EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL DIARY
Sunday 22 August 1999
The 53rd Edinburgh Film Festival opened with festival director Lizzie Francke taking to the stage to gulp an excited welcome. Last year the woman credited with giving this cash-strapped festival its current buzz nearly blinded herself with glitter eyeshadow preparing for the premiere of the glam-rock spectacle Velvet Goldmine. This year, she was sporting a pashmina to usher in the opening gala of Ratcatcher (below), a striking first film from the young Scottish director Lynne Ramsay. The diminutive Ramsay was dwarfed by the microphone, but rattled out her thank-yous, then modestly fled. Exit Ramsay stage-right, pursued by Lizzie and a galloping bouquet.
BROSNAN TAKES THE PREMIERE CROWN
On Monday it was a Thomas Crown Affair to remember. Though Bill Murray and Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader dropped off the guest list (Robert Duvall sent his apologies - he was shooting 25,000 extras in a football stadium for his new film, The Cup), leggy co-stars Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo brought a waft of Hollywood glamour to the international premiere of this Steve McQueen remake. In the absence of Sean Connery, patriotic picture-goers had to content themselves with Brosnan's Scottish spin on his jewel-thief character. A romantic scene sees Brosnan confessing to Russo's insurance investigator that deep down he's "just a wee Glasgow boy". The improvised line was Pierce's way of paying tribute to the years he spent as a struggling actor in Glasgow.
After taking more than $100m in the States, The Blair Witch Project has taken Edinburgh. Last night fans queued for stand-by tickets for the midnight premiere of this hand-held horror. After creeping through a spookily-lit foyer, they packed out all three of the Cameo's cinemas for the simultaneous midnight screening. The Blair Witch-ing hour had arrived, when a shaky, no-budget mockumentary would be transformed into the event of the festival: less hyper-realism than hyper-hype.
Go, the latest confection from Doug Liman, was the first "Late Night Romp" of the festival. A drug-fuelled portmanteau with a touch of Tarantino, Go tracks the misadventures of a group of Los Angeles youths one Christmas Eve. Acting honours belong to Sarah Polley - Canadian, socialist and Uma Thurman lookalike - who exudes a wry charisma as an over-worked, underpaid check-out girl.
WALKING IN A WINTERBOTTOM WONDERLAND
Michael Winterbottom's Wonderland, set over a few frantic days in south London, is a dreamy but dynamic film which uses everything from time-lapse to slo-mo to capture the frenzied isolation of city life. Its loose storyline, set to a Michael Nyman score, has Gina McKee, Shirley Henderson and Molly Parker as sisters struggling to find a decent man among a rogues gallery that includes flaky father Ian Hart and bedsit bounder Stuart Townsend.
BACK TO BASICS IN LEWISHAM
"Often it was just the cameraman, the focus-puller and me," says Winterbottom of his guerrilla shooting style: "There were no vehicles, no arc lights, no back-up". "No food, no water," jokes Parker, who goes through the late stages of a prosthetic pregnancy during the movie. "We shot that scene in a hospital in Lewisham," she told audiences after the festival screening. "When I was preparing to play a woman giving birth, I thought, 'now I mustn't be over the top'. Then I heard the screams of women in the wards around me, and I thought, nothing I could act would be too much." Winterbottom has a script by Nick Hornby in development, but he is already planning his next movie. Set during the Gold Rush, Kingdom Come is about a man who sells his wife and child to buy a gold mine. Big deal. There were film fans up here who did that for a ticket to The Blair Witch Project.
'The Thomas Crown Affair' (15): see review, page 3. 'Ratcatcher' (15), 'Blair Witch Project' (18) and 'Go' (18) will be released nationwide in the autumn. 'Wonderland' (15) will be released nationwide in the New Year.
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