Sand, sex and Dr Seuss: a pick of the Edinburgh Film Festival

Still from Dr Seuss' The Lorax

By Amy Taylor

Lawrence of Arabia

David Lean/UK/1962/228 min

Showing: Filmhouse, Thursday 21 June 19:40

Rating: * * * * *

The film that launched Peter O’Toole’s career, David Lean’s iconic Lawrence of Arabia has been restored once again to mark the film’s 50th anniversary. Featuring stand-out performances from some of the UK’s most prolific actors, and perhaps just as famous for the tales of O’Toole’s sobriety during filming, this cinematic masterpiece is a triumph of British filmmaking and digital restoration techniques.

The film documents the attempts by TE Lawrence (O’Toole) to unite the Arab tribes to fight the Turkish army during the First World War. Lawrence of Arabia attempts to present all the sides of his personality, from his loyalty to his own country, to his desire to help the Arabic people. Featuring performances Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif, Lean’s film is a brave and simply beautiful depiction of a mysterious figure in British history.

Maurice Jarre’s instantly recognisable music, coupled with Freddie Young’s exceptional cinematography and Lawrence’s captivating tale mean the film is just as beautiful as it was in 1962, and these elements, are only made more powerful with the recent restoration. A moving journey through the life of one man, Lawrence of Arabia is a stunning portrait of the man, the legend and the circumstances that he found himself in. Touching upon themes of war, death, loyalty, patriotism and sacrifice, this film, is in effect timeless, and ready to be discovered and seen in a brand new condition by a new generation of filmgoers.

 

Sexual Chronicles of a French Family (Chroniques sexuelles d’une famille d’aujourd’hui)

Pascal Arnold, Jean-Marc Barr/France/2012/82 min

Showing: Cineworld, Sat 24 June 18:10, Fri 29 June 18:10

Rating: * * * *

Pascal Arnold and Jean-Marc Barr’s Sexual Chronicles of a French Family creates a clear, and non-judgmental film that questions our attitudes towards sex and sexuality, and perhaps most importantly, how each generation deals with sex differently.

When the eternally sexually frustrated teenager, Romain (Matthias Melloul) is caught filming himself masturbating during his biology class for a dare, it leads his mother (Valérie Maës) to begin questioning how little she has discussed sex with her children. But as Romain serves his suspension, his embarrassing moment soon turns into one of enlightenment, as one by one, each member of his family becomes more honest about their sex lives. Eye opening and graphic from the beginning, Sexual Chronicles of a French Family, emerges as not a film to shock, but one to educate the audience about the benefits of talking frankly about sex, sexual desire and relationships. Taboo-busting and refreshingly honest, the film is a balanced and frank portrait of contemporary attitudes towards sex that encompass sexuality, gender, occupation, and perhaps most importantly, generations.

It is this frankness that makes the film so watchable, as its matter-of-fact nature and non-judgmental treatment of sex, somehow makes Romain’s decision to have a danger wank seem not so sensational, or perverted and more as a desperate attempt to fit in and feel loved. Perhaps one of the more explicit films in this year’s programme, Sexual Chronicles of a French Family is a funny, oddly uplifting and life affirming piece that celebrates human sexuality and love in a unique, welcoming and completely relatable way.

 

Future My Love

Maja Borg/UK, Sweden/2012/93 min

Showing: Cineworld, Thu 21 June 18:05, Fri 29 June, 20:30

Rating: * * *

Described by the director as an “experimental documentary”, Maja Borg’s Future My Love takes the audience on a trip around the world in order to discover alternatives to our current capitalist system, whilst exploring themes of loss and love through poetry, and a doomed love story.

Featuring narration from Borg, and appearances from NEM (Nadya Cazan), Future My Love explores the mistakes we have made in the past, and suggests that humanity can only ever truly be free to move on once we have rejected what went before. Comprised of interviews with some of the world’s leading and well-known figures on alternative thought, including the futurist and founder of The Venus Project, Jacque Fresco, Borg juxtaposes her journey towards enlightenment with a poetic tale of love, loss and acceptance.

