EIFF 2010: The Illusionist, And Everything is Going Fine, 22 Bullets

Blog by Gail Tolley | 18 Jun 2010
  • The Illusionist

It was a collection of fragile souls that gathered at the press screenings on Thursday morning, the first official day of the 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival and the morning after the Opening Gala party. 

Launching the Festival the night before was Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist. It screened in the beautiful surroundings of the Festival Theatre, a welcome change to the soulless Cineworld at Fountainpark where the event usually takes place. The film was fitting in many ways: set in the late fifties it conjures up a romantic vision of Edinburgh and starts in a grand theatre hall just like the one we were all seated in.  The film was made in Edinburgh over five years and so, for many in the audience it was a chance to celebrate the culmination of the project. The film itself has many beautiful parts (I loved the ageing magician’s unruly rabbit who pops up throughout the film) but overall there wasn’t quite enough charm to accompany the film’s somewhat slight storyline. But for those fans of Chomet’s previous film Belleville Rendez-Vous it’s worth checking out for the film’s lyrical visual style.

One of the few films from big time directors in this year’s programme is Steven Soderbergh’s And Everything is Going Fine, a documentary about the writer and actor Spalding Gray. Soderbergh may be a big name but this is one of his low-budget, small-scale works and it’s excellent. Spalding was famed for his autobiographical monologues which drew on his Rhode Island upbringing and dysfunctional family. Soderbergh shows he is a master at matching form to subject matter and chooses to create a portrait of Spalding entirely through his own words, patching together a series of interviews and performances of the influential actor. There are no talking heads and no voiceover, this minimalist execution creates an honest depiction of a fascinating character. Highly recommended.

French thriller 22 Bullets couldn’t be more different. The sleek gangster flick crams in so many clichés the whole experience soon descends into farce. It tells the story of retired gangster Charly (Jean Reno) who is unexpectedly gunned down. Despite getting shot 22 times he survives and is determined to find out who it is that wants him dead, but doing so tests his newly established morality to the limits. From the cop who is looking to avenge the death of her husband to the scenes of Charly's young son left on his own in the street, 22 Bullets feels like a tired story. There is also one ludicrous scene where Reno’s character attempts to break into the grounds of a house and spends about half an hour trying to crawl through barbed wire – hardly the most riveting cinematic experience. This is one to skip.

Tomorrow is the much anticipated The Runaways starring Kristen Stewart and we’ve heard that Joan Jett will be in town… make sure you check back here for more blogs from The Skinny’s film team over the course of the festival.