Streaming spotlight – the best of Glasgow past

A selection of highlights from previous Glasgow Film Festivals

by Jennie Kermode and Andrew Robertson

In the middle of this year’s Glasgow Film Festival, we’re taking a look back at some of the best films which have screened there is the past, all available to stream in the UK. Together they illustrate that even though its started small, this festival has consistently punched well above its weight. We haven’t just chosen the biggest names, however, but also a few gems which might have passed you by.

The Lives Of Others
The Lives Of Others

The Lives Of Others - Sky

In a retrospective of GFF favourites this is doubly nostalgic. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's feature debut, it remains a stunning depiction of the mechanisms of East German's autocratic regime. Ulrich Mühe's performance as a weary apparatchik of bureaucratic oppression carries a film that flourishes from detail. Donnersmarck's keen eye would be wasted in odd Depp/Jolie vehicle The Tourist but in Work Without Author the groundwork laid by this established him as an auteur of the first order. In a couple of years we'll be further from this film than it was from the reunification of Germany, but that will make it no less powerful a document.

The Mule
The Mule

The Smuggler - Amazon, Apple TV, YouTube

If ever you needed a film to persuade you to steer clear of drug traffickers, this is it – Ozploitation style. Ray (Angus Sampson) is a little naive about these things, to the point where he lets his so-called best friend take him to Thailand and persuade him to smuggle a kilo of heroin pellets inside his gut. He does know one thing, though, and that’s that being caught with them would be very, very bad. He also learns, after being apprehended on the way back into Australia, that they can only hold him on suspicion for seven days. So begins a battle of wills, as Ray’s captors try every (legal) trick in the book to get him to expel his incriminating load, and he does everything in his power to hold onto it. The scatological humour flows thickly but this is a film which is smarter than it first seems.

Inland Empire
Inland Empire

Inland Empire - Amazon, Google Play, YouTube

One of my colleagues here at Eye For Film described this as Lynch's "least accessible film[s] to date" and was not wrong. It's brilliant, sprawling, recursive. Divisive critical response (see our reviews!) just serves to confirm it as a treasure for cineastes. Glasgow Film Festival showed it first, to an audience who appreciate that events roots in Glasgow's Theatre of Film. I could say more about it, but it's three hours or so of David Lynch putting the behind the camera in front of it. Imperious in its ambition, the mystery is less what is happening but why, if it appeals, you haven't gone to see it.

The Raid
The Raid

The Raid - Sky Go, Shudder, Virgin TV Go

When you have unusual talent at your disposal and the dedication to go all the way, sometimes a simple premise is all you need to make a big impression. A film which spawned countless imitations, Gareth Evans’ martial arts classic sees a squad of police trying to fight their way through an apartment block to take out the gangland kingpin who lives at the very top. With most of their number quickly slaughtered as a prize is promised to any resident of the building who can kill them, the situation looks hopeless, but for Rama (Iko Uwais), a rookie cop who moves like an unstoppable action machine. Constantly inventive and full of heart-stopping stunts, it’s a thriller which will barely leave you time to breathe.

This Is England
This Is England

This Is England - Amazon, Google Play, YouTube

Shane Meadows had directed several features before, but with This Is England achieved a stunning chemistry. A brilliant cast, including a début from the incredible Thomas Turgoose, made this something truly special. With near perfect period detail, its nostalgic value isn't just from its evocation of Eighties Britain but catching a cavalcade of talents early in their careers. A festival screening planned at Glasgow had to be abandoned when the film go an 18 rating, putting it out of reach for its intended school-age audience. The language isn't mild, nor the other elements, but it's a realism that no level of bowdlerisation would preserve. Given how much has come after it, audiences who caught it at festival were properly rewarded by the knowledge that they saw it here first.

The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales
The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales

The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales - Apple TV, Virgin TV Go

This animated charmer is presented as a visit to the theatre, with a stage upon which a troupe of animals plays out three stories. Focused on the farmyard, they’re gentle tales but full of humour, with cheeky characters who will appeal to viewers of all ages. Although there is a scary character in the form of the Big Bad Wolf, there are not too many scary scenes: risk is presented in a way that even very young children will feel able to process, and when the fox, not quite as big and bad as he tries to pretend, has to find his courage, they’ll be inspired to find their own. A big treat for small viewers, this French film is subtitled but not dialogue-heavy, so a parent can translate easily enough for those who are not yet reading.

The Place Beyond The Pines
The Place Beyond The Pines

The Place Beyond The Pines - Virgin TV Go, Apple TV, StudioCanal

A chronologically complex portrait of masculinity, duty, justice, The Place Beyond The Pines can now be read as a bridging work between two other tragedies differently featuring its stars. In Drive Ryan Gosling also sought the proceeds of crime at speed, albeit on four wheels and not two. In Nightmare Alley Bradley Cooper also fell victim to ambition and avarice, the different shelter of flawed mentors. In an extended cast including Eva Mendes, Mahershala Ali, and Ray Liotta, there are strong performances throughout. It also features early roles for Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen who unwittingly carry a burdensome inheritance. Writer Darius Marder's next film was Sound Of Metal, this was his first screenplay. Co-writer Ben Coccio has only penned episodes of an Adult Swim series since, and Derek Cianfrance who also directed has done a bit of TV and The Light Between Oceans, but is apparently attached to another version of Wolfman for Blumhouse. What's happened since matters less than what's on the screen, and it's still compelling.

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