EIFF 2014: A Closer Look

Dane de Haan and Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth (dir Jeff Baena, 2014)

Dane de Haan and Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth (dir Jeff Baena, 2014)

Since my first thoughts on the EIFF 2014 programme, tickets have gone on sale and the final countdown to this year’s festival has begun. Also, I’ve been looking beyond the familiar, jump-out names to interrogate the line-up a wee bit more rigourously. Here’s my second thoughts:

Welcome to New York (dir Abel Ferrara, 2014)

21/06, 17:30 at Dominion 1 | 28/06, 17:30 at Dominion 1

Gérard Depardieu and 'friends' in Welcome To New York (dir Abel Ferrara, 2014)

Gérard Depardieu and ‘friends’ in Welcome To New York (dir Abel Ferrara, 2014)

Abel Ferrara’s latest is definitely coming to EIFF, but exact details await confirmation (UPDATED 09/06). The film’s debut at Cannes provoked a pleasing storm of controversy, which didn’t need too much dressing up by the Daily Mail, who frothed, “Guests at the party, which was held on the beach, were each given a ‘dirty sex kit’ (note the initials, DSK) containing a whip, handcuffs and a condom. Men wearing hotel bathrobes encouraged them to sip a ‘Viagra cocktail’ or pose for a photographer on a huge bed bearing a sign that read ‘Love Hotel’.” DSK, there, standing for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, from whose infamy Ferrara’s film is said to derive (he’s apparently suing for libel). Ferrara, famous for Driller Killer (1979), Ms 45 (1981), King Of New York (1990) and Bad Lieutenant (1992) hasn’t made a truly great film in a long while, although he’s been operating on the fringes since the late 1990s and arguably hasn’t had a fair shake, critically or commercially, since the underrated The Funeral (1996). According to the Guardian, Welcome To New York is, “shameless, outrageous…an orgiastic vampire tale about a creature of the night who can’t face the mirror.” So, basically: tick, tick tick. And maybe it’s wishful thinking, but is an appearance from Ferrara really out of the question?

The Anomaly (dir Noel Clarke, 2014)

19/06, 18:10 at Cineworld 5 | 20/06, 18:10 at Cineworld 5

This is the world premiere of Noel Clarke’s new sci-fi actioner. Clarke’s arguably made a better fist of his post-Doctor Who career than any of his co-stars, David Tennant, Billie Piper or even Christopher “Oh, yeah, that was him in Thor 2” Eccleston transitioning from portraying sidekick Mickey Smith to writing, directing and producing his own films. The Anomaly is the third of those, after Kidulthood (dir Menhaj Huda, 2006) sequel Adulthood (2008) and crime thriller (2010). Clarke also wrote Fast Girls (dir Regan Hall, 2011) and Storage 24 (dir Johannes Roberts, 2012), the latter of which, an apparently underrated (I’ve not seen it myself) sci-fi horror, is possibly the most relevant to The Anomaly. I’m cautiously optimistic about this because, while I hope and want to like it, expectations are certainly tempered by the facts that a) Clarke is yet to match his industriousness with a real break-out hit, b) somehow lost in the shuffle Lost star Ian Somerhalder is in the co-lead role and c) the rest of the cast list is filled out with Luke “the new Andrew Wilson” Hemsworth and EIFF stalwart Niall Greig Fulton.

The Skeleton Twins (dir Craig Johnson, 2014)

21/06, 18:00 at Cineworld 8 | 22/06, 20:45 at Cineworld 8

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins (dir Craig Johnson, 2014)

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins (dir Craig Johnson, 2014)

Craig Johnson’s follow-up to the mumblecore-y True Adolescents (2009) reunites Saturday Night Live co-stars Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, to exploit their comedic chops in a more serious set-up, à la fellow SNL alums Will Forte and Adam Sandler in Nebraska (dir Alexander Payne, 2013) and Punch Drunk Love (dir Paul Thomas Anderson,  2002), respectively. Resportedly directly inspired by the likes of The Squid And The Whale (dir Noah Baumbach, 2005) and You And Me And Everyone We Know (dir Miranda July, 2005), according to director Johnson, The Skeleton Twins is “Character-driven, funny and yet a little melancholy.” The first EIFF screening is also the European premiere.

Life After Beth (dir Jeff Baena, 2014)

26/06, 18:20 at Cineworld 8 | 27/06 20:30 at Filmhouse 1

The directorial debut of I Heart Huckabees co-writer Jeff Baena, this is one of a couple of notable zombie features at EIFF this year, the other being Sabu’s Miss Zombie (2013). Dane de Haan’s Zach gets a second chance with his recently-departed ex when she returns to life just a little more brain-hungry. Not a million miles away from 2013’s Warm Bodies (dir Jonathan Levine) in subject matter, Life After Beth‘s cast is what makes it really interesting. Aside from de Haan stretching himself as a romantic lead (will he be able to tone down the twitchy-creepy?), you have Parks And Recreation‘s Aubrey Plaza as the titular ex-ex (“Dane was wonderful. I felt like we had good chemistry from the start. It wasn’t hard to lick his face and try to eat him.”) and a smorgasbord of comedy talent filling out the cast, including Anna Kendrick, John C Reilly and Arrested Development‘s Alia Shawkat.

Hardkor Disko (dir Krzysztofa Skoniecznego, 2014)

26/06, 20:15 at Filmhouse 1 | 27/06, 18:00 at Cineworld 11

It’s probably the hipster in me that likes the look of Hardkor Disko, the debut feature from music video director Krzysztofa Skoniecznego, and if it falls on the wrong side of Our Day Will Come (dir Romain Gavras, 2010) there’s a good chance it’ll be a drag to actually watch. On the other hand, I like a wildcard and the trailer promises sex, death and rock and roll. In case you’re wondering about the title, according to writer-director Skoniecznego, “Hardkor is a word of our times which entered everyday slang meaning something surprising, brutal and ruthless but also something attractive and danger-provoking, connected with adrenaline. Disko on the other hand holds something from the past, it’s a word rather connected to the generation of our parents, it brings to the mind some kind of nostalgia.” The first screening at EIFF will also be the UK premiere.

And finally, a special mention for:

Cold In July (dir Jim Mickle, 2014)

20/06, 18:00 at Cineworld 8 | 23/06, 20:45 at Filmhouse 1

Based on the novel by cult author Joe R Lansdale (Bubba Ho-Tep, the Hap and Leonard series) and directed by Jim Mickle (Stake Land, We Are What We Are), Cold In July stars Sam Shepard, Don Johnson and a post-Dexter Michael C Hall. The pedigree is excellent and the trailer looks great, but it’s also on general release in July. Excepting a possible appearance by Johnson (also appearing in person at his Empire Hero Hangout on 21/06), the EIFF screenings are kind of more previews than anything else.

More to come, but remember to check out the programme for yourself here and take advantage of my EIFF trailer playlist here.

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