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Good grief. We've only been here at the EIFF '09 for two days, and yet we've got ten films to talk about. Draw up a comfy chair and allow Drew and Scott to give you the low-downs on Fear Me Not, The Last Heroes of the Peninsula, Little Soldier, Easier With Practice, Pardon My French, Rule #1, Harmony and Me, Terribly Happy, Van Diemen's Land, and Mary and Max. Phew.
As best as I can gather, Danish film Fear Me Not appears to be entirely about one man's descent into becoming a complete tool, as her takes part in trials of a new antidepressant that leaves him trying to shake up his home life in worryingly dickish ways. It's an interestingly structured and played out film, if nothing else, but what it's trying to say about humanity is a mystery. But, a reasonably entertaining mystery, which is about all I'm asking for these days.
The Last Heroes of the Peninsula is an interesting film about forgotten boxing heroes of Mexico.
Next Danish outing Little Soldier is a pleasingly grim drama formed from roughly equal parts family tensions, post traumatic stress disorders, prostitution, third world poverty and human trafficking, so at least your moral compass gets a workout as you go through it. The tale of a war veteran returning home to a life of the above, with all the bleakness that implies, Little Soldier is a well acted and well crafted tale that will appeal to anyone sharing my weakness for films where there's less of a sense of right and wrong as there is just wrong and a shade of grey less wrong to all of the situations.
A randomly initiated phone sex relationship causes issues for young author Davy Mitchell in Easier With Practice, a relationship drama cum character study that contains relationships that largely aren't interesting and a central character that isn't massively likeable. It's by no means awful, but by the times the credits roll I struggle to see either what point it was trying to make or where any of the entertainment was supposed to come from. Not an epic fail, but there's certainly some degree of fail on display.
Pardon My French appears to be an oddball casebook study in how not to deal with obsessive fans.
Now we head Eastward for Rule #1. Reassigned to a unofficial department that's largely called on when there's something strange in your neighbourhood, beat cop Lee Kwok-keung (Shawn Yue) learns an uncomfortable truth from new boss Inspector Wong (Ekin Cheng) - ghosts are real and cause real problems. It's their job to solve these problems and cover them up, mainly by shooting people. I'm down with that, and while the lapses into Hard Boiled-esque police-o-drama is quite acceptable the horror aspects tend to drag things back down again, and is entirely responsible for the single worst, most artless and clumsy 'twist' ending I've seen. Mild recommendation to those outside of the 'genre diehard' category.
Final Danish flick now, with Terribly Happy. Copper Robert Hansen (Jakob Cedergren) is punished / reassigned to a remote village in South Rutland from the bright lights of Copenhagen. The village, Skarrlid, appears to be a slightly less humorous Danish version of League of Gentlemen's Royston Vasey, where things aren't so much not what they first appear as they are outright strange from the get-go. Before long, we're in another situation where right vs. wrong stops being the choice and wrong vs. very marginally less wrong becomes the only two directions on the moral compass. It's a well acted and quite compelling drama, but what it's not, as the press guide would tell me, is "a dark, ominously macabre comedy". Dark, yes. Ominous, yes. Macabre, yes. Comedy, a thousand times no.
Van Diemen's Land. Criminals. Convicts. Cannibalism. Characterless. Especially once the cannibals are through.
Providing the first genuine treat of this year's EIFF, Mary and Max is an utterly charming off-kilter stop-motion animation about a young, troubled Australian girl and her American pen-friend, an equally troubled middle aged man prone to anxiety attacks. With a devilishly funny line in non-sequiturs and situational comedy, this film is one of the most amusing and in the end touching films I've seen this year. Superb.
We'll be back shortly, peeps. Keep it real.