Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Edinburgh Film Festival Diaries
Edinburgh Diary - Day 5

by Christine Harris-Smyth

Thursday begins with a solid film from a gifted director. John Sayles' 'Lone Star' embraces uneasy themes and does so with apparent grace. The fictional Mexican border town of Frontera is riddled with political corruption, dodgy lawmakers, reconstructed histories (personal and social), love and incest. The film criss-crosses cultures, time, and lovers, yet never leaves the audience behind - with one notable exception. The denouement - which of course everything leads to - is hard to swallow.

'Lone Star' is expertly lensed by New Zealand cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh, who stepped into the international arena with Jane Campion's films 'Angel At My Table' and 'The Piano'. His work will be seen again in Campion's 'Portrait of a Lady', which premieres at the Venice Film Festival.

The cast and performances are excellent, and 'Lone Star' is bound to be a festival favorite.

I am beginning to hear scurrilous gossip, mostly about Americans. I think this is because it is safer to talk about people we don't know who are very far away. Every American short filmmaker seems to have a friend, or a teacher, who knows someone big in Hollywood is really an arsehole. I wonder if everybody has the same friend.

I have the pleasure of interviewing Australian actress Ruth Cracknell, who would no doubt be 'Dame Ruth Cracknell' if Australia hadn't done away with the Queen's honours list. However, Ruth tells me she is often nicknamed 'the Dame' by Australian thespians, and the lack of title is one of the costs involved in becoming a republic.

I catch up with Shane Meadows, the very amiable and popular festival discovery, in the foyer, and arrange to meet him the following afternoon. Back in the delegates room, one of my guardian angels has secured me a ticket to Greenaway's sold out 'Scene by Scene'.

I slip into a programme called 'Outstanding Shorts', which is in my opinion overstating the case. But there is one short, stylish, gender-bending animation from Australia ('Lovely Day' directed by Chris Backhouse) that takes my fancy, along with a humorous larger-than-life family tale from Belgium ('La Petite Graine' directed by Michael Vereeken). Both these films have a light touch, layers of meaning, and high production values. I cannot say the same of the rest of the programme.

The rest of the day fills with screenings from the so-so documentary about diamond dealers ('Dealers Among Dealers'), through Cecil B. De Mille's 'Carmen' (1915) (which screens with its original score for the first time in 78 years), to the surprisingly sure-footed date rape film 'In Your Dreams'.

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