Visions of the future

GFF Diary days 7 & 8: road warriors, spherical screens and surprises.

by Jennie Kermode

Road warriors assemble
Road warriors assemble Photo: Max Crawford

Despite this year’s Glasgow Film Festival having a strong Australian strand and a focus on a Swedish actress, if there’s one country whose contributions come across as exceptionally strong, it’s China. Tuesday at the festival provided a chance to see two of the best, the disturbing exploration of national guilt that is Red Amnesia and the more subtly political missing child drama Dearest, which is based on a true story. Neighbouring Taiwan, meanwhile, provided Exit, the poignant but consciously troubling story of one woman’s journey into middle age.

Kardja Toure and Assa Sylla at the première of Girlhood
Kardja Toure and Assa Sylla at the première of Girlhood Photo: Eoin Carey

Also showing in the afternoon was an Australian documentary which turned the tables by finding positives in places where most people find despair. Tender is the story of a small Port Kembla community where people are trying to set up their own low cost, eco-friendly funeral service, and it has the added attraction of original music by Nick Cave, who has written a lot more film soundtracks than most people realise. It was followed an hour later by US documentary Stray Dog, the story of a biker with a similar spirit whom some audience members may have recognised from his brief but memorable turn in Winter’s Bone.

Things gathered pace in the early evening with Elle L’adore, in which a famous singer enlists a fan to help him cover up a crime, and mischievous comedy Land Ho! entertained viewers with its tale of two elderly men setting off in search of adventure in Iceland – we spoke to its stars about their experiences making it. At the other end of the age spectrum, Girlhood saw an all-female gang providing a fresh identity for a lonely teenager – we spoke to its director, Céline Schiamma. Life In A Fishbowl also drew a strong evening crowd with its complex tale of Icelanders facing moral dilemmas on the brink of the financial crash.

Whilst all this was going on, civilisation was ending at the IMAX, where latter day warriors clad in scraps of leather, metal and, well, cardboard, were assembling for a special screening of Mad Max 2. With excitement running high about the forthcoming Fury Road, the event was packed, and there was plenty to provide entertainment besides the film itself. The chance to try on bits of costume and play around with weapons was eagerly seized upon and one fan was relieved when he discovered that the spiked mace his girlfriend had accidentally swung at his face was in fact made of foam rubber. After the Apocalypse you have to take what you can get.

On the ball at Sunken Ripples
On the ball at Sunken Ripples Photo: Max Crawford

Wednesday morning opened with another of those compelling Bergman and Hitchcock collaborations, Notorious, also starring Cary Grant, who was honoured with a retrospective at the festival in 2010. It would go on to focus very much on the future (and a brighter one than the previous night’s) as new technologies were explored in Sunken Ripples at the IMAX. Attendees took turns to use a spherical screen activated by touch which was in turn connected to the big screen and produced swarms of jellyfish-like creatures in response to their movements. Later, Reading In The Dark introduced an experiment in crossing the boundaries between text and film, with a live performance by Suzanne van der Lingen.

The darker side of technology was explored at the CCA in 10,000 Km, where attempts to use it to keep a long distance relationship alive fall short of the characters’ hopes. Still more grim but very much appreciated for its black humour was Radiator, which tells of the last weeks of a family dominated by a tyrannical, now ailing man. For those who preferred something lighter and more optimistic, there was the thoughtful comedy romance X + Y, which sees a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome finding his own direction in life through a passion for maths.

Gemma Jones, Richard Johnson and director Tom Browne discuss Radiator
Gemma Jones, Richard Johnson and director Tom Browne discuss Radiator Photo: Eoin Carey

One of the festival events that creates the most excitement, every year, is the surprise film. This year’s was full to bursting, perhaps thanks in part to a ridiculous rumour that it might be the new instalment of the Star Wars series (which isn’t even finished yet). In the end, as usual, not everybody stayed. The film, it emerged, was Marjane Satrapi’s The Voices, an unconventional comedy about murder and, um, talking pets. It has already drawn criticism elsewhere for its glib treatment of schizophrenia but the director has defended it by saying “This is a story, not a documentary.” We’ll let viewers judge for themselves, though it doesn’t yet have a UK release date. If you’re hoping to catch some of the other films you’ve read about in this diary, you might have more luck, as several will be going on general release within the next few weeks, so watch our front page for news. We’ll have another festival update here for you soon.

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