It seems the locals have finally discovered the festival, as they’re now coming out to screenings in full force. I’m grateful to have been able to secure my tickets beforehand, but if I return next year I think I’m only going to shell out for the films I really, =really= want to see, as I find myself becoming less tolerant of mediocre product.
Case in point, my first film of the day. ‘Festival’ is a quirky, ensemble piece about the goings on behind the scenes at the legendary Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Strike One: The movie wants us to know that entertainers, comedians in particular, are a selfish, miserable lot… I could have told you that for free!
Strike Two: “Quirky” in this case translates into unlikable. It’s hard to relate to any one character in a story where they’re all either bitching and moaning, acting like pricks or just plain dumb.
Strike Three: The one person we end up rooting for, a superstar comedian’s beaten-down assistant, has a chance to change her life for the better when she walks out on her employer and meets an attractive, normal guy in a pub. But instead of accepting his offer of a dinner date, she lowers her head and says she has to get back to work. The moment she gave up on happiness, I gave up on the film.
I had barely enough time to pee before the start of the next screening in the same venue, ‘Shanghai Dreams’. An announcement was made before the lights went down that the film was two hours long, and two hours later when the lights came back up that’s all the crowd seemed to be talking about. Their loss—‘Shanghai Dreams’ was everything that ‘Festival’ was not, a compelling story with complex characters that you could hate yet understand at the same time.
‘Shanghai Dreams’ answers the question “What if Romeo raped Juliet?”, which should give you a clue that it wasn’t exactly a comedy. The many long takes in the film added to the bleak picture of life for a relocated community of factory workers and their families in the interior of China in the 1980s. But those same long takes were exactly what people were complaining about as they shuffled out onto the street afterwards.
Maybe they were just miffed that they couldn’t get tickets to the sold-out audience with local resident Michael Douglas on the other side of town…
Film quote of the day:
“Is this a play?”
…. Asked by a passer-by after witnessing a huge argument between a comedy star and his agent in ‘Festival’.
Most disturbing image of the festival so far:
A Chinese teenager in bell bottoms and polyester shirt (with epaulets) doing his best Saturday Night Fever routine at an underground dance party in ‘Shanghai Dreams’.