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Edinburgh International Film Festival Roundup

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Adapted from an unmade Jacques Tati screenplay, Chomet’s animated film shows incredible attention to detail as an aging French magician travels to Scotland. A young girl who believes his abilities are genuinely magical follows him to Edinburgh. Chomet’s film is wistful, but ultimately forlorn.

Mr Nice (Dir. Bernard Rose)

Bernard Rose is a regular at the EIFF and his latest film Mr Nice is his best since Ivans XTC (2003). Based on the memoir by Howard Marks, Mr Nice gives Rhys Ifans the role of a lifetime. Marks is a Welsh lad from the valleys who managed to get into Oxford, then became Britain’s most successful dope dealer in the 1970’s. Rose’s non-judgemental approach to his subject matter may well court controversy when the film finally gets a release. Darkly comic, particularly when Marks teams up with a deranged IRA captain (David Thewlis), there are also fine turns from Chloe Sevigny and Crispin Glover.

The Runaways (Dir. Floria Sigismondi)

Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning star in this entertaining biopic about the rise and fall of the first all female rock group, The Runaways. Stewart is a revelation as the band’s streetwise guitarist Joan Jett, while Fanning also excels as the band’s fragile singer Cherie Currie. Michael Shannon is Kim Fowley, the notorious rock impresario who engineers their early success, but also bullies and exploits the girls.

Henri of Navarre (Dir. Jo Baier)

Covering the same story as Patrice Chereau’s overblown La Reine Margot (1994), this time from the perspective of her husband Henry, Jo Baier’s laughable epic makes the earlier film seem restrained. Beginning with the boy king engaged in an early form of upskirt pornography with the local peasant girls, Henry of Navarre comes on like a French Carry-On film. Watch out for a hilarious cameo from Nostradamus.

Cigarette Girl (Dir. Mike McCarthy)

McCarthy’s dystopian thriller sees smokers consigned to an exclusion zone on the edge of the city. Cigarette Girl (Cori Dials) tries to kick the habit, while avoiding the intention of her ex-boss who wants her dead. With its cool heroine and Punk sensibility is surely destined for cult status.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (Dir. Werner Herzog)

Herzog follows up Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans with another success. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? is the bizarre and ultimately tragic story of a disturbed young man (Michael Shannon) who kills his own mother. David Lynch produces and the film is as weird and as wonderful as you would expect.

Heartbreaker (Dir. Pascal Chaumeil)

Alex (Romain Duris) is a charmer who breaks up relationships for a living in this French crowd-pleaser. Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) proves to be his toughest challenge yet. Heartbreaker has the feel of an old-fashioned caper movie as Alex and his team try to outwit Juliette and stop her marrying her boring English fiancé (Andrew Lincoln). Working Title has apparently bought the remake rights already, but Heartbreaker is so stylish and funny any reworking is bound to fall short.

Lucky Luke (Dir. James Huth)

Comic book cowboy Lucky Luke gets the big-screen treatment. Jean Dujardin (OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies) is effortlessly charismatic as the quick draw expert who is so fast he can outdraw his own shadow. Luke is hired to clean up Daisy Town, a lawless place that looks like something Terry Gilliam created. Luke is helped and hindered by fellow legends Calamity Jane (Sylvie Testud), Jesse James (Melvil Poupad) and Billy the Kid (a hilarious Michael Youn). The film lags in the middle when Luke gives up his guns and settles down with a saloon girl, but the opening and closing acts are highly entertaining.

Red Hill (Dir. Patrick Hughes)

True Blood star Ryan Kwanten leads this modern day Aussie Western as a young constable transferred to a remote town. Steve Bisley (Mad Max) is the old-fashioned lawman whose past misdeeds bring retribution in the form of a rampage by a badly scarred ex-con (Tommy Lewis). Hughes sets up and then largely ignores an intriguing subplot until the film’s glorious closing shot. Red Hill is superior genre fare and Hughes may well have a great future ahead of him.

Savage Messiah (Dir. Ken Russell)

Shown as part of the EIFF’s retrospective honouring lost British films, the great Ken Russell was present at a screening of one of his finest films Savage Messiah (1972). Sadly unavailable on DVD anywhere, Russell has long been ignored by the British establishment yet his life’s work is undergoing a critical reassessment and he deserves to be mentioned amongst the great directors of British cinema.

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