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This season, it’s all about the jacket for Watson.
Pictures from the BBC

By Sarah Artt, Edinburgh Napier University

The third season of the BBC’s Sherlock opens with a bang and gives us Derren Brown, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock in an action hero window smash, followed by an insouciant hair tousle and a Hollywood kiss with Molly Hooper. The opening of Empty Hearse is more in the style of Guy Ritchie’s fantasy Victoriana Sherlock Holmes films, and could not be more different from the show’s more procedural beginnings.

This similarity with Ritchie is certainly deliberate, because Season 3 of Sherlock shows its infinite adaptability by incorporating the style of the two recent Sherlock Holmes films, along with various elements of the infinitely flexible Sherlock canon. As someone who is quite happy at the prospect of living in an era with three different iterations of Sherlock (Cumberbatch, Johnny Lee Miller in Elementary and Robert Downey Jr. in the two Ritchie films), I’m also quite happy that they adapt and reference one another.

Sherlock as a series is also clever about its Victorian origins, particularly when it comes to costumes, and the latest season is no exception. Upon his return to London, we are treated to a sweeping, Romantic image of Sherlock surveying the city from on high, clad in his now iconic great coat; an image that recalls the powerful 19th century explorer. This is just one of the myriad Victorian allusions embedded in the Mark Gatiss and Seven Moffat’s costumes and design for Sherlock.

Steampunk and shoulder patches

Dr Waton's Haversack Jacket

Dr Waton’s Haversack Jacket

Consider the attention accorded to John Watson’s black Haversack jacket, which he wears consistently throughout the three series. The jacket has received a GQ fashion profile, not to mention endless remarks on Twitter. Haversack is a Japanese label that reproduces and draws inspiration from traditional menswear and workwear. Watson’s jacket expresses a sort of commercialised steampunk aesthetic, a gesture towards an earlier era. Its leather shoulder patch evokes the structure of military uniforms (something we see Jude Law’s Watson wearing in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, for example) delineating Watson’s status as soldier. The jacket is contemporary and yet evocative of Victorian “period” professions and pursuits.

The décor of 221B Baker Street in Sherlock is absolutely neo-Victorian, with its bison skull adorned with headphones that forms a focal point of the sitting room. The skull evokes the décor of traditional private men’s clubs or military messes – the trophy from a big game hunt. The headphones on the skull reflect the contemporary presence of technology via laptops, smartphones, blogs, and the Skype-like software deployed in season two’s A Scandal in Belgravia. The pairing of skull and headphones encapsulates the show’s fusing of 19th and 21st century.

As embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock adapts the Victorian fantasy of total mastery over knowledge. Though apparently as flummoxed by composing a best man’s speech as he was by his nemesis Irene Adler’s voracious sexuality, he once more demonstrates this near-total mastery in The Sign of Three by delivering a deeply moving speech and solving the crime, just as he outwits Adler by confirming her deep longing for him in season 2.

Mary Watson A woman with a past

Mary Watson
A woman with a past

The series as a whole mocks this aspiration to total knowledge while also, for the most part, presenting a Holmes who expresses an astonishing level of knowledge. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the line: “Get out, I need to go to my mind palace”. Yet Sherlock’s mastery is undermined by his frequently remarked-upon social ineptitude: Mary observes that he knows nothing about human nature after he bungles his reappearance in The Empty Hearse.

What also makes the original Holmes stories timely is that many of them centre around the theft and retrieval of information. In A Scandal in Belgravia and The Hounds of Baskerville, referencing two of the most well-known stories in the Holmes canon, concerns with information and technology are front and centre. The season 3 finale His Last Vow also centres on the information that surrounds Mary Watson’s past and how the Appledore files of blackmailer Magnussen will be deployed.

All these versions of Sherlock Holmes can exist simultaneously because they demonstrate how the presence of Sherlock and Watson act as anchors for the story. Sherlock has weathered the sometimes troublesome shift to the present moment particularly well due in no small part to its carefully constructed neo-Victorian references.

Sarah Artt does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
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The Birks Cinema – a celebrity re-opening

For a time, it seemed as if the commercial cinema was, if not doomed, then limited to the big multi-screen complexes and the occasional specialist centre such as the Filmhouse in Edinburgh or the GLasgow Film Theatre. But none of the worst predictions has come to pass and there’s a growing interest in the ‘big screen’ productions away from the city centres. The Screen Machine is currently touring the Highlands and, shortly, the new Birks Cinema will be formally opened in Aberfeldy. And the town is gearing up for the event next month because Hollywood star and Scottish actor, Alan Cumming OBE, has agreed to carry out the opening ceremony.

