Film Fest Guide

With one thing and another I’ve been slow off the mark in grabbing some Edinburgh International Film Festival tickets this year, so today Mel and I made a point of heading down to one of the box offices and using our movie passes to get a nice raft of discounts on some of the movies we’d circled. Of course, one of the first laws of Festival going (Film, Book, Fringe, Jazz, whatever) is that you will never see a fraction of the events you circle, but as any seasoned Festival goes will tell you it is vitally important that you circle many shows in your programme guide. You must then carry this programme guide around during the entire Festival period with you, in order that you can pull it out of your bag in between shows while hanging around in places like the Filmhouse bar.

It is essential that this guide is clearly thumbed and dog-eared – a pristine copy is simply not acceptable if you intend to radiate the image of a cool, sophisticated, cosmopolitan Fest-goer. Forget the hip, expensive clothes or the right sunglasses – you can step out of a Harvey Nicholls dressing room and still fall flat on your face if you sit there with an unmarked programme guide. Of course, you must ensure that you have clearly circled some shows which you frankly have no intention of seeing because you think they sound dreadful and pretentious, but must nonetheless mark so that you can leave the aforementioned, dog-eared programme lying casually on the table in front of you in the bar so anyone else sitting next to you will know that you are a person of great taste.

This is established behaviour at the Festival (similar rituals apply to the Book Festival, Fringe etc) and it is considered the height of bad manners for another Fest-goer to try and call another on circled events which they know that person doesn’t really want to go and see. Should someone be so vulgar as to breach this ancient etiquette the standard replies, delivered in short, clipped tones to imply you are being polite but do not wish to mix socially, are usually along the lines of “I really, really wanted to but it was sold out 5 minutes before the box office even opened” (which usually draws knowing nods and muttered “oh, I know what you mean, I tried to book this documentary about the plight of beetrot farmers in Kazikstan but it was so sold out”) or “it clashed with another show” (which is a common gambit and also often true).

As you sit there in-between shows in the bar of the Filmhouse, Cameo, Pleasance etc, with your marked, dog-eared programme which clearly denotes your taste and sophistication you must also remember the Fest etiquette regarding celeb-spotting. Over the course of the world’s biggest arts festival you will almost certainly bump into someone famous here and there – some performers, some simply there to enjoy the Fest and to be seen. You must at all costs remains totally cool and radiate a glow of being utterly unruffled should you find yourself next to a celeb at the bar, loo, show, curry house (or in the case of some of the more esoteric and ‘cutting edge’ shows on the Fringe it may be a show in the loo of a curry house). You must never, ever react with delight or awe; instead, should you make eye contact with the celeb you merely nod politely, offer a smile and ‘hi’ as if they are someone you know well and just happened to spot on your way to a critic’s meeting to make fun of the Perrier nominees.

So there you go, folks, if you are a Fest-newbie, follow these tips and you too can still avoid being laughed at as a gauche and unsophisticated yokel dazzled by the flurry of shows and art on offer and istead appear to be hip, cool and fashionably jaded. Oh, and you should also actually ty to book some shows to go and see as well, that’s almost as important as the tips above 🙂

On which subject I’ve followed my usual Film Fest pattern, which is Mel and I circle a bunch of films we both fancy (and as noted above we won’t see half of them), then we see which ones coincide and then run through which screenings clash with others we want to see. Finally we have the First List and off we go (as we did today) to buy a bunch of tickets (still utterly broke, thank the gods of commerce for credit cards). Then I start of the Second List; this is my personal list because I take time off to go enjoy the Film Fest, where Mel will only be off the odd day here and there so she’s restricted to evening and weekend shows for the most part, so these shows are the ones I want to go to myself, so if I want to see a film about Korean hit-men from the 22nd century who kill each other using electric eels while one hitman reforms his soul and tries to protect a school girl with psychic powers developed because she wears the pants of a dead telekinetic friend (not Mel’s sort of thing at all) then I can.

So today we grabbed a bunch of 2 for 1s on movies we both want to see, then since I am a bit behind I jumped into the second phase and bought some I was going to take in during my time off as well (at the discount rate, bless that movie pass, means I can see more movies). The third phase is when I then look at the Fest calendar, take in the gaps and then decide what to go see those days (or of it should be a slob day reading a book under a tree in the Meadows). Annoyingly I’ve missed the boat on a couple of flicks I really wanted to see, so I’ll need to play the watch for returns/extra screenings thing I suspected Clerks II would sell out, especially since Kevin Smith will be over, but I was surpised to see Wristcutter: a Love Story was sold out as well. The story of a jilted lover who commits suicide and wakes up in a diner in purgatory sounds interesting and also sounds remarkably like the story for an acclaimed Israeli comic Pizzeria Kamikaze I added to the site a while back, although the programme guide doesn’t mention it being based on the comic (perhaps they don’t know or perhaps it sin’t anything to do with the comic, although if it isn’t it seems awfully similar); hopefully there will be some returns or it will appear on the last Sunday’s Best of the Fest re-shows.

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient truth has sold out (now he proves popular!!!! Too late!) but I did get tickets for the other Al – Franken in this case. I love Al Franken, although a lot of folks in the UK don’t know who he is, but when you tell them he is the guy who wrote Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: a Fair and Balanced Look at the Right Wing Media and that Murdoch’s Fox news tried to sue him with their batallion of Monty Burns-style lawyers for using their motto (‘fair and balanced’) and failed, in the process propelling his book to number one status in the US everyone goes, oh, that guy, yeah, he’s great. Strangely I’ve yet to meet someone who says, oh that sod who ruined the good name of Fox News…

Oh, and I did get tickets for Art School Confidential, another partnership between cool cartoonist Dan Clowes and director Terry Zwigoff; they made the excellent adaptation of Dan’s Ghost World ( acomic book movie folks who don’t read comics books can enjoy; actually a comic book folks who don’t read comics books can enjoy too come to think of it) a few years back, which I remember getting a freebie from the publisher to go to see (free goody bags, free drink, free movie – viva life!) and as a bonus Zwigoff and Crumb were there for the show, although regrettably the stars Thora Birch (who everyone thought after American Beauty would be the new Christina Ricci) and an unknown actress called Scarlett Johanssen (who did go on to be the Next Big Thing and is utterly gorgeous) weren’t with them. More planning to do, more deb to run up on the credit car, more shows to book. Meantime Film Four is going freeview tonight, so I can watch some cool movies on there to warm up; coincidentally the first free one they are showing is Lost in Translation with the luscious Scarlett.

Only a few weeks to go then a whole fortnight off to relax and see some goddam brilliant movies, hang around in bars (with my dog-eared programme); even the fact the city is packed with tourists and Festival goers (the population almsot doubles this time of year) doesn’t bug me as much when I am off – it can be annoying when you are working and trying to get about town but when you are off and in no hurry it can be fun. Actually this is the first time I’ve taken two weeks off back to back in nearly two years, so its going to be cool. The only thing wrong is it feels odd to have a Film Festival and know I won’t be bumping into Shiona as I amble around between screenings, although I’m sure she will be there in spirit.