Seat in Shadow
Henry Coombes is one of the most eccentric and original artists currently working in Scotland, with an eclectic body of work ranging through both painting and film. When I heard that he was making his first feature film, in Glasgow, I thought this isn't going to be like any other film made in Glasgow.
That's an understatement. Seat in Shadow is probably the most unhinged film ever made in the city, but in a good way; it's also one of the funniest. It completely bucks the trend in cinematic representations of the city, by being as far removed from the cliches of the hard man or working class images associated with the city as possible. Indeed it's the queerest film ever made in Scotland, with a key plot point revolving around the hairiness of one character's arsehole, Coombes appearing in drag as an internet help guru, and the largest (indeed, possibly the first) phallus in Scottish cinema.
When the English-born Coombes moved here, he was struck by the Bohemian subculture which has long flourished, somewhat underground, here, and this is what he celebrates in the film. It chronicles the relationship between a depressed young gay man who is sent by his motormouth gran to seek help at the feet of an eccentric old homosexual hippie amateur painter and psychoanalyst, David Sillars, who cowrote the script and steals the show.
He calls himself an 'unconventional, but not an unethical therapist'. His ethics may be called into question when he takes all of his patient's MDMA to protect him from the drug's effect or tries to prevent him seeing his boyfriend because he's jealous. One can ask who is helping whom, but that's maybe to be expected when your therapist is hallucinating the ghost of Jung in his pot plant.
Seat in Shadow was shot in a space of two weeks on a low budget, and these constraints sometimes tell against it - if anything it's too short, a bit rough and ready round the edges, and could do with some expansion. You actually want to know what's going to happen next. But Coombes works wonders on a tiny budget, using his artistic talent resourcefully, coming up with a totally original view of the city. Seat in Shadow is the most original and promising feature debut I've seen by a Scottish-based director in some time, and confirms my suspicion that art schools are turning out better filmmakers than film schools are.
Seat in Shadow screens tonight at Edinburgh Film Festival