Alan Cumming Photo Credit - Kevin Garcia

Alan Cumming
Photo Credit – Kevin Garcia

The cinema has been operating since the Spring but its transformation from derelict Bingo Hall to its current glory has been a story of true grit, determination and enthusiasm by local film buffs. And the actor has played a considerable part in the story. Alan Cumming has been the cinema’s Patron since 2009, lending his considerable support to a local fundraising campaign that eventually saw the building undergo a £1.3million renovation programme and return to its original use as a local cinema at the heart of the community.

To celebrate the official opening of the renovated cinema, Alan will be welcomed into town on Saturday 30th November for a red carpet gala event and a private screening of his latest film, Any Day Now. “I’m truly delighted to be visiting Aberfeldy,” he said, “and I’m very much looking forward to seeing The Birks Cinema in all its finery. Everyone involved in this project has shown true dedication and commitment and I’m very excited to finally see it for myself.”

A special screening of 'Local Hero'

A special screening of ‘Local Hero’

General Manager, Paul Foley is also looking forward to welcoming Alan, saying that the community was “very grateful to Alan Cumming for his support and delighted that he has been able to make the trip over to Scotland to formally pronounce us open. I’m looking forward to rolling out the red carpet, welcoming Alan to The Birks Cinema and making this St Andrews Day a very memorable and historic one for Aberfeldy.”

But Aberfeldy isn’t the only place to see the arrival of famous folk from the films. On Saturday 2nd November, a 30th anniversary screening of Local Hero will be shown in Mallaig, one of the locations used in the film. Director Bill Forsyth and international producer Iain Smith will introduce the screening and talk to the audience about the inspirations behind what is regarded as one of the giants of Scottish cinema.

Then on Sunday 3rd November, Scottish actor Bill Paterson will unveil a rare 40th anniversary screening of the BBC film production of 7:84 Theatre’s seminal play The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black, Black Oil in Dornie where it was partly shot and where many local residents were involved in the making of the film.

The film screenings are part of the Creative Scotland funded Natural Scotland on Screen project that showcases how films and television have imagined and represented Scotland’s rich landscape and biodiversity. The Screen Machine – Scotland’s mobile cinema – will host the screenings as part of its own 15th anniversary touring programme.

Douglas Dougan

Douglas Dougan

Douglas Dougan, Natural Scotland on Screen Film Project Manager, pointed out that “we have 60 films and 30 television programmes which have been collected together to show off the beautiful locations and natural resources Scotland has to offer. So far we have shown 50 films in cinemas in the Highlands, Islands, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh, with more still to come before the end of the year. This special weekend is the highpoint in the programme with outstanding films and high profile guests.”

Iain Munro, Deputy Chief Executive at Creative Scotland added that “Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero is a Scottish cult classic, with The Cheviot, The Stag & The Black Black Oil a rarely seen masterpiece. This is a great opportunity for people to experience these two landmark Scottish films as they come back home to their roots.”

Top Gear Live – Coming to the new venue in January

The new arts venue on the banks of the Clyde in Glasgow is attracting high quality events. The lights at The Hydro were switched on earlier this week, with shades of blue, green and purple visible on the external walls of the £125m area. Part of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) complex, it will formally with singer Rod Stewart performing at the opening concert on 30 September.

The Top Gear Live Team

The Top Gear Live Team

The venue is expected to host around 40 events a year, especially concerts and other live shows. It can hold up to 13,000 people, making it the largest purpose-built indoor arena in the country. Indeed, it’s hoped the venue will become one of the world’s top five busiest indoor arenas.

One of the first confirmed shows for early in 2014 will be Top Gear Live, which is is coming to Scotland in January for the very first time. Hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May together with driving legend ‘The Stig’, the show’s expected to run for three performances over the weekend of 18-19 January.

“I’ve absolutely no idea exactly what we’ll be up to in Glasgow but, as this is the first time we’ve ever performed live north of the border, you can guarantee it will be something very special. What we can promise is lots of gigantic explosions, some very scary stunts plus a magnificent line-up of incredibly expensive supercars… not to mention all the usual cock-ups, crashes and arguments. Who knows, you might even see The Stig in a kilt,” said Clarkson.

Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Over the last 12 months, Top Gear Live has been on a world tour with spectacular shows in Moscow, Sydney, Amsterdam, Antwerp and Durban culminating in the biggest extravaganza yet performed in Poland last weekend (21 September) to a sell-out 50,000+ crowd in Warsaw’s National Stadium. Glasgow will be the first time the Top Gear team has appeared in the UK since headlining at the Birmingham NEC in October 2012.

