Edinburgh International Film Festival 2007

Steve Cook/EIFF

Film festivals should reflect their host cities, but for the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF) that can be a challenge. Edinburgh in August is sweet mayhem, the arrival of the world’s largest arts festival and its multiple anarchic offshoots filling the streets with actors, dancers, artists, clowns and nutters of every stripe. While you sit in the bar of the wonderful Cameo cinema and contemplate the wine list, pansexual go-go dancers chase each other down the street with their pants on fire.

The film festival, while a prestigious part of Edinburgh’s genial month of misrule, has a job on its hands maintaining a high profile with so much other wackiness going on. Although artistic director Hannah McGill isn’t saying as much, the announcement that from next year the festival is moving to June must be partly motivated by the wish to be in clearer waters. She’ll also welcome the chance to move away from other autumn film festivals: the Edinburgh program felt weak on big-ticket exclusives, while the program for the Venice festival which starts within days must have made McGill wince.

But the EIFF still had good stuff to offer. My visit was a flying one and the Hallam Foe bandwagon had rolled on by the time I arrived, but I still caught the world premieres of Saxon, a Lynchian take on the state of the nation that may not transplant abroad, and the perplexing Waz, a mid-Atlantic serial-killer flick aiming for Se7en and scoring about three and a half. There was also a healthy selection of European debuts and an early chance for UK audiences to grumble about Stardust. Samantha Morton battled through ridiculous technical snafus to discuss a career so wildly eclectic as to seem right at home in the Edinburgh maelstrom. At the other end of the spectrum, a full program of shorts, first features and experiments from young Scottish film makers meant a constant flow of proud family and friends through the festival HQ in the famous Filmhouse.

That kind of feeling will transplant into the summer of 2008 without a hitch, but it’ll be a shame to lose the unique context of the city in August. Wandering around the foot of Edinburgh’s extinct volcano on the way to seeing a young woman’s vagina biting off her half-brother’s penis in Teeth will always make for a memorable evening out, but the walk will be less exciting with no blazing burlesque performers to extinguish on the way.

© 2007 Tim Hayes. All rights reserved.

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