Lars Von Trier, Sam Mendes, Dave Eggers, Zack Clark, Lynn Shelton’s Humpaday - Edinburgh Film Fest Report 1

Martin Goodhead 01/07/2009

Welcome to the first part of our retrospective from the 53rd Edinburgh Film Festival, which recently completed its run; I'll be posting advance reports on some of the most talked about films on the independent and 'genre' circuitssoon to invade your art cinema's--and in some cases multiplexes, in coming months. Amidst the schmooze, free-wine fuelled rumours and press-agent deals, Edinburgh's traditionally been a haven of indie-film-making, and this year in particular has thrown up a spate of off-beat films—the chief of of which feature below-- from Sam Mendes's mainstream version to a series of scuzzy treatments of off-kilter and weird subcultures like metaphoric root canal treatments—but (usually) slightly more pleasurable.

The early critics had an opening 24 hours most notable for the Danes gave us that traditional quadraphonic festival moral cinema of concern and bizarre herring-bitter humour “Fear Me Not” and “Little Soldier”. “Little Soldier”, amongst its singular traits, was a rare foray into that subgenre of 'allegorical reflection's on Denmark's role inAfghanistan', “Fear Me Not” a domestic tragicomedy on middle-aged angst spliced with genetically modified drug testing and tragi-comic psychosis in a curate's egg of deadly whimsy akin to Von Trier's typical work. There was an (only slightly) untypical Von Trier film later, and it caused a fever-heat amongst the critical mob. But that's a story for next time.

FMN was most notable for its convention teasings; at one point its unsettling normalcy of flat surfaces and incidentality--- mixed in with the phantom verline glow of lakeside pans which fragment the inexorable progress of domestic dramas-- threatened to become the sort of off-kilter treatment of the monstrous transformation movie equivalent to last year's EIFF smash 'Let the Right One In', with that films reinvention of vampire movie's tropes. Two scenes-- involving a frentic night-time driving scene in the woods devolving into a potentially deadly frat-boy dare, and a horrifying discovery and garage confrontation by the protagonist's daughter just as his penitence has seemingly restored an uneasy harmony to proceedings--- redolent of the same psychosis to be found in classic horror-film meltdowns aka The Shining. And then it goes grey and gently inscrutable like some left-over Bergman parlour-theatre.

AWAY WE GO (2008) US.

It was with the Red Carpet European premiere of Sam Mendes's Away We Go, a dramedy excursion into alt-powerhouse territory ala Little Miss Sunshine/Juno, starring US Office's John Krasinki, that Edinburgh scored its opening coup- by standards of visibilityat least. For causal viewers, AWG was and is perhaps the most appealing option of the following bunch- a light excursion into, then quick skim across, the peccadilloes of indie cinema's sight and sound . Written by Dave Eggers of 'A Staggering Work of Genius's renown, along with pretty sharp observational short story writer with fellow novelist wife Vendela Libre, Away We Go has Krasinski and SNL mainstay Maya Rudolph as Burt Farlander and long-term gf Verona de Tessant; a young-ish couple of liberal, beaten-down Volvo driving nature-inclined (as evidenced first by Krasinski's heavy beard) and very vaguely bohemian tendencies who suddenly have the prospect of a baby sprung upon them—in an opening scene which mixes Away We Go's default comedy of minutiae with a broad-sexually frank-style more akin to an Apatow movie.

Thankfully, it's not so much the scary prospect of kids which motivates the film's subsequent psychic journeys—a theme played out to diminishing effects—but where and how to raise. This knotty quandary inspires them to journey around their acquaintances, a mixture of ex-work colleagues, childhood friends and family scattered across North America in an attempt to find their perfect living space, and in the process explore the topography of landscape and these varied attachments which represent in different ways America's perception of itself and the idiolectic bonds which even this middle-class sticks-dwelling couple have rambled into and acquired like sticky branches. Away We Go is 60-40 comedy to pathos but it's first hour inclines towards the ratter-patter of satire from Peter's boomer parents to Maggie Gyllenhall's extended cameo as childhood companion turned trustafrian- professor-earthmom 'LN'. The young couple get assailed by the older Farlander' s abrupt self-discovery retirement to 'Belgium' in a scene which sets the dead-plan absurdism tone with riffs on seahorse fetishism and how black Jewish/ Afro American de Tessant's baby will be. Already long-beard Burt, who works as a sort of meta-insurance salesman has an imaginary fifty year old phone personae, whilst artist Verona all too enthusiastically sketches anatomy drawings for a living.