Opened this week and designed by Foster and Partners, The SSE Hydro is Scotland’s largest entertainment venue. “I’m told the building was inspired by ancient Roman and Greek amphitheatres so it sounds like the perfect setting for our kind of arcane humour and barbaric acts. I think some epic chariot racing should be on the cards!” added Clarkson.

With popular events like this, the Hydro’s expected to bring about £130m extra expenditure each year to Glasgow, on top of the £357m which the SECC currently generates.

Brave – a success story for Scotland

A report from VisitScotland suggests that this country is benefiting from a multi-million pound marketing campaign associated with last year’s hit film Brave. It says that the campaign, run in association with Disney, had reached over 500 million people around the world and thousands had started to come to Scotland as a result, boosting the economy by around £120 million over the next five years.

Fergus Ewing MSP

Fergus Ewing MSP

VisitScotland says that a number of places and landscapes which figured in the film have already seen a growing number of visitors. For example, Dunottar Castle – the clifftop ruin near Stonehaven – saw an increase of over 15% in the number of visitors this summer compared with the same time last year.

According to tourism Minister, Fergus Ewing MSP, the film had been a major boost for Scotland. “Brave has increased international awareness of Scotland and showcased the magnificent historic sites and beautiful landscapes that our country has to offer. I’m delighted by the success of the film and the boost we expected to continue to bring to the economy.”

Mike Cantlay, the chairman of VisitScotland, added that this was just the beginning of how the organisation plans to “maximise” the impact of the film. “One of the reasons we were so determined to work with Disney was that the movie was dubbed into every relevant language across the world, an ideal vehicle to reach emerging markets. What’s more,” he added, “Brave is primarily targeted at a young, influential audience. I genuinely anticipate Scottish tourism benefiting from this movie well into the 2020s.”

Picture: Nick J Webb

At risk of appearing to have been unexpectedly wowed by the Olympics twice in quick succession, here is some more applause for London 2012-related matters. Last time it was for the torch relay, which was more of-the-people and less hype-and-hoopla than anticipated when it passed through Stirling in mid-June. And now, six weeks later, the all-singing, all-dancing, all-pretend-royal-parachuting opening ceremony has been another source of pleasure rather than bah-humbug grumbling.

I write as one for whom such ceremonies – opening or closing – have until now seemed little more than fancy bookends surrounding the main sporting event itself. Bumptious galas to be ignored in favour of a good book, a drink with friends or a spot of gardening. Part of me even hankers after the studied formality of old, when dull speeches were preceded by teams processing into the stadium in almost-serried-rank groupings (and with none of that undignified gurning to camera and taking of smartphone pictures so evident when the athletes entered the London 2012 arena on Friday night).

But these are flashier, more interactive and more televisual times, when no one is going to watch dull – so if you’re going to put on a show, then you had better put on a damn good one. And Friday night’s effort by Danny Boyle and his team was, by pretty much any definition (well, by mine, anyway), a damn good show.

Not really being interested in opening ceremonies, I began by dipping in and out and even not watching at all. The preamblic waffle from Huw Edwards and co prompted a legstretch round the village – which meant that by the time I was back in front of the screen the Dickensian chimneys had risen up and it wasn’t long until the NHS bedpans-and-broomsticks sequence kicked off. I also – in the modern multi-tasking way of such things – browsed a few websites while half-watching the TV, and it was around this time that I started to notice the indications that this was turning into something more than just a Eurovisionesque evening of dull televisual wallpaper.

The first was that the NHS sequence wasn’t anywhere near as cringeworthy as feared – rather, it was good fun and done with feeling. The scale of the show was impressive – it was Busby Berkeley for the billions – but there was also a mix of coherence and craziness to this and to the adjacent sequences that brought a real momentum and oomph to proceedings.

The next crikey-this-is-lively moment came from elsewhere. I was skimming the Political Betting discussion board, a heavy-traffic site where trenchantly held and often completely diverse opinions are politely (and often impolitely) debated. And there was an unusual – even startling – level of consensus among the pb.com chatterati: the Olympic show was “excellent”, “ace”, “bloody good” and so on.

This was being said by those on both the left and the right, as well as by the middlegrounders – and suddenly it seemed clear that Boyle was succeeding in pulling off a monumentally difficult stunt. With a brief to combine entertainment with magisterial gravitas, social comment with sporting inconsequentiality, he was managing, by and large, to get the whole political spectrum smiling and applauding and setting aside grumbles and grudges, at least for 90 minutes or so.

