Glasgow Film Festival One, Bankers Nil

Blog by Ray Philp | 11 Feb 2009

Allison Gardener and Allan Hunter, the co-directors of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, note that “in times of trouble the cinema is the first place we turn to for escape”. And boy, are we in trouble. Most of us at The Skinny are kissing the sky for each day we ward off the dreaded giro, as big shot bankers shuffle apologetically toward Westminster with trembling lower lips, busking feverishly at Gordon Brown’s loafers whilst flicking hopeful glances at the PM’s jangling treasury pockets. If indeed we are in as much trouble as many talking heads tell us, you might take comfort from the GFF’s considerable array of stellar films this February.

A fascinating film that might yet inspire some pious bonus abstention is breakthrough Romanian film Elevator, screening on the 21st at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Shot for the cost of a sausage roll, director George Darabantu creates an intense atmosphere of paranoia and claustrophobia as Elevator recants a story based on real events of two people who inadvertently trap themselves in the lift of an abandoned factory. Romania continues to evolve into a hotbed of jet black satire and darkly atmospheric film making, as evidenced by recent efforts like The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.

Despite the array of international films on show, the spotlight is prominently placed on Mexico as the GFF includes a special strand to celebrate Mexican cinema. Seminal films like Los Olvidados and Vamos Con Pancho Villa! have been matched in terms of acclaim by more recent outings like Y Tu Mama Tambien and Amores Perros. Although much of contemporary Mexican film is known for its themes of tragedy, My Mexican Shivah plays against type as a culture crash comedy. Screening from the 18th at the GFT, its study of the absurdity of mourning etiquette reaches its nadir as a mariachi band set up camp to enlighten proceedings.

Something marginally less cheerful than a band of muchachos dancing on your grave is the uncompromising Bronson, debuting at Cineworld Renfrew Street from the 18th, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Tom Hardy is Charles Bronson, a prison nutter extraordinaire akin to Chopper with a guttural cockney twang. He’s hard enough to turn the majority of Barlinnie’s population as green with envy as an Elizabeth Duke necklace, but all the same this visceral portrayal should also prick the attention of those looking for a full-frontal assault on their sensibilities and powers of continence.

Other highlights of the GFF include the Audrey Hepburn strand, an actress who transcends conventional platitudes. However, “pure stunner” would be a good start. The GFF showcases her illustrious and diverse career, from classic flighty romance Breakfast at Tiffany’s, screening from the 16th, to the autumnal revision of the relationship between Robin Hood and Maid Marian in Robin And Marian, showing from the 19th.

The highlight of films on general release is Biggie Smalls biopic Notorious, which is out on Friday. What might be even more remarkable than debutant Jamal Woolard’s studious simulacra of Christopher Wallace’s rapping nuances and general mannerisms is that egomaniac Puff Daddy isn’t playing himself, something he manages to do on MTV with alarming regularity. The Good, The Bad, The Weird is a South Korean western directed by Kim Ji-woon that is also out on the 13th. Ostensibly an outlandish tribute to Sergio Leone, this genre mash-up is part western, part comedy, and all action; The Wild Wild East, if you will.