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:


Hallam Foe

The Hottest State


Chansons D’Amour

Razzle Dazzle

The Counterfeiters (Die Fälscher)

Irn Bru (an event looking at the success of Irn Bru’s Phenomenal advertising campaign)

Two Days in Paris


Iain Banks

Joan Bakewell

Jeremy Bowen

James Naughtie

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!

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9 Responses to Festival(s)

  1. Sylvia says:

    So what did Andrew Marr say to you? What is he like in the flesh. What was he wearing? Tell all!

  2. marshaklein says:

    Sylvia, I explained to him that my daughter and I had really enjoyed his recent TV series, but had been unable to get tickets for his event. I asked him to dedicate the book to her, which he did commenting as he did so that she was doing better than his 15 year-old who is, apparently, “completely book-phobic”. Mind you, he or she has a fairly tough act to follow, what with both parents being literary, journalistic types. As for what he looked like, I’d say he has more hair and smaller ears than he appears to on telly! So, perhaps as well as adding 10lbs, telly also affects the appearance in other ways?! He was wearing a perfectly nice and unremarkable jacket and open-necked shirt (and trousers etc, I presume, but he was sitting down so I couldn’t see these). After Mr McWhirter came up to speak to him, I said a suitably deferential “Thank you” and scurried away. He called after me “Thank you and good luck to A.” (my daughter). Which was nice.

  3. pleite says:

    Marshypops, sorry to not have reacted to your e-mail yet. Will do, or will ring. Have been in England again and am now frantic trying to finish work by, conveniently enough, Thursday to be free(r) when you’re here. I’ll be as flexible as anything so say when suits you.

    I don’t know that film, but Sachsenhausen is just outside Berlin and the only concentration camp easy enough for tourists to get to. Would you fancy that? Not light tourism, of course. But interesting for a squillion reasons, and at the end of a residential street. The houses end and then the camp begins. Maybe it’s mad of me but I sometimes wonder at how this country is now so normal-seeming with its utterly effed up history.

  4. pleite says:

    I must lose ten stone before we meet too.

  5. Sylvia says:

    thanks v much, M. Am v jealous. Can sympathise with him re book phobic children. My eldest now doing A levels is so thrilled she’s doing sciences as she’ll never have to read a book again. The other 2 are no better….

    Pleite, M will love you just the way you are – don’t waste time losing the weight! Unless you want to, that is….

  6. Tim Footman says:

    Would Tom Paulin not define the Delpy movie as “anodyne”, a word I think he feels duty-bound to insert into every other sentence? cf Germaine’s “HA!” and Kermode’s “Yes, but it’s not as good as The Exorcist, is it?”

  7. marshaklein says:

    Sylvia: You were right, I did.

    Tim: That made me laugh. I love Tom Paulin’s negativity. Everyone seems so quick now to pronounce things as earth-shatteringly brilliant there’s something kind of refreshing about someone who’s so relentlessly negative. I just wish the northern Irish accent was easier to render in type.

  8. lettucelover says:

    i saw ‘two days in paris’ last week and was somewhat disappointed given the incredible hype

    it was very woody allen-esque but kinda random and all over the place

    so…not just you, then!

    p.s. this is the new me – i’ve come over to join you on the dark side *cackles*

  9. marshaklein says:

    Welcome lettucelover! I think you’ll like it here.

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