The Dopeness Of The Wackness
Posted on Sunday June 22, 2008, 12:14 by Damon Wise in Edinburgh International Film Festival
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 final reel to send you stumbling back out into the dark.
Much creepier is the animated arthouse compendium Fear(s) Of The Dark, made by a collective group of established graphic artists who all contribute a section on the subject of fear and its forms or causes. I was introduced to co-director Charles Burns today, and I feel a bit mean because I said I thought his section was the best, which implies that the others aren't any good. That's not true, just that Burns's entry is the flesh-crawling standout, as a nerdy student gets involved with a girl and finds out she has sinister designs on his body. Burns was doodling centipedes when I arrived and they looked a bit like mutant cocks, so you can kind of get an idea of where his part of the film is going. To say more would spoil its twisted surprises, but if you know Burns's work you'll know that he has an elegant grasp of pop Americana, with a gleeful and subversive B-movie spirit. The rest of the film is certainly mixed, but two other sections – one about a possessed Japanese schoolgirl, the other about a traveller trapped in a snowy, deserted lodge (by artists whose names currently escape me) – are pretty good too, and really work well within the confines of the 2D medium.
The Wackness is a film I caught in Sundance, and the version here is slightly shorter, I think, though it doesn't show. It's a very cool indie, set in New York in 1994 (I think, but don't quote me), where a high-school grad (Josh Peck) is coming to terms with life after school. He's a part-time dope dealer, selling weed from an ice-cream trolley (yes, really), and one of his best customers is his girlfriend's dad (and shrink). The latter is played with what I think they call elan by Sir Ben Kingsley, who absolutely nails the part of a man having a midlife crisis. In standard indie terms, this is one of those reverse-mentor stories, where the grown-ups learn more from the kids than vice-versa, but it's beautifully done, and Kingsley is hilarious: a scene in which he goes to score dope from a bunch of African-American gangsters is just genius. If you're wondering, the title refers to the lead character's Ali G-style love of black culture, and given his predisposition to bad moods, his girlfriend wonders why he doesn't concentrate on life's dopeness instead of its wackness. If you don't understand the concept of dopeness as opposed to its yang, wackness, go to one of those urban dictionary things and look them up. They're probably in there next to cockmuff and titwank.
I'm now dashing off to meet someone for dinner – SOMEONE WHO WRITES FOR A RIVAL PUBLICATION!!! – so I'm racing to include Somers Town, the latest by Shane Meadows and a film that I should really stop calling Somer Field, for that's a rubbish supermarket shop, isn't it, or some such? It's only 75 minutes but, like Fear(s) Of The Dark, it's a monochrome treat, about two boys, one a runaway (This Is England's Thomas Turgoose), the other a lonely Polish boy whose father works on the nearby train station in London's King Cross. It really is lovely; if it was in French and made 50 years ago it could easily be a sister piece to some of Truffaut's Antoine Doinel movies (400 Blows et al). It really is that subtle and fine. Turgoose, though, is the real revelation and his comic timing is terrific, especially in his scenes with Perry Benson, star of the gruesome Mum And Dad. Shane will be doing his live thing on stage tomorrow, and if you're there, I'll be the one on his left. Or right. It's not rocket science!