EIFF day one highlight is The Last Rites of Ransom Pride

This article is from 2010

EIFF day one highlights include Pelican Blood and The Last Rites of Ransom Pride

Pelican Blood

Edinburgh International Film Festival Blog

Thursday 17th June

A dirty, filthy hangover from the Opening Gala after-party was not enough to stop me fulfilling my interview commitments today, although it was enough to stop me getting into town early and securing tickets for various movies. Still, with the aid of a Greggs steak bake and a can of radioactive-orange fizzy pop, I was ready to face the world.

The world chose to manifest itself first in the charming, bearded face of Karl Golden, director of ‘Pelican Blood’. He was thrilled by news that the film was getting lots of attention by party-goers, and hoped that the sometimes-oblique nature of the film wasn’t going to put people off (at which point I felt compelled to tell him of the woman in my screening who leaned over and whispered that she thought the projectionist had misplaced a reel, due to the lack of overt exposition). ‘There are those that will hate it, and those that will let themselves go along with it,’ says Golden. ‘There are certainly parts of the film where the audience has to pay attention. I don’t believe in the three-act structure of a film; I think that, like football, a film has two halves – in the first half, you’re giving the audience information that may or may not be useful later on, and you give them an arrangement of characters who have emotional depth and complexity, and in the second half, the audience members who can put this all together can experience a sort of emotional thriller... I want people to feel the film, more than anything else.’ As well as showering heaps of praise on the two leads, Harry Treadaway and Emma Booth for their ‘fierce’, ‘brave’ performances, he also had time to recommend Finnish/Parisian music makers The Dø, who provide a weirdly militaristic soundtrack to one scene in which Booth’s free-spirited environmentalist Stevie seduces Treadaway’s suicidal twitcher Nikko with a sexy-but-strange bird-masked striptease.

‘Aw, did you love my dance? My bird dance?! We originally had this track that was like, the opposite side of the fucking spectrum, but then Karl became obsessed with this song by The Dø and I was like, “You’re changing it now? After all the fucking time I spent choreographing it?!”’ Booth is a charmer, seemingly rushing through the day on swearwords and adrenaline alone, having had half an hour’s sleep the night before and currently subsisting on a juice-only diet – part of a ‘major fuckin’ detox’/holiday programme she’s on at the moment. ‘Oh yeah, I’m staying with a mate down in Glastonbury – I’m just a big fucking hippie at heart – and this is like my holiday after nine straight months of playing prostitutes, murderesses and self-harming anorexics, so I think I earned a break.’ A tattoo on her wrist bears the legend ‘Birdy’, apparently her nickname for Stevie. ‘I’m still so in awe of Stevie, I love her,’ says Booth, who occasionally seems overcome by the emotion she’s attached to the character. ‘When I stopped playing Stevie – I’ve played a lot of characters, and never have I mourned for them like I mourned for her. Usually I can just let go, but with her it was like, “Ffffuck!” I’m still holding onto her a little bit.’

Treadaway had no such issues letting go of Nikko. ‘Well, when we wrapped, it was Christmas, so I just went home and hung out by the Christmas tree!’ He’s no stranger to the Festival, having been here three times before with the award-winning trio of ‘Fish Tank’, ‘Control’ and ‘Brothers of the Head’. ‘I think this is a great place for the film to be – I’ve just had such a good experience the other times I’ve been here, and I’ve been shown that people at this festival embrace films that are filled with idiosyncrasies.’ The main idiosyncrasy in this case, of course, being Nikko’s bird-watching obsession – a theme that is underlined later on when around 20 birdwatchers, complete with binoculars, are welcomed onto the red carpet alongside the film-makers. ‘They’re absolutely mad,’ he says of the hardcore, ‘punk’ breed twitchers that the film is concerned with (not to be confused with the lovely folks at the red carpet, of course). ‘They’ll get alerts like, “There’s a black-tailed godwin on the fucking Shetland Islands,” and they fucking go there! They meet up in Manchester, all get together in a van, and they’ll travel the length and breadth of the country to see these birds – they’re like SWAT teams!’

Mentalist ornithologists aside, the rest of the day is pretty easy going after this burst of interview activity: some time is passed at the afore-mentioned red carpet, where Sir Patrick Stewart cuts a dashing figure in a green kilt outfit (I spend a few hours trying to come up with Sir Patrick Stewart nicknames, but all I come up with is the ‘Twilight’-riffing ‘SirPatz’ and the Snoop Dogg-esque ‘Pizzle Stizzle’). In the evening, the Filmhouse screens a film from the festival’s Night Moves roster – gothic Western ‘The Last Rites of Ransom Pride’, with a short introduction by director Tiller Russell. The film is packed with best bits, including Kris Kristofferson as a brothel-owning baddie and Dwight Yoakam as an unhinged preacher, but the ultimate highlight has got to be a terrifically un-PC exchange between little person Peter Dinklage and African-American Blu Mankuma. I’ll let you figure out who might say what.