(Of course there were dissenters, on pb.com and elsewhere – but surprisingly few, both at the time and since. The online Scottish nationalist commenters found plenty to moan about, but that’s what they do, so no surprise there. They would only have been happy had the show featured a giant Hindenburg-style airship decked out to resemble Alex Salmond, hovering above the stadium with Eck’s eyes emitting laser beams that took the form of the saltire while spelling out the words “Death to the Union” and “It’s our oil”. And even then they would have complained that the BBC had the TV rights.)

By now I was watching much more intently – no more evening strolls, far fewer laptop distractions. The punters at pb.com were also saying, again and again, things like “The Bond/Queen thing was brilliant” – so it was off to find an iPlayer-style reprise of “the Bond/Queen thing”. And it was brilliant – I’m agnostic when it comes to the monarchy, and would rather watch gangster movies than 007, but it’s hard to imagine that this could have been done any better than it was by Boyle, Daniel Craig, Her Madge, the corgis and various stunt doubles. Goodness knows what the editorial staff at the Sun made of it, given that they had run pretty much the exact same idea as their April Fool joke earlier in the year.

By now it was clear why the moviemaking auteur Boyle – and not a stage impresario such as Andrew Lloyd Webber – had been given the gig. There was a complexity and breadth to what was being offered that needed a command of the digital and technological arts, a firm hand on the multimedia rudder. Take, for instance, the actual rudder being steered (or so it seemed) by David Beckham in pretend-Bond mode aboard the world’s most absurdly illuminated and gloriously swish speedboat as it skimmed its way up the Thames amid pulses of light. The first sequence of this – some of it pre-shot – was a hoot, and whoever cast teenage footballer Jade Bailey as the statuesque front-of-boat torchbearer, hair billowing with the speed, deserves an Olympic medal of their own.

And the second Becks sequence – when he handed the flame to Sir Steve Redgrave, who then jogged into the stadium, lit the torches of the seven young athletes (another brilliantly executed idea) before the actual cauldron was lit – was oddly affecting. Beckham and emotional depth – two ideas not often found in the same sentence, but it was that kind of night.

Other great moments included the thoughtful, slow rendition of Abide With Me by Emeli Sandé and Akram Khan’s dance group, in honour of those who died on 7 July 2005, the day after the Olympic bid had been won. (The NBC network in the US decided to not show this during their edited pretend-live broadcast, preferring some inane interview with the American Idol host. More fool them.)

And the cauldron itself – how cool was that, if you’ll pardon the bad-physics analogy? Not only was it a contraption of considerable beauty, but the complexity of design seemed to embody the whole evening. What if even one of the component parts had jammed? But of course it didn’t jam, just as the whole show appeared to run on the most impressively slick rails throughout.

Not everything would have been to everyone’s taste, of course – that would have been impossible and probably wasn’t Boyle’s intention anyway. Personally I could have done without the Rowan Atkinson / Chariots of Fire spoof – yes, got that joke after the first five seconds, thank you. But Mr Bean is one of those wordless global brands that transcends language, like Pingu the Penguin, so he was probably worth his place in such an international context.

Similarly, having a talented but sometimes tiresome Liverpudlian pensioner pound out Hey Jude at the end jarred somewhat, diluting the mood that had climaxed with the cauldron-lighting sequence. Suddenly the show risked turning into just another singalong festival, and maybe the civic authorities should have pulled the plug as they did with McCartney and Bruce Springsteen in Hyde Park a fortnight earlier. But the old crooner-rocker is never likely to offend anyone, yellow submarines had been in evidence earlier, and the tone of the evening was solid enough to withstand a few minutes of sentimentality.

So this one among the 27 million UK viewers really liked the show – and in the three days of sporting action since then, Lizzie Armitstead and her colleagues notwithstanding, nothing else produced by the Games has come close to feeling so much fun or so heartwarming. These might be difficult times in all sorts of economic and social ways, but Boyle’s work must surely have lifted – however briefly – the mood for a huge number of people.

I probably won’t buy the DVD – but it was certainly a well above average piece of Friday night entertainment.

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.



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.

By Amy Taylor

The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus

Alexandre O Phillippe/USA/2012/English, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian Dialogue with English subtitles/72 min

Showing: Filmhouse Fri 22 June 20:45, Cineworld Sat 23 June 15:05

Rating: * * * *

Returning to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, following the success of his standout documentary, The People Vs George Lucas, director Alexandre O Phillippe, turns his unique style of filmmaking towards the world’s most unlucky football pundit, an octopus named Paul, in this witty, funny and thought-provoking film, The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus.

