GFF 2012: 85A, Wrinkles and Death Watch
Some darker but inspiring fare concludes this year’s Glasgow Film Festival
Czech animator Jan Svankmajer has made some strange films and nowhere is his wild imagination and unbridled creativity seen more vividly than in his many short films (26 in total!). In these works Svankmajer’s dark surrealism takes the form of biscuits cut from flesh, Punch and Judy puppets nailed into coffins, slabs of meat that come to life and the dissection of clay heads (to name but a few). For this year’s Glasgow Film Festival art collective 85A attempted to harness the great filmmaker’s unique view on the world and create a one-of-a-kind film experience in the echoey confines of warehouse-turned-art space The Glue Factory. The event included the screening of many of the director’s short films in increasingly imaginative ways: Meat Love, a one minute film about animated steaks, was presented by a waiter on a silver platter to two audience members at a time and Svankmajer’s filmic version of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Pit and the Pendulum, The Pendulum, the Pit and Hope, could only be seen after being chained up by a figure dressed as the Grim Reaper and lead to the edge of a dark pit where, on peering over a railing, the film could be seen projected at the bottom.
Also in the sphere of subdued animation, although of a rather different style, was sensitive Spanish feature Wrinkles. There were some rumours, following it’s premiere at San Sebastian Film Festival last year, that this was a gem worth seeking out, and on this occasion the rumours were true. The film begins with Emilio as he arrives at a residential home, his family no longer able to look after him. His roommate, the friendly fraudster Miguel shows him around, introduces him to the other residents and fills him in on what life is to be like in the care home. It’s a quietly sad film made all the more touching by the fact that the simple story is one that is playing out across the world on a daily basis. Wrinkles isn’t a film that is shouting or lecturing about the way we treat our elderly, it does however subtly probe what it must be like to spend your final days in an anonymous institution.
While the festival closed with Aki Kaurismäki’s heart-warming film Le Havre, about a young illegal immigrant trying to make his way across the Channel, there was an equal amount of interest and intrigue surrounding another screening earlier in the day – veteran French director Bertrand Tavernier’s Death Watch. Made in 1979 the film was never released in the UK and for years could only be watched on the odd rare, dusty VHS. Most remarkably of all though, the film was shot in Glasgow – one of the few to be filmed in the city at that time (Tavernier was in fact advised against shooting in the city for fear he’d be robbed, or worse). Tavernier was inspired by the city’s mix of historic architecture and urban decay and used numerous local locations as a backdrop to a futuristic, dystopic tale based on the science fiction novel The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe by D.G. Compton. The film stars Harvey Keitel, Romy Schneider and Harry Dean Stanton – it’s certainly amazing to think that such stars were wandering Glasgow’s streets at this time – and also a young Robbie Coltrane (the actor’s first film role). Tavernier was at the screening to introduce the film and appeared visibly moved by the event – more than 30 years after it was made the film is set to be released later in the year.