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Empire Blogs

Edinburgh International Film FestivalNot For The Faintheart(ed)

Posted on Friday June 27, 2008, 14:35 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
Not For The Faintheart(ed)

It's Friday afternoon and I'm on the train hurtling back to London. Sadly, I don't have any more reviews to update as I spent the whole day interviewing yesterday, which meant missing the closing film Faintheart. Made by MySpace users, who voted on its director and content, the film will close the 62nd Edinburgh Film Festival tomorrow with an amiable sigh rather than a whimper, if the local chatter is to be believed. Still, it's been a grand ten days, and if there were concerns that moving the event from August to June would be commercial suicide, the figures seem to suggest a cautious success. When I spoke to the festival's managing director Ginnie Atkinson on Monday she told me that ticket sales had already surpassed the figures for the equivalent period in the last festival. Even the obscure Argentinian movies had sold out, although the festival's artistic director Hannah McGill told me shortly after that there were some surprising anomalies: Errol Morris's Standard Operating Procedure, a ...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalThe Transsiberian Connection

Posted on Thursday June 26, 2008, 15:25 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
The Transsiberian Connection

Apologies for not blogging yesterday, but the pressures of real life sometimes unexpectedly, and rather rudely, intrude when you're in the middle of a film festival. And, hey, that's given me an idea for a theme for today's blog! Real life didn't enter my mind at all yesterday afternoon as I watched the frankly rather absurd Transsiberian, the latest by Brad Anderson, who did the existential thriller The Machinist (which was great) and the haunted asylum horror Session 9 (this one not so much). His latest film is more of a piece with the latter; though it's well made and insanely ambitious – it takes place on a train hurtling from Beijing to Moscow – the story problems that kick in after the intriguing first half just can't be resolved by an overcooked, violent climax.

Emily Mortimer stars as Jessie, a recovered alcoholic who's travelling with her staid, religious boyfriend Roy (Woody Harrelson, making an excellent nerd), and on the first leg of the journey they befr...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalRide The Wave And Take The Fall

Posted on Tuesday June 24, 2008, 15:42 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
Ride The Wave And Take The Fall

I saw one of my Dans yesterday – if you remember, he was the first of two Empire readers who'd recognised me from the Cannes blogs – but by that time I'd learned a valuable lesson. Until that very morning, I'd thought it would rather cool to have my own private army of Dans, who would do my bidding and carry me shoulder high wherever I went, but then I saw The Wave, a cautionary German tale in which a well-meaning school project, led by a charismatic teacher who becomes the figurehead of an underground movement, goes spiralling out of control. As Bender once said in Futurama, who'd have thought that playing God could have such terrible consequences?

I was taken with it from the outset, as teacher Rainer Wenger (Jurgen Vogel) arrives at school to the strains of The Ramones' 'Rock'n'roll High School'. Wenger's an old punk who wants to teach the kids about anarchy, but he's beaten to it by a stuffy co-worker and has to teach them about autocracy instead. His kids – jocks, hipsters, pr...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalWhen Damo Met Shane Meadows

Posted on Monday June 23, 2008, 14:29 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival

One of my duties while in Edinburgh this year was to present one of Skillset's In Person seminars, which this year featured Shane Meadows, who'd come almost straight from a screening of Somers Town. I'd done a few of these events at the festival last year, and I was particularly proud of the ones I did with Chris Cooper and Stephen Frears. Not to blow my own trumpet or anything, it's just really satisfying when an onstage interview gives a real insight into the subject's personality and working methods. I'd never met Shane properly before, and I knew he was a good sort, but I wasn't prepared for how much he was prepared to give up to the audience on Saturday evening.

I didn't really have anything sketched out, but at the back of my mind I wanted to emphasise that Shane is a true British original: by rights, he shouldn't even be a filmmaker at all, let alone such a good one. ...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalIt's That Guy From That Thing

Posted on Monday June 23, 2008, 10:16 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
It's That Guy From That Thing

The Visitor, in movie biz terms, has been around the block a bit, starting in Toronto last year and snaking its way to Edinburgh via Sundance. But this is a film with a lot of stamina – and with any luck, perhaps even enough to see it reappear when the Oscar nominations are announced in 2009. It stars Richard Jenkins, a character actor you will definitely know when you see him, as a jaded, faded college professor called Walter Vale, who's coming to terms with the death of his wife and struggling with piano lessons that he's just not cut out for. In his professional life, Vale is becoming increasingly disillusioned with the world, to the extent that he's even become a bit of a fraud, recycling material and taking credit for other people's work on co-authored papers. Under duress from his boss, he is ordered to attend a seminar in New York, where he has a second home that he never goes to. Letting himself it, he finds that the flat his been illegally rented out to an Arab musician named Tarek (Haaz Sle...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalIt's Not All Work Work Work

Posted on Monday June 23, 2008, 10:14 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
It's Not All Work Work Work

Time for a bit of recapping. Friday was quite a hectic day, starting off with an interview with Thomas Turgoose, aka Tomo, star of Shane Meadows's Somers Town, and his Polish co-star Piotr Jagiello, who's every bit as adorable in real life as he is in the movie. Turgoose is really coming along as an actor; I think he's 16 now but he's pretty confident for his age and somewhat surprised me by admiring my tattoo (it's an old-fashioned sailor-type) in front of his dad and telling me of his plans to get one on his shoulder. “Don't worry, he's got loads,” Thomas assured me, gesturing towards his old man. As I think I've said elsewhere, Somers Town is a great little movie; it's about two boys, one a runaway, the other a loner, who become unlikely friends in the shadow of the Eurostar. Thomas was effusive in his praise for Shane, recalled (with a shudder) the amount of violence they saw while shooting in one of London's scuzzier housing estates, and told a fantastic story about the scene in which Perr...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalThe Dopeness Of The Wackness

