Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Modest Reception - EIFF 2012

Iranian cinema is enjoying something of a moment in the sun.

"Football Under Cover", "A Separation", "No-one Knows About Persion Cats" and, I guess, "Persepolis"have all brought attention to the creative talent and culture of this country in recent years.

"Modest Reception" is not a documentary about women's football like "Football Under Cover".

"Modest Reception" isn't about the underground music scene or the universality of the adolescent experience like "...Persian Cats".

"Modest Reception" isn't a cartoon like "Persepolis".

"Modest Reception" is about love, family, loss, the nature of Iranian society...so it's just like "A Separation".

Except "Modest Reception" is nothing like "A Separation".

This is a dark, bleakly comic and, at times, genuinely disturbing film.

A couple (who may be married or not) travel through the northern region of Iran distributing huge sums of money from the back of their car.  At first it looks like this is motivated by no other reason than for the couples own amusement but as the film progresses it becomes clear that there is a very definite agenda behind their actions.

Each of the people who receives money pays a price for it...they lose a bit of dignity, they sacrifice their principles, their faith takes a battering and, in one truly bleak moment a father leaves the corpse of his stillborn child to be devoured by wolves in exchange for several million rial.  Similarly the "benefactors" also slowly find themselves stripped of their own dignity, the wild amusement of their earliest exchanges is devoured by a darkness that neither of them can throw any light on.

Not an easy watch...but one guaranteed to make you think.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tabu - EIFF 2012

Visually stunning.

Shot in black and white and every frame could be hung in an art gallery.

You could watch this with no sound.

It's that gorgeous.

Sadly my advice would be to either watch it with no sound or lobby the film-makers to produce a coffee table book of stills from the movie.

Pretentious doesn't come close to summing up the story being delivered here.

Loooooooooooooooooooooooong periods of silence that is achingly dull and not contemplative or meaningful.

Performances that are knowingly OTT.

You cannot shake the feeling that your presence in the audience places you at the heart of a Situationist prank.

So...beautiful but pretentious and dull in equal measure.

A full house in the screening I attended suggests to me that I may be in the minority on this one.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

What is This Film Called Love? - EIFF 2012


I've met Mark Cousins a few times.

Sometimes, in conversation, I will turn those few short meetings into a friendship.

That's not my fault.

Mark Cousins makes you feel like you either are friends, could be friends or should be friends.

The fact that I lie about being his friend is really his fault.  If you think about it.

What information have I gleaned from my friendship with Mark Cousins?

He is very charming.

Really charming.

The first time I met him he was wandering around the book festival here in Edinburgh.

I introduced myself to him and didn't introduce my wife who was standing next to me.

Mark Cousins wasn't comfortable with that...he turned to my wife, asked who she was, introduced himself to her and was, basically, very charming.  This brief encounter has led to my wife developing a serious crush on Mark Cousins.

Mark Cousins is creative.

Really creative.

At another meeting with Mark Cousins I heard him deliver a speech on creativity.  It was brilliant.  Brilliant and creative.  He took us all on a long, meandering walk around Edinburgh showing us photographs of the things he saw along the way, sharing anecdotes and investigating the process of creativity.

Mark Cousins likes to dance.

Standing in the foyer of Filmhouse during this years EIFF I saw Mark Cousins start dancing while he was standing waiting for someone.  He didn't have any headphones in.  There wasn't any music playing in the bar.  He just started dancing.  It wasn't a "look at ME" kind of dance...he just sort of bopped around a little bit.  I liked it.

Mark Cousins really loves films.

I "chaired" a meeting at Filmhouse earlier this year where Mark Cousins showed a short section from his mammoth "Story of Film" documentary before he fielded questions.  His love and knowledge of film was a joy to be exposed to.  It wasn't a "listen to how much I know" type of knowledge, it was a genuine "I want to SHARE this with you" kind of knowledge.  It was inspiring.


Mark Cousins loves films, he loves to dance, he is creative and he is charming.

What is this film?

What is this film called?


"What is This Film Called Love?"

It's a film about Mark Cousins.

It's a film about film.

It's a film about love.

It's charming, creative, knowledgeable and has dancing.

I think that if you didn't know certain things about Mark Cousins you might see this film as being a bit...too Mark Cousins.

Mark Cousins appears in this film a lot.








But this film isn't really about Mark Cousins.

It's about you.

It's about me.

Mark Cousins just uses himself and his charm, his love of film, his creativity and his dancing to say something to us about ourselves.

