Wednesday, 28 June 2017

I Dream in another language (film review)

Deep in the lush Mexican rain forests, live the three remaining speakers of Zikril, a language that its speakers claim enables them to speak with the animals. A young linguist, Martin (Fernando Alvarez Rebeil), has come to the area to record the last of Zikril. Time is running out though as Jacinta, one of the last three speakers is terminally ill and the other two haven't spoken to each other for over 50 years, since they fell out over a woman.

Martin has to find a way to get Isauro (Jose Manuel Poncelis) and Evaristo (Eligio Melendez) to talk to each other. Enlisting the help of Evaristo's granddaughter Lluvia (Fatima Molina) Martin tries to bring the two elderly men together again, discovering in the process that their feud is much more complex than it first appears.

The film is beautifully made and moving, though it tends towards the melodramatic. Personal relationships are very much the focus of the film with the issue of language loss being in the background. This avoids the film feeling preachy, while the fact that the scenes in Zikril are not subtitled demonstrates very clearly how much the loss of a language can mean for people's understanding of the world. Once Zikril dies, its mythologies and ways of seeing the world will die too. For example, the Zikril speakers' belief that after death they enter The Enchantment that lies through a cave in the rainforest and their beleif that they can communicate with all other creatures in the forests. Their non-Zikril-speaking descendents will inevitably feel less connected to the natural world around them.

 Zikril is an invented language, that represents all the languages in the world that are close to extinction, and those that have already died. The story in this film is entirely fictional, but it's not far from reality for speakers of many languages.

I Dream in Another Language is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival at 1pm, Saturday 1 July at Odeon Lothian Road. You can book your tickets here.

Here are links to the other reviews I've written of films seen in the festival:


God's Own Country.

Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).

The Erlprince.

Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).

Leaning into the Wind.

Distant Echo.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.

The Dark Mile.

 Red Dog, True Blue.

Snow Woman.  

This Beautiful Fantastic.
 
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

This Beautiful Fantastic (film review)

Bella (Jessica Brown Findlay) a young woman with obsessive compulsive tendencies has just moved in next door to Alfie (Tom Wilkinson) a grumpy old widower. Alfie (who is very proud of his beautiful garden) blames Bella for the untended state of her garden, despite the fact that it looks to the viewer as though it's been neglected for a lot longer than Bella has lived there. Bella though hates plants and gardens due at least in part to traumatic early experiences. She would much rather lose herself in books and works at the local library, which she claims is only to fill time until her book is published, despite not yet having a real story for the book. However the landlord is putting pressure on her to tidy up the garden or she faces eviction. 

So Bella enlists the help of Alfie and his former cook, Vernon (Andrew Scott) to put the garden to rights. Meanwhile she becomes distracted by charming and chaotic young inventor Billy (Jeremy Irvine) who spends a lot of time at the library. This, among other things, puts pressure on her at work, with her po-faced boss becoming increasingly exasperated by her.

Will this unlikely combination of people be able to come together to create a beautiful garden in the ridiculously short imposed timetable? Will Bella find inspiration for her children's book? Will the neighbours learn to live happily alongside each other?

This is a modern day fairy tale for all aspiring children's writers, inventors and gardeners. It's a lovely exploration of how nature and gardening can help bring people together and heal problems. It's consistently entertaining, sometimes very funny, sometimes very silly but always watchable. I suspect that it gives an overly optimistic sense of what can be achieved in a garden in one month of part-time inexperienced effort, but this needs to be read as metaphor and overview rather than gardening documentary to avoid disillusionment among the aspiring gardeners in the audience. I love the way the characters all eventually collaborate on various aspects of their lives and create a real community of intersecting interests. It's ultimately a very inspiring film for those with creative ambitions.

This Beautiful Fantastic is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival at: 1820, Thursday 29 June at Filmhouse and 1300, Sunday 2 July at Cineworld. You can book tickets here.

Here are links to the other reviews I've written of films seen in the festival:

God's Own Country.

Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).

The Erlprince.

Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).

Leaning into the Wind.

Distant Echo.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.

The Dark Mile.

 Red Dog, True Blue.

Snow Woman
 
Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.

