A Festival of Film

Edinburgh International Film Festival launched its new programme this week. I’m hardly a disinterested spectator, having viewed submissions this year, but I’m happy to report that under Chris Fujiwara’s direction, the hoped-for renaissance seems well underway.

I already knew three films I voted for during the submissions process — DEMAIN?, EVELYN and EXIT ELENA — had been selected, as I’d been asked to write about them for the brochure and catalogue, but I was chuffed to discover that several more, including FRED (with Elliott Gould) and BRAKE (with Stephen Dorff) are also screening.

After no real retrospective last year, this year we have TWO — one on Shinji Somai, highly regarded in Japan but little known elsewhere — a great choice because even in the twilight world of bootleg downloads, NONE of his films are available with English translation — and one on Gregory La Cava, a favourite of mine. I’ve written pieces on two of the La Cavas, and this retrospective will actually continue after the Fest, with Filmhouse running the remaining six films in the series.

Other old stuff — the old/new WE CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, which I’m extremely curious to see in its restored condition, digitally restored LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, and Humphrey Jennings’ THE CUMBERLAND STORY (the first film ever screen at Edinburgh Film Festival.

There’s new work from Johnny To, James Marsh, Harmony Korine, and Gakuryu (formerly Sogo) Ishii. And celebrations of the exciting recent cinema of Argentina, Chile & Uruguay, plus the Philippine new wave. And the usual strong programmes of fiction, experimental and documentary short cinema.

Filmmakers in attendance to talk about their work will include William Friedkin (technically as a guest of Filmhouse the day before the Fest begins), Shinya Tsukamoto, Viktor Kossakovsky and, it is hoped, documentary legend Wang Bing.

Documentaries are in a stronger position this year: for the first time, the awards (reinstated after last year) will see documentaries competing alongside fiction film. Arguably the¬†documentary sector is in better shape than drama in the UK right now, and it’s certainly right that the Michael Powell Award should be open to features of any kind. Even if Powell himself did refer to documentarists as “failed poets”. (I can’t imagine a better career than “failed poet.” So wonderfully dismal-sounding! You can be a successful poet and starve to death, imagine the glamour of being a failed one!)

One exciting consequence of this policy shift is that Maja Borg, an ex-student of mine from ECA, is in the running with her documentary feature FUTURE MY LOVE. Although I’m stretching a point by calling her “my” student, since Maja was always clearly a creative documentarist, and I teach fiction filmmaking, but you’ll allow me a little proprietary pride, I hope.

Fellow critic, blogger, filmmaker and friend Dan Salitt will attend with what could be his breakthrough film, THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT, and I’m looking forward to catching up with him — so long as I’m not filming in Paris, which is a vague possibility. Well, missing out on a film festival because I’m making a film isn’t something I can exactly complain about…

Lawrence of Arabia [DVD] [2011]

10 Responses to “A Festival of Film”

  1. Did Powell refer to Humphrey Jennings when he said that? Because Jennings seems to be a successful poet of non-fiction, preceding Chris Marker. Jennings is terribly underrated, only Terence Davies flies his banner and among critics, Tag Gallagher.

    Wish I was in Edinburgh this June. I’d love to see the Ray and the Lean and the other stuff. Last festival I attended gave me Bela Tarr, Akerman, Garrel and Skolimowski(on screen and in person).

  2. Powell was just talking about his own disinterest in documentary in Return to The Edge of the World. Although Jennings, whome he must have been very familiar with, may have been on his mind.

    Kevin MacDonald has made a documentary on Jennings, and Lindsay Anderson and Raymond Durgnat were great supporters. I think his reputation is secure in the UK, among the critical set.

  3. Saw Ridley Scott’s well-made, dramatically interesting but oddly disappointing Prometheus last night. In it a replicant (referred to for some reason as a “robot”) played by the always teriffic Michael Fassbender is obsessed with Lawrence of Arabia He frequently quotes lines from it, strikes Peter O’Toole postures, and at one point is shown looking at the scene where Lawrence puts put a match with his fingertips without howling in pain. It’s mistake for any movie to quote a landmark film — but this one especially.

    The fest sound like fun. Say “Hi” to Tilda for me.

  4. I will if I get within twenty yards of her!

    Seeing Prometheus tonight, rather at Fiona’s insistence, but I hope I like it. Quoting a great film is often a mistake, although there are certainly ways to do it. Anything that seems to invite comparisons would be a worry. However, maybe a few people will watch Lawrence after seeing it quoted, and maybe they’ll have their horizons widened.

  5. Widened to 2.20:1? :)

  6. Maybe! Of course, Fassbender is watching it in 3D conversion, which is I suppose is how Scott imagines we’ll all be watching it.

    Just saw the film, thoroughly enjoyed it. Trying to think if there’s anything more to be said without spoilers.

  7. What did you most enjoy about it?

  8. Visuals, suspense, three of the performances. And the fact that it doesn’t wrap everything up into a neat ball at the end. Review to follow.

  9. David – actually, if you look in the right places online (and I know you do), both my favorite Somai films, MOVING (start with that one) and WAIT AND SEE, are available with English subs. And Somai’s last film, KAZA-HANA, which I also admire, is subbed too.

  10. Yes, my friend Chris pointed out the same thing. So I should be able to acquaint myself with a smattering of his work before the fest.

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