Expanding on ideas first realised in her 2007 short, Ottica Zero, which also featured Cazan, Borg’s first full-length feature is a beautifully realised and delicate comment on the current state of the planet’s resources, economy and people, that balances the harsh reality of our times with Borg’s quietly moving narration and life story. Deeply personal, yet completely relatable and inclusive, this film, shot in a mixture of colour and black and white, questions and offers alternatives towards the way the world is today. Artistic, well-rounded and still a little mysterious, Future My Love’s mixture of documentary and love story can be a little confusing at times, but the film manages to showcaseBorg’s keen eye for storytelling, and love for the planet without dragging on for too long.

 

Fred

Richard Ledes/USA/2012/Colour/74 min

Showing: Cineworld, Fri 22 June 20:30, Sat 23 June 20:50

Rating: * * *

Richard Ledes’s Fred, the long-awaited follow up to his 2008 film, The Caller, concentrates on transitions and change by following a family trying to cope with their mother’s Alzheimers and their father’s inability to accept his wife’s illness, or his difficult living situation.

Filmed in just one location, Fred follows the eponymous title character (Elliot Gould) as his grown up children, Bob (Fred Melamed) and Carol (Stephanie Roth Haberle) prepare to put their mother, Susan (Judith Roberts) in a home. But as Fred resists their attempts to persuade him to move to the same home, and seemingly treats his wife with contempt, Ledes’ film begins to take shape.

Through fantasy sequences and a real sense of intimacy between the characters, and themes of loss and grief, Fred soon becomes a film about changing roles within the family, as the adult children have to decide what is best for their increasingly dependent parents. Mesmerising, sad and very moving, Fred deals with a number of sensitive and difficult issues, such as aging, the loss of parents through death and illness, but rather than dramatising this process, the film presents it as it should be; as a part of life. Incredibly sensitive and realistic, Ledes has managed to create a very real snapshot of the average American family, facing an uncertain future. Poignant and simple, Fred’s cast unites create a memorable story that will touch the hearts of everyone who watches it.

 

Dr Seuss’ The Lorax

Chris Renaud, Kyle Balda/USA/2012/86 min

Showing: Cineworld, Sat 23 June 14:00, Sat 24 June, 14:00

Rating: * *

Dr Seuss’ tale of corporate greed destroying the environment gets the big screen treatment in Dr Seuss’ The Lorax (pictured), a new CGI animation feature directed by Chris Renaud, of Despicable Me, and Kyle Balda of Toy Story 2. Although it features some impressive animation and more than a few celebrity voices, the film is however, a shallow and disappointing piece that loses Dr Seuss’ intended power and bite.

Thneedville is a completely plastic town where the residents have to buy bottled fresh air, and even the plants are fake, The Lorax follows Ted (Zac Efron) as he attempts to find out what happened to the trees. And his quest takes him to the home of the Once-ler (Ed Helms), who admits his terrible secret, he killed all the trees for his own financial gain, despite the protests of The Lorax (Danny DeVito) a creature who “speaks for the trees, for the trees have no tongues”.

Although very visually stimulating through the use of bright colours and 3D technology, this film is simply too concerned with how it looks, and not what it says to the audience. More of a musical than anything else, Renaud and Balda’s film concentrates more on the physical comedy and slapstick of the characters than it does on Dr Seuss’ message of environmental responsibility, corporate greed and pure, childlike hope. So, while the film is entertaining, it isn’t stimulating, it doesn’t inspire the audience to want to protect their resources, and despite some well-intentioned Dr Seuss quotes being used sporadically throughout the film, even these pearls of wisdom can’t improve the film. A supposedly environmentally aware film without a conscience, The Lorax, while allegedly condemned by Fox News as “communist propaganda”, won’t cause the stir that it should.