Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Edinburgh Film Festival Diaries
Edinburgh Diary - Day 3

by Christine Harris-Smyth

August 13, 1996

Begin the day with a trip to the Filmhouse (home of DEFF) in order to get the latest information on what's on and who is around. The press room is chaos. Basically everyone (including me) has tunnel vision and all we can see is David Cronenberg. A horde of reporters and a couple of crews hover around him. It is not as mad as Cannes where there are exponentially more reporters and crews dying for an A interview, but is a bit too frantic for such a small space.

I attempt to send a report to Film Scouts from an Internet centre of sorts (which shall remain nameless) and have no luck - some mail server problem - and proceed to my first film of the day. And what a film. Danish director Lars von Triers' "Breaking the Waves" is extraordinary.

My expectations were low, thanks to a bundle of totally absurd ideas about Scandinavians which I have garnered from school social studies and a couple of sleepy festival films (sorry Mr Bergman) - i.e., they drink a lot of nasty white spirits, eat rollmops, and make boring films. "Breaking the Waves" is set on the Scottish Isles where it is very cold, they drink to excess, eat lots of oats and, until Lars von Trier came along, probably didn't make a whole lot of films.

"Breaking the Waves" has a strong story, terrific performances and is superbly shot. Almost two and a half hours long, it is perfectly paced and lingers beautifully between chapters. In short: it is classic. If you don't see it this time around - and you should - you will be seeing it on arthouse screens well into the next century of cinema.

Enough preaching. Back to the Filmhouse where Roberto Rossellini's post WWII docu-drama "Germany, Year Zero" is playing. Part of the "Dreams and Nightmares" section of DEFF which features films of 1947, the film is a heavy-handed morality play - perhaps the "Pixote" of its time. Set in Berlin after the war, it is meant to be in German but I hear Italian (perhaps the voice of the auteur) and read the English subtitles.

With an hour to spare and no films to see, I make for the video screening room where I watch the latest from Oscar-winning animators Aardman and The Granton Star Cause. There is something of a buzz surrounding this 30-minute film because the screenplay was written by Irvine Welsh and the story is adapted from his novel "The Acid House". Welsh is the author of the novel "Trainspotting", and although he uses far too many profanities to be deified, he is a household name among young Britons.

The Granton Star Cause is essentially one of those "what if everything that could go wrong did go wrong" ideas. Starting with a game of amateur football and moving quickly to the pub, the film has incredibly high production values. My first impression was that I had stumbled across a hybrid of a beer commercial (for boy's beer) and a music video. Add a bit of Kafka (the hero turns into a fly), lots of lads, a barrage of expletives and big colours and you're almost there. Entertaining, brilliantly executed, but I am left with a "what if emerging directors were banned from using the what if everything that could go wrong did go wrong idea" feeling.

Next, the highlight of the day - David Cronenberg's "Scene by Scene" examining clips from "Crash". I approach the cinema to find a queue which I join half-way up the street. Within ten minutes the line stretches around the corner. Tickets are sold out but for some reason the auditorium is not ready. After half and hour the queue begins to move forward. When the auditorium is full the lights go down and Cronenberg enters from the rear. The crowd goes wild and is on the verge of a standing ovation (thankfully the applause dies away) and Cronenberg begins a charming double act with festival director Mark Cousins.

It becomes apparent that Cronenberg is not allowed to screen clips from "Crash"; however he does have some fascinating fragments of a film by an unknown Canadian filmmaker whose style bears a remarkable resemblance to that of Cronenberg. Screening and discussion of the auto-erotic proceeds with Cronenberg playfully exercising his right to talk about himself in the third person. The boys in the audience are in seventh heaven - thanks to the presence on the screen of cars and chicks - and the director gets the warm fuzzy feeling of one well-loved.

Out of Cronenberg and into the Australian vernacular. Director Nadia Tass presents the world premiere of her latest film "Mr Reliable". Colin Friels (the baddy in "Darkman", star of countless Australian films and husband to Judy Davis) plays alongside Jacqueline McKenzie (best known for "Romper Stomper") in this comic - yet true - tale of an unlikely hero. (Australia does a great line in unlikely heroes from "Breaker Morant" through "Mad Max" to "Priscilla".)

And, last but not least, "Where's the Money Ronnie" and "Small Time" from director, writer, actor, producer, photographer and editor Shane Meadows. Shot on the lowest of budgets, this is the shining star of emerging work so far and great late-night fare. People say things like Tarantino-esque and "Trainspotting". Yeah right. It is, however, well worth seeing and will travel the festival circuit.

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