Edinburgh Day Two
The Edinburgh Film Festival would anchor my visit. I would see one or two films each day with hopes these viewings would result in an article or at least be included in my class the next time I taught World Cinema. I easily made my way by foot to Lothrian Road and Filmhouse where tickets were bought, where many of the films were shown, related events took place, and a cafe fed filmgoers and the press.
Once I had a brochure in hand, I plotted my film going. I purchased most of my selections without a hitch but A House in Berlin, a film that follows a Glasgow woman as she deals with the inheritence of a “house in Berlin” had only stand by tickets. I grabbed the last seat on the only sofa in the lobby and watched the ebb and flow of the “usual suspects” who frequent film festivals: clubby critics, high Octane PR types, students and film afficianados of a “certain age.”
Perhaps my weeks in the “wilds” of Ireland and Scotland tainted my view. Just about every year, I attend the New York Film Festival without casting a jaded eye over the scene. Observing the traffic for the hour or so I waited for my ticket put me off like a bad meal. The islands where I had walked the last three weeks revealed an authenticity in their raw state that I had come to depend on. The greetings among press known to each other, the hyper hipster in-crowd strained my tolerance. My hope was that the “old” Edinburgh would restore me.
When I finally walked to Grassmarket, site of a market from the late 1400’s, I found a celebration afoot. Soldiers and tanks filled the square as did patriots.
After witnessing yet anoth group of young girls Irish step dancing, I worked my way to Lawnmarket, only to be once more assaulted with authenticity gone awry. The street in Old Town Edinburgh had once been slums but was restored in this century. However, 17the century Edinburgh wasn’t washing over me; instead, groups of tourists moved like large schools of fish over the street. To escape, I turned into a door on my left, a good find, Gladstone’s Land, store and home of a wealthy merchant. Docents provide interesting and amusing descriptions of daily life in the late 1600’s.
When I reentered the street, a new onslaught of visitors assaulted me. I tried to escape, but no matter where I ventured, I was surrounded. Finally I accepted my fate and joined them at Real Mary King’s Close, a warren of underground streets and houses of the less fortunate 17th century residents lived. Even though we were packed in like sardines and given a “real” tourist’s speal, I was awed.
I went straight from the 17th century to the 21st as I took on two films one right after the other. I had big hopes for Patrick’s Day, a film about a schizophrenic man with the poster stating, “Love is Madness.” As I have spent many a year debating the purchase of my grandfather’s land in Greece, Cynthia Beatt’s A House in Berlin also intrigued me. The film follows a Glasgow woman’s confrontation with her inheritance- a house in Berlin. This film did not disappoint: the sense of place, the city of Berlin, is as strong as the narrative. In fact, as a viewer, I felt more involved in the film as the city presents itself than I did with the actors. And narcissistically, I enjoyed seeing a shot at the University of Glasgow that matches the shot I had taken just a week ago.
Patrick’s Day revealed stunning acting on the part of Moe Dumford who plays Patrick. However, the film as a whole was problematic. There were inconsistencies in terms of his condition. He didn’t seem to have symptons of schizophrenia and was described in the film as learning disabled. Also, the music sometimes replaced skillful narrative: one song played in it’s entirety for no apparent reason except to tie two scenes together. As Greek filmmaker Yiannis Isodorou advised me about my students’ films, “Tell them to stop using so much music.” The director, Terry McMahon, gave a generous introduction emphasizing the importance and ability of the actors. He appeared to be waving around a glass of whiskey while he spoke. After the film, he reappeared for Q and A with the glass of whiskey in tow. A member of the audience asked him about the inconsistencies with the character’s diagnosis. He didn’t take kindly to the question. When she tried to explain what she meant in a most reasonable manner, he became very unreasonalble challenging her validity in even presenting the issue. An unpleasant end to a sometimes worthwhile film.
I trudged home looking for the restaurant recommended at my hotel- a real Scottish meal. When I entered it, I discovered that this was a carnivores’ heaven and only inhabited by men. One whiskey, two glasses of red wine and a dried hamburger later, I made my way back to my hotel hoping for a better day tomorrow.