I l l
misr— Degrees of
Alan Morrison casts an eye over the student films and videos on show at Edinburgh’s four end-of- year screenings.
Even after some 68 ﬁlms and around ten hours of viewing, there‘s still a sneaking sense that only the tip of the iceberg has been brought into view: the ﬁve courses at Napier University‘s Scottish Film School alone claim to have put out over 1000 minutes of material this year. An overview, therefore. of the i995 showreels from Napier. Edinburgh College of Art. Stevenson College and Telford College can only be slight and selective, barely doing justice to the hundreds of creative and technical hands who have laboured over the past months.
A few easy generalisations can be made. Stevenson‘s collection ofshort dramas. pop promos and excerpts from longer video documentaries betrays an amateurish quality that is probably inevitable at this open level of access. It would have been encouraging to witness the students adding a little more imagination and bending the rules of the various genres rather than working purely inside their limitations. Compare, for example. their dully predictable approach to the tourist/corporate video format to the
‘There seems to be a refreshing strain of commercialism running through these corridors: not in any sense of a cheapening of ideals, more an accessibility and regard for audience that may boost some pieces beyond the confines of the classroom.’
much more visually alive ad for the Gyle Centre. set to the Blue Danube Waltz. that opened the Telford programme.
The Telford collection. selected from the work of its HND students. did push a little further. Certain flaws visible here seem to be endemic in student ﬁlms the world over: an in-crowd jokiness, an annoying self-indulgence regarding length, a limited use of studenty subjects and situations. the cringeworthy acting performance that comes from asking friends to grab their ﬁfteen minutes of fame. That said, there’s plenty here to make the audience sit up and take notice. Chris Learmonth's A Trek To London, following a group ofsci-ﬁ buffs to a Star Trek convention. has an endearing self-mockery; Robert Storrie‘s Belonging. a drama about an alienated young boy who considers robbing his gran as some kind of personal revenge. quickly ﬁnds sympathy for its main
Simon Vickery's The Body Below (Edinburgh College of Art)
character; while Chris Brough's Body. Art? gives a humorous insight into the
. world of piercing and tattoos.
The work on show from Edinburgh College of Art was not, as might have been expected. arty. There seems to be
a refreshing strain of commercialism
- running through these corridors: not in any sense a cheapening of ideals, more 3 an accessibility and regard for audience
that may boost some pieces beyond the conﬁnes of the classroom. On the other
‘ hand, the slightly more experimental
and ‘mystical‘ material came from
: Napier University. where there seems
i to be an obsession with channelling the
90s search for identity into ‘New Age‘ territory. blending human. spiritual and natural elements on screen.
And so to the personal favourites. The College of Art‘s animation course continues to provide some very
' professional and enjoyable pieces —
Mark Geddes’s Fog showed a classic
comic quality as the sole survivor on an abandoned ship tries to end it all with a degree of ineptness rivalled only by Wile E. Coyote; while in The Altered State Circus, Cormac 0’ Kane tapped into that double-edged quality of laughter and menace lurking beneath the clown‘s painted face. Also at the ECA. Tim Clayton tnanaged to sustain a sense ofdisquiet and guilty unease over a full ﬁfteen minutes in the powerful and memorable Catherine;
and Stephen Murphy provided the year‘s number one show-stopper with
the brilliant Mr Morris.
It was left to Napier to provide the strongest showing from women directors. Jo Roberts's Ir‘e. Water. Gas had a sure sense of rhythm and urgency; Wendy Grifﬁn‘s 55 Hazldington Place nicely overlapped three everyday tales with an understated. gentle humour; Susan Kemp‘s Hill Of Beans cast its net wider into human experience with a very moving story about the unavoidable pain in both reality and fantasy; and Morag MacKinnon's 3 was an evocative birth ritual iii which every other attempt to capture contemporary mysticism was distilled to its purest visual form. That this last ﬁlm was one of four ‘trailers‘ on show from Napier — excerpts of longer works in progress. some of which are to be features — proves that already these ﬁlmmakers have bolder aspirations than their predecessors. And, on this year‘s evidence. that can only beneﬁt
i Scotland‘s ﬁlm industry and cultural well-being.
mama— RETRO nsvrvnrs
The swell in video sales and nostalgically-tinted cable and satellite channels has meant that television vaults have become a gold- mine for rediscovered cult items. This month sees the launch of Retro Video (sister label to Tartan Video), which will dedicate itself to unearthing quirky films and ‘lost’ gems from the TV archives.
