Friday, June 29, 2012

Edinburgh International Film Festival Reviews

I'm delighted to have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival again this year. I'm reviewing films here and on Crafty Green Poet. This post is an index, which will include links to all the films reviewed on both blogs. This post will be updated after every review with the most recent reviews at the top, will be cross posted to Crafty Green Poet and will stay at the top of both blogs until the end of the film festival.

Rentaneko (Rent-a-cat) - a woman rents out cats to lonely people in a Japanese city
Children and Nature in films - I review Of Skies and Earth and Kid Thing.
What is this Film called Love? - a walking tour of Mexico city, with a few diversions along the way
Riding Zorro - a biopic of rodeo's most famous horse.
Captive Animals Captured on Film - I review Postcards from the Zoo and Bestiaire Vivan las Antipodas! a contemplation of life in four antipodal pair places on the earth
Hospitalité - a Tokyo household is disrupted by an old acquaintance
Official Best of the Fest - the film festivals list of most popular films which will be screened again on Sunday
Attractive Illusion - what happens to a group of illegal Nigerian immigrants on Greece?
The Lifeguard - an hour on the beach in Chile!
Memory, the Future and Experimental Film - I review Dress Rehearsal for Utopia (a collage of images from Mozambique) and Future My Love (thoughts about the failure of a relationship and the failure of the economic system)
Here There - 3 interwoven stories of Chinese life.
Rose - life in the Masurian region of Poland in the aftermath of World War 2. 
Modest Reception - a couple randomly give out money in the mountains of Iran
Poetry in Film - I review Demain, the biopic of Uruguayan poet Delmira Agustin and In Search of Emak Bakia, a movie about the making of Man Ray's film of that name.

as ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages where you can find out more. 

Beach Hut - a new poem published

I'm delighted that Every Day Poets has just published my poem Beach Hut.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Despite the French seeming title, Hospitalité is a Japanese film, described as a 'stylish mixture of deadpan social satire, Buñuelian surrealism and unnerving suspense'. 

A mild-mannered Tokyo man catches up with an old acquaintance he barely remembers. The newcomer manipulates his old friend into giving him a job in his small printing business. He soon moves himself and a blonde woman he introduces as his wife into the household that the printer shares with his sister, his second wife and his daughter from his first marriage.

The members of the local neighbourhood watch group are particularly enthusiastic about their civic duties and (along with the audience) watch the new arrivals with great interest.

The newcomers quickly disrupt family life by manipulating the family members, rudely abusing their hospitality. Things become more and more bizarre, disturbing and downright odd, with everyone turning out to have secrets and constant unexpected plot twists popping up. This is a wonderfully surreal and entertaining film, offering amusing insights into human nature.

Hosptalité is part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival and is showing at: 15:20, 30 June at Cineworld 11.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks that take you to other pages, where you can find out more.

Best of the Fest

Edinburgh International Film Festival has just announced its Best of the Fest list (which as far as I'm aware is based on ticket sales). All films are screening for £6 (£5 concession) so here is you chance to see festival films at normal prices:

Showing at Cineworld:  

BRAVE (11:00) 
FLICKER (12:10) which I may review tomorrow
7 DAYS IN HAVANA (12:20) which i may review tomorrow
BORROWED TIME (12:30);  
FRED (14:20);  
JACKPOT (14:50);  
LIFE JUST IS (16:00);  
THE IMPOSTER (16:25);  
FUTURE MY LOVE (16:25) you can read my review here 
GRABBERS (16:45);  
GUINEA PIGS (20:30);  
DRAGON (WU XIA) (20:45) 
PUSHER (21:00).
Showing at Filmhouse 

RENT-A-CAT (20:30) which I have bought a ticket for, having missed the press screenings and the public screenings being sold out! 

I'll probably do my own Best of the Fest post at the end of the festival.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Attractive Illusion

The problem with films like Attractive Illusion is that they tend only to attract audiences from amongst those who are already aware of the issues (in this case the fate of illegal immigrants into Europe). This is a shame, because this film deserves a wide audience not only because of the issues it addresses, but because it is a compelling, moving and powerful film.

A group of Nigerians are seen escaping to Greece in the belly of a cramped boat that is barely big enough for them. Once in their new home, they soon discover that they are not welcome, being moved on by the police and finding it hard to find honest work. One of the guys moves from selling CDs on a street stall to selling drugs; another decides that lazing around in bed for most of the day, dreaming of a big house is the answer. Meanwhile the women move into prostitution. Outgoing Enor seems to adapt to her new life with gusto, dancing with abandon and flirting happily with her clients and posing proudly in her sexy clothes. Amen meanwhile works at first in a kitchen and is forced into prostitution by the owner of the bar where Enor works. Amen shrinks from the very thought of selling her body cowers under dirty bedclothes when she's with a client and is raped by the bar owner.

It is a grim life they've all found, with no prospect of making a living by honest means. However at least for the majority of the film, we see that not everything is bleak, there are real friendships and romance, spontaneous sing-alongs and day trips. Ultimately though, everyone's lives spiral out of control and there can only be a tragic ending to the story. It certainly becomes clear that the idea of Europe as offering a golden future is only an illusion.

Not easy viewing, this is however an important film. I hope it gets released into cinemas in the near future. 

Attractive Illusion is showing at Edinburgh International Film Festival at 20:00, 30 June Cineworld 11.

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.

