GFF Review round-up I

This year for the Glasgow Film Festival 2017 I was both coordinating the press coverage for GUM and volunteering on the festival myself. However, with so many interesting films on, there were no signs of fatigue. Here’s a quick round up of films I’ve managed to see (no fully formed reviews here, just scattered thoughts).

Handsome Devil, 2016

The opening gala film, directed by John Butler and set in a rugby-obsessed boarding school in Ireland, was very sweet and light-hearted. I saw it on a busy volunteer shift and spent a big chunk of the film in the staff room stuffing myself with pizza (it had been a long day), so I must confess I’m not really qualified to review it. Anyhow, to me Handsome Devil seemed like a good opening film in that it definitely set a very fun and optimistic tone for the festival; but it was also quite mediocre in many ways, not really breaking out of the conventions of coming-of-age-in-a-school-setting stories. Even the presence of Andrew Scott as an inspirational English teacher™ couldn’t really salvage the film of just being kind of very bland. Maybe it’s just because I missed the middle of the film. Sorry about that.

Window Horses, 2016

A Canadian animation film I went to see with zero expectations, this turned out to be remarkably sweet and moving. The animation style is fluid and beautiful. The story is poignant although also rather contrived and implausible; young Canadian poet with Chinese-Iranian background is invited to a poetry festival in Iran and ends up finding the story of her lost father. A story of self-discovery with many beautiful moments.

The Lost Arcade, 2015

I get childlishly excited about the dazzling lights and scintillating 8bit melodies of arcade games, so I walked into this screening with my happy face on. Depicting a dying subculture of committed arcade gamers and their last haunt in New York City, Chinatown Fair, this is a nice snapshot of a tightly knit community. The arcade is really just used as the backdrop for the stories of the people who work and play there. Visually cool, but drags on a little. After the screening, my colleague was lost in thought about whether cinema will be a ‘dying subculture’ one day as well and we had a wee discussion about it. I think that going to the cinema is too big a part of our culture to fade away even with Netflix and home entertainment systems competing with it. For one thing, you probably wouldn’t take a date to the arcade, but cinemas are classic. Although there were a lot of couples snogging in the background of the Chinatown Fair shots. I hope I’m not wrong in my conviction about cinemas being something special.

The Age of Shadows, 2016

A brutal yet fun tale of espionage set in Japanese-occupied Korea. Some of the best train action scenes I’ve seen. Really quite violent, I flinched a lot and even felt a bit nauseous at times — the very beginning of the film involves a character getting shot in the foot and then ripping their own toe out of said injured foot, with accompanying gruesome sound effects. You have been warned: but this should come as no surprise from the director of I Saw the Devil. Overall, The Age of Shadows is a conventional but still entertaining thriller. The plot is simple but sometimes hard to follow, as things and characters get slightly muddled by an unfocused narrative, making things seem more complicated than they are. Overall, a very sleek film enjoyable to most who appreciate espionage thrillers.

Pawno, 2015

A sympathetic but messy film about a small pawn shop linking together a diverse group of people in a suburb of Melbourne. The stories mostly do get somewhere in the end, but a lot of emotional resonance is lost in the simple fact that most of them only get a couple of scenes in the film. Spectators can’t really be expected to care that much about characters they haven’t got to know. The comedic moments work much better than the ones tackling heavier subject matter.

Personal Shopper, 2016

The premise of this film sounds rather silly, but it was breathtakingly tense and atmospheric. Kristen Stewart plays a medium stranded in Paris trying to find answers after the death of her twin brother. Some very stressful ghost sexting happens. The film maintains a detached feel and never descends into the sort of tired cliches its premise may suggest. It takes on the difficult subject matter of dealing with loss and loneliness with tact and lets the viewer draw their own conclusions.

By: Kaisa Saarinen

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