Category Archives: Features

The 10 best films from the 2018 Locarno Film Festival

As an indication of its ever-growing stature on the international film festival circuit, the current artistic director of Switzerland’s Locarno Festival for many years, Carlo Chatrian, has been snapped up to help programme the bigger Berlin Film Festival from 2020. As such, the 71st edition of Locarno seemed to have a bittersweet quality for the talkative festival veterans, as things might be very different next year. Even so, 2018 lived up to expectations of the event as an exciting space for new arthouse fare and as a celebration of older cinema that takes more offbeat choices in terms of paying tribute. We were particularly touched by the inspired choice to give the honorary Vision Award to title sequence designer Kyle Cooper (Se7en, among many credits), and not just because it gave programmers an excuse to screen Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film from a 35mm print.

Our personal highlight was the wealth of delights in the festival’s extensive retrospective of American filmmaker Leo McCarey, particularly a screening of The Awful Truth (1937) that had a packed audience in hysterics. That said, the new films on offer were hardly lacking in quality. In an unranked order, here are nine premiering feature highlights, plus one short. We should mention we were sadly unable to catch Mariano Llinás’ 14-hour La Flor, perhaps the most publicised title in competition this year…

Full feature for Little White Lies

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Locarno 2018. Interfaces and Headspaces

The so-called ‘desktop movie,’ a film visually told predominantly or entirely through the setup of a computer screen, has had a couple of high-profile examples over the last few years. Among these are Nacho Vigalondo’s Open Windows (2014), Patrick Cederberg and Walter Woodman’s short Noah (2013), and, most notably in terms of mainstream success, Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended (2014). 2018 would seem to be a major year for the genre, if you can call it a genre just yet, with the wide release of sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, Timur Bekmambetov’s Profile playing festivals, and now the release, through Sony, of Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching. It is worth noting that Bekmambetov also produced the two of those 2018 titles he didn’t direct, so there’s at least one benefactor devoted to making the form catch on. With the exception of something like Kevin B. Lee’s essay film Transformers: The Premake(2014), the desktop movies that have gained critical or commercial traction have tended to stick to the mode of horror. Given that the Internet’s terrors seem endless, it’s an understandable creative instinct. Searching stands out, though, as it’s firmly in the mode of an investigative thriller: after his 16-year-old daughter disappears, a desperate father (John Cho) breaks into her laptop to find any clues he can in order to find her. At this year’s Locarno Festival, Searching played late at night to up to 8,000 attendees in the open-air cinema at the Piazza Grande. In the context of the festival as a whole, an interesting comparison to the film came in the form of an entry in the festival’s Signs of Life strand, devoted to experimental cinema…

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A Touch of Sin, A Touch of Class

Alongside directing some of the most vital Chinese films of recent memory (including A Touch of SinThe WorldPlatformStill Life and many more), Jia Zhang-ke is also a teacher at a Shanghai film school. As such, the director was happy to take some time out of his schedule as the President of this year’s Concorso internazionale Jury to speak to this year’s Filmmakers Academy class at Locarno, alongside members of the Critics and Industry Academies…

Full feature for Locarno Daily

Local Heroes: new Scottish features at Edinburgh 2018

Before launching its full programme, the 72nd Edinburgh International Film Festival announced the films in the lineup with notable Scottish connections. It’s standard practice for this festival, presumably tied to obligations to sponsors such as Creative Scotland, to give the slate of local productions a profile-boost before breaking out the international big guns.

Of late, this tease has proved more foreboding than enticing. With a few exceptions (such as Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio), the quality of British features receiving their world premiere at the festival in recent years has been especially patchy, and a number of the particularly dire ones have, in my experience, been those with a local connection. Romantic comedy Scottish Mussel (2015) may still be the worst feature I’ve seen at any film festival.

This year’s Scots-focused preview looked more promising, however, both for the world premieres as well as titles accruing buzz from festivals abroad. Despite the odd dud, the quality, variety and, in some cases, ambition of the features under the broad banner of Scottish filmmaking proved reflective of the state of this year’s programme as a whole…

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Now’s the time to get on the John Cho train

It’s unusual enough that a decent portion of the American Pie cast of ‘teenagers’ can still be found in high-profile fare nearly 20 years on from the film’s release – Natasha Lyonne and Jason Biggs have had career renaissances via Orange Is the New Black, while Seann William Scott has, at the time of writing, just been cast as the new co-lead of the Lethal Weapon TV series. But what’s been most interesting in the last few years, now that Scott’s big screen leading man days are largely over, is how John Cho has become the biggest name from the cast, and he wasn’t even part of the main group of horny fuckwits. Billed 24th back in the 1999 film’s credits as ‘MILF Guy #2’, his subsequent success with the Harold & Kumar series and JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot saw him get bumped up to ninth-billed for his appearance in 2012’s American Pie: Reunion. He was still credited as ‘MILF Guy #2’, though, and that may be the lone funny gag in that belated sequel…

Full feature for The Skinny

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2018: 10 to see

Now in its 72nd instalment, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is the world’s longest continuously-running film festival. This year’s edition opens with the UK premiere of Marc Turtletaub’s jigsaw drama Puzzle, starring Kelly Macdonald and Irrfan Khan. The festival later closes with the UK premiere of Swimming with Men, a British comedy from director Oliver Parker, starring Rob Brydon, Jim Carter, Daniel Mays and Adeel Akhtar.

Beyond the galas, there are many premieres, discoveries and retrospectives of note. Here are 10 highlights from the big programme, with the festival running from 20 June to 1 July…

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A new cult film festival is spotlighting forgotten cinematic gems

Cult film screenings at independent cinemas are fairly common, be it in the form of late night presentations of infamous gorefests or regular showings of established anti-classics like The Room with encouraged audience participation. Less common, and a far more enticing prospect, is a festival devoted to showcasing a diverse range of film that have slipped through the cracks of movie history – no pretending commercially successful John Hughes fare counts as ‘cult’ here…

Full feature for Little White Lies