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Candid at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015 – Part 4

June 28, 2015

FestivalsFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia

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Watched in the darkness of the EIFF Videotheque, my first film of the festival’s penultimate day is Masaharu Take’s 100 Yen Love, the story of a lost girl who finds herself through boxing. When we meet thirty-two-year-old slob Ichiko she is living at home, scratching her arse and fighting violently with her sister. Something’s got to give and when she storms out her only option is to make a life for herself.

The film plays with our cinematic expectations: at first we think it’s a comedy, then a rom-com, then after a shocking incident the story intentionally doesn’t prepare us for, we imagine we’ve stumbled into a revenge drama. But each time we are confounded, not in a way that disappoints but in a way that draws us closer to our lonely protagonist, played by Sakura Ando.

As Ichiko she’s oddly magnetic: ridiculous, infantile, frightened and insecure with a sullen look that conveys many emotions. The film’s run-down setting captured rather lovingly by DoP Hiromitsu Nishimura – the littered streets, drunks, depressives and marigold-yellow uniforms at the 100 Yen Store, Japan’s answer to Poundland, where Ichiko gets a job – all add to the viewer’s need for some sort of redemption. And whilst Take enjoys playing with us, he does allow some hope in a film that is more interesting than the paths it pretends to tread.

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Films about famous musicians featuring their famous music with carefully selected actors pretending to compose and sing said music is often a recipe for boring disaster. Luckily Love and Mercy – Bill Pohlad’s film about two critical periods in the life of Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson – is a triumph. Flitting between the sixties when Wilson’s breakdown was just beginning and the early nineties when he was trapped by the replacement patriarchal figure of Dr Eugene Landy who sought to control him and his money.

Writers Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner clearly know music. The band’s arguments are spot on, as is Wilson wondering in the film’s opening scene where his inspiration comes from, not wanting to think about it, not wanting to jinx it. And scenes with the young Wilson (played brilliantly by Paul Dano) working with musicians to get the noises in his head out into the world are utterly engaging. In a sense the film is about the conflict between money and success, and creativity. Ironically the song that combined both, ‘Good Vibrations’, ‘Brian’s pocket symphony to God’, was the start of his dislocation from the world.

It’s something of a hagiography in that everyone is the antagonist to Brian’s genius, but the film is brought to life by great performances from Dano, John Cusack as the older Wilson, Paul Giamatti utterly monstrous yet believable as Dr Landy and Elizabeth Banks who is deliciously spot-on as Melinda Leadbetter, the woman who takes Wilson out of the destructive patterns of his life.

The cutting between the two eras is beautifully handled whilst visually it’s a fantastic period piece of both times, shot without indulgence and with great attention to detail. Visually it kind of hums – like when a note is so perfectly in tune you hear the sympathetic one inside it.

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Finally, I headed to watch Dope, Rick Famuyiwa’s comedy about a trio of likeable school-kid geeks from ‘The Bottoms’ a rough part of Inglewood CA who don’t want to sell drugs – that’s kind of the running joke. Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his mates Jib (Tony Revolori, he of The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) want to go to college, love punk, skateboards and nineties hip-hop – sort of like white people – and are thus easy prey for the school bullies and local thugs.

One day drug dealer Dom (A$AP Rocky) asks Malcolm to do him a favour, which at first doesn’t seem so bad: to go and talk to his girl, Nakia (Zoë Kravitz). But ultimately it draws all three kids into a situation they can’t escape, at least, not without selling drugs.

It’s a funny set-up with a serious comment behind it about opportunity or its lack with good performances from the young leads. Perhaps the biggest surprise is that outrageously stunning supermodel Chanel Iman kind of steals the show with her crazy cameo performance, which I wouldn’t dream of ruining for you. Though the film is a little concerned with its Guy Ritchie-style cutting and music synchs, it has great energy and the good-fun feel of a classic eighties movie.

The 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival ends today.

AC Goodall