A still from the film 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote' (UK, 2018) directed by Terry Gilliam.

British Cinema at Cph Pix – Playing for Laughs

CPH PIX is Denmark’s largest feature film festival. Now in its tenth year, it is one of the most important film festivals, offering emerging and established film-makers the chance to preview some of the most exciting cinema of our times. The festival lasts for two weeks and takes place in Copenhagen. The fourteen day programme is packed with around 200 films from around the world as well as 700 film related events and activities. 

Every year, British film is given pride of place. In 2018, with an emphasis on absurdity and eccentricity, we consider three films on show, each of which reveals how humour, unconventionality and a sense of optimism can help transcend difficulties. According to CPH PIX’s Programme Coordinator, Casper Andersen, "The festival programme reflects the world around us, and diving into the 2018 edition, you will be thankful for every comic relief you find. Humour is essential, and the British kind has always been our favourite, silly, sharp and self-reflective as it is".

The Man who Killed Don Quixote – from funny man on a mission, Terry Gillingham

27th, 30th September and 9th October 

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is a 2018 adventure-comedy film directed by Terry Gilliam and written by Gilliam and Tony Grisoni. It is loosely based on the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, but widely recognized as one of the most infamous examples of development hell in film history: Gilliam unsuccessfully attempted to make the film many times over during a span of twenty-nine years. 

Originally intended for the actors John Hurt and Jean Rochefort, both of whom have since passed away, it now stars Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce in leading roles, together with Stellan Skarsgård and Olga Kurylenko. In keeping with the director’s reputation, the film is full of energy and gaiety, little less than an all-consuming delight of cheerful good nature. Such is its lightness that it has been described as a children’s movie. But while the unusual twists and turns good-humouredly, and appositely, depart from the novel on which the film is partly-based, they also relate to real life. Driver plays Toby, an egotistical, overpaid ad director who has been given the chance to make a feature film out of the story of Don Quixote. He is shown filming in Spain, shooting the giants scene and enduring those same nightmares of delay that, in fact, famously tested Gilliam’s faith in his own project. 

Pin Cushion – a strange, upsetting fairy-tale imagined by Deborah Haywood 

27th, 30th September and 9th October

It has been said that Deborah Haywood’s feature debut heralds a distinctive new voice in British film. It has also been said that the film makes for troubling viewing. Writing in the Guardian, Wendy Ide described the film as ‘a cross between a crocheted bunny and a nail bomb.’ 

The story goes that Mother Lyn and daughter Iona (also known as Dafty One and Dafty Two) are excited to be starting a new life in a small British town. Resolute in the wish to make a success of things after a tricky start at a new school, the clumsy Iona becomes ‘best friends’ with three girls: Keeley, Stacey and Chelsea. But used to having Iona to herself, Lyn feels left out and tries to make her own relationships. While Lyn and Iona pretend to each other that things are going well, Iona struggles with her schoolmates who start to behave more like 'frenemies' than friends. Meanwhile Lyn is treated with varying degrees of indifference by neighbours.

The film is undoubtedly a cross between a fairy-tale and a tragedy. To achieve this effect more wholesomely, Haywood dug into her own teenage memories and, in the process, created something that is peculiar and unclassifiable, but also alarming by way of the acting but also the cinematography and set which make for an outlandish experience. The film was shot in Haywood’s hometown in the Midlands – a place often associated with drabness and industrialisation. But the colours of cartoons are used to amplify every emotion blighting the lead characters. As the New York Times described, Pin Cushion looks as if a craft store has exploded in Lyn and Iona’s living room. This only adds to the film’s bright, muscular hues which describe how Iona escapes into dreamy fantasies.

An Evening with Beverly Luff Linn – comical ideas from Jim Hosking 

30th September, 6th and 7th October

The buzz word in this film is magic, as Lulu Danger's unsatisfying marriage takes a turn for the worse when a mysterious man from her past comes to town to perform an event called "An Evening With Beverly Luff Linn; For One Magical Night Only." Indie provocateur Jim Hosking’s British-American made follow-up to The Greasy Strangler, continues the filmmaker’s fondness for weird unpleasantness and deliberately off-putting, but curiously striking stories. Enclosed in a make-believe set based on the worst style from the 1970s, a host of nasty, angry characters do unpleasant things which keep the audience guessing. 

The film has been described as a puzzling anti-comedy committed to catering for a particular type of audience. But it doesn’t fail to cause some laughter, especially from the antics and one-liners that come from the shaggy-haired character, Colin. Played by the New Zealand actor, Jermaine Clement, the director manages to give this character some pathos in a misanthropic universe. Dressed in outstandingly horrific yellow-tinted glasses and clothing of many shades of brown, Clement’s Colin looks a sight but packs a punch with his one-liners. Still, his sincerity shines through in amusing scenes, especially when trying to woo Lulu and when referring to his childhood confession about getting candy for his proper “poopies”.

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