Edinburgh Film Festival: Not yet a 'festival of discovery', but they are on their way
Sunday 01 July 2012
Four years ago, the Edinburgh International Film Festival moved away from the city's main arts celebrations and into a stand-alone June slot, with declarations made that it would be a "festival of discovery" and "the Sundance of the North". That didn't quite happen – indeed, last year, the festival seemed to come to a near-standstill, with a one-off interim event not quite delivering on promises of an all-star, all-arts jamboree, a sort of cinematic Meltdown.
This year, however, Edinburgh is back in business. New artistic director Chris Fujiwara has come out fighting with a programme unapologetically committed to heavyweight international cinema. There were the retrospectives that are traditionally an Edinburgh forte – of vintage US director Gregory La Cava and Japanese cult name Shinji Somai. There were spotlights on Denmark, Latin America and the Filipino New Wave – including a screening of the six-hour Florentina Hubaldo, CTE by the Philippines' king of "slow cinema" Lav Diaz, which I'm kicking myself for missing, as it was reportedly a revelation.
And there were popular titles to bookend the fest. Pixar's Scottish-themed Brave closes proceedings tonight, while the opener was William Friedkin's Killer Joe – a murky white-trash revenge tale which for me was mainly notable for a dependably weird performance by Brit rising star Juno Temple. Another prominent mainstream selection was James Marsh's thriller Shadow Dancer, which showed Andrea Riseborough as one of Britain's finest; her performance as an IRA militant turned informer is positively minimalist, and all the more mesmerising for it.
There was cult stuff too. Horror fans could try it light – cheerful Irish creature-feature Grabbers – or very dark, in the form of V/H/S, a lo-tech portmanteau that sometimes took scratch-video fuzziness to the outer limits of coherence. The best vignettes were directed by Innkeepers man Ti West, and by Joe Swanberg, with possibly the first horror story told by Skype.
Cheaper still was Mark Cousins' What Is This Film Called Love?, shot on a Flip pocket camera for, he claims, £5.80. After his epic series The Story of Film comes an intimate epistle to Soviet master Sergei Eisenstein, in whose honour Cousins strips naked, sees the sights of Mexico City and dances to Tony Christie (not all at once). Cousins' ecstatic "saintly fool" persona – as Werner Herzog would call it – can come on a bit strong, but this tender first-person offering is undeniably touching.
There was a buzz around a British film, Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio, and it wasn't just chainsaws. This was a hugely original study in meta-horror about an English sound engineer (Toby Jones) who goes to Italy to work on a grisly Dario Argento-style chiller, and finds the screams and the sounds of hacked bodies (in fact, watermelons and courgettes) getting to him. With echoes of De Palma, Cronenberg and even Peter Greenaway, it's an intelligent, devious and witty film that dares to think with its eyes and its ears.
Plenty, then, to keep critics and cinephiles happy – although, in reality, Edinburgh will probably have to start throwing in more high-profile crowd-pleasers to really earn its keep. But a "festival of discovery"? At the very least, it's on its way there.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Game of Thrones season 5: Emilia Clarke praises characters who 'accept their femininity'
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate