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Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009: Filmstalker's picks

EIFF.pngI've taken plenty of time going through the 2009 programme for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, cross referencing against certain reviews I trust, and checking cast, director and writers, and I've come up with a little list of films that I wanted to see.

However I came up against a problem when the press schedule was released, too many of the top choice films were on at the same time. Now I'm hoping that I'll get around most of it, but I thought I should share the list with you all with a little bit about the top choices.

First, here are the top choices, the films I wanted to see above all. They aren't in any order other than alphabetical.

Boogie Woogie
IMDB : EIFF
Gillian Anderson, Alan Cumming, Heather Graham, Danny Huston, Jack Huston, Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley, Simon McBurney, Meredith Ostrom, Charlotte Rampling, Amanda Seyfried, Stellan Skarsgård, Jaime Winstone
EIFF comments:
Adapted by Danny Moynihan from his own novel, Duncan Ward's daring and accomplished debut circles heartless agents, self-seeking artists, corrupt dealers and sexual predators of all persuasions, through escalating crises and towards a shattering conclusion.
Filmstalker:
What a cast list, and there are some great actors in there. I've not heard that much about the film but Gillian Anderson has just been getting better and better as her heavily labelled past fades away. Then there's Danny Huston and Stellan Skarsgård who are both really great actors, Alan Cumming and Heather Graham who are heavily underrated and underused, and the great talents of Joanna Lumley and Charlotte Rampling. Combine that with the interesting material and the novel adapted by the author, and I'm really keen to see this.

Breathless
IMDB : EIFF
Yang Ik-june, Kim Kkobbi, Lee Hwan, Park Jung-soon, Lee Seung-yeon, Kim Hee-su
EIFF comments:
Gangster Soon-Hong's life is a cycle of violence and self-loathing. When he meets schoolgirl Han Yeon-Heui, he not only meets his match, but his possible salvation. Is his lifestyle one he can transcend? Held together by a blistering lead performance by the director himself, this is Korean cinema at its most foul-mouthed, violent and vital. Get ready for the gangster genre at its least
glamourised.
Filmstalker:
Well what more is there to say? I really know nothing about this and the words Korean and gangster caught my eye enough to head over there and look. Once I'd read about it I was in.


Fragments aka Winged Creatures
IMDB : EIFF
Kate Beckinsale, Jennifer Hudson, Guy Pearce, Forest Whitaker, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson
EIFF comments:
The first American project from acclaimed Australian director Rowan Woods (The Boys; Little Fish), Fragments follows the witnesses to a shooting in an LA diner. Anne (Dakota Fanning) finds solace in faith; Charlie (Forest Whitaker) is intoxicated by survival; and waitress Carla (Kate Beckinsale) attaches a little too much to her married doctor Bruce (Guy Pearce), who has his own secrets. Complex, thoughtful and beautifully performed.
Filmstalker:
I do love ensemble films, especially when they bring together stories and characters in ways that you wouldn't necessarily expect. With the cast mentions of Guy Pearce, Forest Whitaker and Kate Beckinsale, I was sold, however it's not been having the greatest of receptions elsewhere.

Giallo
IMDB : EIFF
Adrien Brody, Emmanuelle Seigner, Elsa Pataky
EIFF comments:
A psychotic killer stalks the streets, kidnapping, torturing and murdering beautiful women. An enigmatic police inspector (Adrien Brody) works against the clock to find him, before the latest missing girl becomes his next disfigured victim.
Filmstalker:
From director Dario Argento how could you not want to see this film? I know my friend Dave will be most upset that he's not seeing this (perhaps he'll head down now). It seems that this film will see Argento reclaim a lot of his classic seventies style but in a darker, much richer film made for the modern screen. The good news is that the film carries an EIFF warning that says some viewers might find some scenes disturbing, I hope so, or it wouldn't be Argento!

The Girlfriend Experience
IMDB : EIFF
Sasha Grey, Chris Santos, Philip Eytan, Glenn Kenny, Timothy Davis, David Levien, Mark Jacobson
EIFF comments:
The beautiful Sasha Grey - a considerable force in the American adult film industry - leads Steven Soderbergh's dark, raw-edged and fascinating study of a working girl whose moneyed clients are all facing an uncertain future. Meanwhile, her own efforts to consolidate her personal and professional lives aren't working out as hoped.
Filmstalker:
Although there's the obvious interest of seeing a Naughtywood star moving to Hollywood, Soderbergh is always keen to deliver something unique and special, and that draw is enough alone. However the story answers a slightly taboo subject, can someone who sells themselves for love and sex really live a private life too?

