EVENT REVIEW Edinburgh International Film Festival 2012 – Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of our coverage of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Part 1 can be read here.
Paweł lives his life by breaking up cars for scrap with his brother and looking after his dementia- ridden mother, while engaging in a silent relationship with his neighbour’s daughter. When he and his family disappear without explanation, the townspeople’s reaction reveals the petty and mindless aggression hiding behind their silent facade.
It comes as little surprise that the husband and wife directors of It Looks Pretty From A Distance are artists. It’s less an actual film and more a collection of idyllic countryside tableaux interspersed with the bare bones of a story, but the lack of dialogue and characterisation along with frustratingly long static shots drag out its short running time.
Childhood friends Jong-suk and Kyung-min meet after years apart and reminisce about their days of misery at school, their lower social standing (seen as “pigs”) making them constant targets for bullying from those above them (the “dogs”). When a new boy named Chul arrives, attempts to put him in his place are met with psychotic violence. Unafraid to pick fights with boys bigger than him (and usually winning since they don’t expect their victims to fight back) and becoming a proxy defender of the downtrodden, Chul becomes the unofficial king of the pigs.
The King Of Pigs seems to be attempting to be a study of how far people can be pushed before they snap, and how our experiences as children shape us into the adults we become. However, there’s only so much introspection to be gleaned from repetitive scenes of teenage boys beating the crap out of each other. Anyway, whatever message it was trying to impart was lost amidst the atrocious subtitling. This kind of sloppy translation is not even on par with the comically bad subs of cheap Japanese anime; they at least make some warped kind of sense. This is the type of grammatical ineptitude that forces you to read each sentence three times to understand what it’s trying to say. It seems like they were prepared by someone who knows what English words the dialogue translates to, but quite clearly doesn’t understand them.
A man and a woman drive around the Iranian mountains, handing out large bags of money to those they encounter and filming their efforts on a mobile phone’s camera. As people are naturally suspicious of being handed large sums of cash for seemingly no reason, the pair spin elaborate tales to convince the prospective recipients of their motives, the truth of which is never made clear.
Modest Reception is a film rooted firmly in the performances of its protagonists Leyla and Kaveh. They are an inscrutable pair, whose webs of lies prevent you from gleaning any truth about them. When they are alone, instead of personal details their conversation usually revolves around the finer points of the performances they just gave or arguing over the tactics used to offer the money, further denying us any insight into their purpose. Likewise, the increasingly bizarre stipulations they demand from those accepting the money is given no real rationale. Tonally, absurdist black comedy describes it best.
In a lesser film, the constant unreliability of anything that Leyla and Kaveh say could get annoying, but Modest Reception is so superbly written that the ambiguity is only another facet of its quality.
Saili is a middle-aged dwarf living in a remote village by the jungle. Despite being he son of the late village chief, he endures constant ridicule from those around him due to his height. When a dispute over where his family should be buried begins to escalate, Saili is required to call on skill of ceremonial oratory, a talent a person can display regardless of size.
The first ever film in the Samoan language is a beautifully shot feature. The islands’ jungle, with its vibrant foliage and flash rainstorms is a setting unlike much you will have ever seen before. Saili is a sympathetic protagonist, and his dignity in face of the pointless abuse everyone levels at him is deserving of a great deal of respect in and of itself.
When a small-time dealer loses a large amount of drugs following a police raid, he ends up resorting to drastic measures to pay back his gangster supplier in the short amount of time he is given.
If such a thing were even still necessary, Richard Coyle conclusively sheds his “Jeff from Coupling” tag as Frank, a minor London dealer. Calm most of the time but unflinchingly violent when necessary, the increasingly drastic measures he is forced to resort to in order to pay off his huge debt in an unrealistic time frame actually make you sympathise with him. He may be a criminal, but there are many people out there much more dangerous than he is. A worthy remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Danish breakout film, Pusher is fast, uncompromising and brutal.
After a botching the set up for a planned bomb scare, IRA “volunteer” Colleen McVeigh is picked up by MI5 agent Mac and given the choice of a prison sentence or spying on her IRA lieutenant brothers. Choosing the latter in order to protect her son, she is forced to question her every action for the consequences it may have.
Although films involving the conflict in Northern Ireland are not uncommon, Shadow Dancer immediately stands out due to its lack of any kind of political statement. Neither side is presented as being right or wrong, but simply seen as mutual antagonists in a power struggle, both merely doing what they believe to be right. This is a subdued but tense drama about real people, greatly aided by subtle performances from all involved.
Sotiris is a lonely police detective whose life consists of interrogating an endless line up of criminal suspects by day and drinking himself unconscious on a park bench by night. After he (possibly accidentally) shoots an informant trying to blackmail him, it’s only after the body has been disposed of that he realises the bribe money is missing. He suspects it was found by a cleaner Dora, but his desperation results in confessing to the crime and asking her out, setting the scene for an awkward romance.
Low-key performances are often as effective as histrionic ones, and simple banality of Sotiris and Dora’s lives are what make them effective protagonists. The unconventional relationship – hampered by their inability to tell each other what they’re truly thinking – is simply two world-weary people navigating their way through interactions where neither can be sure of the other’s motivations.
If you knew the world was going to end, what would you do? Inspired by 2012 being the year of apocalyptic prophecies, flatmates Guy and Adam discuss the state of the world as young people feeling adrift from life are wont to do. Adam constantly thinks with the mindset of a drunk at 2am, full of ingenious ideas about how to fix the world, unhindered by such niggling issues as practicality or plausibility. When his scheme to create a nation on the Internet has some success in attracting like-minded people and a celebratory night out results in a new flatmate in the shape of Adele, the three of them set out to make the dream a reality.
One of the first things that writing classes tell you is that stories need conflict to provide adequate development. Young Dudes is a prime example of how this rule can be circumvented. It’s not really about the end of the world, nor does it properly lead up to the pseudo-paranormal abduction occurring near its end. It’s more an observation of the simple human desire to make connections with one another and the shared experiences that can be gleaned from them, especially in the information age where people can be friends for years without ever actually meeting.
With over fifty countries represented by at least one film, EIFF 2012 provided a massive selection catering to all tastes with enough variation to have something for everyone. Issues like lost pass scanners, malfunctioning projectors, last minute screen changes and a minor power cut did little to hamper proceedings, with only a few duds amidst the high quality films being showcased.
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