May 20, 2022

Edinburgh Film Festival diary – Turn up at the cinema and see whatever is on

When you go to a film festival you should always spend hours looking at the programme. Working out a schedule is part of the fun… I’d like to watch film B, but it clashes with film A. Oh, film B, is on again the next day – but I’d rather see film D then, oh look there’s also a lecture about the influence of Eisenstein on heist movies of the 1990s. But sometimes you should just turn up at the cinema and see whatever film is showing. Don’t plan what it will be like – just trust the programmers that it will be something interesting.

One morning at Edinburgh International Film Festival I took the I will see whatever is showing when I arrive approach. I went to Cineworld and the next film to start was called C.O.G.. That is one of the least informative film titles I have ever come across. The lights dimmed and I had no idea what was coming. It’s an exciting viewing technique.

It turns out that C.O.G. is based on an autobiographical essay by David Sedaris.  Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez and starring Jonathan Groff it gives us a deliberately under-explained protagonist called David who moves to Oregon to pick apples. A friend has been inspired by The Grapes of Wrath to see another side of life, but she changes her mind and motors off to San Francisco. David is left to fend for himself in a land in which he feels he does not fit in. He is seemingly more travelled and more intellectual than his workmates and his attempts at friendship are badly misinterpreted. Later he has a strange relationship with a Christian who hasn’t grasped the tenets of Christianity. We are not given any details about David before the action of the film – we meet him for the first time on the long distance bus from New York, sorry, Connecticut.

I won’t tell you what C.O.G. does stand for, but you should have an interesting ride finding out. The interactions between the characters are awkwardly realistic but as we know nothing about the protagonist it is hard to understand what he stands for, why he is escaping or why he has chosen this path.

Next up was a Japanese film called I catch a terrible cat. I’m not sure whether that is a bad translation or whether the title makes no sense in Japanese either. All I remembered from the catalogue was that it was a romantic comedy. I beg to differ. The last few moments are relatively amusing, but that is relative to the two previous hours, which aren’t. We witness the ups and downs – or rather downs and further-downs of relationships between a group of Japanese twenty-somethings. Also thrown into the mix is a sixty year old novelist who has been unable to write since his wife died. There is much confusion over who loves whom – generally not comedic confusion, but serious I think we should get divorced type confusion. Very long takes with an unmoving camera show the different couples discussing their problems. The scenes take place in mundane settings, a cooker might be the background for five minutes whilst characters discuss who they invited to the zoo and whether they are keen to get married. At more than two hours long it isn’t worth the time investment, which is a shame as there’s nothing quite like claiming your favourite film is a Japanese comedy when arguing at the pub.

I already had a ticket for the last film I was planning to watch today. I handed it to the usher, who handed it back to me without ripping it.

‘That’s for six o’clock,’ she said.

‘What time is it now?’ I asked.

‘Four o’clock.’

‘Oh.’

I’m losing track of time. Still, two hours is long enough to watch another film…

‘Not another happy ending is about to start,’ she told me, so I watched that instead.

Not another happy ending is a Scottish rom-com with a French leading man. It is structured as every other rom-com in the world (except for a Japanese film called I catch a terrible cat. You may have heard of it.) I had only watched writer Jane and publisher Tom for a few minutes when I was thinking if these two don’t fall out over something silly and then get back together in about eighty minutes I will be amazed. Lo and behold they fell out, and from there the plot progressed as you might imagine.

Finally I watched Traffic Department, an unpleasant Polish thriller, or more accurately a thriller about an unpleasant subject. The plot concerns corrupt policemen in Poland and is complicated, violent and misogynistic. The film is cut as though having an image on the screen for more than three seconds has been banned. All the images are handheld, with extra wobble and distortion thrown in to give the idea some is filmed on mobile phones. The screen was a kaleidoscope of colours with so many things happening all over it that I regretted sitting on the front row. A film that appears to be an expose, but where the camera seems to enjoy the delinquent behaviour rather too much.

 

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