Festivals · Movies · Music


edfilmfest Waterboys


On Monday 26 June I saw the second and final screening of Robert Jan Westdijk’s Waterboys as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

It is a triumph, a gently humorous tale of philandering, bibulous but successful Dutch crime writer who comes to Edinburgh with his grown-up son for the launch of the translation of his latest novel.  His wife has left him and the son has just been thrown out by his girlfriend.  The son is afraid of flying, so they travel from Holland on a car ferry – water boys.  Driving to Edinburgh, it is announced on the radio that The Waterboys are due to play a concert in the city during his stay – this means a lot, as he claims to be a big fan and even that his son was conceived during a festival performance by the band.

To say more about the plot would be to give too much away.  Suffice it to say, the few minutes of live footage of The Waterboys (supposedly in Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre, but actually filmed in Holland) is truly great, as are all the uses of the band’s music throughout the film, which is in many ways a love letter to Mike Scott and his band – tracks from all parts of his career have important dramatic parts to play.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this will get a general release, as about half of the dialogue is in sub-titled Dutch.  I believe most Dutch people are bi-lingual in Dutch and English, but we Brits are a bit behind, which in discussing this film is a shame – I got the feeling from the sound of the Dutch dialogue the delivery and comedy timing were spot on and to have understood that without reading sub-titles would have been good.  Our bad…

Scott and The Waterboys were clearly enthusiastically involved with the project – I think the photograph below, which has been used  to advertise a recent tour is taken from the live performance section of the film- and he appears as a voiceover of the radio announcer who first mentions the upcoming concert, albeit with his comedy Scottish accent…

Mike Scott Waterboys Edinburgh Film Festival

Here is a picture of the director and some of the cast from the showing I was at…at the left is the EIFF representative, then there is director Westdijk, Tim Linde, Helen Belbin and Leopold Witte.

Robert Jan Westdijk's Waterboys Tim Linde, Helen Belbin and Leopold Witte

Festivals · Movies · Music

Song to Song

edfilmfest Song to Song


Terrence Malick’s latest film had its UK premier last night at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.  “Hullo clouds, hullo sky!”

Yes, all the familiar Malick tropes are here, lingering shots of clouds, sky, sunrises, sunsets, running water; whispered dialogue, voiceovers; dramatic cuts; non-linear narrative.  And in this case, it’s all great.

What a cast.  Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender (who more and more appears to be able to do anything,) Ryan Gosling (a proper movie star) and Natalie Portman are the main players; Fassbender is a sleazy music manager in Austin, Texas, (which I guess would be the other main player for Malick;) he has managed and professionally betrayed Gosling’s character, a formerly successful singer/songwriter, who is/was in a relationship with Mara’s struggling musician character, who is/was being exploited by Fassbender’s character to attain the success she desires.  That’s about it for plot, but it doesn’t matter too much given the rich visuals, where an actor of the calibre of Cate Blanchett has a tiny but effective part which lasts a total of about ten screen minutes (and she is as good as she always is.)

There are lots of rock star cameos; Patti Smith and Lykke Li are credited with playing “Patti Smith” and “Lykke” by dint of having fairly extensive speaking parts, everyone else is credited as “him/herself.”  It seems that people are queuing up to be in a Malick film.

My favourite film of the festival so far.


Song to Song


Festivals · Movies · Music

Teenage Superstars

This sequel to Grant McPhee’s Big Gold Dream had its world premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival last Thursday 22 June, the final cut apparently only arriving in Edinburgh just before midnight in 21 June…

Big Gold Dream was a big hit at the festival two years ago and I think may have won the best film award  at the time.  That surprised me, because the night I saw the film, it seemed more like a good 40-minute TV documentary padded out to feature film length.  Nonetheless, it went on to much success and plaudit, so what do I know?

So I wasn’t eagerly waiting on the “sequel,” directed again by Grant McPhee.