Posted on Sunday June 22, 2008, 12:14 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
The Dopeness Of The Wackness

Well, now you'll be wanting to know what some of these here films are like, and the first weekend's line-up is pretty strong. First up is the Brian Cox thriller Red, which I believe I've described elsewhere as The Straight Story Meets A History Of Violence, and if I haven't then I can't for the life of me think why not. Cox, the great and underrated British actor, stars as Avery Ludlow, a humble country boy who runs into some upstart youths while on a fishing trip with his trusty dog Red. The boys rob him and kill his dog, and Avary begins a quest for justice that pits him against the ringleader's father, a rich local businessman with the sheriff in his back pocket. It's written by a horror writer (Jack Ketchum) and directed by a horror helmer (May's Lucky McKee) but it's more a gothic western than anything, with Cox on terrific form as the grizzled veteran who just wants to see right be done. It won't rock your world, necessarily, but Red is a film that will look good to you late at night, with a splashy ...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalBusy, busy, busy...

Posted on Sunday June 22, 2008, 12:06 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
Busy, busy, busy...

Apologies for being slack! There's been a lot to do today, and none of it involving seeing films. Sad to report that yesterday afternoon's session resulted in the disappointing Standard Operating Procedure, about the Abu Ghraib scandal involving photographs of scandalously ill-treated Iraqis. Though the film does an admirable job of humanising the US army individuals involved, it's a long and flawed essay on the subject that raises more issues than it answers. I can understand that certain forms of duress don't strictly count as torture: sleep deprivation, for one. But why, for example, would anyone want to pile naked men on top of each other? Or make them wear women's undies on their heads? And the billion dollar question remains: what kind of sick fuck would take a picture of the results anyway? It's all very well to bleat about scapegoatism, but, honestly, these people weren't out in the jungle or on a snowy mountain eating each other, they were in a secure prison unit, and the war-makes-people-a-bit-fu...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalPoncey Drinks, Torture Porn And Fairy Cakes

Posted on Thursday June 19, 2008, 14:21 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival

So far, the best thing about the Edinburgh International Film Festival being in June is that you get to see places you don't normally get to see. For instance, the venue for last night's opening party was just great, a multi-layered event space with several bars, a roof terrace and actual proper sort of library with books in it and everything. The wine was free but some of the lager wasn't. There was stout brown beery drink with a white head, probably from Ireland or somewhere, which was free too, but I don't drink that, so there's a pointless sponsorship deal for you. So why not think lovely, refreshing thoughts of Stella Artois or Fosters or Carlsberg and maybe there'll be a party tonight with some of that for free, now that I've promoted it and all. The party itself was themed (“40s glamour” I think is what it said on the ticket I never actually got, which I why I can'...

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Edinburgh International Film FestivalIn Pictures: Keira And Sienna At The Festival

Posted on Thursday June 19, 2008, 11:38 by Amar Vijay in Edinburgh International Film Festival
In Pictures: Keira And Sienna At The Festival

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RECENT POSTS

Not For The Faintheart(ed)
By Damon Wise

The Transsiberian Connection
By Damon Wise

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
By Damon Wise

When Damo Met Shane Meadows
By Damon Wise

It's That Guy From That Thing
By Damon Wise

It's Not All Work Work Work
By Damon Wise

The Dopeness Of The Wackness
By Damon Wise

Busy, busy, busy...
By Damon Wise

Poncey Drinks, Torture Porn And Fairy Cakes
By Damon Wise

In Pictures: Keira And Sienna At The Festival
By Amar Vijay


RECENT COMMENTS

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
"When do we get it though? Having seen the trailer so many months ago I'm desperate to see it.  r1x
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Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
"Apparently Tarsem told the little girl in the Fall that Lee Pace really was paralysed which made her"  spyro
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The Transsiberian Connection
"Session 9 is a great film! If it wasn't the the silly ending, it would be a modern Horror classic"  Cethan
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Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
"Completely agree on The Fall. Almost certainly my favorite film so far this year."  Will Goss
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Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
"Nice write-up on The Fall. I decided many months ago that I was looking forward to this, despite the"  Acho
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When Damo Met Shane Meadows
"Meadows is a bit of a legend alright. Dead Man's Shoes is being shown in Dublin this weekend, as par"  Acho
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It's That Guy From That Thing
"I feel like I've been hearing about the visitor for months. Damn festival circuit, getting to see th"  Acho
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An Australian In Edinburgh
"I didn't know you're Australian Sam. No reason why I should've, I guess. Any chan"  Acho
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Just Listen To That Serenity...
"Hiam Abbass was at the showing at the weekend? GUTTED. Saw it earlier this week and I've been dying "  Daniel!
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It's That Guy From That Thing
"The Visitor was a good film, very good at points, but it did threaten in its first act to become a m"  Daniel!
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POPULAR POSTS

Ride The Wave And Take The Fall
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Busy, busy, busy...
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It's That Guy From That Thing
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When Damo Met Shane Meadows
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The Transsiberian Connection
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The Dopeness Of The Wackness
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