Snow Woman (film review)

The film opens in black and white, a chilly, mountainous forest, with snow falling all around. Two woodsmen take shelter in a hut, where a mysterious Snow Woman (Kiki Sugino) enters their shelter and steals away the life of the older one, telling Minokichi, the younger man that if he ever tells anyone what she has done, then she will kill him. Later Minokichi meets Yuki (Sugino again, who also directed the film), a young woman who looks identical to the Snow Woman and marries her. They live together happily for years and have a daughter Ume. 

Life seems very happy and trouble free, but a number of unexplained deaths occur in the village and amongst the workers at the factory where Minikichi works. These all bear the marks of being carried out by the same killer and suspicion falls on Yuki.

The film is beautifully shot, full of mystery and the unknowable that is present in nature and even in the people we think we know best. There is a deliberate blending of time periods real and imagined which gives the film a sense of timelessness (or confusion depending on your way of seeing things).

Is Yuki really the snow woman or is this just part of her character that has remained hidden away or is he snow woman in fact a manifestation of Minokichi's fears? Will Ume inherit this part of her mother's character?

This is just the latest cinematic interpretation of the Snow Woman legend, you can read about previous versions here.

Snow Woman is showing as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival at: 6pm, Thursday 29 June at Cineworld and 6pm, Saturday 1 July at Odeon, Lothian Road. You can book your tickets here.

Here are links to the other films I've seen in the festival:

Red Dog, True Blue.


The Dark Mile.

A Distant Echo

God's Own Country.

Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).

The Erlprince.

Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).

Leaning into the Wind.

Distant Echo.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.

Red Dog True Blue (film review)

Red Dog is an Australian hero, commemorated with his own statue outside the town of Dampier and made famous to non-Australians through Louis de Bernieres' novel Red Dog, based on the local stories told about the dog (which was made into a film of the same name in 2011).

Red Dog, True Blue is a fictionalised account of Red Dog's life before he became a hero, with the original film referenced at the beginning and throughout the narrative.

Eleven year old Mike (Levi Miller) is sent to live with his grandfather (Bryan Brown) on his remote rural farm station. Mike finds a dog (played by Pheonix, as Koko the star of Red Dog the film had died) after a storm. At first the dog is blue due to the colour of the mud he's covered in so Mike calls him Blue, though once the mud washes off the dog is found to be red, but, for now at least, the name Blue sticks. The two quickly become inseparable, to the detriment of Mike's education, and enjoy exploring the outback together, including finding a secret lake in a cave that is culturally significant to the local aboriginal people. Mike's young tutor, Betty, brought in to ensure the boy pays attention to his learning, introduces complications into the mostly male community on the station.

All the actors are impressive in their roles, but Blue is consistently at the centre of the film.  This is a first role for Pheonix and he totally steals the show, proving to be an expressive and endearing canine actor.

This is a beautiful film with stunning cinematography of the Australian outback acting as a backdrop to a family friendly story of growing up and learning to deal with loss and bringing in the issue of Aboriginal land rights. Moving and entertaining, with plenty of humour and the occasional dose of mild peril, this is well worth seeing - remember to take a hanky with you!

You can enjoy this film whether or not you've seen the original film or read de Bernieres' novel, but I would strongly recommend the novel! (I sadly haven't had the chance to see the original film of Red Dog).


Red Dog True Blue is showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival at: 6pm Thursday 29 June at Odeon Lothian Road and at 11am on Saturday 1 July at Filmhouse. You can buy tickets here.

Here are links to the other films I've seen in the festival:

The Dark Mile.


A Distant Echo

God's Own Country.

Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).

The Erlprince.

Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).

Leaning into the Wind.

Distant Echo.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.

Monday, 26 June 2017

The Dark Mile (a film review)

Clare (Deirdre Mullins) and Louise (Rebecca Calder) are a couple recovering from traumatic personal experiences, who book a sailing trip on the Caledonian Canal in Scotland to recover from their trauma and to try to repair their fractured relationship.

The stunning Highland scenery promises an idyllic time for them but it soon proves to be otherwise. They find themselves followed by a mysterious black barge crewed by very stange, sinister seeming people. Whenever they disembark from the boat they are confronted by a Scotland populated by disfunctional, uncommunicative weirdos. Even Sheila Hancock's seemingly well meaning old woman is so odd as to surely not be trusted. Voodoo dolls and occult windchimes that turn up in odd places add to the sense of unease and foreboding, as do the darkening skies and ample rain.