The Hurt Locker
IMDB : EIFF
Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty, Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Christian Camargo
EIFF comments:
Kathryn Bigelow (Point Break, Near Dark, Strange Days) takes on yet another male-dominated genre, the war film, embedding us deep within post-conflict Iraq with the phony-toughs and crazy-braves of a US Army bomb disposal unit. Former bomb squad-embedded journalist Mark Boal's script, Barry Ackroyd's cinematography and Bigelow's flair for sheer physicality combine to great effect giving the film a rare, street-level veracity. An edge-of-your-seat thriller, and a fascinating insight into men at war and professionals at work.
Filmstalker:
Some say that we're seeing too much of the Iraq and Afghanistan war on our screens, I couldn't disagree more and think that we're not seeing enough incisive, intelligent and informative films. From all accounts this is going to be one of them, and at the same time entertaining too. Oh and Guy Pearce and David Morse are two actors I love seeing on screen.

Long Weekend
IMDB : EIFF
Jim Caviezel, Claudia Karvan, Robert Taylor, John Brumpton, Roger Ward, Lara Robinson, Gordon Waddell
EIFF comment:
Preening suburbanite Peter sees a trip to a coastal idyll as a time to reconnect with his wife Carla; but once they're there, it seems the area's inhabitants have other ideas… Lean and foreboding, Long Weekend reveals that once nature becomes the predator, there really is no place left to hide. Another relentless example of Australia's cult horror renaissance, this is what the night was made for.
Filmstalker:
I really do hate it when people compare one film to another in statements like "another Wolf Creek", why would I want to see another? It was done perfectly well there, and are you saying that the film copied the other? However a comparison to Wolf Creek (Filmstalker review) is actually a really good thing, and this film has a nice mystique about it that has me interested, especially as thrillers and horrors are two of my favourite genres.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct (Mesrine: L'instinct de Mort) (Pt I)
IMDB : EIFF
Vincent Cassel, Cécile De France, Gérard Depardieu, Roy Dupuis, Gilles Lellouche, Elena Anaya
EIFF comment:
Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) returns home from the army and embarks upon a life of violent crime. Expertly handled by director Jean-François Richet, this is the first half of a double bill of epic proportions, executed with an explosive flair and a brutal realism that Hollywood can only dream of. Gérard Depardieu excels as grotesque mob boss Guido, but it's the dangerous, unpredictable charisma that Cassel brings to the central role that mesmerises.
Filmstalker:
Vincent Cassel was enough for me to see this film but the line up of other French talent has me more than interested, not to mention the dramatic story behind it. Cassel's father was also due to star in these two films but sadly he died before they were made.

Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1 (Mesrine - L'ennemi public No.1) (Pt II)
IMDB : EIFF
Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric, Gerard Lanvin, Samuel Le Bihan, Olivier Gourmet, Georges Wilson
EIFF comment:
As Mesrine continues to evade and frustrate the law, he becomes increasingly burdened by his own bloated celebrity, and begins to question his thrilling but lonely existence. In a continuation of his Raging Bull-style metamorphosis, Cassel concludes the world class performance that propels Richet's ultra-stylish films into the same league as benchmark gangster classics such as Once Upon a Time in America and The Godfather 1 and 2
Filmstalker:
The EIFF comment rates this film highly, but then when do you ever see a bad review or commentary of a film from the festival where it's playing? I think in this case though they could well be right and this is a must see, especially if you've seen the first film! My only qualm is that the press screenings for both are on at the same time as Moon! Come on EIFF, sort out your schedules, perhaps get a film fan to do them for you!

Moon
IMDB : EIFF
Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, Kaya Scodelario, Benedict Wong, Matt Berry, Malcolm Stewart
EIFF comment:
Sam has almost reached the end of his three year solo posting mining fuel from the moon for use on Earth. Connected to his wife and daughter only via videophone conversations, he's had ample time to reflect on his past - but there's no denying that his mind has begun to play tricks on him. And as his return date approaches, things in Sam's contained world take a very startling turn.
Filmstalker:
Sam Rockwell, another film that's selling itself on the lead actor, and yet the intriguing set-up for the story has me curious, even if I think I know what's behind it already - damn my inquisitive and throughtful mind! Films like this where there's a simple set-up and a curious puzzle already set in motion for the audience really do draw me in. This could be really good.

Outrage
IMDB : EIFF
EIFF comment:
A searing indictment of the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who actively campaign against the LGBT community to which they covertly belong. Outrage boldly reveals the hidden lives of some of the United States' most powerful policymakers, details the harm they've inflicted on millions of Americans, and examines the media's complicity in preserving their secrets.
Filmstalker:
Kirby Dick has astounded me with his two documentaries I've seen to date, first the heart wrenching Twist of Faith (Filmstalker review) which has touched me like almost no other film has, and secondly with This Film Is Not Yet Rated (Filmstalker review) which was brilliantly put together and delivered superbly to the audience, it also was instrumental in changing the MPAA. From the sounds of it Dick is onto another stunning documentary and another chance to change things for the better. Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual politicians who vote against the rights of other Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual people in America and keep their secret sex lives hidden. It is an OutRage.

