Well, that’s the quickest couple of weeks of the year – holiday time – gone past already in a blur. Back to work this week and with the Fringe, Film Festival and Book Festival over the city seems so much quieter, all that’s left behind of the world’s biggest arts festival are the many posters for shows now finished and gone, slowly peeling off walls and panels with that same sort of melancholy you get from Christmas decorations still up after you’ve gone back to work in the New Year. Still, we’ve got the huge fireworks concert to come this Sunday night and luckily Gordon has invited Mel and I along to his work again, which has a long conference room with views out to the Castle; they also very nicely put on some food and booze to go with the event – certainly much nicer than jostling with a 100, 000 others on Princes Street to watch it.
I enjoyed a bit of Fringe while I was off, took in the Book Festival (actually I was invited to the launch party this year which was nice of them, bumped into several folks I used to work with a few years ago, which was even nicer), caught a very good panel on graphic novels there (first year they have covered the genre, went very, very well, I’m pleased to say) and as usual caught a pile of movies at the Film Festival (sadly the last time they are planning to hold that during the rest of the Festival in August, boo). Mel and I were right there on opening night to see the adaptation of Peter Jinks novel Hallam Foe which starred Jamie Bell (all grown up from Billy Elliot) and which was largely shot in Edinburgh, so that was fun to see some of the city on the big screen (also a pleasure to see the Film Fest’s Hannah McGill who as well as being involved in running a great film festival always looks so glamorous and gorgeous at these events) and we were there on the final day when they do Best of the Fest to reshow some sold out films. Documentaries, foreign language films, science fiction, fantasy, comedies and animation all in a few days then chilling with a drink outside afterwards and Joe is a happy boy.
Day Watch, the sequel to the surprise international hit from Russia, Night Watch, was excellent but my favourite film of this year’s fest (and Mel’s too, actually) was the movie adaptation of a book by one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman (and illustrated by the quite wonderful Charles Vess), Stardust. Was a little funny for me to be watching this film since I remember hosting a reading and signing for Neil for that book when it first came out back in the 90s and still recall sitting chatting after a totally packed event in the bar of the lovely, old Cafe 1812 as he doodled a picture on the inside of my copy and signed it after the fans had all gone (I even remember him being impressed when a friend of mine produced his copy of Violent Cases to be signed and Neil at once recognised it as a first edition). Back then he had talked about possible movie work and here we were years later watching our second Film Festival screening of a film based on a story by Neil (MirrorMask was the year before last).
By Neil’s standards the story is very simple and straightforward, not as layered as most of his other work in prose or comics, but as he said back at that event in the 90s he really wanted to make a straight fairy tale but for adults and that’s also what the movie version brings. It doesn’t try to be clever and postmodern, to reinvent the wheel. Instead it gives you a gorgeously warm fantasy with evil witches, a quest, romance, swashbuckling, magic, corrupt princes, an innocent hero and as a bonus Robert de Niro in a lady’s bloomers dancing to the can-can. I mean what else do you need? Leave your cynicism at home and just wallow in a beautifully shot fairy tale (much of it shot in the islands of Scotland) which boasts a great cast (including Michelle Pfeiffer who just doesn’t seem to be getting older, does she? Although ironically she ages in the film every time she uses her magic). Everyone left the cinema late at night with huge smiles on their faces, its just one of those sorts of films; you’re never too old for a magical fairy tale. Of course some people think they are too old for such things, but that probably means they need it more than anyone, poor souls. It should get a general release in the UK this autumn (I think it has just come out in the US), so watch out for it.
My parents came through to visit before going off on their own holiday; I had a cunning plan to take them out for a cruise on the Maid of the Forth which would have been an early anniversary present and a way to spend the day with them too (sails from right under the mighty Forth Bridge down the river and includes a trip to the islands to visit the old monastery) but sadly that was the only day they weren’t sailing because of some liners coming up the river that day. So we’ll need to try again at some point, but at least we did get a fun day together anyway and a lovely lunch out at the canalside pub in the village of Ratho (great spot for food and drink). And then my old mate Bob through with his wee boys too, so again we all had fun. The boys are convinced I am a pirate because of my bandana and since they love pirates that makes me cool to them :-). Naturally I don’t want to disappoint them and try to keep up my swashbuckling ways for them. They also like knights and swords and kept asking if they would see knights at the Castle – so when we found men in plate armour posing just down the slope from the Castle you can imagine how big their eyes opened! Movies, shows, books, drinks, food, friends and family, what a great break…