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A Few Words on the Edinburgh International Film Festival

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Eva Green and Ewan McGregor in David Mackenzie's Perfect Sense

Eva Green and Ewan McGregor in David Mackenzie's Perfect Sense

Though the weather has hardly been Cannes-like in Edinburgh for the past month, the Edinburgh International Film Festival has been screening films which show that it can be just as cutting-edge as Cannes.

Setting makes a film festival, and Scotland does not do glamorous (although the word itself is of Scottish orgin—ed.). It’s not that it’s shabby, it’s just not something that appeals to the Scottish people. The phrase “down to earth” is only a starting point in describing life here. The utter lack of pretension is staggering at times, and walking around here, you have to struggle to remember that a few nights ago, Ewan McGregor was at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre promoting his latest film, Perfect Sense, directed by David Mackenzie.

This reviewer has seen three films so far, all excellent: The Guard on opening night, Oliver Sherman, and Perfect Sense. The weather, as I said, has been less than stellar, so spending time inside watching the latest interesting, decidedly non-Hollywood films is refreshing. A paradigm shift is occurring in cinema, and it is away from the Hollywood racket and toward less insular markets such as Canada and Scotland. Ryan Redford, the director of Oliver Sherman, said in a Q&A session after the screening that he wanted to make something different, a timeless narrative that will not age. His film is certainly that. The main character Sherman has returned from an unnamed war, back to his home country. He looks up an old army friend, and it’s barely ten minutes into the film that the audiences knows that something is wrong.

The Guard was everything a modern buddy cop movie should be. Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson may not have a huge amount of screen time together, but their pairing held the film together. It was a new kind of special relationship, this time between people who are sidelined by a dominant culture: African Americans and the Irish. They didn’t really like each other, but they both have a way of going about their work that eventually gets the job done. The only thing which was irritating had nothing to do with the film, but the theatre itself. The Edinburgh Festival Theatre is perfect for opera, but not for showing a film in 2011. It has the honor of being the first cinema to screen a film in Scotland, but the sound often echoed too much for the actors to be heard. Perfect Sense was the same: great movie, bad decision-making. Perfect Sense is another spin on a genre we know well: the apocalypse film. A virus inserts itself into the human population and takes away each sense, one by one. First smell, then taste, then hearing, then sight. In the middle of it all, two people fall in love. Disaster in general takes up much of billing, from the apocalyptic to trolls. Are these films saying something about society, or do they just sell well? A bit of both, probably.

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