EIFF 2004 - Day 11 - Catherine Breillat's Rocco horror show

Submitted by Douglas Bell on Sat, 08/28/2004 - 16:00

I've always had an insatiable curiosity, which means I'm always looking to change my perspective. In this respect, today has been a momentous one, for the UGC was kind enough to show me round one of the festival engine rooms, its super-high-tech projection suite.

Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory was the first thing that came to mind. Alas, there were no Umpa-Lumpas, but the machinery is just as incredible. I was particularly taken by the Kevlar armour, hanging on the wall: since the projector's bulb is so bright, and its electricity needs are so substantial, the resulting heat creates a pretty dangerous scenario. If the machine needs to be opened up, the body armour and mask might save the projectionist from a shrapnel storm, should the bits inside explode.

UGC have 13 screens in all and their projectors are lined up back to back along one great hallway, each with enormous reels of 35mm film spinning away like cotton reels on your gran's Singer sewing machine.

Automated computers do most of the work nowadays and even if you try to muck it up, the chances are that it will correct itself.

The human element hasn't vanished completely, however, as someone needs to load the reels and ensure that the computers are behaving themselves. As you might expect, these men know their movies as well as they do their technology.

My tour guide Mark predicts that it'll take just five years before digital films are widespread, and expects that the EIFF will be getting their movies through broadband or satellite sooner rather than later.

One particularly interesting aspect of digital, in comparison with film, is the power the projectionist has to alter the mood of the movie. With film, they can only adjust the volume, but digital will allow them to change al the levels, scene by scene. Imagine being able to put a movie through Adobe Photoshop and you can see the potential. Directors may soon loose the final say on how their work is to look and feel.

Sitting through the premiere of Anatomy of Hell, I wish I could have changed my perspective once more... preferably watching something else in fact. I should have been better prepared for this movie. After all, what did I expect, given that Italian horse Rocco Siffredi was being directed by the infamous Catherine Breillat.

Apparently it was not porn, but some kind of artistic study. Italian porno legend Rocco is like a cross between Jean-Claude Van Damme and Hugh Laurie, with an ape's truncheon. Throughout the movie he subjects a woman to some horrific implements, including a garden rake. She returns the favour by brewing them both Tampax tea.

I had the chance to ask EIFF artistic director Shane Danielson about his decision to screen Anatomy of Hell, as it has managed to court controversy like no other. He felt strongly about showing pictures that would otherwise never come to Edinburgh, irrespective of popular opinion. The controversy surrounding Breillat's latest work was nothing to be shy about and indeed is a healthy thing for any festival to have. Danielson was looking forward to having dinner with Rocco and describes the star as incredibly smart and interesting.

Well, noone left early and the audience didn't seem dissatisfied at any stage. Watching the audience react to the more graphic scenes reminded me of being stuck in the same room as my parents when a sex scene is on the telly. Nobody moved an inch. I was also struck by the number of grey-haired members of the audience and elderly couples enjoying their bold adventure. It was more than you would expect to see in any kind of film, never mind the Rocco Horror show. I've always imagined that cult viewing was a trait of the under-40s. I guess I was wrong.