Louise and Claire are thoroughly modern to the point that they are more interested in whether they have wifi than making sure they have an adequate first aid kit on board the boat. They soon regret this.

I'm easily scared by films, but this didn't really scare me, even though it's billed as a tense psychological horror-thriller. I found myself looking at the occult windchimes and thinking 'oh that would be an interesting craft project!' rather than finding them particularly sinister.

I'm pretty certain Visit Scotland won't be using this film in any of their publicity. Note to anyone reading this outside Scotland, his film does not accurately represent Scottish people (though it does accurately represent our scenery and weather).

The Dark Mile was sold out for it's world premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival earlier today but there are still tickets for tomorrow's screening at 2045 Tuesday 27 June at Cineworld.
 
 here are links to the other films I've seen in the festival:

A Distant Echo

God's Own Country.

Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).

The Erlprince.

Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).

Leaning into the Wind.

Distant Echo

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea (film review)

This is a visually inventive animated film from acclaimed graphic novelist Dash Shaw, featuring a mix of hand drawn scenes, collages and amazing colours.

Best friends Dash (Schwartzman) and Assaf (Watts) are sophomores at Tides High, a school located on a coastal faultline. The boys are the sole two writers on the school newspaper, which nobody seems to read. The editor of the newspaper, Verity, offers Assaf the chance of his first solo writing assignment to cover the new building development at the school. This makes Dash jealous, not only because he feels he's the better writer and deserves the assignment but also as he can see Assaf and Verity becoming more than just friends.

Dash does his own research and finds out that the new development doesn't comply with earthquake safety legislation and that the whole school building is threatened with destruction the next time there's an earth tremor, which is of course exactly what happens.

Can Dash and Assaf regain each other's trust and save their friends from the doomed school? What is Principal Grim's secret and what are Lunch Lady Lorraine's secret skills?

This is a disaster film that explores how to survive adolescence, makes serious (and timely) points about the importance of health and safety legislation and is a visual feast. Well worth watching.

My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea is showing as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival at: 2035, Wednesday 28 June and 1815 Thursday 29 June both at Cineworld.You can buy tickets here.

 here are links to the other films I've seen in the festival:

God's Own Country.

Journeys through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).

The Erlprince.

Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).

Leaning into the Wind.

A Distant Echo




Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

A Distant Echo (film review)

A Distant Echo, directed by George Clark, is a visually beautiful meditation on the desert landscape of Southern California. The stunning cinematography dwells on the play of light and shade on the everchanging rippling patterns in sand dunes, giving rise to some beautiful natural geometries. Mountains change colour, coming into sharp focus in the sunshine and disappearing entirely in the dramatic desert storms.

The film mostly stays in uninhabited areas of the desert, only a tortoise and the occasional black clad figure coming into view. Only occasionally do we see roads and other human imprints on the desert. This in contrast to the dialogue, in which explorers reveal the negotiations between an archaeologist from Cairo and members of a tribe who guard ancient desert tombs. Their words offer insights into the history of Western exploitation of the desert, the people who live there and their history.

The sound track by Tom Challenger adds a genuine desert atmosphere to the visuals though is sometimes a bit jarring. Also jarring are the overly self conscious 'chapter headings' that break up the film into ten sections. Ten feels too many sections for a relatively short film and the headings break the meditative flow of the film.

This multilayered film offers two simultaneous mediations on the desert, the visual landscape and the spoken history. It feels like a fitting, contrasting companion piece to The Challenge (also showing at the film festival and which I reviewed here).


(A Distant Echo was adapted from the 1969 Egyptian film A Night of Counting the Years / Al-Mummia directed by Shadi Abdel Salam.)

A Distant Echo is showing as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival at: 1810 Tuesday 27 June and 1810 Thursday 29 June both at Odeon Lothian Road. You can book tickets here.

 here are links to the other films I've seen in the festival:

God's Own Country.

Journey's through Time and Culture (review of Zer, Sami Blood and Donkeyote).

The Erlprince.

Two Films about our relationship with animals (review of Okja and The Challenge).

Leaning into the Wind.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended press screenings of these films.