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The spectre of budget cuts looms over both this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival and our coverage of it, as we downsize to one podcast covering the cinematic delights shown at this years fest from the usual blitz. We give you the low-down on Phase 7, Bobby Fischer vs. the World, Elite Squad 2, Troll Hunter, Oliver Sherman, Post Mortem, The Truth About Men, Our Day Will Come, Tomboy, Jack Goes Boating, The Last Circus and The Borrower Arrietty.
While quarantine based comic thriller Phase 7, with the emphasis on comedy, does little original or innovative, it does it very well. Likeable central performances and solid action makes this easy to recommend.
Bobby Fischer vs. the World is a documentary about the life of the noted chess playing chappie and nutjob. It's an interesting film, because Bobby Fischer is an interesting cat, and overall the film is far more likeable than the man himself wound up to be.
Elite Squad 2 follows up the original, still largely concerned with crime in Brazil's favellas, this time orchestrated by the corrupt coppers rather than drug dealers, with Cpt. Nascimento trying to sort out both this and his family life. It's a solid police procedural, and well worth a watch.
Troll Hunter is a film about a troll hunter, I can't really complain all that much about it. It is what it is, I didn't expect much from it and it delivered exactly that. The effects work is good for the budget, but not actually good in real terms - but I've seen worse. It's really not my sort of thing, but if it does sound like your sort of thing, it's one of the better examples.
Oliver Sherman is a powerful, harrowing and impact-filled drama of a war veteran's struggle to readjust to civilian life. Tremendous central performances and moments of real tension and drama makes this a compelling, if uncomfortable film to watch.
Post Mortem, I feel, failed at what it was trying to do and as such was the greatest disappointment of this year's festival, especially given the generally high regard it seems to be held in. A tale of a creepy civil servant who's unconventional romance gets caught up in the chaos following the 1973 Chilean coup, it suffers from focusing on two unpleasant, unsympathetic characters with motivations and events so poorly explained they'd be baffling, if they weren't too boring to care about.
In The Truth About Men, a screenwriter checks in for his mid-life crisis earlier than expected and goes off on a journey that's equal parts self discovery and self destruction. The way that the lead character weaves standard movie narrative structures into his own life, coupled with playing off some movie tropes might limit mainstream appeal, but a surprisingly likeable central turn (given his tendency for negativity) makes this an enjoyable watch.
Our Day Will Come. A teenager with some pretty severe self esteem problems winds up being taken under the wing of perhaps the world's least sympathetic psychiatrist during an event laden couple of days that, frankly, I am at a total loss as to describe. There's a certain amount of enjoyment to be had watching Vincent Cassel running around frothing at the mouth, but quite what the point of it all is is beyond me. By the end of the film it's just a succession of unpleasant people doing increasingly unpleasant things, and is very difficult to care about.
Tomboy sees a young girl invents a new life for herself when moving to a new town in a charming tale of adolescent identity. Narratively, it's on the spartan side, but it's a beautifully shot, sympathetically told and outstandingly performed (particularly for so young a cast) film that's a joy to watch. Great stuff.
Jack Goes Boating is an unfortunate case of the sum of the parts being much greater than the whole. It's a relationship drama helmed by and starring Phillip Seymore Hoffman, with some very stylishly shot scenes. The acting is pretty much impeccable. The characters and relationship feel real and believable. There are so many elements in here that I like that I'm a little puzzled myself as to why I didn't enjoy it. My only valid criticism would be that it doesn't seem to say a great deal about anything, other than that relationships can be hard, but regardless for me it just doesn't hang together as anything special.
The Last Circus rounds off our quotient of mental from this year's festival, and it's difficult to get too critical of a film that more or less starts with a machete-wielding clown charging a column of Franco's troops in the Spanish Civil War. Sadly it starts going downhill once the focus moves to said clown's son, also entering into the clowning business, performing with a psychotic, wifebeating co-worker and falling in love with said co-worker's wife. Apparently the crazy rubs off on our protagonist, which in turn rubs off on the scriptwriters of the utterly perplexing final third of the film. The Last Circus winds up being far too outlandish to be described as bad, but it's also a long distance from good. If you like your slasher films way, way left-field then this is right up your alley. All seven of you.
The latest outing from Studio Ghibli, The Borrower Arrietty, almost gets a straight pass into the recommended category in these parts due to its heritage alone, but it's far from their best work. There's a number of really nice little touches, and it's astonishingly pretty, and beautifully animated. Problem is, I guess, the source material, or at least every adaptation I've seen seems to have the same problem, in as much as it doesn't have much of a point other than going "Look! Small people!", which really isn't enough - especially if you want to hang with the rest of Studio Ghibli's output.
That is all for now. We'll be back sometime soon, so until then keep your nose clean and if you can't be good, be lucky.