The Mighty Boosh on Tour: Journey of the Childmen (UK) (wiki)
The Mighty Boosh are a radio and TV comedy phenomenon of sorts, and like many before (Little Britain, The Fast Show, etc.) they have moved into the touring phase, and this film captures choice highlights from the backstage goings on from the hundred or so venues they performed at on their previous 2008 tour. The gang's all here, and we see a mixture of their warm-up rehearsals, some footage of what happens when they go behind the curtain, a bit of larking about (which may end up forming the basis of new material), and the huge numbers of [surprisingly largely female] adoring fans, who mob them whenever they poke their noses out and swoon dreamily over grumpy pot-bellied Julian Baratt as if he were in a boy band. This score represents my overall enjoyment having enjoyed a few of the TV episodes but nothing more, I suspect more hardcore fans will be in their element here. 6.5/10
Showing with Journey of the Childmen was a short film by Julian Barratt and Dan Jemmett, about a grotesquely unlikeable alcoholic Punch and Judy man Barry Shepherd, who after a night copulating with one of his mature fans, finds her quite dead the following morning. This begins a chain of unfortunate passings, and wherever he goes, he seems to bring the finger of death with him. 7.5/10
Bunny and the Bull (UK) (minisite/wiki)
Written by Paul King, the director of The Mighty Boosh, this is his first feature film, and the Boosh-style influence is quite evident from the off, helped along by guest appearances by several of the Boosh regulars. Agoraphobic twentysomething Stephen has not been out of the house for a long time. Showing severe Monk-style OCD traits, his life changed by the events of the past year. In flashback (a filming device that seems to be getting overused at the moment) we follow the events that cause this reclusiveness, where Stephen and his friend Bunny (a womanising blokey bloke and the polar opposite of Stephen's restrained character) win a bit on the horses and use it to have a trip into Europe to get away from Stephen's floundering relationship and perhaps get some lady fun along the way.
Flashback scenes are helpfully done in a pseudo-cartoon strip fashion, where the actors perform in an environment not dissimilar from the cut-out houses in a Paddington Bear episode. This is both a useful cue for the viewer and a demonstration of the film-makers' attention to detail. The rest of the scenes are well-set and the pace of the film skips along quite quickly, so there is no getting bogged down in Bunny's hedonism and lack of restraint, or Stephen's self-pity, especially when disgruntled restaurant waitress Elouisa comes along for the ride and possibly more besides.
I have to say that Bunny and the Bull had me thinking I had it figured about halfway through, as some British version of Fight Club, and maybe that was deliberate, as the trick pulled off in that film has been spotted in a few others since, but in fact this left the way clear for it to give a much better and more heartfelt ending which lifted my opinions of the film in the dying minutes. 7.5/10
Crying with Laughter (UK) (site)
This film was on at both Edinburgh and Cambridge this year and I missed them both. I wasn't going to miss it a third time. Actor Stephen McCole got into the part of stand-up comic Joey Frisk by playing gigs under that name for several months. He plays a comic at the precipice of a giant chasm of failure. His agent has given him two strikes, he hasn't paid his rent, and his ex-wife Karen and their child Amy are now living with Jack, a naturally dislikeable but far more competent husband and father than Joey, largely because he's not fighting, drinking and snorting coke most nights.
Even though he has these obstacles impeding his ability to do material, he somehow scrapes through his small-time gigs by improvising some of the events of the previous day into the act, or more effectively, having a go at any audience member who dares to stand out from the crowd. This habit of letting his mouth run loose and apologising later spills over into life away from the mike. It gets him beaten senseless, but at least he has new material for the next night.
Right as his agent comes with good news about an American talent scout coming for a gig, his life falls apart further, mainly due to bumping into Frank, a quiet and slightly creepy man who claims to know Joey from school at around the time he burned the place down, although Joey doesn't choose to remember much from that time. Frank and his goth wife, Collette begin to figure more in Joey's life, and suddenly he finds himself in big trouble with the police, with seemingly only Frank to turn to.
What begins seemingly as a straightforward film about a loud-mouthed arse on a stage develops nicely into a mystery thriller, with Frank keeping his intentions pretty close to his chest. Joey becomes a broken figure given a chance at redemption through the major players and ultimately has to rely on his skills to get him through. Again, another of those low-budget films that manages to hide it well. 8/10
Schultze Gets the Blues (Ger) (site/wiki)
Portly and getting on a bit, Schultze is one of three redundancies from the local salt mine in a sleepy German town. Finding himself without purpose, the day to day life of him and his two friends degenerate into farcical pointlessness, and he struggles to find a reason to get out of bed. The town's accordion player, a chance tuning of his radio exposes him to South American music, a quicker tempo and a livelier style to the 'Schultze Polka' the townspeople have come to know.
Though they disapprove of his new found interest, they do send him over to Texas as 'ambassador' for their little town in a music festival. Making the most of it, he abandons the festival and uses this rare opportunity to immerse himself in a completely foreign culture while he still can.
It's a story of one man who learns to open himself up to the new, right at the age where a person's preferences are expected to be set in stone. I liked Schultze a lot, his quiet, contemplating nature is very appealing, although the film did suffer from the excessive use of static, lingering shots which were just too long for their own good. However, it was a delicate and enjoyable adventure in life's twilight and should be seen when in a relaxed mood. 7/10
Film Count: 21/150
PS: I also got confirmation today that there will be some extra screenings of the most popular stuff towards the end of the festival, which might prove invaluable for those final few films.