I could only attend the festival for two-and-a-half days but I did manage to meet a number if friendly filmgoers, encounter the coldest and stormiest day in the festivals 31 years [it rained and snowed - we were camping] and watch seven films.
Here are the films I saw in order of preference:
Enduring Love - After one of the most extraordinary opening sequences in recent memory this film by Roger Michell (Persuasion, The Mother) delves deep into intense psychological drama. Combining the best of Hitchcock (suspense) and Kieslowski (fate) along with top-notch performances by Daniel Craig, Samantha Morton and Rhys Ifans the film - based on an Ian McEwan novel - is one of the best I've seen this year.
The Motorcycle Diaries - Walter Salles returns with a fine impressionistic road movie about Ernesto (Che) Guevara and his best friend Alberto Granado who traveled 9000 km around South America in the early 1950's. Not a revolutionary tract but a very good film about a young man finding a world he hardly knew existed. The cinematography adds much to the film's effectiveness.
Yes - Sally Potter finally manages to blend her poetic, cinematic style with real heart in this film about an Irish woman (Joan Allen) who has an extramarital affair with a Middle Eastern man. The film [thankfully] avoids the trappings of a typical romantic drama with many artistic devices including the use of rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter, an astute use of Greek chorus, timely political overtones and an abundance of style.
Nobody Knows - Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with an interesting film about four young children [ages 4 to 12] who are abandoned by their mother. Left to fend for themselves they find a way to survive when the money runs out, the electicity is shut off and the house becomes a wreck. The subject is compelling but the handling is very matter-of-fact [and completely unsentimental] making the whole thing that much more disturbing.
Kinsey - Bill Condon gives the biopic treatment to Alfred C. Kinsey the scientist turned sexologist who in 1948 published a book on male sexuality that changed the way American though about sex. The film stars Liam Neeson [who is a bit stiff] and Laura Linney [who seems on auto-pilot]. Best is Peter Sarsgaard who is one of Kinsey's study partners. The film has some funny bits and overall is worthy of its subject to the point that it makes one want to learn more.
Adam and Paul - This film by Lenny Abrahamson, described in the press notes as Laurel and Hardy by way of Samuel Beckett, is about two heroin junkies wandering the drab streets of Dublin looking to score. The film has some good bits but for the most part the dead pan humor and the story reveal little. The director seems to be influenced by Jim Jarmuch and Aki Kaurismaki who do this kind of humor much better.
Baober in Love - This scattershot film by Li Shaohong about a waifish Chinese teen who manages to land a hot married guy and get him to fall madly in love with her is conceived as a metaphorical fantasy about modern China [or so the filmmaker says]. The program notes dare to compare the film to the work of Wong Kar-wai but it is such an undisciplined mess that it loses credibility with each passing minute. It does, however, have good editing and nice cinematic tricks.
I really wanted to see the documentary Gunner Palace and the African film about female circumcision Moolaade but I expect them to be in theatres soon since they now have distributors.
My friend Larry Calloway has a review of Gunner Palace.