There are 19 feature-length world premieres at this month’s 66th Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), which illuminates ‘the Athens of the North’ from June 20th to 1st July. And on paper the most appetite-whetting among them is Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio (June 28 & 29), the writer-director’s follow-up to his award-winning, Transylvanian-shot 2007 debut Katalin Varga.
Ever-reliable character-actor Toby Jones nabs an all-too-rare leading role as a mild-mannered Brit sound-technician who travels to Italy to work for a maestro of flamboyant horror – the latter’s remblance to Dario Argento (Suspiria) presumably far from accidental. Already screened at US festivals to considerable critical acclaim, Alex Barrett’s debut Life Just Is (June 23 & 27), is a chronicle of London twentysomethings that may do for the early 2010s what TV’s This Life did for the late nineties.
Among the other new features on view, Clarissa Campolina and Helvecio Marins’ poetic Brazilian docu-drama Girimunho (aka Swirl, June 26 & 27) was mentioned on these pages last September as a highlight of the Venice Film Festival. At the same event, William Friedkin’s larkishly violent black comedy Killer Joe (June 20 only), starring a resurgent Matthew McConaughey in the title role, ranked among the Lido’s more noteworthy main-competition contenders and now kicks off EIFF just before its UK release.
Berlin’s film-festival in February, meanwhile, saw the world premiere of Miguel Gomes’s Tabu (June 23 & 24). The latest formally-daring provocation from Portugal’s most critically-esteemed young director, this multi-layered, colonially-flavoured exploration of myth, memory and cinema should be any bookie’s ante-post favourite for the EIFF International Features Competition.
The arrival at the festival of a new Artistic Director – highly respected American academic/journalist Chris Fujiwara – sees the return of retrospectives to EIFF after a brief 2011 hiatus. Main emphasis is on Japan’s Shinji Somai (1948-2001), who continues to enjoy high rank among post-WW2 filmmakers in his homeland more than a decade after his premature death but is relatively little-known abroad.
In tandem with a shorter tribute to his rather higher-profile countryman Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo), Edinburgh showcase all 13 of Somai’s features – from A Terrible Couple (1980, June 28) to Kaza-Hana (2001, June 25) with the big draw being his teen-focussed 1985 favourite Typhoon Club (June 23).
Even more overdue for (re-)discovery on these shores is US director Gregory La Cava (1892-1952), whom no less an expert than W C Fields once called “the best comedy mind in Hollywood.” La Cava started work in the silent era – represented at EIFF by (63-minute Feel My Pulse (1928, June 27) with William Powell and Bebe Daniels, which will be shown with with live piano accompaniment.
Best known for 1936 screwball classic My Man Godfrey (June 30) - again with Powell, plus Carole Lombard – and 1933 political satire Gabriel Over the White House (June 28) La Cava was, according to critic Gary Morris, “widely recognized during his greatest decade — the 1930s — as a strong, in some ways unique filmmaker, capable of creating commercial hits that were also critical and artistic successes.
“His personality was so powerful and his working methods so unusual that by all accounts he regularly alienated everyone from the script girl to the studio head.” A comedy-oriented, Depression-era cross between Von Trier and Von Stroheim, perhaps?
5th June 2012
written for next week’s Tribune magazine