Beginning with the oddly moving scenes of Paul’s cremation, Phillippe’s film uses interviews with those closest to the mysterious cephalopod to create a portrait that says more about humanity and world culture, than it does about Paul’s infallible legacy. Filmed in locations across the globe, including the UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Russia and Paul’s former home at the Sea Life centre in Oberhausen, Germany, and featuring songs, films, animations inspired by Paul, the film delves into a number of issues ranging from the mathematical, the psychological, the philosophical, the mythological and the absurd. Like The People Vs George Lucas, Phillippe’s latest documentary, while impeccably researched and filmed, is very aware of its limitations; after all, just how much can you say about a supposedly psychic octopus? But what Philippe is concerned with is creating a film that presents all the sides of the story of Paul’s unique rise to fame, resulting in a piece that is well-rounded, philosophical, and at points, side achingly funny. From Paul having his own agent, to the ongoing debate about Paul’s official nationality, to a discussion about whether some animals are psychic, this film is as fulfilling as it is entertaining. While Paul’s position as a modern-day animal oracle is argued well, logic and numbers are also at play, as Paul’s chances of correctly guessing eight out of eight games at the 2010 World Cup are revealed to be 256 to one. A highlight of the festival this year, The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus is a surprisingly educational but ultimately cheeky new documentary.


Killer Joe

William Friedkin/2012/USA/ 103 min

Showing: Festival Theatre, Wed 20 June, 21:30

Rating: * * * *

William Friedkin’s long-awaited Killer Joe (pictured), adapted by the Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright, Tracy Letts from his play of the same name, is this year’s Festival’s Opening Gala film. And while this darkly comic thriller has been the most anticipated film at the festival, they hype is to be believed, as Friedkin, Letts and Matthew McConaughey have committed one of the most inspired and memorable pieces of film committed to celluloid.

When Chris (Emile Hersch) needs $6,000 to pay off a debt, he and his family (Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church) decide to hire “Killer Joe” (McConaughey) to kill his estranged mother in order to get at her $50,000 life insurance policy, which will be paid out to his younger and very innocent teenage sister, Dottie (Juno Temple). But the lack of a cash deposit for Joe’s services means that he has to take a retainer, in this case, Dottie, before he carries out the murder, which takes Chris and his family into a deadly game of betrayal, violence and degradation. A strong mix of black comedy, thrills and explosions of violence, Killer Joe is a defiant and unapologetic film that explores and questions just what we would do for money by presenting this question in an extreme situation. While the film does leave certain questions unanswered and maintains a certain air of ambiguity throughout, the strength of Friedkin’s piece lies in its ability to not only get under the skin, but also to sink its teeth into your skull. Completely mesmerising and ultimately unforgettable, Killer Joe is an utterly unique and powerful film, that shows how vulnerable we all truly are, and how easily situations can spiral out of control. McConaughey’s turn as the cold, calculating, yet complicated hired killer, is both terrifying and inspiring; his performance is flawless, natural, and completely believable. Perhaps one of the darkest, yet most impressive films on the festival programme this year, Friedkin and Letts have created a simple yet catastrophically effective new piece of cinema that could become a masterpiece.


Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape (Soma kanka: dai ichi bu – ubawareta tochi no kioku)

Yojyu Matsubayashi/Japan/2011/Japanese dialogue with English subtitles /109 min

Showing: Filmhouse Thu 21 June 20:05, Cineworld Sat 23 June @ 18:50

Rating: * * *

The aftermath of the Japanese tsunami in April last year is the basis of Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape, a new documentary from Yojyu Matsubayashi , the director of the 2004 documentary For Those Who Work. Filmed just one month after the tsunami and the associated nuclear disaster at the Fukishima Daichi Nuclear Power Plant devastated north east Japan, freelance filmmaker Matsubayashi travelled within 20 km of the plant in order to document the effects of these destructive events on the remaining residents, including the inspirational Tanaka family.

