So, on to my top three films from this year’s EIFF. Err, actually not quite, see those two South Korean action movies, Unstoppable and Extreme Job? They’re now my joint 3rd place, on reflection I did enjoy them more than The Mystery of Henri Pick, which is not to say it wasn’t enjoyable.
There’s plenty to like about Le mystère Henri Pick especially the TV literary critic character Jean-Michel Douche, pompous, self-important and arrogant, determined to prove to everyone that he knows better. See everyone else accepts that a manuscript found in the “library of rejected books” was written by one Henri Pick, a deceased pizza restaurant owner in Brittany, but Douche is convinced otherwise; having lost his job over comments made about the author he has time to investigate further and forms an uneasy alliance with Henri Pick’s daughter who has her niggling doubts that her father could have written a book. Together they unravel the mystery of who Henri Pick the author really is. An intriguing, lighthearted whodunnit that keeps one guessing til the end. Also, at the end there was a Q&A, yay! Interesting, and amusing (to me anyway) that of the foreign directors I’ve seen at this year’s EIFF only the french guy has had an interpreter.
I have finally decided that I can’t decide which is my top film this year, so I’m having joint top films! Top End Wedding and Chippa are both too charming and wonderful to pick one over the other.
Top End Wedding is a great Aussie movie. Miranda Tapsell (I remembered her from The Sapphires) not only stars in it as Lauren, she co-wrote it too, so gorgeous, funny and clever! Her boyfriend Ned is played by Gwilym Lee (recently seen playing Brian May in Bohemian Rhapsody); Ned is an unhappy prosecutor, decides to quit his job and propose to his girlfriend. Lauren, just promoted at her job, says yes, but insists they get married in Darwin back where she’s from, her boss gives her ten days off to get it done. Road trip!
Up in Darwin it turns out Lauren’s mum has up and left her dad, who’s taken to shutting himself in the pantry and playing Chicago’s “If you leave me now” on a little cassette player (I guess you have to be a certain age to feel a glow of bittersweet nostalgia for that track and the gadget, whilst I did laugh I felt his pain too). Lauren won’t marry without her mum so calls off the wedding but only to Ned, Ned doesn’t mention this to anyone else, instead, yay, road trip to find mum! I reckon you can figure the rest, it is a romcom after all.
This film is playful and delightful, but also, as Lauren looks for her mum there are deep feelings and issues brought up that are quite touching, almost needed a tissue at times. The road trips were great for showing off Oz, it quite made me want to go back seeing all those places again, the redness of the Outback, Katherine Gorge, Kakadu National Park; oh yes, I visited them many years ago, I paddled my own canoe up Katherine Gorge, you know! I hadn’t heard of the Tiwi Islands before, but if I make it back to Oz I shall pop up, that’s truly Top End!
And last but definitely not the least is Chippa, an utterly charming film from India, set in the streets of Kolkata; Chippa is given a letter from his long-absent father on the eve of his 10th birthday, unfortunately it is written in Urdu which he cannot read, so after yet another scolding from his great aunt who he lives with, he decides to set out to find someone who can read the letter to him. And so begins his adventure….
It really sets the tone for the nighttime escapade when Chippa sneaks on to the grass garden roof of a taxi and rides it like it’s a magic carpet carrying him through the night. Through the night he meets all kinds of fascinating characters, a taxi driver, a policeman, an old tea seller, a street football game, a band, a newspaper delivery man, oh and a loveable stray pup he befriends and calls Pippa. With each encounter he gets another perspective on life, but does he find out what the letter says? Not telling, but I will say on encountering the policeman again in the morning, he has decided to go home “because life has only just begun”. Almost another tissue moment there.
Chippa is played by the very talented and already charismatic Sunny Pawar, the kid will go far! He was previous in Lion which I didn’t see at the time but I may well now look up. Chippa is set in the area that Safdar Rahman, the writer and director is from, and it’s very clearly a love letter to his home and roots, even before he admitted it at the Q&A after the screening – and what a lovely, charming guy he is!
All in all, a pretty good EIFF this year. I do enjoy seeing so many varied films in just nine days and feeling the buzz around the Filmhouse. Definitely one of my annual highlights and another reason why Edinburgh is a great place to live!