Looking good in Glasgow

GFF Diary days 1&2: Handsome Devil, femmes fatales and how to have the time of your life.

by Jennie Kermode

GFF opening gala after party at 29 Glasgow
GFF opening gala after party at 29 Glasgow Photo: Eoin Carey

This year’s Glasgow Film Festival opened on Wednesday night, with crowds gathering outside the GFT on Rose Street to watch the stars arrive on the red carpet. It was a special night for the festival, now entering its 13th year, as its central venue has undergone a lot of refurbishment over the past two years and is now looking more elegant than ever, and no effort had been spared in presenting it at its best for the opening gala screening.

Ffion O’Shea and John Butler at the Handome Devil première.
Ffion O’Shea and John Butler at the Handome Devil première. Photo: Eoin Carey

“When it came to choosing the opening film, we were looking for something that would send you out feeling better, make you laugh, make you think, make you realise that there is so much more that unites us than threatens to tear us apart,” said festival co-director Allan Hunter, “ and then we thought, blimey, we’re never going to find a film that does all of that – and then we saw Handsome Devil.”

Present to cheer on the film were star Ffion O’Shea and director John Butler, who described it as one of the best nights of their festival lives. The film showed on three screens simultaneously and went down a treat with the crowd, and though it didn’t receive universal praise everyone agreed that it was a great opener, setting an upbeat mood for the after party in nearby 29 Glasgow. Live music was provided by Jack Jones and Luke Anderson, plus there was a DJ set from David Barbarossa and some free drink to enhance the party atmosphere.

Getting with the programme outside the GFT.
Getting with the programme outside the GFT. Photo: Neil Thomas Douglas

The festival proper got going the next day with a screening of The Maltese Falcon, part of this year’s Dangerous Dames strand, which is celebrating the great femmes fatales of film noir. There was another chance to catch the opening film for those who missed it, and for those still nursing hangovers, an afternoon screening of George Romero classic Night Of The Living Dead provided the chance to sit in a darkened room watching people who probably felt much the same way. Things really picked up in the evening with the new remake of Frantz – director François Ozon recently shared his thoughts on it with us – and the latest work by Werner Herzog, Salt And Fire. The lives of Burmese migrants in Thailand were explored in the powerful but tough to watch The Road To Mandalay and for those with more exotic tastes there was a screening of early John Waters film Multiple Maniacs

Dirty Dancing at Oran Mor
Dirty Dancing at Oran Mor Photo: Ingrid Mur

Thursday evening also featured two very different documentaries: Where To, Miss?, about a young woman in Delhi who dreams of becoming a taxi driver, and Terrence Malick’s Voyage Of Time: Life’s Journey, about, well, everything really. Malick doesn’t do things by halves and here expands on the initial sequence from The Tree Of Life to tell the story of the universe and the development of life itself. Most people at the screening, knowing roughly what they were in for this time, absolutely loved it.

Love was certainly in the air at West End venue Oran Mor that evening, thanks to a special revival screening of Dirty Dancing, complete with live dance performance. Fans swooned over the stars and ate unfeasible amounts of watermelon, with some feeling brave enough to strut their stuff themselves before the show was over. It may have just missed Valentine’s Day, but there’s plenty to fall for at this festival – and much more yet to come.

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