First on the Retro slate is Casino Royale (15), the first-ever screen appearance of James Bond - not, however, to be mistaken for the David Niven spoof feature. A pilot episode of the TV drama series Climax, this reverses the role ot Bond as we’ve come to know him by casting him as an undercover CIA agent (Barry Nelson) working with the posh Clarence (not Felix) Leiter of the British Secret Service in an attempt to bankrupt and discredit Communist baddie Peter lane at the baccarat table. Set-bound and shot in long theatrical takes, it lacks the action associated with the Bond name, but it’s an intriguing collector’s item all
The X-Files and The
’7 ' URINE/\I ON I (X I ST STRUT
Twilight Zone. Each tape features three short tales, supposedly based on real life events - highlights include a dead boxer appearing during a fight as a warning of death to came, an artist having premonitions of a suicide in the flat opposite his window and a condemned
‘ murderer who survives all attempts at
the same, particularly for lorre’s sleazy turn as the first Bond villain. Also released are the first two volumes of One Step Beyond (15), which looks into ‘the amazing world of the unknown’ in a similar fashion to
execution. With one foot in the supernatural and one in the real world, these are enough to tickle the imagination. (Alan Morrison) lietro Videos are available from Monday 3 July, priced £9. 99 each.
I The Tigers ( 18) A team of ﬁve Hong Kong cops ﬁnd themselves under investigation when the gangster who encouraged them to take a bribe decides to ruin their careers and friendships. After a bit ofjokiness. this widescreen actioner gets serious as our heroes decide to shoot. rather than dig. themselves out of this hole. Not as flashy as some bullet-fests. but all the better for its tough realism and examination of disrupted loyalties. (Eastern Heroes £13.99) I Werner Herzog Shorts (E) Collected together for the ﬁrst time, these four short documentaries by German director Werner Herzog cast sortie of his continuing concerns in a different light — eccentric characters. such as the wood sculptor/ski jumper in The Great Ecstasy 0f Womlr‘arver Steiner or the fast-tongued cattle auctioneers in How Much Wand Would A lVOUdL‘hIU'k Chuck; the romance of dangerous landscapes. as in the bubbling volcano in La Soufrt'ere. and human heroism in the wilds. portrayed in The Flying Doctors 0f East Africa. (Tartan £15.99)
I Space Adventure Cobra (PG) The universe’s tnost notorious space pirate
comes out of retirement to help a beautiful bounty hunter ﬁnd her sisters and stop an evil warlord from destroying the galaxy. Lively alien life. strong colouring, spectacular space landscapes. a Yello soundtrack and fast- moving plot are evidence of all-round superior production values in the best Japanese animated feature to hit the shelves in ages. (Manga £ 1 3.99) I Tout Va Bien (15) A re- evaluation. four years on. of 1968's events in France. Jean-an Godard's excellent ﬁlm has a personal as well as a socio-political level. After being held hostage by striking workers in a food factory. American journalist Jane Fonda and her husband Yves Montand begin to examine their own commitment to each other. The stars' real life personas are well used. and Godard seems to be questioning his own cultural role. (Tartan £15.99)
I Mystery Train (15) It's not just Jim Jarmusch‘s script and direction that makes his work the epitome of ﬁlmic cool — for this Memphis mix. he can call in the talents of Joe Strummer. Screamin‘ Jay Hawkins. Steve Buscemi. the voice of Tom Waits. the music of John Lurie. the
photography of Robbie Muller. . . Lives interlock with wry humour as two Japanese tourists. an Italian widow. the ghost of lilvis and three incompetent liquor store robbers hole up in the satne hotel. (Artificial Tiye £15.99)
I The Woman Next Door (15) Two lovers. who split tempestnonsly a decade before and are now married to others. rekindle their liaison with disastrous results when they end up living next door to each other in a tiny village. Gerard Depardieu's physicality and Fanny Ardant's wide smile are used to good effect. but Francois Truffaut‘s portrait of a destructiver intense affair slides from superior adult drama into Gallic melodrama. (Artificial liye £15.99)
I That Night In Varennes (IS) A group of travellers in pie-Revolutionary France discover that the royal family are in flight only a few miles along the road. A very wordy (but not unenjoyable) portrait of the social background to the period. Ettore Scola‘s large-scale production features a star cast with Keitel. Trintignant. Schygulla. Barrault and an excellent Mastroanni as the genuine Casanova in his declining years. (Arrow £15.99)
26 The List 30 Jun-l3 Jul 1995