Scenting success

GFF Diary days 6 & 7: Annie Ross, Brian Cox, the Margaret Tait Award and the smell of Robert Pattinson.

by Jennie Kermode

Tuesday at the festival opened with a chance to see Dutch charmer Time To Spare, an offbeat comedy about the unexpected forms that families can take. The Icelandic music scene was celebrated with a Backyard concert and This Must Be The Place saw a fantastically coiffured Sean Penn a a rock star on a road trip trying to connect with his dead father. One of the highlights of the day was No One But Me, a documentary about the life of jazz singer Annie Ross, who is perhaps best known to film fans as the woman who penned Britt Ekland's seductive song for The Wicker Man. Befitting a grande dame of the genre, Annie arrived in Glasgow with both style and attitude, complaining that her hotel closet was too small for all the clothes she would need during her four day stay, so festival staff had to rush to her aid with an emergency clothes rail. Still, it was generally agreed that a celebrated stage career of 77 years entitles one to certain privileges.

Another celebrated star in attendance that night was Brian Cox (the original, not the scientist), who addressed a packed audience at a BAFTA special event. It was a busy night for events, including a special screening of Sweet Smell Of Success director Alexander Mackendrick's much loved comedy The Maggie in the cargo hold of The Tall Ship. Meanwhile, Mark Millar introduced a screening of Flash Gordon. The print was old but the fans still loved it – there's nothing quite like the voice of Brian Blessed booming out of giant size cinema speakers. Mark said he's never understood why it didn't take off in other countries as it did in the UK, adding “Of course, in two years' time there won't be a UK,” a little bit of politics perhaps connected to First Minister Alex Salmond's invitation to Mark to help him work out what's needed to boost the Scottish film industry.

Tuesday night also saw the opening of curious British documentary How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire, delightful Argentinian culture-clash comedy Chinese Take-Away and thoughtful US drama St Nick, which follows two children who have run away from home and are trying to survive on their own. There was also the gala première of romantic comedy The Decoy Bride, which audience members were hesitant to give their wholehearted approval to, though there was plenty of excitement about Doctor Who star David Tennant's involvement.

Wednesday opened in swashbuckling style with Gene Kelly classic The Pirate but quickly veered off into darker territory with the smouldering, morally challenging drama Sleeping Sickness. There were a series of talks and workshops at the CCA giving industry professionals the chance to mingle and fans the chance to get involved and learn new skills.

My screening of Livid was sadly cancelled due to problems in getting the print to Glasgow on time. It was replaced by a second screening of Hammer Horror classic Dracula – Prince Of Darkness, though fans also had the option of getting their money back. Fortunately, with Frightfest coming up, there's still plenty to satisfy horror fans.

I went in later, to Cineworld, for a screening of Guy de Maupassant adaptation Bel Ami. It was introduced by co-directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod. “You can ask us any questions you want,” said Declan, “but I know what most of you really want to know is what Robert Pattinson smells like.” The audience rippled with laughter as he pinched his fingers together - “Me and Robert were that close” - before going on to praise all the actors for the enthusiasm they had put into the film. It was very warmly received, with a round of applause at the end.

Having to wait until a festival usher arrived to lift me from my seat, I was worried that I wouldn't make it to the GFT in time for Surprise Movie, but fortunately, despite a stiff wind, I was able to move fast enough. Because it was too crowded to wait safely in the lobby I asked permission to go up early in the lift and wait outside the screening that was running late in Cinema 1, so I caught the last five minutes of the right hand third of Superman through the glass panel in the door. About 100 people had turned out to see it and I chatted to them as they left. It had clearly come alive for them on the big screen, with the music especially impressive, and they were excited about the way the special effects had come across. Definitely a big screen movie which, despite the slightly rough quality of the print, really comes into its own in the cinema.

The Surprise Movie was introduced by festival director Allison Gardner, who challenged the audience to guess what it was. I guessed Delicacy, as it's her sort of thing, is in the hands of a GFF-friendly distributor and is due to come out within the right timeframe, but I was wrong. For the first year so far, though, someone managed to get it right, and it was a title that had been on my shortlist of possible films – Jeff Who Lives At Home. I couldn't help but wonder if this might have something to do with it being directed by Mark Duplass, star of festival opening gala film Your Sister's Sister, but didn't manage to catch Allison later so am yet to find out.

Jeff Who Lives At Home is a sweet little film. It is mumblecore, which some people have a low tolerance for, but as far as I could tell only two people walked out (the average for a Surprise Movie is about ten). Most people laughed along enthusiastically and seemed in a good mood at the end. It follows a hero who believes that everything is interconnected and has meaning, and who latches on to the name Kevin (perhaps taking Lynne Ramsay's advice a little too seriously) as a sign that will guide him through his day. I fell getting out of my seat at the end (the GFT ones are easier but still not ideal) and a stranger in a Clash t-shirt helped me to my feet. “Your name's not Kevin, is it?” he checked before we went our separate ways. Sometimes it's best to be sure.

Whilst I was watching the Surprise Movie, Margaret Tait award winner Anne-Marie Copestake was being celebrated downstairs with the première of her film art piece And Under That, which looks at an encounter between two women to draw out themes around authority, alienation and resistance against completion. It was accompanied by a live soundtrack from Stevie Jones and Muscles of Joy, and it marks an important point in the intersection between the festival and Glasgow's wider creative arts scene. Also on that evening were elegant financial thriller The Jewel, affectionate teen romance Goodbye First Love and intimate documentary portrait Bill Cunningham New York, rounding out two days of great cinema.

More soon.

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