Edinburgh Film Festival 2011/ Take 4

Day 4

The Last Circus (Balada triste de trompeta) **

Director Alex de la Inglesia/ 107 mins 

It is hardly surprising that this Tarantino inspired romantic horror won the best director and screenplay prizes at the Venice Film Festival, especially when the man himself was on the jury.

In 1937, during the Spanish Civil War,  a “Happy” circus clown is interrupted mid-performance and is recruited by a militia. e is given a machete and single handedly massacres an entire army. The clown is eventually killed and his son escapes.

Then in  1973 at end of the Franco’s regime,  Javier, the son of the clown, takes on the role of the Sad Clown. He finds work in a circus, but finds himself in trouble by falling for the abusive Happy Clown Sergio’s girlfriend, Natalia. Will Javier win her heart or is it the biggest mistake he has made in his life?

The film is an absolute mess from beginning to end, going through a number of different developments through the duration. It starts off as a war film, then a love story, a revenge tale and finally ends up being this weird crossover that is best described as Falling Down meets Phantom of the Opera.

Who we are supposed to feel sympathy for remains uncertain, as all the characters are unlikeable. The cartoon violence is over the top and is just too overwhelming. The film is well shot and the overall look of the film is impressive, it is just a shame that they overlooked substance to an overblown concoction.


Albatross ***

Director Niall MacCormick/ 88 mins 

An interesting and amusing coming of age love story Niall McCormick’s movie is one of the most anticipated debuts in the film festival.


A would-be writer Emelia (Jessica Brown Findlay) takes a job as a cleaner in a seaside hotel owned by frustrated writer Jonathan (Sebastian Koch) and his family. She befriends his daughter, Beth (Felicity Jones), but she becomes involved with the father,  while dealing with her personal family problems.


The script by new screenwriter Tamzin Rafn is fairly well written, the narrative is well paced and has some great dialogue. Where the problem lies is the under development of the minor characters within the story. Julia Ormond’s mother figure seems to be on there to look moody and doesn’t really bring anything to the story. While it would have been also nice to see more of Emilia’s relationship with her grandparents. 


Where the film excels in particular is with the performances, especially from Jessica Brown Findlay who practically steals every scene she is in from her co stars. The film also has a great soundtrack from Frightened Rabbit to The Editors.


This may not be a great British film, but the performances alone make this an unforgettable, charming cinematic experience.


Jack Goes Boating ***

Director Philip Seymour Hoffman/ 90 mins 

After acting in 50 movies, Philip Seymour Hoffman makes the leap into trying his hand behind the camera with a film based on an off Broadway play.


Jack (Hoffman) is a shy limo driver with a fondness for pot and reggae music. He meets Connie (Amy Ryan) for a blind date set up by Connie’s co-worker Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), who is also married to Jack’s best friend Clyde (John Ortiz). As the couple begin their relationship, Clyde and Lucy’s marriage starts to dissolve due to an incident from their past. While Clyde gives Jack swimming lessons so that he can take Connie on her dream date, a boating trip on the lake. 

Hoffman has made a well executed if rather pedestrian first attempt into directing. The camera never really moves, it remains static throughout. The only sense of movement comes with the transition of effect shots that feature in a few of the scenes.

The performances by everyone in the piece are really great. The scenes involving the breakdown of Lucy and Clyde’s relationship are intense, moving and incredibly powerful.

The film overall feels as if it would have been better if it remained as play, it is more of a personal experience as a piece of cinema though it sinks rather than swims.  

Reviews by Paul Logan







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