EIFF 2004 Diary: Opening Night

Director is elusive at opening night film, The Motorcycle Diaries.

by Douglas Bell

EIFF opening night

EIFF opening night

The word 'festival' surely implies a multitude of goings on, but not tonight as there was but one film on offer. Leading this year's Edinburgh Film Festival was the UK premiere of The Motorcycle Diaries - Walter Salles' interpretation of the young Che Guevarra and his travels through South America. A beautiful film it may be, but questions must be asked when it was just Billy Connolly who managed to turn heads. He's not even in it.

A clamjamfry of expectant onlookers - probably not sure what to expect, strained their eyes in desperate search of something really big. Connolly effortlessly pleased the photographers and news crews with his cowboy boots and casual humour, but there was no chat from the director. His arrival in a worn out CitiCab and eager march to the popcorn stand left us all a little confused. Are these moments not set up specifically for him? I caught sight of another reporter's notes after Salles ran away from us. Don't be fooled by any word that this event was anything other than minor, for I couldn't help but notice her exaggerative language.

The carpet was cheap and barely red so any sense of glamour or excitement when Elaine C Smith turned up (wife of Rab C Nesbitt) just died a death. Hoping to provoke some drama, I asked Richard Jobson whether he could show us some Kung Fu he might have learned whilst directing Scotland's only martial arts flick. "On the day", he said, leaving us all wanting something more.

Finally we got some action when Aaron Barshak, AKA 'the comedy terrorist', turned up, attempting a publicity coup for his Fringe show. Dressed as a twenty foot papier-mâché pink giant he received a hasty helping hand from two policemen who were more than eager to tell him where to stick his show. I felt sorry for him, as I fear he may have peaked too early with his Prince William 21st birthday stunt.

In short, it proved to be a disappointingly bland opening, but there remains much to get excited about. Having had a sneak preview of things to come, I'm confident that there's more than enough to please us all. Anticipate some really special movies and make the most of it.

A word of advice for anyone planning on seeing the Belgian feature Calvaire (The Ordeal). Read the Wolf's review, as it's not something you would take your Grannie to. I sat in shock as the end credits rolled on, asking a nearby survivor whether they expected an encore: "God, I hope not!" If you liked Deliverance / The Burbs / Southern Comfort / Misery and The League of Gentlemen, then this film will not leave you wanting.

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