Very belatedly, here is a post about “What I saw at the Festival this year”. Actually, although everyone talks about the Edinburgh Festival, there are so many festivals taking place in the city in August, it’s hard to know where to begin. As well as the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, there’s the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Edinburgh International Book Festivals as well. There’s also the, industry only, Edinburgh Television Festival and a two day Festival of Politics squeezed in towards the end of the month. Oh, and not forgetting the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which, for many visitors to the city, IS the Edinburgh Festival.
Anyway, long story short, I decided to restrict my Festival-going to the film and book festivals this year. No particular theme connects my choices which were as follows:
The Hottest State
Irn Bru (an event looking at the success of Irn Bru’s Phenomenal advertising campaign)
Highlights, recommendations and low points
Meeting Urban Chick at the Book Festival, where we saw Joan Bakewell, I got a book signed by Andrew Marr and was interrupted, mid-gush, by Iain McWhirter. A good night all round! Jamie Bell’s performance in “Hallam Foe”. The man who, having sat all the way through “Chansons D’Amour”, stormed out at the end, shouting “It was CRAP!” The “Snowman” Irn Bru ad. James Naughtie on his series (and book) “The Making of Music” – I have rarely heard a more fluent speaker.
“Two Days in Paris”. Now this one must be just me as every review I’ve read since I saw it has praised it wholeheartedly. Obviously I just didn’t get it. To me this film seemed to be aping Woody Allen every step of the way. Why? Surely one of Allen’s trademarks is that he makes American films in a “European” style. “Two Days in Paris” couldn’t be more “European” if it tried – it’s written, directed and scored by Julie Delpy, who also plays the central female character, Marion. It’s set in Paris, for God’s sake! So why did it seem so second rate? Perhaps because the characters are not especially well developed, the location is underused (why have a subplot about Jim Morrison, which involves a visit to his grave and then keep the grave just out of shot?) and the comic moments, some of which are genuinely funny, just aren’t enough to sustain the film on their own.
As Tom Paulin has so often remarked on “Newsnight Review”, I didn’t like it.
By comparison, I thought “The Counterfeiters” was a triumph. An intensely moving film about the Nazi counterfeiting operation in Sachsenhausen, the story revolves around the character of Saloman “Sally” Sorowitsch, a career counterfeiter. One of the central themes of the film is the very different and preferential treatment received by those prisoners involved in the counterfeiting unit, a group whose existence was apparently unknown even to the camp commandant. It is a mark of this film’s brilliance that these touches of “humanity” serve to heighten the brutality of the Nazi regime rather than lessen it. Based on the book written by Adolf Burger who, although now in his nineties, took part in a Q & A at the end of the screening, this film was the overall highlight of my 2007 festival. If you get the chance, see it.
A bit link-heavy there – sorry!