AUSTRALIAN feelgood movie Red Dog proved to be the most popular choice for the audiences at this year’s Inverness Film Festival at Eden Court last week.
An audience prize was voted for by film fans going along to the more than 30 movies shown from last Wednesday until Sunday night’s world premiere closer Shame.
Swedish movie The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest bagged the audience prize last year, while in 2009, it went to Japanese film Departures.
Film festival director Paul Taylor revealed that having seen Red Dog at the Berlin Film Festival, it was the first film he programmed for this year’s five-day IFF.
But he had a tense wait to see if he would actually be able to get a copy of the movie in time to screen at the festival!
Paul said earlier this week: "I ended up emailing the producer – who owns the real red dog that appears in the film!
"And though it was my first choice, it was the last one to be confirmed."
Here are some reviews of Inverness Film Festival movies:
HOUSE OF TOLERANCE
UNDERNEATH the beautiful dresses, elegant surroundings and friendship in a Paris brothel in 1899, there are grim truths too.
One girl,asked by a client to tell her dreams, has her face slashed for her trouble and this echoes throughout the film. Another girl gets “the clap”, one gets addicted to opium when her regular customer moves on to a younger girl and the madam gets bad news about the future.
Slow and dwelling on the beauty of the house and the girls over the change into the 20th century, the elegance of it all has the slightly unreal look of remembering a time and a place through rose-coloured specs.
But you never forget the brutal reality of the girls' lives, as in the brutally intrusive fortnightly health inspection from a police doctor.
As The Woman Who Laughs, Alice Barnole gives a haunting performance. And with one final glimpse of changed days, director Bertrand Bornello hints that everything - but nothing - has changed.
THE second film featuring Icelandic mavericks Sigur Ros is sometimes beautiful, sometimes claustrophobic and irritating.
Film-maker Vincent Morisset chooses black and white with an overlaid technique in post-production that leaves everything looking blurry. The live footage of a show in Alexandra Palace back in 2008 is broken up by sometimes funny, tongue-in-cheek moments backstage or the four being interviewed.
The band chose the film-maker for his film Mirror Noir with band Arcade Fire. But the pristine, bell-like sound topped by vocalist Jonsi’s high-pitched, almost unbearably beautiful voice seems a bit short-changed by this literally colour-free experience.
“Did you start more mainstream and go experimental?” a radio presenter asks the band, who sit in silence.
Offended? Amused? Bored? Make your mind up.
THE WHITE MEADOWS
DIRECTOR Mohammad Rasoulof went to prison after the Iranian security services saw this film and others he’d made.
But it’s a parable of a plot where Rahmat rows a salty lake to desert-dry islands to help communities express their grief – and collect tears in a little glass bottle. Along the way there are terrible tales including a beautiful girl “sacrifice” sent out on a raft to die. The stunning salt-encrusted landscapes where sometimes Rahmat is walking across a completely white screen, make human beings seem small. The way they treat their scapegoats, plain cruel. An unforgettable, puzzling experience with haunting moments.
A CLASSY French movie with Kristin Scott-Thomas as Christine a top executive used to getting on with the help of a few ideas nicked from her junior colleague Isa (Ludivine Sagnier).
“Want it, watch out,” is Christine’s career advice to Isa.
Filmed in chilly blue tones, the slick office and home surroundings of the women contrast with the passion of the tussle that surfaces as both go for a New York promotion. But it’s Isa’s side we’re on, watching Sagnier show off a Meryl Streep-style chameleon quality. One minute she’s the naïve, slightly dowdy junior, the next she’s an on-heat lover or a beautiful, fragile victim. Clever plot with twists, a murder and a final question – just who was the real victim?
FIRST-TIME film director David Hutchison told the packed La Scala cinema at Eden Court he was glad his film was getting its world premiere there.
From Lochinver, David rememvered the long journey to Inverness to see his first film in the town's La Scala cinema, recalled in Eden Court's revival of the name.
There's a great central performance from Joanna Kaczynska as Polish artist Ania searching in a Highland village for her missing sister Celina.
But finding Celina's much-loved guitar hidden at her boyfriend's caravan, Ania knows something is wrong and turns to the fish factory where her sister worked briefly for clues.
Though some of the actors in smaller roles weren't quite up to the quality of the leads leaving a credibility gap the full-on, fast-moving plot kept you involved.
There was a lovely use of locations Lochinver, Buckie, Kinlochbervie and Edinburgh. And the soundtrack - apart from one piece of out-of-place heavy metal - just added to the sense that this was a Highland movie to be proud of.
BEST THING: The final twist.
WORST THING: A too-long, unecessary revenge scene.
