January 27, 2023

A cineaste’s dream – a septuple bill at Edinburgh film festival Part II

Read part I of A cineaste’s dream here

Somehow it had got to 6.30pm. I was five films into the seven film marathon. Outside it was cold and grey. I realised I was hungry. All I had eaten all day were cinnamon bagels. It was almost time for the next film and there wasn’t anywhere near to buy any food. Except for the cinema itself. Popcorn appeared to be the healthiest option. I bought a small bag of the stuff although the sales assistant tried to get me to buy the medium size instead for only an extra something pence. I asked how big it was and he showed me the containers. Medium was enough popcorn to feed a whole row. Small was too much for once person – unless it becomes your supper…

I walked to the screens having completely forgotten what film was coming next. It turned out to be German slacker comedy Oh Boy. I’d already seen this film earlier in the week. That was in the luxurious surroundings of the Dominion cinema, in the presence of the director and star. Would those factors have tainted my judgement? I’d enjoyed the tale of Niko’s bad day so I was looking forward to seeing it again.

The film started very quietly. Too quietly. The sound wasn’t working.

I waited for the projectionist to stop the film, tannoy an apology and start again, but nothing happened. The story continued to unfold. The trouble with arty films is that no one wants to be the person who says the sound isn’t working incase an avant garde director has decided to blank the soundtrack for the first 5 minutes.

The only thing was, I had seen the film before and I knew it had had sound the first time I watched.

There was no announcement and the film continued. The audience laughed at the subtitles. I decided it had to be me who did something. I walked out to look for a projectionist. That was always going to be a long shot and I tried an usher instead.

He didn’t seem surprised.

‘Yes, it will be stopped and started again from the beginning,’ he said in response to my query. I went back into the cinema. My reward for doing a good deed  – someone had nabbed my seat. I found another in the packed auditorium whilst the film continued silently. Then it freeze-framed and the screen went black.

With sound, from the beginning, it was as good as I had thought. Rich black and white photography of urban views, a study in youthful alienation and uncertainty. The only scene I would have cut was an over-long virtual monologue that a bearded old man gives towards the end. My new seat was right next to another fellow though and I didn’t like to eat popcorn. It is an activity that should never be encouraged at a cinema. So I didn’t.

Owing to having watched the first few minutes of Oh Boy twice there were only five minutes until the start of the day’s final film. Not long enough to go and get any food. I walked out of screen 8 and straight into screen 12 to watch Gold. By now I was very hungry. I still had my popcorn, which I tucked into as I waited for the film to start. There’s a reason why popcorn has not taken off as a popular choice for dinner. It’s a bit samey. And salty. Gold is a film written and directed by Thomas Arslan. Scripted in German and English it follows a group of pioneers heading across Canada to seek their fortunes in the gold fields of Klondike. A character study with landscapes made for the huge widescreen, although as I marvelled at the vistas I noticed that the loud-speakers on the wall next to me blocked part of the screen. I was sitting in the back left corner and I think it was probably only my seat and a few others that suffered. Seems a bit of a design flaw though. The attrition rate in Northern Canada was very high at that time, there was no changing a tyre when your horse broke down and it really was the end of the known world. Bravery and love of gold will make men do strange things.

I came out of the cinema a bit disappointed there wasn’t an eighth film to go and see. Of the seven films which do I recommend? Everyone Must Die, Oh Boy and Gold are in my top three. 36 is an interesting film. Do I recommend watching seven films in one day? Yes! Go for it. And do tell me if you ever manage to see eight.

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