But that almost-kookiness' is nothing compared to the pure 'id' that is Lily- De Tessant's former colleague/boss in Tuscon—a blowsy red-head lush of an anti-mother who mocks her children's ears and imagined sexual preferences, loudly riffs on the amorphic decline of her 'tit's after pregnancy in crowded restaurants and gives Burt an impromptu car-park tonsil-lashing. Or her paranoid husband, who sees insurance as the cause and effect of America's corroding spirit, and spits apocalyptic visions about 'fountains, mammals, lizards…and people' shrivelling in the Arizona sun. AWG's rife with quirks which may --will-- lead to accusations of preciousness, but it's self-reflexive enough to set up a character embodying most of the worst hippie/hipster attributes; Gyllenhall's show-stealing LN, introduced in the middle of a faculty office with a suspiciously over-grown child swinging from her teat to piped Rasha Shaker. A sacred monster hippie-mom cum-woman's studies lecturer, she's so gloriously excessive- breast-feeding other people's children and filled with a cultic right-on orthodoxy which causes diva-like spasms at the very sight of pushchair/strollers-- that 'Elle' could almost be satire on conservative depictions of 'liberal' teaching staff. But the film's sardonic enough to give her, complete with pony-tailed goateed 'guru/healer type cougar-bait, quite enough celluloid to garrotte themselves-- with their sprawling Indian-style 'family' bed, promotion of late term pregnancy mantra-sex and attempts to de-Freud their kids with semi-public shagging—as the kind of narcissistic chancers representing the 'enlightened' in too many free-spirit pseudo- movies. After child-birth she 'deeply understands War when I see it on CNN'. Over dinner Burt and Verona get 'forgiven' for their unenlightened attitudes to child=-rearing, which all stems from the apparent existential disadvantage of having to earn a living--in an weird echo of Victorian aesthetes who saw working classes as congenitally unfit to contemplate higher-pleasure ideas.

Episodic and seemingly meandering, AWG moves deceptively quickly over pen-portraits of near-psychotics into an increasing emotional complexity--like the next stage in this Dantean oscillation between the planes of purgatory; from Madison, where De Tessant' beautiful-and subtly discontented sister first really draws Verona's attention to how fortunate her circumstances are, to of Montreal. By contrast to these earth spirit communers and dipso's 'Two and 1/2 Men'/Heavenly Creatures's Melanie Lysarsky shows she can deliver shadow as mutual ex-college friend Munch Garnett. In a seemingly ideal marriage, with a slew of adopted children who manage to do close-harmony Von Trapp sound of music numbers without making you call the filmic Nazi's on them, she still has thin shade-rings around her cheeks. In two scenes- we move from the charged=-whimsy of as maple syrup pancake coffee house analogy for love to a fully-clothed strip-club scene where to the sound of the Velvet Underground the lurking subtexts of the couple's mass adoption, comments about creating lover from 'the best you have' exist in a sad secret which ultimately shifts the balance of AWG's last act.

One in which- like the ghost of an alternative future- Paul Schneider as Burt's Miami based brother copes with his wife's late abrupt abandonment, and single parenthood. One where Vee and Bee finally confront each of the niggling anxieties which have spilled out-still leavened with a smart alecy humour which now seems more intimate than ever—deprecations in the dark, skits about pregnancy sex's merits and Verona's future breasts-- creating their own impromptu common-law ceremony of eternal fidelities.

Mendes has again altered his panoramic inclinations (American Beauty to Jarhead to Road to Perdition showed a chameleonic craftsmanship), this time to meet the rhythms of quality pop cinema hybrids, with their mix of bright hues and ed, quotation mark lo-fi tones ala Garden State. Although broad, it also has those small details--passing college dorm rooms like 'the CIA trained Bin Laden', and then the slightly off-kilter-read tasteless-arrangement of neo-hippie artifacts in LN's trust-funded mini mansion; Arizona upper-white trash dog-track circuits and gaudy national anthem ceremonies; Miami's neon-inflected seafront. Sometimes, with those visual tics of the archetypal indie inc aesthetic, like the pretty but cribbed 'aeroplane mapped across blue sky-scraper windows flowing like fish in an aquarium' shot, and the lingering cactus's it seems at best circularly arch, and at worst like an advertisement for anti-depressants. Indeed the film's haunted by the refrain “are we f*ck ups”- trailer living, low-income job slaving; conversely theirs is still the kind of relationship where they have to fabricate arguments to seem less 'lovely' ; their love is 'so unique' how can it fit into any of these paradigms of America, of comedy or dramatic tropes- how can it find a story correlative, a symbiotic landscape to express its specialness.

