Glasgow Film Festival 2016

Blake Backlash is here with some ideas about how to get the most out of the Glasgow Film Festival, which gets going tonight.

Let us drink a toast! To Glasgow, and her fine film festival!

This year the Glasgow Film Festival opens with Hail, Caesar! and it should. The Coen Brother’s film has plenty of effervescent oomph and welly and is a celebration of the movies. And it’s also a kind of miniature  film festival in itself. For the price of their tickets, the audience the Glasgow Film Theatre tonight will get to see a Western, a biblical epic, and a musical. They’ll be treated to these films as they follow a day in the life of Eddie Manix (Josh Brolin), fixer for Capitol Pictures in 1950s Hollywood. As Mannix goes around, trying to fix everyone’s problems, wondering if he should take another job, the audience glimpses the films being made at Capitol.

These glimpses are pitched somewhere between parody and pastiche by the Coens. They’re funny but they’re also suggestive of why Mannix loves the picture business – so they’re all, in their own way, beautiful. But the song-and-dance routine in that musical is something else – it soars delightfully, borne up high on some lovely, funny choreography and Channing Tatum’s considerable charisma.

I can’t be there so I’m jealous of everyone who will be – because this is a film one ought to see in cinema crammed with as many film-daffy Glaswegians (three theatres full) as the GFT can hold. At its best, the film is like some kind of heaven-sent trailer for all of cinema. So I can’t think of a better way to throw people forward into ten days of as many films as they can manage.

There will be some films in the Festival that Eddie Mannix, for whom prestige means big stars and grand scale, would have to recognise as great films (I quite like the idea of him watching Jia Zangke’s epic of modern China Mountains May Depart). But there will be other films that experiment with the form so much that Eddie would hardly recognise them as films at all – and they might be some of greatest things you see this year. You can walk out of a film a film that thrilled you, made you feel alive and then straight into another that someone risked their life to make. Your favourite film of the festival might be made by a famous director at the top of their game (like Peter Greenaway, or Ben Wheatley, both of whom will be at the festival) or it might the début of someone who you bump into in the bar after their film.

That’s why it is – at one and the same time – too easy and too difficult for me to recommend a bunch of films for you to see. It’s easy because there are so many exciting sounding films to choose from. It’s hard because, well, you want to find your own festival, you don’t want to do mine. Recommending films feels a bit like me planning your trip round the world for you, or providing you with a list of names of people I think you should have love affairs with. Just look at them:

What I can do is give you some, well, let’s not call them rules, let’s call them suggestions.

  • Try and see one film every day and try and spend at least one day doing nothing but seeing films.
  • But also spend some time, an hour, a couple of hours, just sitting in the GFT, watching the festival happen around you, seeing people come in and out of films, eavesdropping on people talking about films.
  • But don’t spend all your time in the GFT. See films at as many locations as you can. A look at the Special Events bit in the programme is a good place to start (I particularly like the sound of The Man Who Fell to Earth at the Planetarium).
  • When you look through the programme, trust your instinct, see those films that you feel you would like, even when you’re not sure why.
  • But try and see at least one film that you instinctively think you would hate – just to see what happens.
  • Watch a film in the Festival’s Local Heroes stand, which celebrates UK films (maybe Robbie Fraser’s documentary about the poet Hamish Henderson, or The Ones Below, a London-based psychological thriller from RSC Director David Farrar).
  • And watch a film from the Festival’s Windows on the World Strand (maybe The Cowboys, a reworking of The Searchers, the directorial début from the writer of A Prophet; or Paths of the Soul about Tibetan villagers on a mountain pilgrimage).
  • Make a double-bill of your Local Heroes film and your Windows of the World film, just to see what putting them together does.
  • See at least one old classic. You’re spoilt for choice. In fact you can see The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Big Sleep, Double Indemnity, Woman of the Year and more for free! So even if you’re skint you can have a pretty spectacular festival.
  • See as many films as you can. But also make time to talk and drink and dance with everyone that the festival will bring together.

Of course, since I’ve already broken my own rule about not recommending any films (I’ve even put in links so you can buy tickets) you should feel free to break any of these or, even better, make up your own.

And since I have started to recommend films, I shouldn’t finish without saying that I am also mad-keen to see 11 Minutes (the latest film by Jerzy Skolimowski, the Polish director who made The Shout ) a thriller that follows the lives of a disparate (or are they?) group of Varsovians over the same, well, eleven minutes; Colours of the Alphabet, a Zambian documentary about teaching in a country where people communicate using over 80 different languages; Green Room, which is punk rockers vs. neo-Nazis and Patrick Stewart, from the bloke who made Blue Ruin; and High-Rise, which is Ben Wheatley adapting JG Ballard, because even the posters for that are beautiful, striking and unsettling.

And so, in eleven days time, if you join me for it, we could all be at a party somewhere, arguing about Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion romance, which seems to have divided opinion among those who’ve seen it, and so is the perfect way to end the Glasgow Film Festival – because all festival should end with some friendly arguments, especially Glaswegian ones.

Oh, wait, before I go, there is one film that I can recommend without hesitation – the Surprise Film on Wednesday 24th is easy to recommend because I have absolutely no idea what it will be, or what it will be like. You don’t need any expectations, all you have to do is turn up.

Not a bad way to approach the whole thing, that.

You can get see what’s on at the Glasgow Film Festival and buy tickets here. It runs from tonight until the 28th.

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