Cambridge Film Festival 2013 Day 6: Local Hero, Wayland’s Song, Big Bad Wolves

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Day 6, the halfway point of the eleven day festival, and the point at which I once again decide to put comfort before style in my appearance. I make that excuse a lot, as well as a lot of other excuses for my appearance, but this one’s genuine. My normal short sleeve shirt and jeans combo is normally supplemented by dark trainers, but my white running shoes are much more comfortable and also help when I’m bounding up the stairs to the screens two at a time. I also base it partly on the theory that The Shawshank Redemption first posited, that you never look at a man’s shoes, but this may fail on my account on at least two cases: generally, people would rather look anywhere than my face, and Andy Dufresne didn’t drag some white Nike knock-offs in a plastic bag through the sewage tunnels of a fictional prison. Still, I’m spending most of the day sat in a dark room with my feet under the seat, so for slogging up and down Cambridge’s streets, the running shoes come in extra handy.

And there was more walking, for day six saw me taking in three different venues.

Local HeroLocal Hero

As part of my attempt to determine the Forty Films To See Before I’m Forty, Jim Ross from Take One had suggested some typically Scottish offerings to supplement my viewing. He did this already in the knowledge that Local Hero was coming to this year’s festival, so I felt duly bound by honour to take in Bill Forsyth’s tale of corporate America taking on rural Scotland.

First, I had to contend with Emmanuel College, which is just opposite the Arts Picturehouse and acts as a venue for a number of screenings. There’s very little signage at the college to indicate they’re showing films, but on wandering in the first gate I saw a small sign. Following another half a dozen of these signs led me to a modern building at the far end of the college complex, at which point the signs ran out and I found myself ascending a spiral staircase more in hope than expectation. Turns out I was at the venue, which was a modern lecture theatre with curtains drawn as much as possible but the occasional shaft of light still creeping in. Although the base of the seats is padded, they are still benches and I struggled and fidgeted through the next hour and a half.

Local Hero is a product of its era, resolutely Eighties with a truly eccentric performance from Burt Lancaster. It did succeed in helping Dennis Lawson to make a more significant cultural contribution than Wedge to popular culture, but at the same time it’s now impossible to watch Peter Capaldi in anything without now imagining him doing it as The Doctor. (His edginess and inquisitiveness make him an excellent choice in my mind, but I digress.) Eccentric goes a long way to summing up Local Hero, and I’d also throw in whimsical, pleasant and humourous, and while it’s not a cast iron classic I’m glad to have ticked it off my list.

I then cut across the road, attempting (not entirely successfully) to undo my route, and arrived back at the Arts Picturehouse for my next film.

Wayland's SongWayland’s Song

When navigating the festival programme each year, it’s difficult to make informed choices about everything. Sometimes you’re looking for a familiar face or name, something to give you a hook into a film, so when I saw the name of Richard Jobson, that seemed enough to hook me into his latest film, Wayland’s Song. My familiarity with Jobson stems from his presenting stint on the late night ITV programme Hollywood Report rather than his film career, but I’m always keen to give British film a chance. What I was left with was the only film of any nationality of the whole festival that I regretted seeing.

Wayland (Michael Nardone) is a veteran of the Afghanistan war who returns home to discover his daughter has gone missing, and sets out to find her and not to worry about who gets in his way. The simplest way to think of Wayland’s Song is as a companion piece to the distinctly similar Dead Man’s Shoes, except without any of the narrative, directorial or production skill that went into the former. The acting ranges from a dull monotone to screechingly bad, the Afghanistan flashbacks suffered by Wayland are laughably inept and there are a whole host of production issues, not least the sound mix which at certain points leaves the dialogue inaudible. There isn’t a shred of originality in Wayland’s Song and there’s not much more competence, although if you do see it yourself, please let me know if I’m right in thinking that at one point, Wayland puts his iPhone to his head the wrong way around (with the speaker and home button away from his face), I’d love to know.

Following this, it was another fifteen minute walk back down to the Cineworld in Cambridge for my last film of the day.

Big Bad WolvesBig Bad Wolves (Mi mefahed mezeev hara)

People often ask me why I watch horror movies, and I resist the temptation to ask them why they watch Coronation Street or The X-Factor. I suppose it’s a fair question, as horror movies aren’t for everyone, and it’s a genre that covers a lot of bases, so some horror movies still won’t be for all horror fans. I’m not a huge fan of torture porn, but certainly the forbidden thrill of gore has often appealed, but for someone who’s pleasant and welcoming on the outside I have a dark and twisted core, like one of those new tubs of Ben ‘N’ Jerry’s, and certain horror movies appeal to that darker side of my personality.

It’s the story of three men who gradually find themselves entangled in each other’s lives: Dror (Rotem Keinan) is suspected of some brutal child murders in which the heads of the children haven’t been found, thus denying them a full Jewish burial. Miki (Lior Ashenkazi) is the police officer who goes too far in attempting to extract information through official channels, so is forced to follow Dror on a more informal basis in the hope he slips up. Unbeknown to them both, they’re also being tracked by Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the father of the most recent victim out for revenge and answers.

I found Big Bad Wolves very, very appealing, but it’s definitely an acquired taste. As with many horror movies, it manages to be blackly comic as well as bleak, but this is a film with more than two gears in its gearbox. It also succeeds in being more generally funny and occasionally a little surreal, but the true joy of Big Bad Wolves is how it manages to switch between gears, often in the same scene, effortlessly and never breaks the overall tone. It’s packed full of more twists than a bag of fun size Curly-Wurlys and writer / director team Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado excel on both fronts. I’d almost added a second day at this year’s FrightFest to catch this and a couple of other films, and was very thankful that this made it’s way to the FrightFest strand at this year’s festival.