Of course it helps that in the background lies Verona's former family-home, ready to renovate, with waterfront at the back and rambling grounds at its side, once she completes her allegorical journey. There's the danger this puts the film's positioning of them in contrast to 'Ellen's' slummy posturing, within a slightly egregious light. But then pastiche
details-like the Juno/Donnie Darko trampoline or the fake-fruit tree, become re-loaded with a necessarily familiar significance analogous to the familiar, the cleverly comforting ; like De Tessant-coming to terms with the memory of its predecessors. Away We Go, then, isn't startling, but in a more modest sense, acute, affecting and truthful to its subject matter ; framed in the kind of alternative -cinema pictorialism vocabulary of shots and
montages that-contrived though it sounds- is audience bait. And I guess that makes it sort of special, unnervingly.


Somewhat by contrast, one of EIIF's delicious highlights from next-to- nowhere, has been the more intimidating prospect Modern Love is Automatic, a decidedly contrary piece of ennui and pvc about life, apathy, "cult film, punk rock, '80s nostalgia" and trying to discover yourself through becoming a dominatrix. Zack Clark's movie's definitely allied with the wild-side, but isn't anything so marginal--and borderline terrifying to anyone with a passing interest in independent cinema as its murky premise might suggest.

Right from its poster- a pastel-co-ordinated girl in lizard yachting-club sixties shades... and a whip-- MLIA is deliciously, drolly perverse—so overtly distant and strange it tastes of real-living's set of endless guises and hidden cravings. Like that poster girls pursed-affectless mouth and mannequin gesture, beneath the subversion, beneath mix and match stylistic co-ordination is a central character looking for a meaning in the modern when all the signs are that it's a post-modern world of sick-jokes and contextless ironies. It's bizarrely poignant.

Nurse Lorraine Schultz is a cipher. Dungeon-locked in stultifying chain malls and dim-designed apartments, surrounded by her colleague's vapid chirpings -her natural disposition is to embrace the binds, barely move her eyelashes, smooth down the creases in her bed, shirk from kisses and wear crisp Bettie Page pastel co-ordinated sky-blue outfits like a John Waters kitsch pastiche. Director/writer Clark has her daily absurdity endured and serenaded by an internal monologue of Napalm-Death sounding metal furnacery like Bosch -or Borshc drills-over a Hockney surface. Intrigued by a bondage magazine abandoned on the bus to work, decides to add some anti-colour into her life by moonlighting as a dom. She's as archly-framed- as stiflingly vulnerably stylish dead-eyed as a air-hostess in a promo, with her coquette soda-pop straw sucking like a commercial for 'the blank generation'. Through an interstial series of photo montages- dog-chains and feathered-whips we learn the niceties of a world where, as Lorraine testifies, she`ll do 'anything. No preferences'. Punctuated by crackling video confessional's like from Andy Warhol's Factory MLIA alternates between the tannoy diegetic sounds of showrooms and shopping centres, and the incessant death metal curdles punctuating moments of super-alienation. Lorraine's speech is pared down to drawling-dislocated 'Ok's', like she's wired up to another plane of existence; a cipherous ice queen or crushingly hungover. A faded Polaroid of nurse uniform iconography, or a rip-take.

Levering up and down on the electronic surgery table like a car-room advertisement she hides in bug-eyed glasses and a jet-black—with exceptions for certain themed 'jobs'- wig, behind which lie blank oval-eyes blinkering against the raze of other people's 'questions, questions'. Advertising for a room-mate in one of the full-screen framed classifieds which chapterise the film, Lorraine ends up with ebullient Adrian, resembling in fact a skinnier Talia Shire-- in some oblique absurdist joke on that movie's 'triumph over adversity' theme-- who declares that they're ''going to be the best roomies in the world', cue Lorraine's utter anhedonia .

Her room-mate's very bony awkward-cheeked need to please defines her career; self-proclaimed graduate of modelling academy 'right behind the shopping centre' with a catalogue-volumed portfolio of photo's and living poses which she foists upon bemused department store managers and ultra-low scale agencies which end up being fronts for sex film production, Ade ends up selling mattresses for a low-rent sleazoid coke-fiend strip-mall manager. A position which largely involves cavorting and making-come hithers to sexually-frustrated townsmen, competing amongst hard-bitten, sultrier co-workers. Her haunted rat of a boyfriend pursues Lorraine with flowers, blackmail- gear-stealing and eventual near-kidnap; even in the latter discomforting scene L is all still-painting eyes.

Which will not last in even the weirdest fairytale. But rather than an artificially imposed copy-cut ending, Lorraine finds 'a song to sing', a beautiful black dress-, an understated date which shades her blankness, and a mumbling, sweetly awkward New Wave rendition rather than the dungeon metal which has stalked her throughout the movie. Off-hand, she finds a new pitch of acting like new-York Steve Reich minimalism expressionism. Characters live quirkily, not as symbols for a generation, but because their high-strung emotional pitches produce dissonant notes like a 1982 Sonic Youth/Teeenage J's performance. The Slacker boyfriend, with his pork-mutton-chop ala Dave Grohl meets Dave Gorman is a concoction of bad boho-stylings, Adrian a nervous factory reject with the energy, neurosis and paint-splodged two-tone dress of a pill-popper-- the Melrose-daytime soap Doctor's surgery primped blondes with their Sirk-ean meets Waters technicolour kitsch joys and melodrama's. That poster seems a pastel coloured Lynchean take on the golden-era dolly, drawing the connections between the studied wholesome surface and a polymorphous perversity of chains. But, like Lynch's surrealism, MLIA is beyond repression theory; just as its heroine plays the part of a dom. not to cause pain, not to be a therapist, but to explore the idea of feeling for herself, or perhaps to do something contrary to indicate that, by contrast, exists. Something- loose, ghostly and chameleonic as her shrugs and near kisses.


Another distinct voice from the indie's; Lynn Shelton's Humpaday won the panel prize for best-foreign feature this year, yet comes armed with a plot which in clumsier hands could veer into-at best- a Judd Apatow comedy production mid-way through menaced by its nightmare repressed, gone horribly askew. It shares with 'I Love You Man' -and Mendes's flick, a chief protagonist at once educated and slightly klutzy about the feminine, and with the former the revival of instincts buried deep inside self and history through a freer-spirit counter-male eventually not so different from themselves. In the course of which suburbanite existence trembles rather than shatters at its foundations. Whilst in 'I Love You Man', the literal danger to heterosexuality from and proud was little more than the clammy-glad-handing of beery-squeezes on couches over the game or the hugs over the mystic conduit of a rush solo- the poladi lingo of wig-out tech-rock myths and neutral I love you man's defused by play-names, 'Humpaday's closer to knuckle and more-squirmingly- quite literally-embarrassing in premise and treatment. It's also a dissection of boho plenteousness laced with deep sympathy for the dreams of counter-culture, all from a voice that knows its milieu.

It's also a jaw-struck 'o'- embarrassment- riched comedy-like a Racine delicate satire collided with the post-frat boy humour of the detached classes with their basket-ball gooped breeding which then turns the loop on its sack-and Indian-silk quilted circus-crowd Dionysian intruders. Ben still sports a buggle-eyede cloying uncertainty as his shaggy-haired masquerade wilts in hotel lights like a cruel bedroom joke, like the multiplex film's most primal source of fear. It's a film about emasculation that's as oily-slippery as the frightful orgies which fail to materialise in the 'unfinished artists' life, whilst his friend shares a straight-faced confession any of its 'illustrious;' counterparst would rather substitute with donkey-sex or coprophilia than allow. Those first shots are reminiscent of Paul Maqzurksy or any of those Altman style seventies scenes from a marriage- as deadpan, real and border-line hysterical as-more famously- the Graduate. This is American Indie cinema of social-laughter with wincing, almost bloodily acute-tears—the minutiae of small revolutions shot at an angle mined from its salad days.

Centred around the disparity between the thirty-something upholstered proto-family home world town and an 'art porn' festival populated by post-college types still ossified in a 'world-trip' sensibility, the movie ends up blurring identity boundaries with serious intent whilst latching onto the cosmic comedy of the body and the small-ridiculousness of sexual protocols, conservative and liberated alike.

From the shrivelling of a knowing smile into shifty confused school-boy eyes like any mod-com anti-hero in the presence of the mysterious liberated feminine (…and their jollyful priapics), to the quibbling over undressal speed, caught half-mast in an unlustrious hotel-room before a cheap digital camera with your best friend, who suddenly looks less art's pioneer-provocateur , and more a misshapen folly of doughy creation in farce, unable to restrain a sheepish, terrified giggling like bat shrieks—its escalating pitched like Stravinski until you can barely bear the baring.