Moving, informative and entertaining, Fukushima is more concerned with capturing the very real human cost of these disasters than it is of sensationalising the events of last year. Through interviews with survivors, Matsubayashi paints a portrait of contemporary Japan through the eyes of the older generation; revealing a country on the verge of great social change. This snapshot of Japan in its most vulnerable and most transitional state is what gives this film its power, as alongside scenes of destruction, are moments of comedy, tragedy and selflessness from all the film’s subjects, including the Tanakas. Issues of tradition are also brought to the forefront of the film, as the desecration of old temples and other ancient structures is juxtaposed perfectly with the film’s documentation of the younger generation’s apathy towards the older generation. A thought that’s only cemented by the elderly subjects of the documentary having to cope on their own, without the help of their children, or even their grandchildren. While the film does reveal some painful truths, it’s in essence, a celebration of all the contrasting pieces that make up humanity, including our fallible nature, our need for comfort, and above all our instinctive desire to survive, Fukushima provides a fascinating glimpse into the changing nature and attitudes towards the elderly in a country scarred by terrible natural disasters, but manages to remind us that hope and patience can get us through anything.


Him, Here After (Ini Avan)

Asoka Handagama/Sri Lanka/2012/Tamil dialogue with English subtitles/104 min

Showing: Filmhouse Tue 26 June 21:00, Filmhouse Fri 29 June 17:45

Rating:  * * *

The legacy and social problems caused by the Sri Lankan civil war is the subject of Asoka Handagama’s Him, Here After, which has its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. The first film since the war ended in 2009 to discuss the lasting effects of the war on everyday Sri Lankans, this piece presents the challenges of trying to rebuild shattered lives after a prolonged and deadly war.

When a former Tamil rebel fighter (Dharshan Dharmaraj) returns to his village following the end of the war, and after a year of “rehabilitation”, he finds that his former neighbours both fear and despise him. But as he attempts to create a new life, the ghosts and actions of his past continue to haunt him, and he soon takes a job that could not only threaten his own life but the lives of those closest to him. The UK premiere of Handagama’s film, which is one of only a handful of films made in the Tamil language directed by a Sinhalese director, is a hard-hitting portrayal of country struggling to rebuild and create an identity following a 26-year long war. While issues of betrayal and death are apparent throughout Him, Here After, this is a film that’s primarily focused on forgiveness, inner strength, and repairing both the country’s and that of its inhabitants’ fractured psyches. Compelling, absorbing, but most importantly, eye opening, this film sheds new light on contemporary attitudes towards war and conflict, and most importantly resolution. While the civil war is over, the fight that the characters in Him, Here After fight every day is one against ignorance, one for forgiveness, and above all, a desperate battle to survive. Moving, uplifting and absorbing, if a little long, Handagama’s latest film is a compassionate and thoughtful representation of the very human costs of war, where casualties continue to mount up long after the physical battle has stopped.


Sun Don’t Shine

Amy Seimetz/USA/2012/79 min

Showing: Thu 21 June Cineworld 18:30, Sat 23 June Cineworld 13:05

Rating: * *

The great American road movie has come in many forms over the years, and while Roger Corman’s The Trip is probably one of the best-known examples of the genre, Sun Don’t Shine, written and directed by Amy Seimetz, attempts to bring a new dimension to the road trip movie, but fails because of its clichéd and dull characterisation.

Following young and dysfunctional lovers, Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) as they drive across the US to Florida, in the stifling heat, whilst trying to hide a terrible secret, the film’s premise is promising, but the characters’ odd relationship soon makes the Sun Don’t Shine difficult to watch. While Seimetz does attempt to challenge the audience with flashbacks, allusions to mental illness, abuse and an overall sense of foreboding, her characters simply don’t sit well within the piece. Crystal, is emotional, stressed and childlike, while Leo is insular, violent and unpredictable, and together they are a volatile and toxic combination. And herein lies the problem with Sun Don’t Shine; the audience simply can’t sympathise with the two main characters. This could be Seimetz’s intention, given the name of the film, but all road movies, especially those about couples on the run from the law, the audience need to be able to sympathise with them, to make them the heroes, to want them to escape from the authorities. But it’s impossible for the audience to like Crystal and Leo, because of their irrational behaviour, due to their past circumstances, and their conjoined history is irritatingly ambiguous, and the few clues to their past actions introduced a little too late. While the acting is strong, and the film harks back to a very different age of cinema, this tale of love, crime, fear and betrayal it’s nowhere near as groundbreaking as the films in the same genre that came before it.

Edinburgh International Film Festival logoBy Amy Taylor

Following the rather subdued nature of last year’s film festival, which saw the 65th Edinburgh International Film Festival scaled back in an effort to cut costs, awards red carpets and personality, the 66th film festival in Scotland’s capital city has, by the looks of the launch, been well and truly brought back from the dead.

