightly blame the filmmakers for inspiring my disbelief with the line “the energy of the sun, harvested from the dark side of the moon,” which does seem rather counter-intuitive. Helium3 is created by the impact of the sun’s rays on the lunar surface, so the dark side isn’t where I’d go look for it. I suspect that the director, who is the artist formerly known as Zowie Bowie, just wanted to have the phrase “dark side of the moon” in his film.

Weather was outstanding, in a weird way, throughout the fest. Intermittent showers were nuked by brilliant sunshine that had me slapping the old factor 30 0nto my pallid Scottish skin. The heat became so intense even festival director Hannah McGill bared her legs, as beautifully slender and white as noodles. Then a fog descended with a thump, making the city look like a glass that had been breathed on.

Shadowplayer and filmmaker Paul Duane passed through town, very briefly, and we touched base over chili at the Filmhouse. Paul told me an excellent ALIEN story which I must remember to pass on to you.

5106_562076749371_284001094_3678668_6856870_nThe back of my neck gets to meet Roger Corman, who signs my copy of How I Made A Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime, one of the finest movie-making books ever committed to paper. Unfortunately, in an understandable hurry (he’s 83) he signs it “Pen Emm”. Still, it was extremely gracious of him to do that much, and I’ll now treasure my first edition even more.

Corman’s tribute ended with a screening of the explosive BLOODY MAMA. It had been rumoured that the festival heads hadn’t realised Corman had been here before, with the same film, in 1970, but on this occasion a brochure from the 1970 show was produced, along with two tickets, and presented to the Great Man.


Interviewed Joe Dante the same day, which was an utter pleasure, and will be editing our conversation down this week to produce a consumable literary good out of it. Shadowplayer Chris B was houseguest for the week, and he snapped me and Joe together, smiling blurredly.

Attendance was UP this year.

Went back and saw PONTYPOOL a second time, enjoying Bruce MacDonald’s Q&A, the audience’s extremely vocal enthusiasm, and Fiona’s pleasure at the film, which I’d avoided telling her anything about (except, “It’s not Welsh. It’s Canadian.)

After that, we grabbed a cab with filmmakers Jamie and Talli and Johanna and managed to gain access to the closing party, held in a huge abandoned church. Had time for one drink and some quality mingling before being ushered out onto the street, where a man kept falling over. I’m no expert, but drink may have been involved. It’s generally best if I don’t stay long at these kind of things, since the concept of free drink appeals to two aspects of my Scots makeup, the thrift and the alcoholism. I remember one party in Portobello Funfair which degenerated into a FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS trip-out sequence, ending in myself being adopted by a tribe of fire eaters. At one point I found myself arm-wrestling a man covered in gold paint. It’s quite an experience to arm wrestle someone without actually touching them (we were at opposite ends of a five-foot table), but it made for a vivid memory.

Today the only films really calling to me are CRYING WITH LAUGHTER because I know and like the people involved, and GIALLO, because Argento is Argento, even if he’s not really anymore. But I have quite a bit of life to catch up on so I don’t know if I’ll make it. By the time I post this, today will be yesterday anyway…

14 Responses to “Festival Fizzle”

  1. its not an abandoned church but a rescued one… built and ornamented by a weird sect who belived it would lift into the air like a celestial spaceship on the day of judgement – hence the v beautiful interior as they thought they might be in the building for quite some time. Personally I would have spent more time thinking about sleeping quaters, kitchens and stores than muriels.. if I had been designing it. Of course it does make me EXTREMELY NERVOUS whenever I’m in the buliding. There is always that horrid thought at the back of ones head that tonight might be the Last Day Of Judgement and I’ll be forced to spend all Eternity with the cream of Scottish Filmmaking ‘talent’.

  2. Heh! That bunch would turn to cannibalism before the last baguette had even been munched!

    Still, that’s exciting history, I’m glad you filled me in on it. Fiona and I once plotted a vampire movie that was to use that church as a major location. Deconsecrated church as modern vampire nightspot, a comment on secularisation. Not a very subtle one, admittedly.

    I can just picture the building blasting off as Edinburgh is consumed in an apocalypse of Michael Bay proportions. Bay should make a movie about the Day of Judgement. He could call it “Crapture”.

  3. Fabulous pic of you and Joe!

    Corman looks a dapper as he did in The State of Things (in which he makes a teriffic cameo appearance.)

  4. Joe Dante was incredibly gracious and generous with his time. I’m now editing the interview, trying to make my questions sound less stupid, and hope to have it up on the Auteurs’ soon-ish.

    Corman is never less than dapper. Still spry and sharp, he delivers his practiced anecdotes with avuncular charm. My former student Talli, serving him in a bar, encountered his steely producer side!

  5. i don’t think it’s that useful to discuss scottish filmmaking talent in terms of cream and milk because the reality of it is more like curds and whey – either stodgy, samey and hard to get through, or thin, sour and unwanted

  6. Or if the filmmaker is particularly dedicated, it can be both at once.

    Still waiting for Rounding Up Donkeys to come out and be excellent. I certainly know about twenty filmmakers who ought to be capable of making a wildly different movie each that would blow the industry and the audience out of their socks, but few of them are actually close to production.

  7. Boy, I wish I had been there! NOT! :)

    Keep filming better!

  8. We’re trying. Have a couple of irons in the fire but don’t want to jinx them. Good to hear from you!

  9. Christopher Says:

    Corman and Dante..makes it all worthwhile…I really enjoy Joe Dante’s commentaries on the Trailers From Hell site

  10. Oh yeah, I have to remember to plug that!
    Dante’s DVD commentaries are also among the best, he’s so frank and articulate. But I’m also very excited about the idea of the Corman-Shatner commentary on The Intruder, which I just heard about.

  11. The Polywell Fusion Reactor can run on Deuterium or possibly Boron 11 and Hydrogen.

  12. What about dilithium crystals? I’m holding out for dilithium crystals!

  13. I’m really looking forward to seeing ‘Pontypool’.

    To be a pedant, the dark side of the moon is no more dark than the side we can see (ie it goes in and out of the sun over the course of every 28 days). It just has a poetic but inaccurate name.

  14. Well that explains why they might be based there, although presumably the near side would be much more practical for sending their harvest of Helium3 back from. It would also allow them to show Earth in the sky (which I think maybe they do anyway).

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