Edinburgh International Film Festival

Shane Meadows' mock-doc on the music business even shows him corpsing on camera. But other Edinburgh films strike a darker tone

Seeing films in Edinburgh in August used to be a thrill: you would also pick up the buzz of the city's other cultural events, whether it was a play staged in a car or the latest coming of The Lady Boys of Bangkok.

For the second year, the Edinburgh International Film Festival occupies a stand-alone June slot, and it's hard to get used to things being so much quieter – especially with the eerie Scandinavian-style white nights.

These days, Edinburgh feels like a solid film festival rather than an unmissable cultural landmark – although there were sidebar events to bolster the basic diet. Notably, there was a live All Tomorrow's Parties music event (which I'm kicking myself for missing) and the Paradise Movie Hall, a church decked out Bengali-style in which you could watch masterpieces by Satyajit Ray and others in a fragrant atmosphere of incense and paintings.

Edinburgh has always been a stamping ground for Brit DIY maestro Shane Meadows: he was back with his prankish new feature Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee. Paddy Considine plays Le Donk, a goon-ish music biz hustler who tries to wangle a blubbery, diffident rapper into a support slot with Arctic Monkeys. Throwaway fun, the film was shot in five days, with Considine, "Scorz" and cast improvising for all they're worth and occasionally causing director Meadows (also on screen) to corpse helplessly. The rough-and-ready mock-doc format is familiar stuff, and Considine's creation is essentially a sort of backstage David Brent, but the film is thoroughly likeable, and Scor-Zay-Zee's rapping even proves inspired. Le Donk's chant of "Calm down Deirdre Barlow! Calm down Stephen Hawking!" could catch on, too.

Without doubt, the fest's absolute show-stopper turned out to be not a film but a TV series: In Treatment, one of two US efforts showcased (the other being Alan Ball's True Blood). In Treatment features Gabriel Byrne as a psychotherapist, and follows an inspired format: five 30-minute episodes a week, four featuring different patients, the fifth showing the hero's own session with his mentor (Dianne Wiest). Chamber drama at its tightest, the HBO series – masterminded by Rodrigo Garcia – is brilliant because it puts you in the therapist's place, making you acutely aware of every nuance in both script and acting. Byrne is mesmerising, reserved in four episodes before changing his register radically in the fifth, and a superb supporting cast includes Embeth Davidtz and young up-and-comer Mia Wasikowska. This is TV drama at its most literate, and it would be a scandal if it didn't reach UK screens soon.

Indeed, sophistication was a watchword for much of the US stuff on show – including, I'll grudgingly admit, Sam Mendes's opening-night film Away We Go, a road comedy about a young couple (Maya Rudolph, John Krasinski) in search of the perfect home. The acting's good, it's beautifully presented, and the script – by literary golden couple Vendela Vida and Dave Eggers – is crisp. But there's a stifling air of New Yorker smugness about the whole thing.

Similarly, some people found there was an oppressive airlessness to Stephen Soderbergh's new feature The Girlfriend Experience – but that was rather the point. In Soderbergh's unashamedly experimental vein, this is a fragmented drama about a New York prostitute who offers emotional intimacy as part of the very expensive package. An anatomy of luxury against a background of economic collapse, this vista of sleek condos and blue-chip brasseries could be read as superficial and glitz-obsessed. In fact, the film uses sleekness much as Bret Easton Ellis does in his novels, and its social critique is of the moment: this is perhaps the first explicitly Obama-age movie. Porn star Sasha Grey coolly transcends scandal value, her vulnerably chic blankness making for a contemporary equivalent of that Weimar-era goddess Lulu.

More enigmatic US chic came from dark thriller The Missing Person, with Michael Shannon, from Revolutionary Road, as a damaged private dick trailing a mystery man. Noah Buschel has created perhaps the wooziest essay in meta-noir since Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, although Shannon's frazzled lummox act is dangerously close to becoming mere shtick. But it's a beguiling, eerie film, and perhaps the only gumshoe thriller ever to showcase Stravinsky and Ravel on the soundtrack.

But nothing was quite as chic and chilly as the subject of The September Issue, R J Cutler's documentary about Vogue and its reigning ice queen Anna Wintour. The film doesn't need to do much editorialising to reveal the fashion world as a cruel, ludicrous place: never mind Brüno, this is a world in which people unironically declare "Jacket is the new coat" and bemoan "a famine of beauty". While Wintour will freeze your blood as expected, you'll also find yourself warming to her No 2, long-suffering creative director Grace Coddington, a dry English wit who more than once rolls her eyes in agony as £50,000 worth of photo shoot gets spiked on a whim. Entertaining and horrifying in equal measure.

As for the patchy British content, it was primarily a matter of the cheap, if not always the cheerful. Two low-budget Liverpool features stood out. One was Kicks, Lindy Heymann's timely piece about two aspiring WAGs (Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley) who kidnap their beloved footballer: a My Summer of Love for the E4 crowd.

The other was Salvage, an economical scarer about an outbreak of something grisly breaking out on a suburban estate. Imagine a ketchup-soaked Night of the Living Dead filmed (seriously!) on the former Brookside estate .... As Le Donk might put it, "Calm down George Romero! Calm down Billy Corkhill!".

For The Best of the Fest today go to: edfilmfest.org.uk

Also showing: 28/06/2009

Year One (97 mins, (12A)

Jack Black and Michael Cera bumble through the Old Testament. Like Life of Brian, it's essentially a series of biblical sketches, but unlike Life of Brian there's no satirical angle, nor much of a story to link the sporadically funny gags.

Tenderness One (100 mins, 15)

A teenage killer goes on a road trip, pursued by Russell Crowe's melancholy cop. Middling indie drama.

Rudo & Cursi (102 mins, 15)

Comic romp about two bone-headed half-brothers, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, becoming footballers in Mexico City.

Lake Tahoe (85 mins, (12A)

Sleepy independent comedy in which an expressionless teenager slopes around a deserted Mexican town, trying to find someone to repair his car. Not for the impatient.

Shirin (90 mins, PG)

Abbas Kiarostami's latest project consists of nothing but close-ups of Iranian women's faces as they watch a film in a darkened cinema.

The Last Thakur (80 mins, 15)

Drama set in Bangladesh, where a mysterious armed man intervenes in a local feud. Tense, promising debut for director Sadik Ahmed.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum