Final Day: A Brief Blog on films seen at Glasgow Film Festival 2014

My brain is now fried. It was the last day of the film festival yesterday and though I’m gutted that it’s over, I am looking forward to relearning how to use my legs. Oh and books. And music. Remind me?

The final triple bill marathon began with The Tale of Iya. I hadn’t read (or remembered) the brochure carefully enough and had thought that Iya was a person, but it was a place. A beautiful, mostly wild place, of forest and crofts (what are they called in Japanese, I wonder?) with little settlements in the mountains. At every screening where Allan Hunter (Co-Director of Glasgow Film Festival) introduced a film he plugged this one, which led to an upgrade into Cinema 1 at the GFT. Initially I was unsure if I was going to be able to watch it as the 35mm print flickered almost continuously, particularly when the shots were of snow, mist and light colours, but I got used to it. The film was a whopping 169 minutes long, a definite trait in Japanese cinema, but what a beautiful eulogy to the harmony of modern humans and nature. The tale centres round Haruna and her adoptive grandfather who finds her as an infant survivor of a car accident in the mountains. Painterly at times, the cinematography is consistently graceful, using the quality of the light and bucolic imagery to the utmost. I found it overlong, but it’s very much worth seeing, for the artistry, and the sense of hope for the future that it engenders so well.

Benny and Jolene was a bright and breezy Welsh comedy, with a couple of familiar faces (Craig Roberts from Submarine), some great comic turns, and a good few belly laughs. Benny and Jolene are a young folk duo, recently picked up by a record company, who go on the road for the first time, leading to some proper laugh out loud moments. Awkward and deliberately cringeworthy at times, it’s not the kind of film I often go to see, but it did make me laugh out loud, which was very enjoyable indeed, this Film Festival.

I managed to win a couple of tickets to The Closing Gala – Under the Skin, which properly delighted me as I’d been gutted not to get any gala tickets at all at the time of booking. There was a party atmosphere at the Gala, but I never found out why there were people in Kilts and ballgowns (Oscars party?) in Cinema 1. Under The Skin is adapted from the book of the same name by Michel Faber, and although I’ve not read the book I am now looking forward to doing so. I’d heard about Scarlett Johansson’s drives about town in a black wig but hadn’t found out any more about the film until it started being screened at film festivals in the past few months. I love when there’s no explanation of why or what is going on in a film, if there’s enough visual information for you to make up your own mind, and this was a brilliant example of this. Scarlett Johansson plays Laura, an alien who may be feeding on men as she drives around Scotland. The naturalistic interactions in the film were a result of covertly filming people interacting with Johansson as she stopped to ask them for directions, then started to chat them up. Permission to use the footage was then requested and either granted or denied, leading to the images and interactions we see in the film. The director, Jonathan Glazer, made a point at the Q&A of stating that this was not improvisation or “acting”, he was filming “behaviour” as Johansson and her prey first met. From beginning to end it’s startling stuff, deliberately weird, and like nothing I have ever seen before. The sound design and music (lots of scratchy insect like strings) is incredible, the performances so fresh, and Johansson inhabits the role with total confidence. Outstanding stuff, but not for those who like to know exactly what’s going on.

21 films seen, a paragraph about each. I am going to miss you, Film Festival, but it’s been a blast. What a cracking 10th Anniversary!

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