EIFF 2016 – Preview

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Artistic director Mark Adams unveiled the lineup for the 70th Edinburgh International Film Festival taking place between the 15th and 26th of June. It’s an interesting lineup continuing the Festival’s current admirable direction towards discovering smaller independent movies. I’ve been looking through the programme and here are my highlights though as ever with festivals there will hopefully be a few new discoveries along the way.

EIFF is notorious for opening on a downer and we’ll soon find out if Tommy’s Honour, a Scottish film starring the ubiquitous Peter Mullan can buck the trend. It does have the novelty value of being directed by former Robin of Sherwood star Jason Connery though.

The knives are ready and sharpened for the closing night gala, a remake of the Ealing classic Whisky Galore! It comes with a long and troubled production history and a previous attempt to film it back in 2006 fell apart. The official website for the film is a bit odd, even chastising original director Alexander Mackendrick for the “folly” of choosing to film the original in black and white.

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Yet there’s some serious talent involved. Gillies Mackinnon (Small Faces) directs, while the screenplay is written by Peter McDougall whose name probably means little outside Scotland but back in the 70s’ and 80s’ he wrote a series of uncompromising television plays including Just a Boy’s Game and A Sense of Freedom then stopped writing for the screen altogether in the early 90s.’ I’m not expecting it to match the original but at least it should be interesting.

Agnieszka Smoczynska’s fascinating looking The Lure is described in the programme as a musical fairytale about two mermaids working in a burlesque club with “kitsch, communist-era styling and off-the-wall collection of upbeat 80s’ songs.”

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Giuseppe Tornatore’s last film, the haunting La Migliore Offerta was given a shabby straight-to-DVD release in the UK under the non-descript title Deception and edited for length so hopefully The Correspondence will fare better. It’s partly set in Edinburgh with Jeremy Irons as an academic carrying on an affair with former student Olga Kurylenko.

My enthusiasm for Maggie’s Plan is tempered by an deep loathing of Ethan Hawke but apparently the movie spends a great deal of time making fun of his pretensions. Hitman movie Mr Right (Paco Cabezas) features Anna Kendrick falling for Sam Rockwell’s dance-loving hitman, and Mark Cousins Bigger than the Shining focuses on premonition in the movies and male rage.

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There’s also Sam Neill in New Zealand comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Taika Waitit). Thomas Vinterberg’s hippy movie The Commune, 24 stalwart John Cassar directing Kiefer and Donald Sutherland in western The Forsaken, and Dougray Scott as a zombie hunter in Steve (Outpost) Barker’s The Rezort.

Adams mentioned at the press launch that Scottish road-movie Moon Dogs (Philip John) is well worth seeing. Other recommendations from folks who’ve attended festivals elsewhere include Mammal (Rebecca Daly), Sand Storm (Elite Zexer), and Parched (Tannishtha Chatterjee). There’s also a couple of Gerard Depardieu movies, The End (Guillaume Nicloux) and Saint Amour (Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kerven), but I doubt EIFF will have invited him back after he got waylaid in a pub on the Isle of Skye and never made it to the Festival for a screening of Welcome to New York (Abel Ferrara) a couple of years ago.

Pow!!! Live Action Comic Strip Adaptations: The First Generation

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Looking at the early days of comic book adaptations this retrospective has a fine mixture of pop art classics including to quote Ralph Fiennes in The Lego Batman trailer, “that weird one in 1966,” the Batman (Leslie H. Martinson) movie. Monica Vitti changing her hairstyle in every scene for Joseph Losey’s Modesty Blaise, Vadim’s sexually charged Barbarella, Corrado Farina’s beautiful Baba Yaga, and I envy anybody seeing Mario Bava’s sublime Danger Diabolik on the big screen for the first time.

Altman’s Popeye was the first movie I ever saw in a cinema and it will be interesting to see if my adult self dislikes it as much as I did when I was five. Mike Hodges camp classic Flash Gordon is always welcome, with Sam Jones likeable hero travelling into space and encountering magnificently ripe performances from Brian Blessed, Timothy Dalton, and Max von Sydow.

Only ever seen Shogun Assassin, the edited together travesty cut from two Lone Wolf Cub movies so look forward to seeing one of the originals Sword of Vengeance (Kenji Misumi).  Also new to me are hitman movie Golgo 13 (Jun’ya Sato), Pam Grier Blaxploitation movie Friday Foster (Arthur Marks), and Tin Tin and the Golden Fleece (Jean-Jacques-Vierne) a remarkable looking live action adaptation of Herge’s classic comic book series.

Adapting Miss Highsmith

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Patricia Highsmith’s biographer Joan Schenker delivers her talk, ‘The Talented Miss Highsmith: What She Did For Love about Carol/The Price of Salt and how it ties into the rest of her work plus screenings of Carol (Todd Haynes) and Michel Deville’s Deep Water starring Isabelle Huppert.

A Celebration and Critical Appraisal of the Cinema du Look 

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Cinema du Look was initially derived as a dismissive term for the work of a trio of young French directors (Leos Carax, Jean-Jacques Beiniex, and Luc Besson) in the 80s by critic Raphael Bassan who who felt their films had more style than substance. Many still feel that way. Only Carax carries any kind of critical respect, while Beineix has fallen away, and the ridiculously prolific Besson now churns out genre movies through his highly profitable Europacorp studio. These films were often simplistic in terms of worldview, but incredibly complex in terms of their use of imagery and music and they redefined the look of French cinema.

EIFF are showing seven movies. Carax’s sci-fi love story Mauvais Sang, famous for the clip of Denis Lavant dancing through the street to David Bowie’s Modern Love, and his grand folly Les Amants du Pont-Neuf. From Beineix, his wonderful thriller Diva, and the more problematic Betty Blue. Mercifully we’re spared his Roselyne and the Lions. Besson gets the MVP treatment with three films screening. Christopher Lambert’s lovelorn thief hiding out in the Paris Metro in Subway, Anne Pariallaud as the punk turned assassin La Femme Nikita, and the astonishingly beautiful Jean Marc-Barr in his free-diving epic The Big Blue.

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There’s another retrospective showing a peak period Christopher Lambert movie. This time a restored version of Highlander is getting a 30th anniversary screening with the Kurgan himself Clancy Brown attending. Devotees of the film will know Brown rarely talks about his time working on the movie due to a fallout with the film’s producers so this could be an interesting evening.

So far there are In Person events with Diva bad guy Dominique Pinon, legendary British producer and longtime David Cronenberg collaborator Jeremy Thomas, and if you still have enough affection for his 90s’ work Kevin Smith will be there. Adams suggested there will be more stars announced in the next few weeks.

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