September at Filmhouse
Wed 29 Aug 2012
As I write this, the city is in the grip of our annual Arts Festival. Thankfully, perhaps, my daily trip to and from work keeps me south and west of the centre of town, so I’m spared the bus journeys that take three times as long as usual and which most of my colleagues seem to suffer (well that’s what they say when they’re late...), the Oxbridge Jugglers, the impromptu pavement performances advertising shows wild horses couldn’t drag me to, and the enforced leaflet collecting... that’s how I remember the centre of town at this time of year at any rate. Maybe it’s changed since the ‘80s... I’ve ventured into town once so far to take in the show of a popular comedy performer but it left me decidedly underwhelmed, as often seems to be the case for me with live ‘theatre’. Cinema’s my thing. Don’t get me wrong, I personally love it that I live in the city where all this happens, really I do; professionally, however, there’s no denying we find our cinemas that bit quieter than normal, and from that POV alone, I’ll be glad when it’s all over!
One of the many joys (and subsequently, occasionally, frustrations) of this job is seeing great cinema and bringing it to the Edinburgh audience (the joy) only to have fewer people come to see it than we’d hoped (the frustration). I often (metaphorically) beat myself up when we appear to have failed to communicate just how good any one particular film is, and though we are generally positive about all the new films we show, there are, of course, some films we are prouder to put in front of you than others – and those I will talk about here. We’ve no less than three such films on in September: Miguel Gomes’ quite brilliant Tabu is, so far, my film of the year. Any synopsis would run the risk of making this film sound like a White Mischief-style colonials-behaving-badly-in-Africa type affair, but it’s so much more than that: poetic, romantic, gripping, beautiful, pure cinema; a city doctor is banished to a country hospital in ‘80s East Germany in Christian Petzold’s incisive and intelligent Barbara, a sort of lower-key The Lives of Others; and then there’s Leos Carax’s Cannes Jury-splitter Holy Motors (admittedly a fine example of what the film industry refers to, rather unimaginatively, as a ‘Marmite’ movie) – not for everyone, to be sure, but certainly for me, and undeniably unhinged, beautiful and absurd. And if all this sounds a bit short on laughs, check out Untouchable, the French smash-hit comedy that has finally made it to the UK; or Woody Allen’s latest European foray, To Rome with Love, for that matter!
Our Hitchcock retrospective continues apace with the digital restoration of Vertigo (recently voted the best film ever made in Sight and Sound’s ten-yearly poll of critics) perhaps being this month’s highlight, and our annual, inspirational celebration of people and movies that are changing the world, the Take One Action Film Festival, returns, with a really strong line-up of films, in its 5th edition.
The cinema is definitely where it’s at in September.
Rod White, Head of Filmhouse