The best of the rest of the fest, some more corkers and duds appear in this years Edinburgh International Film Festival,but the programme has at least been revitalised thanks to new artistic director Chris Fujiwara.
Comedian turned writer/director Bobcat Goldthwaite takes on everything he hates about the USA and guns it down, literally. Frank (Joel Murray) is plagued by ferocious, debilitating headaches and soon finds that their cause is an inoperable tumour in his brain. Every day he is engulfed by the banal idiocy of American TV and the American public discussing what they have seen on TV. He has had enough. He becomes a figure of bloody redemption seeking out the most heinous criminals of culture and dispatching them with his store bought pistol. God Bless America is Goldthwaite’s way of dealing with the parts of society he hates in a brutal fashion, creating plenty of comedy amidst the violence. This is all very well but his film has unfortunately disappeared up its own arse in a storm of pretention and hypocrisy.
Most of Frank’s targets are horrible people. He is almost justified in his bloody rampage by targeting not just people he doesn’t like but people who are rude, mean or just self-centred. This is somewhat undone by his strange companion, the teenage Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr) who joins him on his bloody quest. She wishes to kill those who do not share her political or ideological beliefs. The violence is all very well and good but the film loses any force it might have because of this. Violence is of course not the answer, but it is rather funny.
The Fourth Dimension
Vice Films and Grolsch Film Works created a brief for three writers to create three short films. The writers must work from the same set of rules including things like “you must forget everything you know. This film has to be real life. The hero tells bad jokes. But they’re good” and were not allowed to have any contact with each other. This premise was very intriguing and audiences turned out in droves to see just what was achieved under these directions. What was produced was a very solid two out of three.
Harmony Korine’s first segment follows Val Kilmer as a motivational speaker. Though he speaks in riddles and never offers clear answers he has a devoted gathering of worshippers. Korine clever titles her character ‘Val’ delivering a superb idea of documentary exposing Val Kilmer in a new career path. Fact and fiction are skewed as we watch Kilmer blur the lines between actor and character.
The second section from Russian Aleksei Fedorchenko delves into science-fiction where a scientist tries to view history on his very homemade time machine. An intriguing plotline and the film although very different in source than Korine’s effort feels very much in line with the idea of The Fourth Dimension. The third effort by Jan Kwiecinski is where the film falls down. A rather disparate attempt that follows a group of young Poles in an abandoned town, the lot does not manoeuvre the way the first two do and leaves it feeling lacklustre. Two out of three is pretty good going however and The Fourth Dimension is well worth a watch.
Breaking the mould of the majority of martial arts films Peter Chan limits his action to just a few set-pieces and instead chooses to focus most of the film around detective story. Borrowing heavily but reverentially from David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence, young detective Xu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) travels to remote Yunnan province in the year 1917 to investigate just how two murdering bandits could be defeated by seemingly harmless paper maker Liu (Donnie Yen).
Dragon also borrows from TV’s Sherlock using brilliantly imaginative mind-eye view reconstructions of the action for detective Xu to analyse. The film is emotional to the core, lending a lot of time to explore Liu’s connections to his past and why he tries to leave them behind. Expect a UK release very soon; Dragon is sure to do well at the box-office with The Weinstein Brothers behind it.
Marshall Lewy’s California Solo follows a familiar pattern of angst driven US indie cinema. The saving grace for a formulaic and inventively barren tale is the powerhouse performance produced form Robert Carlyle. He makes an otherwise unworthy film watchable, energising the dialogue with his obvious charm. Unfortunately it is the plot that is glaringly obvious for most of the film leaving very little to the imagination.
Carlyle plays Lachlan MacAldonich, a Scottish Brit-pop artist who has since moved to California and works on a farm. It is not long before the troubles of Lachlan’s past become apparent and a love interest is introduced in this very polished production, American indies are so often shot with the highest quality cameras. There is nothing particularly wrong with the film but it does not do enough to gain praise. Carlyle on the other hand may have produced his finest performance in a painful scene discussing his past on the radio. This is an easy to watch film that doesn’t pack any real punch.
The found footage film about found footage, V/H/S is an amalgamation of shorts from some of the most promising horror directors on the scene. The fact that it doesn’t completely work is a testament to just how hard it is to get the genre right and keep audiences entertained. V/H/S has high points but severe lows leaving the overall experience a bit perplexing as none of the segments fit together cohesively. Certainly worth a watch for the innovation and vibrancy of the different styles on offer, just don’t expect to be too scared for most of it.
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