The Lifeguard

A busy beach in Chile is patrolled by three lifeguards, Mauricio who believes in preventing accidents and helping people on the beach but who never goes into the water, Jean Pierre who does very little until he needs to go into the water to rescue someone, and Teresa.

The Lifeguard follows them over the course of a few days and eavesdrops on the people on the beach, a couple rebelliously setting up a barbeque on the sand, young guys passing comment on the girls, groups of women gossiping and young Luca who wants to be a lifeguard when he grows up.

It's an intriguing film that holds a lot more than it appears on the surface. What are the attributes of a perfect lifeguard? One who prevents accidents or one who heroically rescues people who ignore the warnings? By the end of the film it is very clear that every lifeguard needs both attributes.

This film had two showings at the Edinburgh International Film Festival but unfortunately there are no more!

Disclaimer, I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening for this film.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rose - a film review

1945. Rose lives on a farm in Masuria, an area that for many years up to and during the Second World War was part of Germany. The residents were treated as ethnically Polish, despite having their own dialect and culture. Now the area is part of Poland again.

During the war, Rose's farm was used as a base by the Soviet soldiers who abused her and her hospitality. Now she lives alone.

Tadeusz, a soldier visits her to tell her he was present at her husband's death and to return the wedding photo that the dead man had carried with him. Rose asks Tadeusz to help around her farm and he stays on, to protect her from the Russian army and the mistrustful neighbours. As they negotiate their own initial mistrust and their individual heavy pasts, they develop a close and loyal friendship.

This is a beautifully shot, moving film that tells the story of friendship arising in unlikely circumstances, against the backdrop of a country suffering intensely from the aftermath of war. The complicated tensions between the various communities in the area are well drawn.There are some moments of fun and enjoyment in amongst all the hardship that show the resilience of the human spirit and lighten the mood of the film.

Rose (directed by Wojciech Smarzowski) is part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, you can see it at:

21:10, 28 June at Cameo 1
21:15 30 June at Filmhouse 3

Disclaimer: I have a press pass for the Edinburgh International Film Festival and attended a free press screening of this film.

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Edinburgh International Film Festival starts today! It looks like another excellent programme and I'm looking forward to reviewing selected films here and on Crafty Green Poet from next Monday onwards.

You can see the programme here and book tickets here.

Tickets for most films cost £9 (£7.50 concession). Howard from Belvedere Mountain Express complained about this on a post on Crafty Green Poet. However I think it's pretty reasonable value when you consider that the cinemas in walking distance of where I live charge: £7.30; £7.50 or £8.70 for a standard adult ticket for an evening screening. If you choose your films wisely at the Film Festival you can see brilliant films that never come back to the screen and for that I think it's well worth paying up to an extra £1.70.

Admittedly I do have a press pass and will be viewing more films than I would probably do otherwise. I can't make the press screening of RentaNeko unfortunately, and may buy a ticket (if there are any left!) for one of the public screenings.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig

I was a chess champion at Primary School and have never played since.

When I was teaching in Malawi, I agreed with my student Patricia who wrote in her notebook: 'Life is too short for playing chess' (I'm sure she wasn't the first person to say that either).

Despite these biases against the game, I started reading The Luneburg Variation with high anticipation of a great book and I wasn't disappointed.

The novel centres round the mysterious death of a chess player in Vienna. It's difficult to talk about the plot without giving away a lot of the enjoyment of this short novel. Throughout the novel chess is used as a metaphor for life and the choices we make and the choices made by others that we are caught up in. The novel also explores the effect that chess can have on life when it becomes a consuming passion.

I love the way that every detail counts, and is used to full effect. In an early scene we are shown some photos in the chess player's home, which at that time are immediately seen to be significant, but they reappear later in the story where their full significance is revealed. Details like this are used throughout the novel to slowly reveal more about the chess player, his life and the times he lived through.

This is a taut and compelling thriller which contains much more substance than many long novels. It is particularly impressive when you realise this was Maurensig's first novel (he has since written several more, which I now really want to read!). I also have to say that it is beautifully translated from the original Italian. I've read many translations from Italian that feel quite clunky, but this one flows beautifully for the most part.

The Luneburg Variation by Paolo Maurensig published by Phoenix 

I reviewed this book for Brighton Blogger's 2012 Reading Challenge

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Free Men (Film Review)

Free Men looks at a rarely explored aspect of World War 2, that of the involvement of the Muslim community in the French resistance. 

Younus is a naive, apolitical, non-religious Muslim Algerian immigrant in Paris at the beginning of the Second World War. When he is found out as a black marketeer, the collaborationist police force him to spy on the Paris Mosque. However the more he comes into contact with the religious Moslem community, the more he is drawn into their work in the French resistance (which included hiding Jews in the cellars and giving them false papers). He makes friends with Salim a brilliant Algerian singer, who as a Jew is being protected by the Mosque which has given him false papers.

Much of the film centres round historic characters (Salim the singer and Si Kaddour Ben Ghabrit the head of the mosque, who was later awarded for his role in the French resistance) giving insights into an often overlooked aspect of a period of European history that can otherwise feel as though it has been over-documented.

I found this film fascinating but lacking in tension and drama. Younus is far too taciturn to make for a good central character, particularly as so much of the film revolved around conversation. As this character is entirely fictional there seems little justification for his lack of words, which greatly impeded any sense of character development.

As ever, coloured text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.