EIFF 2010: The Hunter, Donkeys, The Runaways and Skeletons
It's been a real mixed bag at EIFF this year. Top of my list so far has been Iranian film The Hunter. Directed by and starring Rafi Pitts, it's a sombre look at a man who, having left prison, attempts to settle back into life when tragedy strikes. The film is full of beautiful imagery, colourful interior shots, elegant framing and a really moving and restrained performance by Pitts.
I also enjoyed Scottish flick Donkeys. Despite having had a severely delayed production (the film was finished 2 years ago and at one stage was re-edited) I found the film to be genuinely funny and full of heart. There are also top performances by James Cosmo, Kate Dickie and Martin Compston and, if you're familiar with Glasgow, you'll be able to spot some recognisable locations. I chatted with the director Morag MacKinnon who confirmed that one bar scene in the film was indeed shot in the infamous Sleazys - it's about time someone immortalised such an institution on screen! At times the tone of the film takes a little getting used to as it negotiates both comedy and tragedy; but if you go with it there's plenty of charm lying in wait. I'm hoping it picks up a distributor following its positive reception at the festival.
Unfortunately there have been a few films that I'd rather hadn't made the programme. Cherry Tree Lane is an uncomfortable Funny Games-esque portrait of a violent crime that's committed on a middle class couple. It reaffirms existing stereotypes and descends into farce towards the end. There was actually laughter from the audience in some quite gruelling parts which suggests that the film didn't hit the right note. Another Brit film Honeymooner had TV movie written all over it and dwelled on the familiar topic of failed relationships.
From the low-key to the big budget blockbuster. The Runaways was one of the most highly anticipated films of the festival - a biopic of the all-girl rock band from the seventies. It's enjoyable stuff, even if it does fall in line behind every other band biopic. Kristen Stewart is surprisingly convincing as Joan Jett and the film succeeds in showing how the band both challenged contemporary gender politics and also became exploited by the very people who created their image.
Last but not least a mention should also go to Skeletons, a great little British film about two men who travel the country carrying out procedures to uncover the skeletons in people's closets. Director Nick Whitfield creates a brilliantly off-beat world, contemporary set yet full of retro elements all against gorgeous English backdrops of moorlands and disused railways. It's a nice wee discovery that's worth looking out for.