Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010 - Day 3

International Shorts 3: Discomfort Zone

Donde Esta Kim Basinger (Where is Kim Basinger) (Fr) - Two middle-aged brothers from France spend an evening in Buenos Aeris. Antonio is unsure and lacking confidence as he speaks little of the language, relying on Marcus to get him around. After a few attempts by Marcus to inject some fun into the situation, he chooses the oldest profession in the world to put a smile on his brothers' face, but the girls have a different idea of a good time, and it involves Marvin Gaye. A funny short film variant of Sideways. 7.5/10

Birthday (Hun) - An outside birthday party is arranged by a strange man, using tatty furnature and cutlery. Children sit down, eat and play with the new toys, and then comes dessert, but where are they, and why is it all a bit.. dirty? An odd film, trying to make a statement of some sort about our throwaway society. 6/10

Incident at a Bank (Swe) - A recounting of a failed robbery that happened in 2006, from the point of view of the witnesses outside, as they slowly stopped their daily business and realised the significance of the tatty moped and its two helmeted riders in front of them. A little funny, a little scary. 7/10

Out in that Deep Blue Sea (Can) - A portrait of a mid-life man deep with the frustrations of life. A door-to-door realtor, with a teenager wanting to disappear off round the world with a man called Wolf, and a wife who just will. not. shut. up. Treadmills and exercise balls dont move the increasing lard building up, and the only sanctury from the incessant causes of stress is sleep, which he doesn't get nearly enough of. A frustrating look at a man with no solutions on the horizon. 7/10

Teleglobal Dreamin' (Sing) - Fictional bit part actor Dale Parsons, who may have spent some time in the same movies as Brendan Frasier finds himself spouting business-isms, trying to help a teleglobal yoga mat sales team in Manila make more sales. He attracts the interest of Rosa, a young telephone saleswoman who volunteers to help dale get over his jetlag and see some of the city. Unfortunately, getting mistaken for Brendan Frasier by Rosa's friends and strangers gets him into both frustration and deep trouble. 7/10

Mai Mai Miracle (Jpn) (site/wiki)

There are some films about very little at all. This is not always a bad thing. There are some films that have taken a lot of license from other films. This is also not necessarily bad. For anyone with a good grounding in the Studio Ghibli films, Mai Mai may look like a cynical carbon copy of that recognisable style; in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if production studio Mad House managed to get some of the animators from Miyazaki's wonders on board for it. It looks the same, and it feels the same, as some of the quieter, older works from the 80's and 90's. In particular, Mai Mai borrows heavily from Only Yesterday, with elements of Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies mixed in there as well.

Mai Mai is about Shinko, a young girl living in post-war Japan, in a little village called Mitajiri, which is near Hiroshima, and, as her grandfather teaches her, was built where Kogua once stood, a thousand years ago. Encouraging an interest in how things change over the years, Shinko begins to focus her imagination on how things were a thousand years ago, and begins to share this with a small group of schoolfriends, including Kiiko, who has just moved from Tokyo with her father. Kiiko is quiet and reserved, and has trouble fitting in, and her and Shinko's stories begin to reflect the life of a lonesome Kogua princess from long ago.

Whether you will like this film or not depends heavily on whether you like the aforementioned films, and whether you can get past the look and feel of it, which is definitely child-like (rather than childish). Like Totoro or Only Yesterday, this is a deceptive sheen, under which lies a meatier slice of life story containing a lot of recognisable, empathatic growing up stories, and a little pinch of magic which can be viewed by both small children and adults with a similar kind of wonder. It would have been so easy for the film to go in the oft-trodden direction of whisping the girls off to ancient Japan for them to have a load of crazy capers, but it doesn't, managing to keep the magic running steadily from the pleasures in the ordinary lives of the people. No major catastrophies, no bosoms, and no explosions (barring popcorn) so your average teen will yawn and fidget, but for those either side of this divide, they have a good chance of really enjoying the beauty within. It's several types of lovely and a welcome surprise. 8.5/10

Jackboots on Whitehall (UK) (facebook)

There is only one conceivable option when asking what would be the result of a plan to make an English version of the brilliant puppet-based satire Team America: World Police. That would be setting it in the middle of an alternate World War II, (to be specific: where Dunkirk went a bit wrong, and Britain is stranded without a ground or air fighting force), pepper it with a raft of English voices, and take time to explore about every cliche in the book. Britain is under attack by subterranean tanks intent on taking its capital and nazi-izing it. Forced far north to Hadrians wall, the last few elements of the resistance await the final battle.

