This year’s Glasgow Film Festival has showcased some fine films, many of which will be heading to cinemas in the coming months, but among the movies without UK distribution has been one genuine work of artistic brilliance: The Demons (*****).
David Lynch: The Art Life ****
Their Finest **
The debut feature from Montreal-based writer/director Philippe Lesage, it’s an audacious, artfully-made and thoroughly unsettling coming-of-age drama that burrows so rigorously into the anxieties of its young protagonist that it feels like an entirely original take on these kinds of tales. Intuiting cracks in his parents’ marriage, ten-year-old Felix (newcomer Edouard Tremblay-Grenier) finds his sense of the world shifting as complex feelings about his teacher, his friends, his family and his sexuality start bubbling to the surface, disrupting his hitherto happy and sheltered existence.
What’s remarkable here is how Lesage conveys this cinematically. Building tension with long static shots, naturalistic performances and inspired use of music, he creates a psychologically astute narrative thoroughly attuned to his protagonists’ interior life instead of one that relies on traditional plotting. But as dazzling as this is, he steps things up again with a bold change in perspective 45 minutes in that adds a literal threat to the sanctity of Felix’s world and quietly upends expectations again. His is the sort of unique voice you hope to find in a festival.
On the subject of unique voices, David Lynch has been a singular talent since he emerged fully formed on film scene with his industrial nightmare freak-out Eraserhead. How he got to that point is the subject of Jon Nguyen and Rick Barnes’ intriguing and illuminating documentary David Lynch: The Art Life (****), which has another screening at the festival today. Comprised of lengthy interviews with Lynch himself as he toils away in his studio, working on paintings and various other art pieces, the film presents a portrait of a man doing what he’s always loved in order to explore how the contentment he’s experienced in his life has enabled him to craft some of the darkest and strangest films in history. In this he’s a welcome contradiction – or at least a welcome subversion of artist clichés. Yet to listen to him talk about his childhood in that lovely, measured, cigarette-crackled voice of his is to understand how fraught his journey towards becoming an artist was and how his dedication to the work of being a painter (as well as his enjoyment of the lifestyle – particularly the coffee and cigarettes) has enabled him to develop ideas that have sustained his creativity and which have also shaped and formed his cinema.
Their Finest (**) was probably the most erroneously titled film of the festival. A honking, melodramatic nostalgia fest about the British film industry’s stiff-upper-lipped efforts to win the war by making (abysmal looking) patriotic movies, it stars Gemma Arterton as a screenwriter working through the Blitz to create a film that will lift the national spirits, encourage the Americans to join the war and help her realize the value of listening to her heart when the world is hanging by a thread. Powell & Pressburger it ain’t.