Going bananas

GFF Diary days 10 & 11: Bertrand Tavernier, Aki Kaurismäki, Frightfest and the Gene Kelly Ceilidh.

by Jennie Kermode

By the time Saturday rolled around again at the the Glasgow Film Festival, staff and regulars were starting to tire, but there was still lots going on, with audiences flooding in to see melancholy murder mystery Once Upon A Time In Anatolia and thoughtful erotic tale 3, while Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest provided both entertainment and insight for documentary fans. Unfourtunately Mesnak was under-attended, though everyone there loved it. I can see how the idea of a modern Quebecois version of Hamlet, partly in the Innu language, could be off-putting, but this is one of the best films of the festival and really worth seeking out. I didn't expect much of it and I was really impressed.

Running alongside all this was the second day of Frightfest, with our correspondents Donald Munro and David Graham in attendance. Neither of them thought much of opener Evidence, yet another entry in a found-footage genre which is really struggling to find fresh ideas, but Donald enjoyed Giallo-esque Argentinian offering Penumbra, a cautionary tale for presumptuous travellers with little respect for the locals. He also liked Rites Of Spring, in which an audacious kidnap plot collides with a ritual of human sacrifice, but felt the chase at the end went on way too long. Wang's Arrival was welcomed by both our correspondents, though they agreed that its English title really needs to be changed to prevent audience giggling. Directors the Manetti brothers took questions afterwards.

The Devil Inside, which goes on general release in just a few weeks' time, was pulled from the Frightfest line-up at the last minute, perhaps because its distributors felt they couldn't afford any more bad reviews. It's been getting torn apart by every critic who's seen it, so the audience reaction was one of relief. Up instead was Casadaga, the story of a brutal serial killer who is hunted using supernatural methods, which Donald described as “like 15 minutes of Taggart from 1980, but stretched.” Then there was the closing film, The Raid, which everybody loved – there has been very little in recent action cinema tha comes close to this tale of a young policeman who must rely on his martial arts skills to stay alive after an attack on a drug lod's apartment complex goes horribly wrong. Director Gareth Evans was there to discuss it afterwards, alongside Iko Uwais, who looks set to become a massive star. Having only limited English, he said simply “Don't try this at home.”

Also on that evening was the finale of the festival's Gene Kelly retrospective, with a screening of Brigadoon followed by the charmingly named Gene Kelly Ceilidh, a chance for locals and visiting stars alike to enjoy traditional Scottish dancing.

The final day of the festival began with much-loved musical Hello Dolly!, a nice follow-up to documentary Carol Channing: Larger Than Life, which screened earlier in the festival and looked at the star who made it a success on the stage. Vincent Wants to Sea followed along well from the earlier Simple Simon and Oxygen in presenting people with complex disability issues living life on their own terms, whilst little-seen science fiction masterpiece Death Watch explored what happens when life runs out, with Harvey Keitel in a breakthrough performance as a man with a camera implanted in his head to let him follow a dying woman's last days for TV. Director Bertrand Tavernier attended to talk about his work and his love of Glasgow (where most of the film was shot) before being spirited off for dinner in The Ubiquitous Chip, his “favourite restaurant in the whole world.”

Another retrospective treat that day was Big Banana Feet, a recently restored documentary following Billy Connolly on a tour of Northern Ireland at the peak of his career, combining plenty of laughs with a haunting reminder of some of the uglier episodes in recent history. There was also a screening of the 1925 Phantom Of The Opera, with Lon Chaney unforgettable as the tormented villain.

The festival closed with the UK premiere of Aki Kaurismäki's Le Havre, the story of an elderly man whose life changes when he befriends a young immigrant. It was followed by a French-themed staff party with a disco, karaoke, and a great performance from Les Bof, playing Sixties pop tunes with all the lyrics translated into French. A harbinger, perhaps, of what was to happen later that night at the Oscars, but you can ead about that elsewhere on this site. This column will return next year. The festival having comfortably beaten its ticket sakes target, 2013 should really be something to look forward to.

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