City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Half Past the Edinburgh Film Festival


By edg - Posted on 23 June 2009

EIFF 2009: Sam Rockwell in Moon

We're now past the half-way mark at the Edinburgh Film Festival (it finishes this Sunday, with the Best of the Fest) and it happens to be a glorious sunny day in Edinburgh today. It's not the kind of weather that you want to lock yourself away in a cinema or for that matter the darkened basement of the videoteque with journos and jury members, and walls of small flickering screens. So I'm sitting in a New Town conservatory enjoying scents of jasmine blowing on the breeze and tapping on the keyboard.

As always the festival has been a juggling act of seeing films, attending industry events, and schmoozing at parties. (How I managed to fit in other festival events when the EIFF was in August, I don't know).

On the events side: according to James Harkin, author of Cyburbia: The Dangerous Idea That's Changing How We Live and Who We Are there's a growing trend in non-linear storytelling in film and it's largely down to the fragmentary nature of our increasingly digital livestyles. Harkin has adopted a system for defining what makes these new movies successful which he explained in a Scottish Screen seminar "Pushing Buttons" last Friday.

Certainly, you can see Harkin's theory at work in films like Crash, 21 Grams, Memento, films which - to borrow from Jean Luc Goddard - have a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that order.

It's easy to pick holes in Harkin's thesis (films like Altman's 1993 episodic, interconnnected Short Cuts being a fine example of the non-linear story before the world went cyber), but Harkin's proposition on how sophisticated audiences are becoming was a stimulating one for filmmakers and buffs. It also offers me a neat segue to...

Yesterday evening.

I was at the premiere of Spread at Cineworld. Glasgow-based director David Mackenzie - who shot Young Adam just a five-minute walk away on the canal behind Cargo - was unfortunately not at the opening. He sent a message saying he was prepping his new film - a rom-com reuniting him with Ewan McGregor. In the absence of its director, and no sign of its stars, The Spread premiere was a disappintingly low-key, star-free event.

The red carpet was out, but that was for the gala of Running In Traffic - a Scottish film which I'd caught at its press screening and which had left me simulataneously depressed and frustrated by its non-linear narrative (sorry, Mr. Harkin) and propensity for revelling in misery and hopelessness. The acting was the strongest part of the film - particularly lead man Bryan Larkin playing a man on the edge - but grimness, convoluted by the non-linear structure, was all too much.

What a relief Spread is by comparison. Spread is all about light, opulence, and the emptiness behind the glitzy lifestyles of the fabulously rich. Dylan covered Spread in customary detail in his blog - most of which I'd agree with. Spread is easy on-the-eye, humourous, sexy, and there's some memorable images - particularly of the predatory male cruising a chic L.A. bar. Anne Heche is great. Ashton Kutcher's character is not that sympathetic - he's a gigolo after all. You go with him, but as his character undergoes a transformation your belief in the character is tested.

It's now 6.40pm and I have adjourned to the EIFF Delegate Centre where it's the daily Happy Hour. Each day, the bar is free for an hour, courtesy of Scottish Screen and a partner industry organisation. Today's theme is Filming In Scotland, organised by the Scottish Screen Locations Network. Free alcohol lubricating the relationships that make the industry tick. At least, that's the idea.

One last thought - I'm pleased to see that my favourite film of the festival so far, Moon, is leading in the Standard Life Audience Award stakes. Read my Moon review on iofilm. Currently second is The Secret of Kells, the Mesrine doublebill is in third and fourth place and A Boy Called Dad is fifth.

Now to drink beer... followed quickly by an "In Person" event with Bill Forsyth.