Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Edinburgh Film Festival Diaries
Edinburgh Diary - Day 1

by Christine Harris-Smyth

August 11, 1996

Arrive Edinburgh train station and discover Murphy's law rules. 10,000 of the 1 million people
who come to Edinburgh in August are lining up to get three taxi cabs. After waiting for 20
minutes and establishing that the taxis leaving the train station empty are not allowed to pick
up passengers, I decide to walk up the exit driveway and hail one at the top while my
companions in the queue watch and weep.

I am going to the opening night of the Edinburgh Film Festival. I will not be stopped. The taxi
driver is a honey, and is more excited about the prospect of meeting Sean Connery than I am. He
waits while I pick up my press pass and helps me carry my bags. So far, it seems the Scots are
friendly, that Edinburgh is a pretty town and that the next two weeks could be swell, provided
I steer clear of street performers.

The street outside the Odeon cinema is paved with Sean Connery fans. You would be hard pushed
to find a single Scot who isn't a fan of Connery - the virtual star of the opening night film
"Dragonheart". The feature is preceded by a Norman McLaren's 1946 experimental animation
'Fiddle de-dee'. After mercifully brief opening night speeches (in honour of the festivals 60th
birthday director Mark Cousins comes equipped with a gold sporran while producer Ginny Atkinson is dripping with golden jewelry), the great man steps forward.

To the rest of the world Sean Connery is a movie star, to Edinburgh he is GOD. The audience
gives Connery a standing ovation for several minutes before he even begins to speak, and later
Connery orchestrates another one for the cameras. Connery, director Rob Cohen and their
entourage exit the auditorium, leaving a largely unnoticed David Cronenberg in the audience,
and the film begins.

"Dragonheart" turns out to be a pleasant-enough rambling fantasy. A little bit Chancre, a
little bit Camelot, and a lot of effects from Industrial Light and Magic. I can't figure out
what Dennis Quaid was doing with his voice because to me he sounds like a Swede who drinks a
lot. Character actor Pete Postlethwaite does a nice turn as a monk and Connery gives voice -
and persona - to a digital dragon. It is nice to see Julie Christie, but really the women in
this film are accessories. Of all the characters David Thewlis' evil (and very slinky) King
Einon is the only one I would have round to dinner (the dragon wouldn't fit).

Buses take us to the party. I really can't see anyone famous apart from David Cronenberg and
Sean Connery's brother, whom many people are mistaking for the great man himself. When Connery arrives a crowd forms, flashes flash, and I believe I have a moment of meaningful eye contact which is something I can tell my mother about.

The party goes on till 4AM, I leave around one and wonder if the little bit of Haggis I ate
will be with me in the morning.

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