UK Short Film Panorama
I was late for the start of this, and consequently missed the first two features, The Search for Inspiration Gone and The Half Light, which I can maybe catch next year.
Pitch Black Heist (imdb) - Two safecrackers (Liam Cunningham and Michael Fassbender) come together as hired hands in a plot to steal some swag. The loot is in a room where the alarms go off if any light enters. They rehearse the steps together to get to the safe and slowly become friends. Everything looks to be going to plan, until their new friendship naturally lends itself to going down the pub and getting drunk. Filmed in artsy grinyvision, it's a good little film even though you do spend a couple of minutes staring at a blank screen. 7/10
All That Glisters (site) - A beautiful stop-motion animation film using fabric dolls to play the parts of a daughter-father pairing, as they make the most of the few moments they have left together. Some simple but effective music, but the little movements in the animation make it special. 8/10
Beginning (imdb) - Told in a style where present and future scenes are mixed together until they combine, a shy woman ventures outside for the first time and meets a young and disarming man. A gently affecting film about recovery. 8/10
Walking the Dogs (site) - Emma Thompson plays the Queen, who in 1982, thanks to some low walls and inattentive servants, is paid a visit by a strange man (Tyrannosaur's Eddie Marsan) in her bedroom. The back and forth of the conversation that ensues is pitched just right, telling an improbable but plausable story that actually happened. 8/10
The Eternal Breasts (Jpn) (imdb)
It's easy to guess that a film titled The Eternal Breasts, originating from Japan, is going to be one of those films where half-naked and/or angry schoolgirls get superpowers from their chest area, and go off and do wacky superhero things against a drooling pervert in a giant rubber suit. Plenty of examples from the crazy isle support this line of thought.
But The Eternal Breasts is nearly 60 years old, and not remotely pervy. Based on a real-life story, female director Kinuyo Tanaka tells a story of Fumiko, a young woman in an unhappy relationship, living a modest life in the beautiful Hokkaido hills. Left to fend for herself and her children when her husband leaves, she gets a second knock with the onset of breast cancer, shattering what dreams she still clung onto for a happy life. Her sole remaining outlet is haiku poetry, which thanks to a submission by old friend Hori is getting noticed. As Fumiko's state worsens, a Tokyo reporter comes into her life, and trying to convince her he is there for more than her final poetry, begs her to live.
Kinuyo Tanaka, a famous actress and later director (women directing films is a rarity amongst Japanese filmmakers, even today) is the focus of a LIFF retrospective, unfortunately this is the only one of her films I could make. That's a shame because it really does stand up well to films of today and makes me curious to see more of her work. The copy we saw was pretty worn but still very watchable, and the quality of the film itself was surprising; lots of modern pan and zoom shots, and some beautiful cinematography. It's a proper weepie too. 7.5/10
Jumbo Records Presents
Jumbo Records is an independent record store in the heart of Leeds, and they have teamed up with MusicFilmWeb to bring a double bill of films on the subject of independent music.
Apocalypse: A Bill Callahan Tour Film (US) (review)
Given the whoops in the audience I guess Bill Callahan is quite well known but he had passed under my radar until now. He's an American indie artist, whose output is a sort of drawn, velvety vision of a Johnny Cash dystopia on the move. This film is a very minimal revue of a recent tour around the US, treating us to a handful of his songs on guitar and harmonica, interspersed with a small amount about the man in his own words, although if you are hoping to hear more about the man behind the mic, you might be disappointed. I enjoyed the music (although the extended versions he played sometimes got stretched too far) and it's straightforward nature worked well for a late night, half-asleep viewing. 7/10
Last Shop Standing (UK) (site)
Author Graham Jones was present at the event, an indiegogo-funded film version of his book of the same name, in which he contributes to the story of the rise and fall, and subsequent rise again, of the small independent music shops, seemingly against all the odds in our disinfected world of supermarket shelves of CDs. The film interviews a large number of independent store proprietors, some a hundred years old or more (the shops, not the props), and throwing in the odd concerned artist such as Billy Bragg and Paul Weller, reminiscing about their days flipping through the vinyl.
Incredibly, due to the slow realisation by music lovers and music producers, of the value that these independent music shops gave, and the tactile experience you get from playing a vinyl record - two things that were close to being lost thanks to the industries' attempt to kill the medium off dead - were instrumental in getting people to come back through the door and having a whole new generation interested, with a little help from new technologies, of course. Last Shop Standing is a punchy, energetic piece, and its short run time is enough to do the people and the cause justice without becoming staid. 8/10
Beyond the Black Rainbow (Can) (wiki)
I knew I was pushing my luck. An 11pm showing of a film described as 'making 2001 look like The Kings Speech' should have rung alarm bells but, well, I was there, so I stayed for it.
Trying to bring back the 1980's vision of the future, both in sound and picture, this abstraction of a film attempts to tell the story of a mad scientist holding a young girl captive. The scientist is stary and says weird things, and the girl is mute and slow-moving and she doesn't like light-up pyramids - it makes her face go all blurry but then she can use the power to change the channels on a TV. The scientist is also quite slow moving, but his eyes and hair come off and he has a monster in one of the rooms that likes to lick things. Eventually the girl escapes and the evil scientist goes after her and catches her but then trips and hits his head and then dies. Two hours of my life have gone by.
You can tell my heart wasn't in it. Strange, random things happened, very slowly and with all of the budget spent on a square car and some distinctly 2001-style sets, there seemed little time or money left to do an acting course. It did pick up a little bit once the girl escaped but not so much as to recommend the 90 minutes it took to get there. It wasn't tense, it wasn't scary, and it wasn't satisfying. And the cut we got kept freezing up. 3/10