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Bigger, better and messier; The 18th Leeds International Film Festival
by Kevin Thomas

Whilst having to compete with the more established and better known Glasgow and London Film Festivals, Leeds’ own contribution is quickly expanding into a fearsome competitor; not least due to the fantastic Fanomenon branch of the festival bringing all manner of freaks and geeks out of the surrounding hills to watch more Japanese slayings than is strictly healthy.

Kicking off in style with Finding Neverland and Garden State, the festival was then quick to reassure visitors that this was not simply a place for glorified advance previews by following shortly with the ‘Filmed-just-down-the-road’ Yorkshire film ‘My Summer of Love’. The Fanomenon side of things lurked nastily in the background, showing the likes of The Ordeal and Tears of Kali as an alternative to the slightly more upbeat (admittedly, being more upbeat than ‘Guy skins himself with a Stanley Knife’ is hardly the most daunting task known to man) movies packing out the other venues.

The British offerings varied from the terrible (Jelly Dolly) through the commendable (Vera Drake, Everything) to the wonderful (the afore-mentioned My Summer of Love).

The Fanomenon team return with a bite offering no less than two all night movie binges to complement the rest of their eclectic timetable. Kicking off a twisted week sees the US remake of the over-rated Ju-On (The Grudge) and it’s Japanese sequel hopefully giving the attendees a good Halloween scare or two. Not wanting to lose the momentum, the next few days sees the likes of the nasty ‘Tears of Kali’, the odd ‘The Ordeal and the fairly-rubbish ‘DoppleGanger’ (doing it’s bit to prove that being Japanese and crazy doesn’t necessarily make you entertaining, as if ‘A Tale of Two Sisters’ hadn’t already proved this) keeping the body count high. Also bridging the gap between the all-night marathons were the overly-ambitious ‘Casshern’ and the weeks highpoint; the wonderful ‘The Otakus in Love’. Then the end of the week arrived and the second all-nighter started rolling. Kicking off with an excellent little Portuguese short ‘I’ll See You in my Dreams’ before hitting us with the camp not-quite-good-enough-to-become-a-cult-favourite ‘Graveyard Alive!; A Zombie Nurse in Love’, this definitely had a more tongue-in-cheek approach to it’s horror than the previous weekend. Quickly following was another nasty short about violence begetting violence called ‘El Ciclo’ before the evening’s best started rolling; Monster Man (proving that it is possible to balance the horror and the comedy of a film so that neither suffers). Una De Zombis tried to do a little too much, but was still good fun by anyone’s standards. By the time the evening’s closer came around (a 1960 black and white horror by the name of ‘Black Sunday; The Mask of Satan), and you’ve taken so much caffeine that blinking is a fond memory, there is little left to do but mercilessly rip the piss. It’s a good job then that MoS could just as easily belong on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 as in a horror movie line-up. Sadly, after such a great run, the team decided to show the painfully rubbish ‘Izo’ on the Sunday, tainting all of their hard work.

On the less disturbing side of town, ‘The Garden State’ and ‘I *Heart* Huckabees’ reassure us that you don’t have to be watching a Danish drama about lonely Chicken farmers to find a gem of a movie. Villa Paranoia then proves that even if you are watching a lonely Danish chicken farmer, you can still be in for the kind of treat that you can’t pick up Blockbuster.

Wrapping up ten days later with ‘The Incredibles’ on the big screens and ‘The American Astronaut’ on a smaller one, The Leeds Film Festival is well on it’s way to having some very serious clout on the festival circuit. As one of the Fanomenon organisers said; ‘We’ve already started putting together next years line up’, before adding with a glint in his eye; ‘…and it’s going to be messy’.

Here’s hoping.

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originally posted: 01/10/05 03:49:15
last updated: 04/05/05 04:06:36
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