Edinburgh Film Festival Round-Up

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The Edinburgh International Film Festival is over for another year and while I didn’t get to go to quite as many films as I would have liked – I am but a poor person after all – I did get along to a handful. One of those I have already talked about (the rather poor Kids In Love) but rather than do individual reviews of the rest I have decided to go for the quick-fire approach. So here’s my thoughts on five films I had the pleasure of watching.

Slash

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Clay Lifford’s adaptation of a short he did back in 2012 follows Neil (Michael Johnston), a young man with a passion for writing slash fiction about sci-fi character Vanguard. When he meets fellow slash fan Julia (Hannah Marks) he gets drawn deeper into the world of slash fiction and begins to figure out where he exists within it.

Slash is coming of age movie making at its best. Its two central lead characters are instantly likeable, and the quirky world they live in is fascinating. Yet, Clay Lifford is never laughing at it. He understands that just because you are outside of society doesn’t mean you don’t have a place where you can fit. Throw in a wonderfully accepting attitude towards sexuality and Slash goes down as a joyous gem of a film.

The Love Witch

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Filmed on 35mm Anna Biller’s The Love Witch is a tribute to cheesy thrillers of the 1960’s yet underneath that shell it’s an incredibly thoughtful look at feminism and female sexuality.

Starring Samantha Robinson as Elaine, a beautiful woman who craves love to the extent that she employs mystic powers to get it. Unfortunately, those mysterious powers prove to be a bit too powerful and the men that she sets her eyes on quickly start ending up dead.

Taking place in a bizarre blend of the 70’s and the modern day (at one point a character pulls out an IPhone) it almost seems to exist in a dream world and Samantha Robinson drifts through it all like the only real person in the world her character has created. You’ll laugh and marvel at its beauty but what it has to say is much more important than both of those.

Little Men

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Ira Sachs‘ follow-up to Love is Strange once again sees him focusing on an intensely personal story set in New York. This time, rather than an elderly gay couple, we have two young boys who become the best of friends despite the lingering animosity between their parents over a business deal.

Those two friends, Tony (Michael Barbieri) and Jake (Theo Taplitz), could hardly be more different. Tony the extroverted actor who bounces through life with a quick grin and Jake the introverted artist uncomfortable in his skin. Yet their friendship works. You believe it, and you root for them, and when the faults of their parents come between them, it is devastating.

At its core, Little Men is about how parents and kids hurt each other. How both think what they are doing is right but in reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s a deeply personal story and yet one that should have universal appeal.

Hunt For The Wilderpeople

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It’s quickly becoming clear that Taika Waititi is a director of extraordinary talent. Hunt For The Wilderpeople follows What We Do In The Shadows and matches it for laughs but laps it repeatedly in emotional storytelling.

The film follows young delinquent Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) who finds himself on the run from child services with his ‘Uncle’ Hec (Sam Neil). The two escape into the New Zealand Bush while what seems to be the Kiwi army – led by social worker Paula (Rachel House) – give chase.

It’s a ludicrous premise but it’s one that works, and it’s one that you can’t help but fall in love with. It’s Thelma & Louise but with a fat kid and a grumpy old drifter and as they run you want them never to stop. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is special and when it gets its UK release you would be a damn fool to miss it.

Bleak Street

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Two midget Mexican luchadors who never remove their masks (even in bed) and two ageing prostitutes are at the centre of Arturo Ripstein’s black and white realist film, Bleak Street. If you are looking for a cheerful watch, this is not it and honestly, at times it feels like a bit of a slog.

Which isn’t necessarily an insult, this isn’t a sweet film, and it’s not one designed to make you happy. It’s a film that shows a dark and cold world that is quite frankly a bit miserable and the black and white cinematography adds to that.

That doesn’t change the fact that Bleak Street is still a hard watch. By the end, I was almost praying for it to be over and I will never be putting it on again. I can appreciate the film, and I can understand that Ripstein is a master of his craft, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is for me and I doubt I’ll be alone in that thought.

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