AMERICAN regular guy Curtis (Michael Shannon) finds his perfect life interrupted by terrifying dreams – but with a family background of mental troubles, his worst fear is that he is going crazy. He starts building a massive extension to his tornado shelter, risking the family finances and alienating his wife (Jessica Chastain), wider family and neighbours.
Seer or madman?
But with a growing sense of menace, Take Shelter could just as easily be a parable about America itself as director Jeff Nichols uses his second movie to keep us asking questions.
It all hangs on ace performances from Shannon and Jessica Chastain.
The movie returns to Eden Court for screening in February.
TALES OF THE NIGHT
MAGICAL old-fashioned animation that has never looked more exciting or colourful, is what you get from Michel Ocelot’s series of folk tales from across the world in this French movie. They’re being told by a young couple who meet every night in an old Parisian cinema where their old friend tells them the story of the day – and they’re falling for each other.
There’s no need for CGI with the bright colours and black silhouettes used to magic a prince into a wolf, or create a dancing porcupine.
And the imagination gets a workout too.
“Better bring your sunglasses,” the girl says as she creates a jungle world of flowers and tropical plants for The Beauty Of Not Knowing.
“I always wanted to stroke a bee’s back,” he says giving us the chance to imagine it too.
The morals of the tale usually come with a twist.The messages are all about finding the power inside yourself, but worth remembering that the beautiful princess might be the ugly crow not the shy doe.
DON”T FORGET: “The magic between a girl and a boy goes well beyond what magic can do.”
AND: The perfect family viewing is subtitled.
WINNING best first film at Cannes for Argentinian director Pablo Giorgelli, this story slowly unfolds the growing friendship between a trucker and the woman and baby he’s asked to take along on a trip from Paraguay to Buenos Aires.
From strangers, they learn to get along over the miles and with the slow pace and subtle performances from Germain De Silva and Hebe Duarte, it’s a realistic portrait of how unexpected bonds are made.
Returns to Eden Court for screening between December 30 and January 5.
THREE generations of Aboriginal men learn to get on with each other – and the rest of their community in the far North West of Australia’s Kimberley region.
In the debut film from Brendan Fletcher, you can see his background in documentaries, though the story is only enhanced by the real-life issues – the drinking, boys' need for freedom/troublemaking, Aboriginal kids keeping in touch their culture.
There are amazing performances from Lucas Yeeda as the boy Bullet, Dean Daley-Jones as his tearaway dad TJ and tough-guy cop Tex (Gred Tait) whose continuing bid to set up a men’s group and then get them anyone to utter a word, runs through the film.
At the end, it’s interesting to see the real-life actors and actresses talk about their own lives and the experiences they bring to the roles they are asked to play.
THE Aussie legend – by way of a Louis de Bernieres tale and a screenplay to touch your heart by Daniel Taplitz – finds an animal hero whose adventures bring human lives together around him.
When Red Dog’s life is in danger, a tough mining community looks back at the story of the dog who is everyone’s friend until he meets American wanderer John (Josh Lucas) and chooses him as his owner.
That relationship is the funny/sad core at the heart of a wider tale that talks about Aussies and their sense of loyalty and place, even in the toughest surroundings.
A TWIN earth suddenly appears and makes a massive impact on the lives of an American high school pupil about to go to college and a composer and family man.
But four years later, Rhoda (Brit Marling) and John William Mapother)are picking up the pieces of their lives , when the chance comes for one of them to travel to the new earth where another version of themselves might still be living their "old" lives before the trauma.
Mike Cahill's first feature film won special jury prize at this year's Sundance Festival.
Brit Marling who turned her back on economics and a high-paid career with Goldman Sachs, wrote Another Earth. And she also turns in a mesmerising performance as someone seeking forgiveness and a way forward in a trashed life.
The new planet makes people think about how they see themselves if there was another "you" up there.
And as Rhoda asks John: "If you met yourself up there, what would you say?"
The film returns to Eden Court for screening between January 20 and 26.
SEX and love – Brandon knows the difference - and runs to one because for him the other is tainted and corrupt.
At the start of the movie, Brandon has sex, gets on a train and eyes up a beautiful woman who eyes him up right back. But already things are out of synch in Steve McQueen’s second film. So the sounds of love-making come before we get to see the frame where it’s happening.
And Brandon’s in denial, ignoring constant phone messages from a woman called Cissy.
Cissy’s his sister, and Carey Mulligan plays her with a fragile, borderline- crazy energy.
But Brandon’s hunger for sex starts to get him in trouble as we find out why love and a real relationship for him are impossible.
Michael Fassbender is stunning in this troubling story. MC
Returns to Eden Court for screening in February 2012.