Samuel Maoz' Lebanon and New York, I Love You among GFF first week highlights
Glasgow Film Festival blog
Thursday 25/Friday 26 February
Hello good people, Paul Gallagher has taken a well-earned rest from the film festival and I will be filling in for him for the next few days. I can’t promise to be as reasoned, intelligent or as enthusiastic as Paul - being the embittered old hack I am - but I will try my best. Vitriol and stupidity are, however, always my fallback options.
Glasgow Film Theatre, teatime Thursday. I’m standing looking gormless in the slipstream of the exiting flush from The Journey, Richard Jobson’s short film about sex trafficking featuring Emma Thompson. Jobson has allegedly been talking ten to the dozen (he’s good at that) with occasional interjections from up and coming actress Imogen Toner and James Anthony Pearson (star of Jobson’s previous film New Town Killers). Jobson greets me with a firm handshake, ‘How was that?’ I enquire. ‘Good, good, good crowd’ he says but I’m only half listening as I’m thinking that a man of his age really shouldn’t wear a blouson leather jacket. He's certainly a good looking man for his age but I really I must remember to introduce him to my tailor. Jobbo drifts off to do another interview. And I stand facing Toner and Pearson. Broadcaster and writer Eddie Harrison who has been helming the Q&A introduces them. Before I can stop myself I say: ‘Imogen I think I am one of the ten people who saw your last film Dark Nature.’ She raises an eyebrow and immediately loses interest in taking the conversation any further. Pearson is kinder, we share a friend in common, the mighty theatre director Gill Robertson of Catherine Wheels who gave Pearson an early break in the original production Hansel and Gretel, originally part of the Home National Theatre of Scotland scheme back in 2006. I witter away, praising Robertson with a euphoric use of adjectives. Pearson listens and nods with youthful grace and then he and the beautiful Toner are gone. It’s not a good start. God, I’m such an awkward tube.
Retreat, darkness, retreat. It’s time for a film. I’ve decided to go and see New York, I Love You, and the film has brought out every Sex and the City neophyte in Glasgow. Wannabe Carrie B’s spill into the aisles clutching their free Swarovski discount vouchers to their heaving (surgically enhanced or otherwise) breasts. Taking it’s lead from the equally pallid 2006 portmanteau film Paris Je t’aime and featuring the talents of New York-loving directors -- Mira Nair, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Yvan Attal and Fatih Akin - the film is thankfully nothing like SATC. It pleases in fits and starts and makes me reassess the career of Ethan Hawke - for about two minutes. There is nothing pleasing about the film that precedes it however. Sixteen minute short Passages by Shekhar Kapur - the Punjabi actor and filmmaker who, in an act of serving revenge cold, 50 years after the end of the British Indian Empire, chewed up British history books and regurgitated them as two risible Elizabeth films starring Cate Blanchett – is hopefully the worst film I will see at the GFF. This ridiculous, pretentious, portentous film features Lily Cole, Julia Styles and Floridian actress Haley Bennett drifting around Buenos Aires doing a bit of tango dancing, a bit of chanting and a bit of skipping in a terribly ethereal way. It made me want to do a bit of self harm.
After New York, I Love You I went to see Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz’ Golden Lion (at the Venice Film Festival) award-winning Lebanon. A raw autobiographical account of Maoz’ experiences during the 1982 Lebanon war, where he served as a tank gunner. Lean, mean and brutal, the film is a revelation, equal parts Das Boot, Sam Fuller’s Hell and High Water and Elem Klimov’s Come and See. I’m interviewing Maoz in the morning but have a drink with him anyway. I’m disappointed when he tells me he doesn’t know Fuller’s films and saw Klimov’s film a long time ago. He cites Apocalypse Now as a major influence. I get drunk quickly and tell Maoz I’m got some hardball questions for him tomorrow, he laughs, I think he has given me the green light to make a topical joke, I accuse him of being a Mossad agent, he laughs for a bit but it dies quickly on his lips. The kindly Paul Greenwood, film critic for The Evening Times, offers me a lift home. I take it before there is an international incident. Did I mention that I’m a tube?
This morning I went to interview Maoz, I realise he is probably the most laidback director I have ever spoken to. His own story is as remarkable as his film. Along with Joseph Cedar, director of Beaufort and Ari Waltz with Bashir Folman, Maoz is redefining Israeli cinema, constructing a celluloid confessional the Israeli authorities will have trouble controlling. I’m gonna stick the audio and full transcript of the interview online soon, so judge for yourselves. He is immense - he’s the reason why cinema matters.
Tomorrow is The List Surprise Movie. I hope to see you there.