Loyal fans of the festival will be pleased to hear that lessons have been learned from last year: the red carpets are to return, Cineworld has been reinstated as a festival venue, prizes such as the Michael Powell award, have been reinstated, and this year, for the first time, the International Feature Competition will include documentaries alongside traditional narrative films.

The new artistic director of the festival, Chris Fujiwara, has created a diverse, eclectic and original programme that is set to feature 121 new films from 52 countries, 19 World premieres, 76 UK premieres and 11 European premieres. The films range in style, substance and genre, with the opening night film, William Freidkin’s latest movie, Killer Joe, directly contrasting with the closing gala of Pixar’s much-hyped Scottish tale, Brave.

As well as premieres, the festival will also screen two of retrospectives, showcasing the work of Japanese director Shinji Somai and the comedy films of Gregory La Cava. Perhaps understandably, given Fujiwara’s previous home in Japan, the festival has a definite Asian feel, with genres such as Philippine New Wave, which highlights the work of young and independent Pilipino filmmakers. There are also going to be spotlights on Shinya Tsukamoto and Wang Bing, with Tsukamoto bringing his latest project, Kotoko, to the festival, while Bing will also chair a film masterclass in the city.

Familiar faces will also make an appearance at this year’s festival, with the former artistic director of the film festival, Mark Cousins, premiering his latest film, What Is This Film Called Love? EIFF patron and prolific Scottish actor, Robert Carlyle will make an on-stage appearance at the festival to accompany his latest film, California Solo, directed by Victor Kossakovsky, who will also present a masterclass. Carlyle is also set to be the subject of this year’s In Person: BAFTA Scotland Interview.

The animation part of the festival is also strong, with a special screening of Chris Renaud and Kyle Balda’s 3D version of Dr Seuss’s The Lorax alongside The 99 Unbound directed by Dave Osborne. Shorts from around the UK and the world will also feature in the festival, including Scrubber by Romola Garai and Joe Carter’s Funtimes. Meanwhile, experimental filmmaking also gets a mention with the Black Box section, which showcases some of the best of short films from the international art world, including Abigail Child’s feature-length film, The Suburban Trilogy.

For horror fans, late night ghoulish pieces make an appearance in Night Moves, which specialises in the creepier side of cinema, and will feature a number of premieres, including Lovely Molly, the latest film from one of the co-directors of The Blair Witch Project, Eduard Sanchez and the multi-director found footage film, V/H/S.

The programme for the 66th Edinburgh Film Festival is impressive, and this year’s bulging brochure is full of the familiar and the unfamiliar in cinema. From established directors, to new blood, to classics, to experimental short films, to animation and thrillers, this year’s festival is a real mix of films that takes a look at modern film and the future by looking at cinema across the ages and across the world.

While time will tell if the Edinburgh International Film Festival has learned lessons from last year, Fujiwara’s programme reveals how much we have to learn about the art form and how much we can achieve by using it.

Buckfast bottle

Shaken no' pishd. Picture: Daniel Naczk

So now we know. Heineken refreshes the parts of Her Majesty’s favourite secret agent that other beers can’t reach.

Forty-five million US dollars added to the Broccoli family budget helps, of course. Daniel Craig admitted as much when he gave a less than ringing endorsement to the Dutch beer company. The British Secret Service needs a leg up from makers of the cold stuff. At what point, it’s worth asking, does the Bond brand become so contaminated that the product placement contract has to be doctored with a no? Like Scaramanga, he should keep away from the following odd jobs:-

James Bond is not a modern man. He’s often called a dinosaur – and that’s by the less than sprightly Dame Judi Dench. So 007 providing the kindest and most sensitive act of generosity for the ladies in his life would stretch credibility a step too far. As Ian Fleming’s biographer John Pearson said: “The trouble is that Ian gets off with women because Ian can’t get on with women.”

Vesper Martini, shaken not stirred. Mouton Rothschild ’53. Taittinger and Dom Perignon. Heineken (if we must). But the big man cracking open a carafe of Wreck the Hoose Juice with Marvin from The Scheme? Nae chance. Apart from anything else, it’s sourced from a monastery, which is distinctly off-message for such an obvious ladies’ man.

Bond doesn’t watch a lot of telly. But if he did, it would probably be rolling international news, surveillance videos or wildlife documentary where the hunter mauls its prey. But the station of fly on the wall shows about Peter Andre, Paris Hilton’s BFF and Fearne Cotton meets Peaches Geldof. Well, Bond would be shooting even more bad guys if he was seen watching that.

