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.

Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
TV
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl
filmFirst look at Oscar winner as transgender artist
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month
TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel
film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
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.

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot