Alistair Harkness: Glasgow Film Festival gets tricky balance right

Richard Gere and Ben Vereen in Time Out Of Mind
Richard Gere and Ben Vereen in Time Out Of Mind
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Film festivals sometimes struggle to craft their own identity, but over the last decade or so, Glasgow Film Festival has managed to pull off the neat trick of being hip and cutting-edge, and thoroughly populist at the same time.

That’s nicely symbolised this year by the festival’s ability to secure new films by the Coen brothers and Charlie Kaufman for its opening and closing night galas (the star-studded Hail, Caesar! and the Oscar-nominated Anomalisa respectively).

But it’s also reflected in its pioneering interest over the last few years in event cinema (which this year includes The Man Who Fell to Earth at the Glasgow Planetarium), as well as some of its more specialist strands, such as the music-orientated Sound and Vision programme and the comic book and videogame-focused Nerdvana.

More generally, it’s reflected in some of the astute choices of the programming team, led once again by artistic directors Allison Gardner and Allan Hunter.

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Richard Gere’s attendance for the premiere of his new film Time Out of Mind is the most obvious headline grabber, but there’s plenty of intriguing-looking movies throughout. Jake Gyllenhaal thriller Demolition gets its British premiere, as does Joachim Trier’s Jesse Eisenberg-starring Louder than Bombs. There are also Scottish premieres for Jacques Audiard’s Palme d’Or winner Dheepan, Pablo Larraín’s harrowing The Club, French/Turkish Oscar nominee Mustang, and Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier’s brilliant and intense siege movie Green Room.

The festival is also committed to British cinema, some of which have a strong Scottish bent, including recent Scottish Bafta nominee 16 Years Till Summer and the critically acclaimed Couple in a Hole, starring Kate Dickie and In the Loop’s Paul Higgins.

Rob Roy director Michael Caton-Jones returns with Urban Hymn, a drama starring Shirley Henderson set in the aftermath of the 2011 London riots. Ewan McGregor, meanwhile, pops up as a (fictional) Rolling Stone journalist tracking Mile Davis’s comeback in Miles Ahead, co-writer/director/star Don Cheadle’s unconventional-looking biopic of the jazz legend – another symbol, perhaps, of a festival that’s learned how to sound the right note.