The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee
IMDB : EIFF
Robin Wright Penn, Blake Lively, Alan Arkin, Winona Ryder, Ryan McDonald, Maria Bello, Keanu Reeves, Monica Bellucci, Julianne Moore, Shirley Knight, Zoe Kazan, Mike Binder
EIFF comment:
A move to a retirement community for the super-rich with her much older, successful publisher husband triggers something of a nervous breakdown in Rebecca Miller's eponymous heroine (Robin Wright Penn), in this fine adaptation of her own novel.
Filmstalker:
The cast list here is what has me, as well as recommendations I've heard on the source novel. I'm keen to see Robin Wright Penn on her own in a dramatic lead, and backed by such an amazing ensemble cast how could you not want to see how this turns out?

Rule #1
IMDB : EIFF
Shawn Yue, Ekin Cheng, Fiona Xie, Stephanie Che, Lee Wan, Bill Liu
EIFF comment:
Finding himself transferred to the obscure Miscellaneous Affairs Department, Sergeant Lee discovers that it is now his responsibility to seek and destroy the city's many evil spirits. Murder and mayhem ensue, as Lee and his mysterious boss, Inspector Wong, take on the might of a particularly dangerous demon. A fast pace and a touch of humour keep the creepy mood buoyant throughout this stylish supernatural thriller.
Filmstalker:
That reads rather interestingly. What makes for an interesting dichotomy is how the film is described as a story that might have you thinking of something along the lines of Buffy or Primeval, but then it's described as a stylish thriller, albeit a supernatural one, and suddenly you're thinking differently. I'm very intrigued now.

Salvage
IMDB : EIFF
Neve McIntosh, Shaun Dooley, Linzey Cocker, Trevor Hancock, Dean Andrews, Paul Opacic, Kevin Harvey
EIFF comment:
Divorced mother Beth (Neve McIntosh) is trying to kick out her latest one-night stand and smooth over another row with her teenage daughter when suddenly the neighbourhood comes under siege. Suburban terrorist cell? Military misuse of power? Or something altogether more ... monstrous? Laurence Gough's horror is confident, breathlessly paced and anchored by a powerhouse performance from McIntosh.
Filmstalker:
Ah, a good British, low budget horror usually means comedy or a group of people isolated in the middle of nowhere, or both actually! However this sounds like it might have something different, and could have that big event, small focus feel to it.

Sin Nombre
IMDB : EIFF
Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores, Kristyan Ferrer, Tenoch Huerta Mejia, Diana Garciá, Luis Fernando Peña, Hector Jiménez
EIFF comment:
Bursting onto the screen in an explosion of blazing colours and sweeping vistas, with a rich cast of fascinating characters, Cary Joji Fukunaga's stunning debut feature is a glorious assault on the senses. Honduran teenager Sayra is forced into a frantic race for her life after she meets El Casper, a dangerous gang member on the run. Part fascinating road movie, part brutal gangster study, this deeply absorbing feature has at its heart a tender, tragic love story.
Filmstalker:
Honestly, this is one of the films that I've just been drawn to the write-ups alone, otherwise I really know nothing about it other than recognising the title. I've been stung so often by doing this before at festivals, picking on their write up, but then I'm seeing similar comments elsewhere.

Spread
IMDB : EIFF
Ashton Kutcher, Anne Heche, Margarita Levieva, Sebastian Stan, Maria Conchita Alonso, Hart Bochner, Rachel Blanchard
EIFF comment:
A sleek, sexy, cynical modern fable with shades of American Gigolo and Midnight Cowboy, Spread follows the variable fortunes of beautiful layabout Nicki (Kutcher), who keeps a roof over his head by seducing needy older women like Samantha (Anne Heche). But when Nicki meets the self-assured Heather (Margarita Levieva), and finally locates his emotions, his little empire is shaken to its foundations.
Filmstalker:
David Mackenzie turns to Hollywood and delivers by all accounts, with comparisons to Shampoo, Breakfast at Tiffanys, and America Gigolo, as well as the leading star of Ashton Kutcher giving a strong performance. I am interested to see what Kutcher can do here, and what Mackenzie is delivering with his second film.


After that list I have a few I'd like to see. Films that sound interesting, and since this list was made I have to admit to being much more keen to see Exam and Jerichow and I might find them rising to the rank of must see. Any thoughts on these?

Black Dynamite Distanz (Distance) El Niño Pez Exam Isolation The Intruder Jerichow Little Soldier (Lille Soldat) The Maiden Heist Modern Love is Automatic My Last Five Girlfriends Pontypool Romeo & Juliet vs The Living Dead Vinyan


I'm going to save you the rather long list of films that I'd go and see if all the press screenings weren't crammed in to two weeks making it impossible to go and see everything on my first list, never mind the second!

The screening schedule will soon be live online so if anyone is attending and would like to meet up you'll see where I am. I really am approachable, even if I have a stern face on, that's just me either thinking, tired, hungry, annoyed at the wasted screening, or any mixture of the above!

In the meantime, have a look at the list and hopefully it will help inform your viewing at the EIFF this year, or you might have some suggestions for films I shouldn't see and others I should instead.


Filmstalker at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009




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Comments

If we all use Naughtywood enough, maybe we'll get it into the dictionary. That's twice in one day, good start.

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