New dark stars are born

Category: Dear Frankie News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: August 22, 2004 | Publication: The Observer | Author: Jason Solomons
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Edinburgh is dominated by brooding, homegrown talent with an ability to turn from the comic to the violent

Film festivals tend to be about directors, countries or genres, but sometimes they are also about a new star. In Cannes, it was the young Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal in two high-profile films, Pedro Almodóvar's Bad Education and The Motorcycle Diaries by Brazil's Walter Salles. The latter film received its British premiere as the opening night gala of the 58th Edinburgh International Film Festival.

Bernal wasn't in town. His absence allowed the spotlight to be turned, instead, on British actor Paddy Considine, who delivered stand-out performances in two very different films: Shane Meadows's Dead Man's Shoes and Pawel Pawlikowski's My Summer of Love. These films were the crowning glories of a very strong British line-up, an area where Edinburgh has a proud tradition.

Meadows gave Considine his debut in A Room for Romeo Brass five years ago and the actor almost reprises his role as a dark, brooding ex-army presence in Dead Man's Shoes, a sort of 21st-century Jacobean revenge drama. Blending Rambo with Charles Bronson in Death Wish, Considine returns to an unspecified Midlands town to hunt down the drug dealers who wronged his younger brother, picking them off like a sadistic child toying with an insect's legs.

Both Considine and Meadows excel at subtle modulations of tone, juggling breezy comedy with moments of menace and outbreaks of wince-inducing violence. Considine specialises in playing the kind of bloke you never want to laugh at because you never know how he'll take it. He brings an animalistic physical fluidity to his role here, popping up everywhere like a surprise and a secret.

For Meadows, Dead Man's Shoes is a return to the form of Romeo Brass after the uncertainties of Once Upon a Time in the Midlands. He has a gift for harnessing the modern vernacular and a wonderful eye for comic detail - the drug dealer's flat is a masterpiece of grunge, stuffed with dodgy electrical goods, porn mags, bongs and filthy tie-dye throws.

My Summer of Love finds Considine working again with Pawlikowski, having collaborated previously on Last Resort. This time, he impresses in a secondary role, playing a born-again Christian pub landlord and ex-convict. He's the older brother of Mona (Nathalie Press), who has struck up an intense relationship with a coquettish rich girl (Emily Blunt) visit ing her father's country home for the summer.

The film, shot by Ryszard Lenczewski, handles atmosphere beautifully - it reminded me of Joseph Losey's The Go-Between. The girls' giddy intoxication is, by turns, tender and troubling, while Considine's presence ushers in darker, violent undertones, a human symbol for the corrupted innocence at the heart of this gorgeous little film.

Another British film launching here was Yasmin, unfussily directed by Scot Kenny Glenaan and written by Simon Beaufoy in his most assured form since The Full Monty. It's about a young Asian woman caught in the heightened racial tensions of a Yorkshire town during the aftermath of 11 September. In an admirable performance, Archie Panjabi faces up to familial duties, Islamic traditions and mass ignorance from the modern society into which she wishes to disappear. It has wit, warmth and guts and would make a provocative double bill with the Hanif Kureishi-scripted My Son the Fanatic or Ken Loach's latest, Fond Kiss..., screening here this week, about a cross-the-racial-divide romance in post 9/11 Glasgow.

Among the films maintaining the festival's local flavour was the debut of Richard Jobson's The Purifiers. Unfortunately, it's not very good, a humourless, tensionless mess of a kung-fu movie about gangs of handsome teenagers back-flipping around shadowy, futuristic retail parks. Shona Auerbach's sentimental Dear Frankie, starring Emily Mortimer as the single mother of a mute child who yearns for a father figure, also made its first domestic appearance following its somewhat surprising success in Cannes.

Perhaps the most successful film, at least in terms of setting a goal and achieving it, was Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, a highly entertaining documentary in which Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's food for a month, becoming rather ill and fat. On the day of the film's premiere, the fast-food chain took out adverts in all the newspapers promising healthier options on its menu in future, representing a considerable moral victory for this likeable film-maker.

Another impressive documentary, a field in which Edinburgh is traditionally strong, was Riding Giants, the follow-up from Stacey Peralta to his acclaimed skateboarding study, Dogtown and Z-Boys. This time, his subject is surfing and the (fool)hardy types who dedicate their lives to the ocean's biggest waves.

Wonderfully named characters such as Micky Munoz, Randy Ranick and Darrick Doerran tell tales of 'wipe-outs' and 'gnarliest' rides, while surf journalists add to the myths by recalling legends who put Hawaii on the map in the 1950s, likening them to Jack Kerouac and labelling them 'intrepid men'. For all its pomp, it's an often awe-inspiring exploration of machismo, skill and stupidity.

But the prize for the most ludicrously self-important work must go to Process, a miserable, almost dialogue-free parade of sex and self-loathing. We watch Béatrice Dalle have a gruesome threesome, eat a yoghurt mixed with finely crushed glass and commit suicide in a Paris hotel room.

Meanwhile, Guillaume Depardieu hops about (he recently had a leg amputated) intoning poetry as John Cale tracks groan on the soundtrack and quotes from Don DeLillo flash across the screen.

It's like French and Saunders doing a skit on Catherine Breillat - which is something I thought I'd never see and now wish I hadn't.