Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Edinburgh Film Festival

For some reason, the Edinburgh Film Festival is always the last of the annual arts festivals to announce its programme, but it opens its box office almost immediately afterwards. This is terribly irritating if you're planning to go to a lot of things, because you can't book tickets for anything else without running the risk of a clash with something on the Film Festival. (The average film only shows twice.)

Still, I now have my tickets lined up, so for those of you wondering what I'll be writing about come August, here's a selection.

First of all, before anyone asks, no I'm not going to see the UK Premiere of Death Proof. As you may know, following its dismal performance in America, Grindhouse has been split into two films for its UK release. This means that Death Proof has now been extended up to 114 minutes. I have not the slightest urge to watch such a thing. I thought Kill Bill was insufferable, and the more blatantly Tarantino indulges his movie fanboy leanings, the less interest I have in seeing them. His best films - Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction - may contain plenty of cinematic references for the movie buffs, but they're not fundamentally about old movies. His most recent films are about virtually nothing besides old movies, and I just can't be bothered with them.

There are a couple of other UK premieres which I won't bother with. I don't see the point in taking up time during the Festival season with a movie that's going to be out in the mainstream cinemas in a month's time anyway. I'd rather use the time on something that isn't going to be around for long.

So... here's what I actually did buy tickets for.

Aria is classic film festival material - a Japanese road movie in which, and I quote, "Lonely piano tuner Ota befriends Kuzo, an elderly man who performs an unsettling stage act with a lifelike girl puppet. When uzo becomes gravely ill, Ota agrees to undertake a quest on his friend's behalf - to track down the lost but strangely significant piano that once belonged to the puppeteer's late wife." I anticipate well-shot, vaguely impenetrable dreaminess. It would not be wholly unfair to suggest that this is my random completely-off-the-wall choice which happened to be at the front of the catalogue. But something about it sounds intriguing.

Protagonist is billed, rather ambitiously, as "the most emotionally expansive, formally ambitious documentary of the year." The fact that it's showing in Filmhouse 3, which is about the size of my living room, suggests that the programmers don't have quite as much faith in its appeal as the blurb might suggest. Apparently it follows the lives of four different people and explores how well, or badly, those lives fit into conventional dramatic structures. So it's about how well our stories truly reflect our lives and where we're fudging reality to create arcs that don't truly exist. Or something. This sort of thing appeals to me.

Razzle Dazzle - A Journey Into Dance is an Australian comedy starring Ben Miller, which is an odd enough combination in itself. Miller plays Mr Jonathan, a dance teacher on a bizarre mission to introduce heavyweight politics into the world of pre-teen dance, with original choreography such as the Kyoto Protocol Shuffle. I can see this working, and Ben Miller's been in enough good shows to make it worth a look.

LYNCH is a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE. (And yes, if you're willing to indulge Lynch's quirks, the title is meant to be written in all caps.) I haven't seen EMPIRE, but I've seen enough other David Lynch films to be curious about this. How do you direct films as weird as his, especially considering that he apparently doesn't explain them to the actors either? Sounds promising.

I'm a Cyborg, but That's OK is the English-language title of a South Korean film originally called Saibogujiman Kewnchana. The listing starts off unpromisingly:-
Young-goon is a cyborg, and needs an electrical current to survive. It makes perfect sense to her, therefore, to cut open her writs and plug herself into the mains; to eschew food in favour of licking batteries; and to only befriend other machines. The world at large seems to find her behaviour odd, however, and duly confines her to a mental hospital.

So far, so uninspiring. It's a film about a psychotic who thinks she's a cyborg, right?
There, she strikes up a touching bond with Il-sun, who has an uncontrollable tendency to steal other people's souls. A musical romance unlike any other, with extraordinary visual ideas (hold on for the airborne Alpine yodelling sequence) and lovely performances from two of South Korea's most revered pop culture icons.

Yodelling cyborgs? SOLD! This is either going to be magnificent or mesmerisingly bad. Either way, it's got to be worth 105 minutes.

Castells is a documentary about the Catalan tradition of forming human towers. And it just souned kind of interesting.

Manufacturing Dissent: Uncovering Michael Moore is an anti-Michael Moore film made by two other liberal filmmakers who used to be big fans until they realised just how much manipulation and selective editing goes on his films. Moore is a frustrating figure because he tends to make perfectly good points in such a massively distorted way that it's easy to undermine his films, and the argument suffers by association. There's a good documentary to be made here, especially by non-partisans, and I've got hopes for this.

Finally, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is showing as part of an Anita Loos retrospective season - it's adapted from a novel she wrote in 1925. This is the Marilyn Monroe version (the original 1928 adaptation is lost), which I've never seen. And it's not often you get to see Marilyn Monroe films in a proper cinema these days. So why not?