You have a quaint English village populated by everyday farmer boy hero Chris, and his maybe girlfriend Daisy, whose vicar father disapproves of. You have Winston Churchill building a wall around 10 Downing Street. You have Billy Fist, a Rocky Rooster-style Yank showing the English how to win a war single-handedly, and you have Hitler. In a big Queen Elizabeth dress, and loving it. You have Himmler, camp as a row of tents, exchanging pleasantries with a King Hippo style Goring; and Goebbels, whose strained and emaciated stature makes him look like a manx cat trying to cough up a hairball. Oh, and you have the Scottish. From Scot Land, that place of barbarism and.. Mel Gibson.

Jackboots is rude, and very funny, and full of cheeky charm. The Edinburgh audience appreciated their barbarous depictions with hearty laughter and the chocolate box English stereotypes were just as good. The model villages were full of period details, and were as expertly assembled as they were blown apart. There was a whole bag of famous voices, including Ewan McGregor, Alan Cumming, Richard E. Grant, Timothy Spall who was present at the screening, and Sanjeev Bhaskar, who's Major Rupee headed up the only army we had left - the Ghurkas. It was liberally coated with comic book charm and British humour, and was constantly funny from beginning to end. 8/10

Get Low (US) (trailer)

Thanks to Jackboots being a very good film, I missed the first hour of Get Low (my plan being come out of it early if Jackboots was pants). However, if it was as good for the second half as it was for the first, I would definitely recommend it. It's a story set in 1930's America about elderly carpenter Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), who wants to have a 'live funeral' - inviting all the village to have a party and more importantly, to allow Felix to make a big speech about something thats been on his mind for some time. Something that has meant for the last fourty years, Felix has created his own self-imposed jail, away from the main village up in the forests. Bill Murray in his usual deadpan mode plays Frank, the local funeral director who gets on board when he realises the money involved in the arrangements.

From what I saw, the film burns slowly and steadily, the viewer's curiosity maintained as the details of Franks' confession are slowly revealed, until the speech at the end. A few laughs are tempered by the sombreness felt by the end of an era aproaching, in whichever way it will, and the whole thing is shot with slow precision in the golden colours of autumn. If I have the chance, I will see it again from the start. 8/10 (provisional score)

Lola (Sing) (trailer)

Another film set in Manila, Lola takes a documentary style approach to a story of the stabbing of Arnold, a young man living in the choking, cramped, dirty city. His grandmother is left to pick up the mess, and the first ten minutes of the film follow her and her young and unruly grandson going to the murder site to place a candle, and then to the funeral directors to arrange a service, with whatever money they can scrape together. Through all this she has to battle the merciless rain, robbers, and disinterested individuals all making life a little more difficult for her.

The suspect is Mateo, and he too has a grandmother taking the burden of the case from the other side. Mateo is taken in for questioning, and his unsympathetic cousin and unwell uncle are both a strain on an already difficult situation. Eventually meeting, the two grandmothers lock horns. Can Arnold's grandma forgive Mateo's family?

Shot in a raw, unforgiving format, your attention is drawn repeatedly to both the harsh conditions these people have to suffer, even in old age, and the concentration of these people in the same spot, all competing for the same resource, be it living space, or government help, or justice for their family. All of which on the knife edge of poverty. Thankfully it also shows the sense of community present, where even the poorest do their best to contribute to their bereaved neighbours. Though the film did go on much longer than what was necessary, it was still an educating window into the difficult lives of the poorest of society. 6.5/10

The Black Panther (Mex) (trailer)

A surreal film noir from Mexico. That's not a well-used combination of words. Taking a variety of cues from films like Dick Tracy, The Maltese Falcon, Star Wars and some obscure 50's UFO films, director Iyarri Werta has created something very strange indeed.

Freelance detective Nico gets a call in the night from God, or someone purporting to be at least. He wants Nico to find 'The Black Panther', without telling him what it actually is. Trouble is, a lot of other people are out to find it as well. Someone else also wants him to find the mysterious mexican Pedrito Infante, who the girls couldn't resist. Although he's meant to be dead from plane crash-itis. Finally, a gangland boss wants Nico to off a woman who is having an affair with his daughter, who may or may not be posessed by the spirit of an alien. Throw in a mysterious man in white, a woman in black, and Rita, his old detective partner who is competing with Nico for the panther prize, AND everyone trying to kill him depending on whether he succeeds or fails.

Maybe it was the fact that it was very late by this point, or that waves of sleep were washing calmly over me, or that I'd seen 9 films before this, but The Black Panther made little sense. It was crazy and unpredictable and loose fitting around framework of a typical film, and this added to the charm in some ways. It was funny sometimes, and intriguing in others, and wasn't as unfollowable as some I've seen, but at the end I was glad it had finished and I could move slowly towards my welcome bed. 5.5/10

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