EDFILMFEST 17 part 1

Posted on: 05 Jul 2017 by Philip Wyn Jones

For this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival I tried to book 21 tickets and got twenty. Let’s take a look at the ten films I’ve already seen.

1: GOD’S OWN COUNTRY (Francis Lee, UK, 104 min, pictured). This fine film opened the festival.  It’s set in the Pennines where the daily grind of farming seems to affect the population’s personalities. The central character is sullen and uncommunicative and comes alive only when a new farmhand arrives. He’s a handsome Romanian. As a relationship between the lads begins to develop, the local lad comes out of his shell. Is this too good to be true? Surely something must go wrong.

2: BECOMING CARY GRANT (Mark Kidel, France, 85 min). This worthwhile documentary takes a close look at Cary Grant’s life and his supervised experiments with LSD. His unhappy childhood, his failed relationships with several wives and his confused sexuality persuaded him to find out as much as possible about himself. The film makes good use of Grant’s unpublished autobiography which becomes a constant voice-over, sensitively read by Jonathan Pryce.

3: THE KING’S CHOICE (Erik Poppe, Norway, 131 min). We are taken to Norway in 1940. The Germans have invaded and claim that they wish to avoid more bloodshed. They would like a negotiated takeover. The government is in disarray and Adolph Hitler decides to bypass them and go straight to the king. We witness the anguished discussions within the royal family. The king and his heir disagree. Eventually the king meets the German envoy and the country’s future is sealed. The actor portraying the envoy can also be seen in another fine German film at the festival.

4: NEWTON (Amit V Masurkar, India, 104 min). Billed as a comedy, this entertaining film follows the halting progress of a young election official. He is rather innocent, inexperienced but defiantly conscientious. He is sent through dangerous territories to a remote village where he might be able to garner a handful of votes. Army officials accompany him but they are a suspect crowd and are clearly up to no good. So we have a comedy that also takes a firm stand against official corruption.

5: STORY OF A GIRL (Kyra Sedgwick, USA, 90 min). Here we have an unattractive family in which all the members are unhappy. The girl in question was filmed having sex while under age and continues to suffer for it. She works in a diner which doesn’t help as the former boyfriend who filmed their sex act on his phone also works there. Suddenly, all problems are solved and happiness ensues. I failed to find her and her family interesting and was surprised to find this film at a major festival.

6: FOG IN AUGUST (kai Wessel, Germany, 126 min). This haunting film is set in Germany during World War 2. A young boy, the son of a gipsy, is sent to a hospital where most of the other inmates have physical or mental disabilities. He is fit and well in all respects. The audience soon discovers that this is no ordinary institution. It’s part of the Nazi plan to create a pure German nation. The patients are being systematically murdered as part of this plan. The boy and a friend discover this and determine to sabotage the scheme. How could two children possibly succeed against a massive and ruthless machine. The audience can only watch in dread.

7: TOM OF FINLAND (Dome Karukoski, Finland, 114 min) Here we have the life story of the erotic artist who was baptised ‘Tom of Finland’ by his publisher. His story starts in the 1930s and ends with the onset of AIDS in the 1970s. It took a visit to the USA to convince him of his popularity and he was amazed to see hosts of men emulating the characters in his drawings. He then played an active part in the campaign to warn men of the danger of unsafe sex. The film’s music track is excellent.

8: BROTHER JAKOB (Eli Roland Sachs, Germany, 92 min). Eli made this heart-searching documentary about his brother, Jakob, who was once a carefree youngster, Reading the Quran changed all that. He not only adopted Islam as his religion, he sent texts and emails to his friends and relatives, even the children, and caused much animosity. Eli decided to find out all he could. We discover a lot about Jakob’s beliefs and his need for a religion to follow. A really interesting film.

9: KALEIDOSCOPE (Rupert Jones, UK,100 min). Toby Jones (Rupert’s brother) takes the central role in this entertaining thriller. It begins when a lively young woman visits the man’s flat. That much is certain, including the fact that they probably drink too much. But what happens next? Is there a murder? Who is the victim? Who is the other female visitor? This is great entertainment.

10: IN DUBIOUS BATTLE (James Franco, USA, 114 min). James Franco also stars in this impressive film, based on a novel by John Steinbeck. Apple pickers in the 1930s turn up for work and find that their pay is just a third of what they had been promised. They are persuaded to stage a protest and violent confrontations follow. The film is brilliantly staged and acted and deserves to stand side by side with the John Ford classics of the 1930s.

Philip Wyn Jones

To be continued...

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