Edinburgh Kicks Off

And Empire's Alan Morrison has the full report

by empire |
Published on

Castle on a rock? Tick. Sounds of a bagpiper fleecing tourists? Tick. Twelve days of as-yet-untasted movies that will restore our faith in the medium of cinema? Tick. Ah, it must be the Edinburgh International Film Festival. For a 58-year-old, the EIFF has a bit of a spring in its step. Last night it shook its ol' bones to salsa sounds at a party themed to celebrate the opening night film - Che Guevara biopic The Motorcycle Diaries. Earlier in the evening, the bash got officially underway with a series of simultaneous screenings of Walter Salles' latest at Edinburgh's UGC cinema. Like the festival itself, the celebs trotting along the red carpet were local in origin but international in appeal: Billy Connolly, Ewen Bremner, Daniella Nardini, Richard Jobson and crime novelist Ian Rankin all made an appearance. As did Steven Berkoff, whose dancefloor antics later were more like a performance art happening than a slinky Havana groovester. He really doesn't know when he's been tangoed. Fingers were crossed that birthday boy Christian Slater would turn up. But as the clock wound down on the party, the candles were obviously being blown out on a cake in an entirely different part of the Scottish capital. There have already been grumbles that the Edinburgh Film Festival can't deliver Hollywood stars of the magnitude of Slater, who's in town with a Fringe stage version of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest co-starring Mackenzie Crook and Francis Barber. It was a point EIFF Artistic Director Shane Danielsen addressed in his introduction to the opening film at the UGC, saying that was the job of other, bigger-budgeted events. Edinburgh's aim was to "surprise and astonish" with its choice of films rather than with paparazzi trappings. Danielsen then drew a parallel between the film's story of the young Ernesto Guevara, shaping his political conscience as he toured South America in the early 1950s, and the Edinburgh audiences' voyage of discovery over the next few days. Enriching our lives by exposing ourselves to international adventures - it's a good metaphor, and here at film festivals we generally prefer to munch on metaphors rather than popcorn. One sore point about the opening night party, though. The idea was to recreate downtown Havana in the 1950s (and, yes, if we'd been in Havana in the 1950s we would have been wearing a kilt). It was a party sponsored by Diet Coke. No disrespect to those who have died and suffered in Florida, but those storms might not have been the by-product of hurricane Charley. Perhaps they're caused by turbulence as Che Guevara spins in his Cuban grave. Part of the socialist icon's Motorcycle Diaries trip passed through Colombia, where (just in case you've not been keeping up on current events) globalisation giant Coca Cola has recently been named in a law suit alleging that it is colluding with paramilitary death squads who have murdered trade union leaders inside its bottling plants. There's also a hunger strike going on because of trade union sackings. At what point in corporate sponsorship, we must wonder, does irony become cynicism? Flashforward - Day Two highlights If you're planning to check out the festival tomorrow, you won't want to miss: Walter Salles Reel Life (UGC, 2pm) Director of Motorcycle Diaries and Central Station, Brazilian-born Salles talks about the opening film and his move into Hollywood terrain with a remake of Japanese chiller Dark Water. Coffee And Cigarettes (UGC, 7pm) Indie king Jim Jarmusch gathers together a series of his black and white shorts featuring Iggy Pop, Steve Coogan, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett. Old Boy (UGC, 8pm) Brilliantly stylised Korean revenge thriller whose violent ways dazzled Tarantino and his team in Cannes, resulting in a well deserved Prix de Jury. Alan Morrison

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