When Edinburgh hosted its first Film Festival in 1947 there had been just two others of its kind in the world - Venice and Cannes — and this year it becomes the first to reach forty consecutive editions. Presently, with scarcely a day in the ﬁlm industry’s calendar that doesn’t include some prize-giving celebration, the inevitable overcrowding creates monumental headaches for festival organisers competing for the honour of screening the premiere of the latest masterwork. Edinburgh‘s durability is thus all the more admirable and impressive when one particularly gives its refusal to dispense glittering statuettes, or take on the starlet-clad trappings said to entice hardened veterans of the circuit and, above all, the parsimonious ﬁnances with which director Jim Hickey performs annual miracles.
The opening gala on this occasion is the British unveiling of Jean-Jacques Beineix's latest film, Betty Blue Beineix made an auspicious and dynamic debut with Diva, a fast- moving exercise in style which became a major cult hit, but now turns his
attentions to a torrid study of an obsessive relationship, uniting visual energy with a depth of feeling, which should get the Festival off to a controversial and electric start. The supremely skilled Monsieur Beineix is interviewed elsewhere in this issue, which also includes details of a fantastic free ticket giveaway for the Playhouse premiere on the evening of Saturday 9th. Be there.
As usual, with its positioning just before the cinematic onslaught of the autumn, Edinburgh provides a natural testing ground for the major releases of the latter half of the year. The following will no doubt make swift returns but remember where you saw them first.
Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa (Aug 10) features a brilliant, emotionally rounded performance by Bob Hoskins as a naive ex-con adrift in the seedy world of London vice, who is taken on as a minder for an expensive black hooker (Cathy Tyson). Glasgow’s own Tom Conti won the Gold Mask for Acting Achievement at the Taorrnina Festival for Heavenly Pursuits (Aug 16), playing opposite Helen Mirren in Charles Gormley‘s tale of miracles in a Glaswegian school. Another Scots favourite, Sean Connery features in video expert Russell Mulcahy's Highlander (Aug 21), a bravura time travel extravaganza that also beneﬁts from Christopher Lambert’s presence. A particularly strong British presence includes a bevvy of premieres: Mike Newell's The Good Father (Aug 15) is his second feature after Dance With A Stranger, with Antony Hopkins in a story of marital discord; Ping Pong (Aug 11) combines Hong Kong melodrama and British thriller against the backdrop of London's Chinatown; while Karl Francis, acclaimed for Giro City, returns with Boy Soldier (Aug 20) a hard-hitting portrayal of the Ulster problem. Ireland itself is arniably represented by Eat the Peach (Aug 15), wherein a screening of an Elvis movie inspires the resident of a small border town to construct his own motorbike Wall of Death.
From Scotland comes Blood Red Roses (Aug 13), a film by John McGrath based on his play for 7:84 Theatre Company, with Elizabeth McLennan in the story of a Scots woman's life, from adolescence, through work, marriage, motherhood, industrial militancy, broken dreams and future hopes. August 14 sees a day devoted to the work of the Scottish Association of Workshops, combining discussions and seminars with screenings of recent productions. Among the latter will be Scotland's Apartheid Connection from Video in Pilton, The Root: of Hunger and Jailhouse Tollet from Edinburgh Film Workshop Trust, and International Brigade from the Glasgow Film and Video Workshop. The sessions are further evidence of the Film Festival's commitment to the independent sector outside the commercial treadmill.
The Australian cinema, during the 70's almost a byword for films of skill and quality, also figures prominently in this year’s programme with a diverse selection of productions. These include Bill Bennett’s acclaimed Backlash (Aug
18), a powerful depiction of the police escort of a young aboriginal woman back to a small township where she allegedly committed a murder. lt gains a good deal of its impact from the impressive improvisation by the actors around the basic storyline. From New Zealand, an introduction to the work of director Jane Campion will take in her first feature No Friends (Aug 19), a film about the mid-teens period when children begin to become adults, and a multi-award-winning A Girl's Own Story (Aug 20), a short focusing on girlhood secrets from the Beatlemania era. Campion says of her work, ‘I’m not committed to niceness, I’m committed to seeing what’s there. As a very young film-maker I was particularly committed to what was nasty, what isn‘t spoken about in life. Now, it’s a bit more balanced.’ Campion’s acutely observed work could be one of the discoveries of this year’s Festival.
Over the years Edinburgh has been a showcase for the best and most
innovative in the American
Independent cinema, and the coming event should prove to be no exception. Down By Law (Aug 11) is the new feature by Jim Jarmusch (whose earlier Stranger Than Paradise, a gem of deadpan comedy, was shown in Edinburgh two years ago). John Lurie, Tom Waits and Roberto Benigni play the central trio in a tone of low-key oddity, which more or less sums up the film. Parting Glances (Aug 12), has been hailed as one of the gay films of the year: Bill Sherwood’s film centres around the farewell events that signal the end of a six-year relationship, remaining throughout an adult entertainment that never sacrifices its authenticity for artificial glossiness. Spike Lee, a devotee or'Jim Jarmusch,
has created a small gem from the tiniest :
of budgets in She’s Gotta Have It (Aug 13), a vibrant and exuberant study of a young woman’s increasingly demanding love life which could follow the latter to cult success.
SUPPER ROOM AT THE ASSEMBLY ROOMS
AUGUST 11th. 18th & 25th
3 SHOWS ONLY
“Very veryfunny" — Festival Times
“A star is born" - NME
The List 8 — 21 August 17