Immediately following my coverage of the 2010 Edinburgh International Film Festival, my wife and I packed our tiny flat and moved back to the U.S. We spent a month home and then finally moved to Iowa where she is now working on her PhD.
Thus, the summer was very busy and scattered; I left many films in my wake with nary a commentary post. I will now provide a quick rundown of what you should check out and what you should chuck out. Continue reading →
When Pixar’s Up! came out I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Both Up! and Wall-E strayed into dark, adult thematic areas, but had to hop over to the kid’s table to maintain commercial viability. Thankfully, there are countries in the world where animation is held in equal regard to traditional filmmaking. The Illusionist is filled with a romance and poignancy that hits you in the gut and lets you deal with it sans cute adventuring. Thank God.
The year is 1959 and the world hasn’t become completely dominated by English as the “universal” language. When a French magician sets out to the U.K. to find work, he finds himself at a small village in Scotland, entertaining Gaelic speaking revelers. After his routine, one of the girls maintaining the inn becomes enchanted by his fancy handiwork. Separated by their respective lingua francas, the pair interact via noble gestures and find themselves in Edinburgh, where he practices his magic, and she eyes shop displays…
Directed by Sylvain Chomet (The Triplets of Belleville)and written by Jacques Tati, this tale of characters connected without language and destroyed by globalization, is a film for which the term “gut wrenching experience” was created and is made all the more fascinating by its audacious move to be silent. I don’t mean pre-sound film recording silence, but that one full sentence is uttered in the entire film. Chomet brilliantly uses this silence to convey humor and the undiluted sentiments of his characters. Though this may sound daunting, we forget film is a visual medium after all, and Chomet knows how to milk it for all it’s worth (this is not a film for people who enjoy the exposition lane on the film freeway).
Chomet spent five years working on The Illusionist, even creating a production studio in Edinburgh to handle the work. The visuals are beautiful, accurately capturing the awe inspiring presence of the Scottish Highlands, but it’s also a love letter to Edinburgh, with its attention to detail and an array of famous locations on full display.*
Unfortunately, I must also add that there are some uncanny valley moments. 1) I could swear they used some motion capture to get some movements realistic, which could be unsettling when combined with an animated human. And 2) All moving objects look removed from their settings. Sure, you watch old school Disney films and objects that move are brighter and the still background is darker–but my unease stemmed from something different. Instead of both background and character being hand drawn, the involvement of computers elbows the animations into another area that doesn’t blend well. These are some of the issues I picked up on, but it still didn’t completely undercut the stunningness of the world presented.
The film’s message, “We’re all waiting for our talents to be exploited by capitalism and our relationships replaced by consumer objects,” is the type of damning conclusion that settles in your belly with its veracity. Spending almost an hour and a half with these characters without words provides a unique window into their psyche, which is how The Illusionist pulls off its sucker punch coupe commentary in a believable and un-soap box manner.
The Illusionist‘s engrossing visuals and intelligent message trumps the $400 million dollar wizardry of Avatar, but is accessible to that same audience just as easily as the art house kids. If you weren’t already in love with Chomet for The Triplettes of Belleville, this should solidify your affections
*I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a full year and the film spoke of its romance in an honest way that had me realizing how much I’ve taken the city for granted (seagulls, wind, rain, but also the sunny green grass days with Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat dominating the skyline)
Due to your readership, dear Film Fan, I have secured a Press Pass for the festival. This makes almost all of the screenings free. Without your readership, I would be spending over a 100 pounds trying to cover a fraction of the festival’s events. So thank you.
To honor your support, please look through the festival’s brochure and tell me what films you want reviewed – or simply if I’ve overlooked a great film at the fest. I cannot promise I will be able to deliver all reviews given time restraints, but I will do my best.
There are an insane number of films being shown, so the following are the main titles I’m looking forward to seeing.
“Jean Reno gets shot 22 times…and he’s not happy about it.” Produced by Luc Besson (Unleashed, The Fifth Element) and starring our favorite hit man, this is high on my list.
BAFTA Scotland Interview: Sir Patrick Stewart
Who would pass up a chance to see Captain Picard?
A dystopia in which smokers are separated from the rest of the city, it looks like a fun B-movie.
Robert Duvall plays Felix Bush, an old timer who wants to have a funeral party – while he’s still alive. Throw Bill Murray into this 1930’s period piece and I’m there.
H.P. Lovecraft’s The Dunwich Horror
This will be a “audio horror movie,” using the cinema’s sound system to tell Lovecraft’s tale.
Documentary from Jeffrey Blitz (Spellbound, Rocket Science) detailing the lives of lottery winners. Given the greatness of Rocket Race and an NPR piece I heard discussing the making of the film, it should deliver the goods.
After contact with alien life has gone awry, the Mexican/U.S. border becomes “infected” territory. Monsters received buzz at SXSW and has been compared to District 9. Probably the film I’m most anticipating at the festival.
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?
Directed by Werner Herzog and produced by David Lynch, that’s enough to watch. Adding Michael Shannon (a little known actor who was phenomenal in Shotgun Stories), Michael Pena (Crash, The Shield), Chloe Sevigny, and Willem Dafoe is just icing to the cake.
Looking forward to this based solely on the reviews, tagging it as a UK horror that throws out the rules.
Described by the EIFF as a prison story that makes A Prophet “look like porridge.”
“This Western-style outback thriller is action cinema at its very best.”
“The Afghanistan war film that renders all others unnecessary.” After being embedded for 15 months, the film is supposed to be an unflinching analysis of modern warfare, featuring civilian and military casualties.
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride
It’s 1910 and a young woman is hellbent on returning the body of outlaw Ransom Pride to Texas for a proper burial. Described as a “dark, violent western” reminiscent of Tarantino, Pekinpah, and Sergio Leone, with cameos from Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam, Jason Preistly, and a shotgun wielding Peter Dinklage, it sounds like a good ride.
The People vs. George Lucas
I posted a blog piece about this that you can read here. Super pumped for this one.
Toy Story 3
UK premiere of Pixar’s latest.
World’s Greatest Dad
Starring Robin Williams in a dark comedy/drama directed by Bobcat Goldthwait, it’s sure to be interesting given Williams abilities showcased in One Hour Photo and Death to Smoochy.
Other film of interest include: Act of Dishonour, And Everything is Going Fine, Au Revoir Taipei, Blank City, Boy, Caterpillar, Chase the Slut, Cherry Tree Lane, Crime Fighters, Evil in the Time of Heroes, Fog, Gravity, Henry of Navarre, HIGH School, Hotel Atlantico, Jackboots on Whitehall, Lucky Luke, Ollie Kepler’s Expanding Purple World, Perastroika, Police Adjective, Postales, Privelege, Putty Hill, Skeletons, Snowman’s Land, Son of Babylon, Soul Boy, The Dry Land, The Hunter, The Oath, The Red Machine, The Robber, The Sentimental Engine Slayer, Third Star, Two Eyes Staring, Vacation, and Went the Day Well?
There are still some costs to covering the film festival, so if you like the blog and can afford to support my work, donate below. If you donate $10 or more, I will send you a DVD of my short films. One finds more value in their work when people are willing to pay for it.