Still, though they may be embodiments of the 'real' as some specific aesthetic replete with all their carefully honed complications, but the main characters—the wife or the long-lost buddy-- aren't about to exceed themselves into some plastic-sick version of self disgust just for the outrageousness of a plot riff; if for activists on either side Humpaday's ending could seem like a miasmic cop-out. If for both parties it ends in a Socratic wise-confusion about themselves, we can at least be sure that art comes with an emotional price---like your fiancée sulking at sax-sex inter-genitalia based performance pieces, not matter how much wine you feed her, and that anal-sex talk over croissants is only for the intrepid, and too that 'revolution' isn't some platonic higher-state but comes from sweaty and wracked sublimations and gut instincts turned pretty-ugly as much as any Bertollucini Paris analogy or Scandinavian dissection. But with much better comic timing. Sheldon, previously known in the community for her lo-fi feminist orientated films shows here—and in her engagingly wry EIFF Q and A performances-- the makings of a small directorial stardom, a potential Jarmuch or Hal Hartley style mark in her own off-beat witty field.


But for sheer wrenching psycho-discomfortitude, nothing outside the 'Horror' category the rather more disembodied connections of 'Easier with Practice', the independent spirit Jury Prize Winner at Edinburgh, and soon to play your nearest Filmhouse/Phoenix style alt-cinema. Like 'Away We Go', concerning symbolic road journeys, and like the rest of the 'indie's a re-writing of American myths of liberation through pastiche upon pastiche, its glacial and indulgent respectively compared to its sucessors, until it turns on a cold cork-screw daggered into the amorous nethers of its desperate protagonist, and re-casts the whole previous history in a detective-estory style loaded network of entendre's and soggy ironies. Based on a true story-Easier with Practice is on one level about the ephemeralness of dreams-on another a sympathetic critique of a certain down-trodden c-grade writer myth writ as metaphor. Director Kyle Patrick Alvarez sugars the pain of its indulgences with a soundtrack of curio for alt-America music obsessive— chief protagonist part-time 'writer' Davey Mitchell's college demographic-- with the likes of Emily Easterly, Source Victoria, Deer Tick and Grizzly Bear, and those drifting sounds and acute party observations betwenbe the winces and aches of Davey's stuttering p/s improvisations and inarticularly, might be all that sustains any viewing from above the carpet's edge

The film has its basis in a GQ article on a peculiar modern-romance/tragcomedy and that-near telegraphed- sting at its heart leads into the most authentic five minutes of its run, a climatic down-beat redemption diner scene. It's unfortunate then that the set up over its preceding 85 has forced us to endure-like some conceptual exercise- frankly some of the worst (hopefully) ironic excesses of writing, from and for its author protagonist, available. It's chief character's main foible-he's a (self-publishing) novelist with crippling social aphasia-who can barely even live up to his laconic persona(akin to Ryan Gosling's manchild role from (last years Lars and the real girl) - is painful as abrupt public meltdowns, a tendency and pain only exacerbated by surrounding strained patient smiles. Very little gets 'easier with practice' for him-Superficially the kind of Ethan Hawke-blonded-identikit familiar to the mid 90's indie movie- a disassociated writer of stripped down 'democratic' prose about 'things people do to each other'- Davey endures a tour of dust-towns in New Mexico to the thin-ring of a polite applause until predilection for flat black-lace style trash fiction means another sort of ring, a random phone-love encounter fires him into dreams of hook-ups and textsex happy endings like such logic-elastic fantasy novels. 'Nicole's' voice on the end of his hotel phone from nowhere leads Mitchell into a one-way extended dream-land but before long can't help but instinctively kick against the constraints of that disembodied dulcet dulcinea tone, even choked by his inexperience. And then the first of EWP's trap-door segue secrets comes to light…

No easy resolutions, no easing of his fantasies to steady that addiction before the volte-face—a pointedly tantalising red-herring involving peanut butter sandwiches, martini, and sultry brunette Susan seem to offer his a chance to connect, before the movie curb-tails off into it's own logic. Alvarez undoubtedly has an eye for all those old tropes-almost too old-of South-West US landscapes; static-frame fire-fly motel-glows and college bars amongst prairies; shots of the framing phone sequences which-as opposed to exterior deep-pan focus-maintain an almost stifling intimacy—lenses crammed against Mitchell's pleasant face suddenly wrought by frown-lines and twitches of tremulous nervous excitement juicing and throbbing through his cortexes- the kind of star-profile juxtaposed with the low-down surrounding, the faltering seduction talk and the pulp scanty-clad red-lipped dream-visions of Nicole which-to a mixture of mutual horror and narrative relief like a religious awakening transmogrifying that teeth-crunching aimlessness, finally collapse black/white man/woman real/dream. Or perhaps it's a shallow trick striving for deep flats in the rubble of Palahniuk-robbed mid-state US neurosis left in Tusca and prairie college-villes after old battles for the 'alternative'. The risk is ours.


