DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: 2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival

Sunday 5 July 2009

2009 Edinburgh International Film Festival

Hello there everybody, its foreign correspondent Blair Stewart here with a report from the recently wrapped 63rd annual Edinburgh International Film Festival in Scotland. Here's a quick roundup of what I saw:

All That She Wants (2008-Canada) Dir. Denis Cote
Starring: Eve Duranceau


A slow-boiling look at small-town hustlers and burnouts shot in gorgeous black and white, Quebec director Cote impresses with his Diane Arbus-ish framing. Eve Duranceau plays Coralie, the 'She' of this film, a sullen local making poor decisions so she can blow town with her boyfriend while the local thugs otherwise scheme. It moves slowly, but has moments of beauty and dark humour to elevate the patience that some audiences might not have. Likely only to be seen in Quebec and on the festival circuit, but worth a look.

The Missing Person (2009-US) Dir. Noah Buschel
Starring: Michael Shannon, Amy Ryan


A modern day noir led by the talented Michael Shannon about a private detective on the biggest case of his wonky career. Shannon's John Rosow is a fine gumshoe and a lousy drunk, stuck in a nostalgic time of fedoras and jazz. Rosow is given the task of following a mystery man with a Mexican boy across the western States and south of the border while running afoul of femme fatales, gangsters and new-age flatfoots. SWhile Shannon is exceptional with his Peter Lorre eyes and a squeezed lemon for a face, and both Amy Ryan and Margaret Colin make good of their brief screentime, several vital roles are woefully misplayed - like watching Ray Charles with a lousy backing band. The story dumps several good sub-plots when the topical main plot finally emerges concerning Rosow's past but all the loose ends were bothersome. I did appreciate the patience of the storytelling as the truth uncoiled itself, but I found the editing distracting as several noticable disolves looked out of place. Michael Shannon will next be seen in a new Herzog film produced by David Lynch, which is now a must-see for me next year.

Lights in the Fog (2008-Iran) Dir. Panahbarkhoda Rezaee
Starring: Behrouz Jalili


A bigger story than the film was the difficulty in extracting the print out of Iran which delayed the screening, so the fact that it was seen at all is a small triumph. Set in the cloud-schrouded mountains of Northern Iran, "A Light in the Fog" observes an Iranian woman quietly mourning the disapearance of her soldier lover as she nurses her dying father while scraping by in life. A short feature that's more for observation than engagement, its blessed with a stunning, unknown setting on par with Lean's deserts and Malick's forests for beauty. This is a film that seems to be set in-between momentous events in the characters lives, where not much is happening.

Giallo (2009-Italy) Dir. Dario Argento
Starring Adrien Brody, Emmanuele Seigner


What could have been a grand last kick in the slasher genre's ass from one of its masters is instead a folly that could spell Dario Argento's retirement and Adrien Brody's agent getting fired. Written exclusively for Argento by fanatics Jim Agnew and Sean Keller, "Giallo" concerns a jaundaced serial-killer (Giallo is 'Yellow' in Italian, and refers to the pulp nature of Argento's oeuvre) hacking away through Turin's ranks of pretty gals. After one model gets kidnapped by the yellowed killer for a slow, drawn out death (very slow at that) Detective Brody and the model's sister Seigner team up to crack the case. What mostly insues is cutting room scraps mistaken for a film, including Brody putting another nail in the coffin of his career post-'The Pianist' with a lackluster performance. Seigner puts proof into my theory that she should only act in her native tongue while Argento labouriously goes through the motions. Put the virturso camera movements from the likes of Argento's 1987 "Opera" or the stylishness displayed in his '70's work against "Giallo" and it appears the Italian master should just hang it up now.

Black Dynamite (2009-USA) Dir. Scott Sanders
Starring: Michael Jai White


A little longer than it needs to be for its premise of a Blaxploitation spoof, but still a stone cold funky groove. Bacchus called it right after its Sundance premiere, sure to be a big hit for the marginalized Jai White, cut from "Kill Bill", killed off early in "The Dark Knight" and buried under makeup and costume in "Spawn". Here he displays brilliant comedic timing, and the batcrazy climax has to be seen without spoilers.

The Raven (1963-USA) Dir. Roger Corman
Starring: Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Jack Nicholson and Peter Lorre.


The Holy Trio of Ham and Cheese and more Ham is Price, Karloff and Lorre matching
wits in an overhauled version of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven". Written by the great Richard Matheson and directed by Corman, "The Raven" skips over the terror and veers
straight into comedy as Vincent Price plays a sorcerer who comes out of retirement to help the cursed Peter Lorre (in a bird's costume). Meanwhile in the shadows of a forbidden castle, Boris Karloff pulls the strings of a nonsenscal plot against them that also ensnares Price's daughter and Lorre's son played by a young Jack Nicholson. The entertainment comes mostly from the three veterans' playfulness and a great final magic duel that George Lucas may have nicked for his "Return of the Jedi's" finale.

The Wild Angels (1966-USA) Dir. Roger Corman
Starring Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern and Nancy Sinatra


The mold cast for Dennis Hopper's future smash-hit "Easy Rider" and the great "Vanishing Point", Corman's "The Wild Angels" roars on the screen with the 'assistance of the L.A. branch of the Hell's Angels'. Peter Fonda is the head of a biker gang that goes hunting in the desert for a stolen bike with distasterous results. Mostly a repetitive cycle of chases, fights and partying, "The Wild Angels" stands as a better, earlier, nihilistic version of the overrated "Easy Rider", Watch for the great backwards dolly-shot through a dive that may have given Scorsese ideas for "Mean Streets'" classic bar shot. While Corman makes great use of the grand Panavision format its a B-movie rosetta stone for American film before its last golden age.

The St.Valentine's Day Massacre (1967-USA) Dir. Roger Corman
Starring: Jason Robards, George Segal and Ralph Meeker


An excellent, forgotten gangster film anchored by Robards's performance as the original Scarface, and the surprise of the festival for me. Approaching the Chicago massacre from a journalist's persepective, Corman successfully recreates the crimewave mentality of the Prohibition era with Robards's Al Capone pitted against Ralph Meeker's Bugsy Moran. Bullet-fast narration sets the tone as the film rolls towards its bloody end, with George Segal handing in his best work as a henchman, and a few great staccato gunfights. In an interview it was revealed that Orson Welles was once tipped to play Capone with Robards as Moran, but the studio shuffled the deck with the underwhelming Meeker. Regardless, its a joy to watch Capone chew on the scenery.


Linda David said...

You liked Black Dynamite but thought Missing Person was just okay?

You just lost a reader.

Anonymous said...

Different films, different values.
I would respond to a film like "Up" from another persepective then "Schindler's List", no?
"Black Dynamite" is a funny blacksploitation spoof, "The Missing Person" has an excellent central performance worn down by a weak supporting cast and uneven
details(my issue with its editing).
I've stated as such. Why should I give it a postive review if it doesn't reach its potential, regardless of content?
"Just lost a reader"?
I'm a guest reviewer covering for the Big Kahuna, tune in tomorrow, Alan will be back. I'l be gone.
Anyone else's thoughts?
-Blair Stewart.