As it turns out, Teenage Superstars is much more captivating that Big Gold Dream; maybe it’s just a more interesting story of more interesting people.  As can be gleaned from the title, this film is about the Glasgow scene of the 1980’s and concentrates on The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Teenage Fanclub, The Vaselines, The Soup Dragons, The Pastels and BMX Bandits.  The interdependence of many of the bands and individuals in the scene is stressed over and over – often one band would have a high percentage of common members – and the influence of Stephen Pastel, Duglas T Stewart and Bobby Gillespie as taste-makers and facilitators is presented cogently with many interviews with the first two, but not, frustratingly, with Gillespie.  Frustratingly, as he is cited on many occasions for his influence.

I really enjoyed the first hour and thought that the issues I had with Big Gold Dream had been illusory, or maybe the result of seeing a very early edit.  The second half really slowed down though and the continued repetition of the same pieces of footage and still pictures began to jar.  There was something a bit weird with the music as well, which I assume is due to clearances – sometimes a piece of music under discussion was not what was being played on the soundtrack (Primal Scream) or a band’s music was presented solely through TV or film appearances.

Still, I woke up the next day in a fantastic mood, which I was sure was due to this film, for the most part a fine and cheering story of a bunch of people with enough self-belief to obviate failure.  I expect it will do better and be more fondly remembered than its predecessor.

Edinburgh Festivals - the Film Festival 2017 - Teenage Superstars


Festivals · Movies

God’s Own Country

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2017


Edinburgh International Film Festival opened last night with a showing of Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country, trailed as a gay love story set in the Yorkshire Pennines.  Northern bucolic gay, if you like, or “British Brokeback…”

It was good, if a bit of a stretch.  The protagonist, Johnny, played by Josh O’Connor, is trying to run his father’s farm single-handed, the father having suffered a stroke which makes him unable to work.  They get in a Romanian migrant, Gheorghe, to help out, who proves much more useful than Johnny at all the farm tasks, because Johnny seems to go to the pub and get bladdered every night.  He also seems unable to go the pub toilet or a café without him having casual sex, so he’s got a lot on his plate as well as running the farm.

Predictably enough, when Johnny and Gheorghe camp out on the farm to fix a wall, it all kicks off for them in the erotic charge of the freezing Pennines and a diet of Pot Noodles.  The sight of Gheorghe having a slash in the dawn is just to much for our hero.

The resolution is that the pair eventually agree to run Johnny’s dad’s farm together, with his blessing.  The closing shot is the couple going into the farmhouse, presumably to choose curtains.

So; a bit of a stretch.  The much vaunted views of the Pennines are not that great either, there is a city in the background in quite a lot of shots (maybe Bradford, the film was shot in Keighley.)

The acting performances are all good, especially Ian Hart (he’s played John Lennon on screen twice!) who plays Johnny’s disabled father.  It was also nice to see Patsy Ferran pop up, I enjoyed her as Portia in the RSC’s The Merchant of Venice – it’s just a shame her character seemed a little irrelevant to the story.

God's Own Country Francis Lee

There are a couple of cute lambs as well, but none as scene-stealing as this guy upstaging Julie Christie in Far From The Madding Crowd.  This picture never fails to make me smile.

Julie Christie Far From The Madding Crowd

Movies · Music

A Poem Is a Naked Person

I just saw Les Blanks’s amazing 1974 film ‘about’ Leon Russell.
Finished in 1974 but only released in 2015, it was produced by Russell and Denny Cordell, so probably not suppressed…it’s just more than a bit Southern states weird, reminiscent of the film about William Eggleston, “Stranded in Canton.” Except the Eggleston film is in monochrome and “A Poem…” is in saturated, Eggleston type colour.

It’s got George Jones; Willie Nelson; a bit of a falling out with Eric Andersen; a featured role for a catfish and feeding time for a snake. It captures a time when the lingua franca of successful rock musicians was blissed out nonsense.

A Poem is a Naked Person Leon Russell



Leon Russell in tune
Hmmm…everybody’s out of tune again except me…

It also has loads of great Leon concert film and what appears to be sessions for the “Hank Wilson’s Back” album (with David Briggs and Pete Drake.
Tremendous film for a certain type of audience, i.e., the one who waited forty two years for it to come out.


A Poem is a Naked Person - Bob Dylan