It's Day 4 of the Edinburgh Film Festival and it really feels now like its taking off. More and more delegates, filmmakers and journalists are checking in and filling up the place and there's a buzz of activity as pass holders scurry from venue to venue, from desk to desk to acquire tickets to industry talks, public screenings & press previews.
Today there's simply too much on to take in. So many events and films worth seeing overlap their start and end times and my days of running from one cinema as the credits roll to catch the opening titles of another are over. I'm keen but I just aint that keen anymore. Motorise my zimmerframe and I might consider it.
The demand for tickets to events has also increased to the extent where people are collaring freebies or designated tickets for each other - a mini black market of favours and ticket swapping ensues to ensure we can all get to where we need to be. The last port of call being the return queue or wandering around a cinema foyer five minutes before a film starts looking for someone who has two tickets but whose friend cant make it. There's an art to it taking years of practice, but once you've done it enough there's a slight use-the-force-jedi-mind-trick vibe about walking through a door and being handed a ticket before you've asked for it.
And Jedi mind tricks brings me neatly to The People Versus George Lucas. Alexandre O Philippe's entertaining and surprisingly thoughtful documentary about the phenomenal and rabid fan culture spawned by Lucas' original and prequel Star Wars trilogies. Divided into six sections mirroring Lucas' mythical epics, the film examines the initial rise of the filmmaker, merchandising and fan culture that emerged only to be followed by a global backlash from the original '1977 generation' that sat stone faced and heartbroken through the The Phantom Menace and subsequent prequels.
Although it's jam-packed with many of the incredibly inventive fan tributes and parodies now accesible online; this really looks at how Lucas gradually became a victim of his own success, creatively bloated, alienated and out of touch with an initial work of genius that he never expected would take over his life. This film asks whether or not the general public and the culture that grows up around such a phenomenon can actually be owned and protected by them rather than 'improved', tinkered with and permanently altered by its creator.
For me it was a pleasurable and nostalgic flashback to half of my younger life where nearly every single thing I've thought and done in relation to the Star Wars films was described or depicted by other fans and filmmakers. Come on, lets face it, who hasn't grown up with Star Wars and not tried to levitate an object using only an outstretched hand, an intensely furrowed brow and the power of one's mind?
It's often very funny and features both clips of the infamously dire Star Wars Christmas Special - a TV disaster that Lucas unsuccesfully tried to erase from memory as well as a disturbing but hilarious animated clip of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas raping Indiana Jones - a metaphor for the filmmakers eventual debasing of their own creations.
And on the animation front Jackboots in Whitehall - another hot ticket had the longest queue I've ever seen for a press screening. It's both a remarkable technical achievement but unfortunately for me, and after all the hype was a massive letdown.
Think Team America style puppet animation but set during World War II in a scandalously revisionist historical narrative that sees the B.E.F. left behind at Dunkirk and the Nazis succesfully invading England, forcing Churchill to flee North with a motley crew made up of Ghurkas, French resistance and a handful of farmers from Kent. Taking refuge just beyond Hadrian's Wall they make their last stand against the Nazis by recruiting the assistance of 'hordes of murderous blood drinking savages' - aka the Scots.
There are a few genuinely hilarious moments in this bad taste and borderline offensive reworking of world events. A couple of the battle sequences are quite impressive considering it's just models and puppets. There's a cracking aerial dogfight pre-title sequence and the Nazi siege of Downing Street is surprisingly exciting and at times almost looks real.
Sadly, the main problem is a terribly weak and at times embarrassing script which feels like it was written by a couple of drunk film students goofing off thinking its clever and funny. It suffers from not being risque, surreal or bad taste enough with lines like 'shit on a stick', various fanny jokes and stale old fashioned caricatures.
Too many references to the Lord of the Rings films - The Battle of Helm's Deep and the beacons sequence from Return of the King along with silly accents and a semi carry on comedy level of humour doesnt make a film funny but it is very impressive to look at.
Luckily the last half hour, the best part of the film does make up for a lot with a cracking parody of Braveheart, sexy leather clad barbie assassins on motorbikes and the highlight of the film is its last few moments with a quite brilliant final twist on UK history that may have audiences in Scotland cheering in the aisles. I only wish the first three quarters of the film had been as inventive as the last.
The People Versus George Lucas screens today at Filmhouse at 3.30pm and may screen in Best of the Fest on Sunday 27th - check with the festival schedule nearer the time.
Jackboots in Whitehall is showing on Friday 25th June at Cineworld.
Not sure if I really could take the geekiness of the People Versus George Lucas, but I heard the producer talking about the making of the doc yesterday which peaked my interest. (I was covering it a related EIFF industry event about using social media in filmmaking). She was saying that a good part of the film was made using footage solicited from fans. They got 700 hours of footage with fans ranting against big George (with apparently lots of Jar Jar death movies). She said the director and editor watched all 700 hours. I'm sure that would be some people's idea of hell, but sounds like it made for a good film. Anyway, I'll be writing the day up later for EG if you are interested.