Up close with Cherry Tree Lane, Skeletons and Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World

This article is from 2010

Up close with Cherry Tree Lane, Skeletons and Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World at EIFF

Edinburgh International Film Festival Blog

Tuesday 22 Jun

Paul Andrew Williams’ Cherry Tree Lane was one of the first films I saw here this year, and I did not like it. No sir. As I watched the London to Brighton director’s brutal tale of suburban home invasion playing out in real time, I wondered what reason Mr Williams could have for wanting to put me through this experience, because if there was a reason, the film wasn’t doing a very good job of explaining it. So when I got the chance to interview him yesterday, I asked him. Here’s what he said: ‘I made the film because I wanted to see if I could create what it would possibly be like if this really happened, in the real amount of time, where there are no heroes, no character arc, there’s no story, there’s no movie as such, although there’s certain stylistic shots. Really what I’m trying to do is say how I think it would be. And in one way it’s like the closest way of being a part of something that you’re lucky enough not to have to go through, so it is giving someone an experience which is, obviously not a pleasant one, but I am sort of giving people a… a different experience. For me it’s a character study, because in my head I can hear the background to all the lines. And it is gruelling and horrible, but it’s mainly about what’s this guy going to do? And what’s he going through?’

I’m not sure he did his film many favours with that attempted justification, but throughout our conversation he was keen to discuss things rather than going on the offensive. In fact, he went further, almost making my own argument for me, by saying ‘a lot of people just don’t want to be affected in that way, and if it was me and I felt like that I would just walk out!’ So fair play to him. I just hope his next film is better.

Thankfully I’ve seen more movies that I’ve liked than ones I haven’t over the last few days, and Skeletons, Nick Whitfield’s surreal and unique comedy featuring British comedy double-act Ed Gaughan and Andrew Buckley, sits firmly in the former camp. So when I sat down a few minutes later to talk with Jason Isaacs, who gives a brilliant support performance in Skeletons, I had eased out of confrontational mode. In fact, all I really wanted to know, as a sold-out Harry Potter fan (yeah, you heard me right – deal with it!) were any juicy pieces of info the man better known as Lucius Malfoy could give me on the upcoming final Potter films. He then exclusively revealed that the plot of the film can be found in all major bookshops and supermarkets, and gave what some might interpret as a suggestion of a hint that the writers may have veered a little further from the text with Deathly Hallows than in previous instalments: ‘I think they are confident enough in their storytelling, and they have the confidence of JK Rowling, enough that where needed they make it something cinematic where it was something literary. So it’s not, it’s very much not, a transcript of the book.’

I also couldn’t let the opportunity pass without mentioning the “hello to Jason Isaacs” tradition that Mark Kermode has established on his weekly reviews show with Simon Mayo, and as well as praising Kermode for single-handedly raising his profile on the airwaves, Isaacs explained that he religiously responds to the greeting whenever he’s listening: ‘I always say “hello” back wherever I am in the world, however inappropriate, so I could be in church or in court, I even said “hello” from a concentration camp. I did it in an event the other day here at the Festival, and everyone in the row looked at me as if I was insane – not in a film I was meant to be judging by the way!’ Charming, friendly and open, it wasn’t hard to see why Isaacs gets such high praise from everyone who works with him.

In fact, everyone I’ve interviewed so far this year has been great; maybe it would be quite fun to get someone in a really bad mood, just for a change. Edward Hogg, the Bunny and the Bull star who’s here with the ridiculously titled Ollie Kepler’s Expanding Purple World, was no exception, even though I hadn’t even got round to watching his film yet. He’d actually only just seen it himself the night before, and said the main thought he had while watching it was that ‘I need to exercise more. I spend quite a lot of the movie in just my pants, and that’s not how I imagined I would look!’

Hogg arrived in Edinburgh straight from Berlin, where he had been filming a part in Anonymous, a period thriller that suggests, somewhat controversially, that Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (played by Rhys Ifans), was the real author of Shakespeare’s plays. Even more controversially, it’s being directed by Roland ‘2012’ Emmerich, but as far as Hogg was aware, there are no moments of planetary destruction in it. Sounds like a change of pace for Emmerich, a man who, despite his habit of destroying things onscreen, is ‘one of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with or met’, according to Hogg, ‘a real gentle soul’. As for the Shakespeare authorship issue, Hogg pled ignorance: ‘There’s Group Theorists, Oxfordians, Stratfordians, and to me whenever they each put their points across I find myself agreeing with whoever’s talking, they all sound right! But when they get into it they really are vitriolic; they hate each other!’