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edinburgh international film festival Blog reviews from the 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival
Au Revoir Taipei
dir-scr Arvin Chen
prd Lee In-Ah, Liu Wei-Jan, Lui Oi Leng, Wim Wenders
with Jack Yao, Amber Kuo, Chang Hsiao-chuan , Ko Yu-Luen
release US Mar.10 sfiff,
Tai 2.Apr.10, UK Jun.10 eiff 10/Taiwan 1h25
au revoir taipei
au revoir taipei One of the rare films in this festival that sends you smiling and dancing out of the cinema, this charming comedy from Taiwan stirs romance and crime into the intertwined lives of its colourful characters. It helps that the cast is almost shamelessly likeable, and the film is strikingly shot - packed with vivid colours and witty camerawork. In the end, the criminal element of the plot gives way to an open-hearted approach that draws both laughter and happy sighs all around. A lovely surprise.

24.Jun.10 eiff

dir-scr Taika Waititi
prd Cliff Curtis, Ainsley Gardiner, Emanuel Michael
with James Rolleston, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, Taika Waititi, Waihoroi Shortland, Rachel House, RickyLee Waipuka-Russell, Pana Hema Taylor, Manihera Rangiuaia
release US Jan.10 sff,
NZ 25.Mar.10, UK Jun.10 eiff
10/New Zealand 1h27
boy From the maker of Eagle vs Shark, here's another light-handed drama set in a Maori community in which 11-year-old Boy (Rolleston) confronts the father (Waititi) he never knew - and realises he's perhaps not the hero he thought he was. The film is loose and almost plotless, focussing instead on the characters and their internal journeys. But that makes it sound like a dire drama, when it's actually extremely funny. Set in 1984, the film is awash in iconic images (including Boy's other hero, Michael Jackson), which adds a level of irony and even some laugh-out-loud gags along the way.

21.Jun.10 eiff

The Crab
dir-scr Rona Mark
prd Rona Mark, Craig Schober
with Guy Whitney, Cass Bugge, Kelly Dwyer, Jonathan Wilde, Frederick Strype, Darrin Banks, Donella Alanwick, Joel Runnels
release UK Jun.10 eiff
10/US 1h43
the crab
the crab Whitney stars in this film as a man with a deformation that makes his hands look like crab claws. But that's the least of his worries, as it's his abrasive personality that alienates everyone around him. Over the course of this film, he falls for a feisty woman who sees past his hands but ultimately loses patience with his annoying cynicism. The most implausible thing about the film is that he has any friends to begin with - and the filmmaker seems to realise this, as she makes no effort to redeem him. An intriguing movie, but far too bleak a comedy to win over the audience.

23.Jun.10 eiff

dir Morag McKinnon
scr Colin McLaren
prd Gillian Berrie, Anna Duffield
with James Cosmo, Brian Pettifer, Martin Compston, Kate Dickie, Natalie Press, Tony Curran
release UK Jun.10 eiff
donkeys Set in Glasgow, this rough and grainy drama revolves around a knotted family situation that's made worse because no one is being honest with each other. After a heart attack, Albert (Cosmo) decides to reconnect with his estranged daughter Jackie (Dickie), but she wants nothing to do with him. Meanwhile, she meets Stevie (Compston), just out of jail and the son of her neighbour. But Albert has a problem with Stevie's presence, and convinces his old pal (Pettifer) that he fathered the boy in a drunken moment. Clearly this isn't true, but Albert isn't done lying yet.

We know this will all come out in the end, but we could never predict quite how it plays out on screen. A very strong cast helps carry us through this rather twisty and melodramatic story. And even though the film feels somewhat sketchy and abrupt, there are moments of real emotion all the way through.

19.Jun.10 eiff

Family Tree
4/5   L’arbre et la forêt
dir-scr Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
prd Kristina Larsen, Gilles Sandoz
with Guy Marchand, Francoise Fabian, Sabrina Seyvecou, Yannick Renier, Francois Negret, Catherine Mouchet, Sandrine Dumas, Pierre-Loup Rajot
release Fr 3.Mar.10,
UK Jun.10 eiff
10/France 1h37
family tree
family tree This sleek and classy French drama centres on a family struggling with grief when a rather big skeleton comes clattering out of the closet. It grapples with all kinds of important issues, most notably how we work to give our families a sheen of normality when "normal" is a myth. Fine performances and deep, gorgeous photography make the film thoroughly involving.

16.June.10 eiff

High School
dir John Stalberg Jr
scr Erik Linthorst, John Stalberg Jr, Stephen Susco
prd Arcadiy Golubovich, Raymond J Markovich, Warren Zide
with Matt Bush, Sean Marquette, Adrien Brody, Michael Chiklis, Colin Hanks, Adhir Kalyan, Mykelti Williamson, Curtis Armstrong, Yeardley Smith, Michael Vartan, Brett Kelly, Cody Longo
release US Jan.10 sff,
UK Jun.10 eiff
10/US 1h33
high school
high school This raucous teen movie combines Ferris Bueller's Day Off with Dazed and Confused. Yes, the drugs-can-be-fun message is somewhat questionable, but sharp writing and a thoroughly engaging cast makes it great fun to watch.

Henry (Bush) is his class valedictorian, a nice guy genius who over the years has lost touch with his childhood pal Travis (Marquette), who's now the school's top stoner. But after they reconnect over a shared joint, Henry is horrified to find out that their obsessive principal (Chiklis) is starting drugs testing. With his graduation and MIT scholarship in jeopardy, Henry teams up with Travis to get the whole school high to skew the test results. But things of course don't go to plan.

This is one of thise films in which things get worse and worse as the story progresses to a full-on farcical final act. Fortunately, the screenwriters put together some hysterically funny set pieces and terrific dialog, while the actors deliver sharp comical performances that keep the characters grounded even as things get increasingly chaotic.

Snappy dialog and crazed situations keep it very lively indeed, more than making up for the cheesy filmmaking. Whether it overcomes charges that it makes drug use look like fun is another issue altogether.

20.Jun.10 eiff

dir Jeffrey Blitz
prd Jeffrey Blitz, Jeb Brody, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Sean Welch
release US Jan.10 sff,
UK Jun.10 eiff
10/US 1h27
lucky This entertaining film documents the history of the lottery in America, highlighting several people along the way who have won. What we see is great fun, although it might have been more suited to a one-hour TV doc.

The director of Spellbound takes a similar approach here, following a handful of lucky millionaires who talk about how the money has completely changed their lives. And for each of them, the challenges have outweighed the benefits. This isn't really a surprise, but at least they are all colourful people whose stories are interesting to watch. Intriguingly, none of them are hugely sympathetic, which leaves the film feeling somewhat cold and aloof. So Blitz spices things up with a witty look at the lottery through the ages, with history and stats that are eye-opening in ways the personal stories aren't.

24.Jun.10 eiff

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