With loves and hates and passions just like mine...

I could have made this film.  I didn't though...Mark Cousins did.

There are people, places and things that I am obsessed with and that define me.

I sometimes see the world around me and am overwhelmed by how beautiful if is...even now when the rain hasn't stopped falling, when I've got a cold, when I'm feeling a little depressed; I can see beauty all around me and I can still feel my heart skip a beat when I hear certain songs or think about certain films.

The difference is that Mark Cousins actually managed to capture that sense of joy on film.

In a film that says a lot about Mark Cousins he manages to say something about me.

You should probably try to see "What is This Film Called Love?" because it will say something to you and about you...you will feel a little better about things too.

You might also want to dance a little more often.

Or walked naked in the desert.

Do more press ups.

Or meet Mark Cousins then lie to other people about being friends.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Lost Chapter of Snow Passion - EIFF 2012 Somai Retrospective

An orphaned girl.

A hint of Oliver Twist.

A dash of forbidden love.





Then the usual (as far as anything is "usual" in a Somai movie) water and throwing.

What you are left with is yet another film that is utterly unlike anything else you are likely to see from any director working at the same time as Somai.  Seeing so many of his films together in such a short space of time one is struck by the fact that he was, quite genuinely, unique and brilliant.

Here the central performers are older (but no wiser) than the adolescents of other Somai works and that allows him to deal with familar themes in a very different fashion.  It's fascinating to watch a directors body of work in this way...everything crammed together, no time to really think, simply reacting to what you are seeing and feeling.

"Lost Chapter" is a tender, beautiful but disturbing and dark film that further cements the idea that Somai may be THE great director of his generation.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Flicker - EIFF 2012

A Swedish comedy about...a cleaner who is afraid of spiders, an engineer who fries his testicles with 40,000 volts of electricity, a failing CEO of a communications company, a sad and lonely man, a group of terrorists who are driven by their allergy to electricity, horrible all-in-one sleep suits and so much more besides.

In truth that's not what "Flicker" is about...those are just people and things that make up the action.

This is a film about people...the ties that bind them and the hope that lives inside of them.

Everyone in this beautiful and hilarious film is feeling desperate or alone.  They are all looking for something more in their lives...someone to love them, a cure to the troubles that haunt them, someone to care, a jolt of happiness.

Unlike a lot of modern (American) comedy this is a film that has heart and that will have you laughing out loud without ever having to rely on the vulgar, the crude or the ridiculous.  Warm, gentle, kind and hilarious...lovely.

Fred - EIFF 2012

"Does anyone have any questions for Richard or Elliott?  Yes, the gentleman on the left there."

"Oh, thank you.  First of all can I just say thank you to Mr Ledes, I thought the film was very beautiful and very moving.  I enjoyed it very much.  I wonder if I could ask Mr Ledes to say something about the omnipresence of frogs in the film...they seemed to be everywhere and could I also ask Mr Gould; will you be my friend?"

Fred (Elliott Gould) lives at home with his wife Susan (Judith Roberts).

Fred is, at best, curmudgeonly, and, at worst...plain unpleasant.

Susan has alzheimers.

They both share the home with nurses aid Victoria who cooks and cleans for them as well as looking after Susan.

Bob and Carol are Fred and Susan's children.

They arrive at their parents home and slowly we learn that Susan is soon to be moved into a care home and that Fred is to follow her there.

In the hands of a less able and less thoughtful director this would have been turned into some dreadful melodrama where the focus was on the children as they fought over the home and their would have been some overly sentimental moral at the films conclusion.

"Fred" isn't that movie because Richard Ledes isn't that sort of director.

With grace, style and compassion we simply watch the family as they prepare themselves for the move into the next chapter of their lives.  There is some bickering, there is some laughter and their is even some singing...but it isn't sentimental and it isn't condescending.  Ledes has made what appears to be a deeply personal film but that has universal appeal.

Elliott Gould as the titular "Fred" is magnificent...he is capable of incredible warmth and kindness, particularly towards his granddaughter, but equally capable of complete contempt for the adults who are so desperate to take control of his life.  It's a wonderful performance and one that, in a better world, would achieve recognition from the sort of audiences who normally only cram the multiplexes for that dullard from the "Twilight" movies.

"Fred" is gentle and deeply moving, it's a film you should see.

"...will you be my friend?"

"Well, I dunno know who you are...but I am."