Edinburgh International Film Festival: progress report

Danny's the very model of professionalism at the Edinburgh International Film Festival - and he's seen Blood Car

Okay, while I was writing my first post concerning Erroll Morris’ gruelling Abu Ghraib documentary Standard Operating Procedure and Thomas McCarthy’s music-heals-all-drama The Visitor I believe it was happy hour going on around me. So there I am, perched on the couch with plenty of industry folk and journalists milling around me, typing away frantically before meeting up with friends for dinner. Then, I’m pretty sure a photographer starts taking photos of me, hard at work! I’m amazed if I become the new beacon for professionalism due to these photos because, really, I was dying to get to Pizza Hut as much as the next dude.

Before I got to tapping away on the keys, I stumbled upon none other than Empire’s Damon Wise. After introducing myself as a fan of his and Chris Hewitt’s recent Cannes blogs, who else walks in but festival director Hannah McGill? She’s a lovely lady, chinwagging away with anyone who comes up and has a chat, and I got to ask her about some of the films playing at the festival. Elite Squad, the Brazilian box office hit and one of the bus movies of the festival, was not to her taste politically – she told me there was some macho posturing in it she didn’t go for – but disagreed in Variety’s recent attack on the film (a “recruitment film for fascist thugs”, they say). Mum and Dad, the “very British” horror movie that premieres on Saturday night, contains some of the most “disturbing things [she’d] ever seen in her life”. (Damon Wise found it kind of funny. Hmmm.) We share some of the same views concerning Standard Operating Procedure but her taste runs more towards Morris’ earlier ouerve, which I honest to Gods can’t comment on. Plus, I believe she knows Morris on first name terms. For the small controversy that followed her becoming festival director, along with the moving of the festival to June this year, I’m going to put my chips down and say she definitely knows what she’s doing. Cool cats, the two of them – this was a nice little pleasure to see.

Another nice little pleasure came in the form of Korean filmmaking comedy Milky Way Liberation Front. The debut feature from Yoon Seong-ho, it follows a young teenage director by the name of Yeong-jae (Lim Ji-gyu) trying to get his debut film off the ground despite the lack of a script. And an actor from a Power Rangers-like children’s show/professional ventriloquist (Seo Young-ju, stealing every scene he’s in) being his main collaborator. And his entire creative team having a different idea as to what the film should be. And trying to secure funding by casting a popular Japanese actor. On top of that, angsty teen romances ahoy!

Yoon Seong-ho’s film is so energetic that at first, it seems like a total mess. Characters are rapidly introduced; plotlines are hinted at, dropped and then brought back to the forefront; dialogue changes languages and even sounds at the will of the filmmaker (have you ever heard a man talk like a saxophone?). Really, this is all part of its charm – Seong-ho encapsulates the arrogance and ambition of youth, helped along by having a teenage character as its protagonist and by not fearing to make him as realistically unsympathetic as possible. As the odds stack up and the race to try and secure funding for Yeong-jae’s “Eric Rohmer-like” film becomes funnier and more and more ridiculous, Milky Way Liberation Front and the amateur filmmaker at its centre have creeped up on you and secured your affections. A real charmer – even if Variety are right in saying that the film could be a good ten minutes tighter.

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Carl and I hit up the UK premiere of cult low-budget horror Blood Car later that night. I’ll leave it to Carl to speak his mind on the film (keep your eyes peeled) but I will say that it was an entertaining watch despite a couple of rookie mistakes, and that the ending should not be spoiled by anyone you know. It aims for Dead Or Alive-era Takashi Miike silliness and damn near reaches it. Director Alex Orr held the fort at a post-screening Q A, being asked about whether or not the references to rising fuel prices and the Kyoto treaty betray the concept of him trying to achieve creating simply daft entertainment. Orr replied that he was aiming for something in the spirit of Dr Strangelove, a film that tackled the issue of Cold War policy yet left room for plenty of irreverent humour. He’s no Kubrick but I can definitely see what he’s getting at. If you like ridiculous 18-rated comedy, early Peter Jackson and, erm, veganism, if Blood Car comes your way, check it out for some heady entertainment.

Right. I’m tired and I have one of those 9:30 screenings tomorrow morning (this morning) so, er, take care. More on the fest tomorrow. I hope, if I’m not dead from the 9:30 screening.