A notable addiction to the start of EIFF, aimed precariously, with its kaleidoscopic genre-splicing kineticism, towards the edges of future wide release, was Hong Kong cop-romance-revenge-thriller-ghost-story-tango Rule Number 1. A rule cutting balletic juxtaposition of disparate generic elements, a la the free-associating dance-quoting camera-tricksy kinetic film's of John Woo and the Pang brothers. This movie, set amongst a discernible parallel HK, also combines high whimsy with J-league horror and --in the tradition of the first day's Scandinavian dominated catalogue-- a truly mordant ending; beautifully calculated and symmetrical but the crowbar in the clockwork of what 2/3's through built up to killer franchise possibilities and a beat-skipping heart-wave underneath. A flashback throws us straight into a kinetic chase-scene through the snaking side streets whilst on a nearby bus-a burgeoning tender scene created out of glances and the retrieval of lipstick like a rose shot like a courtesan love story suddenly ripples with blood. The lesson being-as chronology skews back and forth initially, that things are never what they seem-- shortly after, a nervous motorist, confronted by overzealous traffic-cop Lee Kweon for minor infringements, and the transcorporeal contents of his trunk sets into motion a vengeance story which leaves the cop filled with bullets by the first five minutes and rips open the metaphysical assurances of the phenomenal world. Reassigned for 'dubious' reports to the 'Department of Miscellaneous Affairs'- encountering a jenga castle laying wheelchair--riding youth in an office brown as opium-fug in Siam slums or nicotine-stained walls in Philip Marlowe's office, Lee meets the woozy romantic Inspector Wong-- a cynic concealing secrets of tango waltzes with former-loves and toy bicycle riding takeaway girls, and his mission to maintain rule number one 'there are no ghosts'. Initially fooling the apprentice with spindles of lost-hair in pipes and remote signals to 'haunted' tv's—soon, with the past conspiring against both of them, Wong must enlist his partner in unravelling a series of bizarre play-suicides enacted by an ephobiliac ghost with the ability to possess and a taste for macabre theatrics.

All amongst them lie ex-wives and moon-eyed school-teacher girlfriends and noodle-deliverers, a series of scrawled numbers and alogorhythmic coincidences. The tone is as playful and brutally juxtaposed as the ghost's own methods-- waltzes with blow-up dinosaurs ; the world-weary cop wearing his cliches like St Christopher medals three-steps ahead of his 'successful' colleagues with black-humour and then missing the cruellest joke; a dive-flying troop of pig-tail tied school-girls hurtling from a skyscraper; the chamber-comedy of perennially cheeriness in May, Lee's live-in girlfriend, and a bitter-sweet false ending with its nervous laughter in the dark and frenzied dancesteps. When Lee starts stopping out all night--days bleeding into one, and when Wong re-acquires an idea and a shapely face worth living for—the intrusion of the ghost starts becoming a violation- we'd rather see those night escapes from work into fading romantic dreams soaking those dim-lit bars flush with runny colours like leaves and reminiscent of 'In the Mood for Love'. When the movie starts revivifying even the most over-done character types, sets up this network of relationships within the flashes and grand guignol and then pulls it from under you
like a malevolent conjuring trick-it's effective but you hope somehow shards could be glued together with the piece-tech employed to suture the rest of this cavalde together. To create a 'nothing is what it seems' self-contained irony RN:1 puts all the characters on the phyrre-leaves you drained as the victims of those ghost which take them from inside and abandon them. Still- for seventy minutes, it's a chilling-sharp ride-like a showpiece reel of directing various moods-keeping various dynamics in a queasy but thrilling show of sympathetic magic. And with so many Kansas-city Chinese box shuffles and unreliable narrators hanging, even the spate of deaths and cons might not be enough to ward away that looming avenger of a sequel spectre.

Don't miss the second report, where I'll be looking at three of the festival's horror standouts (including Von Trier's already infamous anti Christ, and Vinyan) along with the new Shane Meadows music-themed comedy Le Donc, 'Son of Bowie' Duncan Jones's Moon, a Near East stand-off and a quick preview of the All Tomorrow's Parties movie(released in September).