It’s rare to see the fella in anything other than a DJ or Savile Row three piece. If you’re Roger Moore, a safari suit may be in the closet. Daniel Craig will be remembered, however he doth protest, by the La Perla trunks of Casino Royale. Nipping into the What Everyone Wants de nos jours for some Primani clobber is not however a goer.

Really? At the recommendation of his gadget advisor Q, Bond being directed to self-service check-in with one of those catalogues and a bookies’ pen? About as likely as Richard Kiel flogging Arm & Hammer toothpaste.

The National Lottery
Ursula Andress, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Eva Green, Berenice Marlohe. Sean Connery, Daniel Craig and the rest have already won the Lottery. The idea of James Bond fronting a Thunderball which didn’t feature Tom Jones is simply not on.

Ford Mondeo
Everyone knows Bond’s car is an Aston Martin DB5. They’d never let him be seen in anything else. Perish the very thought.

Don Draper: Mad Man of mystery

Don Draper: Mad Man of mystery

It’s probably no longer worth fighting the argument that telly is the new film.

Actors must believe it, or Dustin Hoffmann wouldn’t have chosen his first TV show since the 1960s. That’s even if three horses dying on set have seen the inappropriately named Luck head for the glue factory.

Netflix and Lovefilm must do too, or they wouldn’t be offering TV series to rent as well as movies.

The playwright and screenwriter Sir David Hare wrote that the future of American film is on television.

And the kerfuffle around the return of Mad Men, from broadsheets to billboards, has been as feverish as the welcome for any new Scorsese or Christopher Nolan flick.

Most recent hit dramas have been successful because they revolve around a strong central character who is either a hero or an anti-hero. Martin Sheen’s President Jeb Bartlett delivers his stirring monologues to orchestral backing in a way that would have you seeing his Ready Brek halo if the show was screened in HD. Jack Bauer saves the President, his wayward daughter and the English-speaking world from nuclear Armageddon before breakfast without so much as a loo break.

In the morally ambigious corner, the list is exhaustive – Bryan Cranston’s dark-hearted “Heisenberg” in Breaking Bad, Edie Falco’s pill-popping Nurse Jackie, the cops in The Shield and The Wire, Tony Soprano, Damian Lewis’s Sgt Nick Brody in Homeland, Michael C Hall’s Dexter, Boardwalk Empire’s arch-politician, Nucky Thompson. None of these would be anyone’s first choice for babysitting duties.

Mad Men’s originality lies in constructing its narrative around a cipher. In many ways, it is the most sophisticated ghost story committed to screen.

Don Draper is not a hero. He’s not a villain. (Mild series one spoiler alert…) Don Draper isn’t even Don Draper.

There’s no denying he and naturally the actor who plays him, Jon Hamm are a large part of the reason for Mad Men’s success, and why its female viewers outnumber the male. His character is the wheel around which the show turns. He’s the poster boy. (That’s if they’re not using Christina Hendricks.)

The agency may have started as Sterling Cooper, but Draper was the focus of attention.

Mad Men viewers may look on Roger Sterling’s lackadaisical work ethic, especially journalists from the 1970s, with awe and reverence. Many can recognise someone in their office who shares the same, back-biting, supercilious, small-picture ambition of Vincent Kartheiser’s magnificently smarmy Pete Campbell. Women, even those revulsed by the show’s celebration of throwback gender politics, can appreciate Peggy Olson’s best efforts at making a dent in her own glass ceiling. Others, but not all, respect Joan Holloway’s desire to make the best of her own gifts.

Don however is a mystery to his colleagues, his family and – some achievement from writers and cast, this – the viewers themselves. While he regularly comes home to wife and family, to whom he is devoted, he pursues other romantic options in a cavalier and random manner. On any given period at work, he promotes and encourages female colleagues. On another day, he’ll belittle them. He’s a cold fish with lady friends but warm and loyal to certain account executives.

He is kind to a man pitching a million on an unwise business venture, or an alcoholic colleague, and cruel when he leaves his mistress to crawl out the passenger seat of a car so that he can patch things up with his wife. He’s a used car salesman turned New York’s greatest ad exec, the ultimate self-made man. He is….well, you decide.

Showrunner Matthew Wiener describes the programme as “very personal to me” which makes one equally curious about who Matthew Wiener is … apart from being a former writer on The Sopranos. The momentum of Don Draper, a man with a supreme belief in his ability but shaky self-knowledge, is bound to keep viewers gripped through the next few series.

One aspect of the Mad Men fandom is troubling. In 2009, Ask Men website ranked Don Draper as “the Most Influential Man in the World” ahead of the US President and Steve Jobs. If that really is true, that’s identity crisis on a global scale.