Posts Tagged ‘Berlinale 2014’

Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) Golden Bear Winner Berlinale 2014

Director: Yi’nan Diao

Cast: Fan Liao,  Lun Mei Gwei, Xuebing Wang

China   Mandarin with subtitles  Drama

BLACK COAL, THIN ICE, is an inventive thriller: touches of creative brilliance and caustic humour combine in a police inquiry into murder linked to a mysterious femme fatale. Set in a snowbound industrial wasteland, severed body parts regularly appear on asphalt trucks heading off to furnish the country’s burgeoning building boom in a bleak Northern China.  A former policeman, Zhang Zili (Fan Liao, who won Best Actor at Berlinale 2014), turns vigilante in a bid to trace the perpetrator and make amends for previous misdemeanours in the force.

Difret (2014)

Dir.: Zeresenay Mehari

Cast: Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere, Rahel Tehome

Ethiopia/USA 2014, 99 min.

In an Ethiopian village, six men on horse back hunt down, capture and imprison a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl Hirut, capture and imprison her. Her would-be husband then rapes her, claiming that the abduction of a bride is his traditional right. But Hirut escapes, taking the gun of the man who raped her with and shooting him with it, when the men catch up with her. By traditional law she has to be executed, and the local DA does his best to get this sentence passed. But the village elder, to the protest of the majority of the men attending the meeting, rules that Hirut was too young to be married so, in mitigation he orders the girl’s family to pay reparations to the father of the killed man. Whilst the DA is still trying to go for the death sentence, Meaza Asheafi, Co-director of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers’ Association, takes on Hirut’s defence, finally challenging the Justice minister for upholding a law that basically allows men to abduct women and use and abuse them.

Based on facts, DIFRET (meaning ‘courage’ as well as ‘rape’ in Amharic, the official language of Ethopia)  shows the struggle for basic womens’ rights;  Asheafi’s organisation helped more than 30 000 women between 1995 and 2002. But Mehari not only shows the violence of men, but also what the prejudices of so-called traditional values have done to the victims. When Hirut meets the unmarried Asheafi for the first time, she inquires whether she is “a bad woman”. This refers to women who are not virgins at the time of marriage having to live alone, a custom prevalent in many rural areas of Ethopia. Hirut, does not only feel guilty, like many rape victims, but is not convinced that she has really “won” after her trial. She complains, justifiably, that the men in the village will take it out on her little sister, who she can’t protect, since she can’t return to the village. Luckily, the real Hirut is today working to help women victims like herself in Ethopia.

Since the number of 35mm films produced in Ethiopia is still in single figures – DIFRET was a co-production with the USA, Angelina Jolie being one of the executive producers – it would be churlish to be too critical about small details. But the lively camera work is excellent, showing the chasm between life in the countryside and Addis Ababa, the capital. Whilst Tizita Hagere’s Hirut gives a performance full of restraint, Meron Getnet as Asheafi is very convincing in her always-ready-to-fight-anybody attitude. DIFRET is testimony to a struggle so raw that few of us in Europe can really appreciate the terrible plight of its women protagonists. AS

BERLINALE REVIEW – NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 6 MARCH 2015

 

 

 

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter (2014)

Writer/Director: Nathan Zellner, David Zellner

Cast: Rinko Kikuchi, Nobuyuki Katsube, Shirley Venard, David Zellner, Nathan Zellnar,

The surreal collides with the banal in Nathan and David Kellner’s genre-blurring black comedy drama, in which the directors also star. Kumiko, a doltishly passive Japanese woman, abandons her dull life as a secretary in Tokyo to travel to snowbound Minnesota, on the strength of an imagined treasure trove she sees buried in a field somewhere outside Mineapolis, while watching a scratchy DVD. She is aided and abetted by the kindness of the local countryfolk who help her on her mission and provide humorous texture to this quirky but endearing road movie. If you can suspend your disbelief and tune into the weird humour, this is a work of inspired genius and well-planned eccentricity: Alexander Payne put his money into it and the Kellner Brothers’ drama has shades of Joel and Ethan Coen about it. MT 105min.

REVIEWED DURING BERLINALE 2014 | FORUM

ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 20 FEBRUARY 2015

Concerning Violence (2014) | DVD release

Dir.: Goran Hugo Olsson

Documentary based on “The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon

Sweden/Denmark/Finland/USA 2013, 81 min.

Olsson follows his successful documentary  The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, with an eclectic but very convincing thesis on colonialism in Africa, based on the writings of Frantz Fanon (1925-1961). Fanon, the leading theorist of the struggle for African independence, was born in Martinique when it was still a French colony. He fled the island to fight for the Free French and later became a psychiatrist, working in France and Algeria between 1951 and 1957. Expelled by the French authorities, he worked for the FLN in Algeria, but also travelled the continent to research strategies for the different liberation movements. A friend of Sartre, he finished his last work, “The Wretched of the Earth” weeks before his death; it was immediately banned in France.

Told in nine chapters, CONCERNING VIOLENCE juxtaposes the violence of the colonial forces in Africa and the superiority of the white settlers with the suffering of the Africans. Olsson uses the archives of Swedish Television to show that even after Independence, the power structure in many African countries was unchanged – and so were the Whites, still employing an army of slaves. Sometimes their naivety is only mildly offensive, as in an interview with a Swedish missionary couple in Tanzania in the late sixties, when the husband declares in front of hard working black labourers, that “a church is needed much more than a hospital or a school” – but then stumbles on a follow-up question, when he can’t find a biblical quote promoting monogamy, which he sees as fundamental for his flock.

Others are simply nasty, like the directors of a Swedish mining company who break a strike by force, incarcerating the strike leaders, whilst also evicting families from their homes, driving them like cattle in a truck and leaving them at dusk in the wilderness of the countryside. Asked by the film crew why they treat the Blacks in a way they would never treat Swedish people, the men don’t even answer, so great is their contempt. But sometimes less violent incidents, like the one in Rhodesia where a white “gentleman” shouts angrily at his black butler in presence of his guest, calling him stupid for opening his beer bottle. This shows the Settlers’ arrant contempt for the Blacks in everyday life.

Fanon angrily defends the violence by the oppressed: “Colonialism is violence in its natural state and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence”. The bloody battle scenes of the wars of liberation, particularly in Angola and Mozambique, underline the truth of this thesis. But in spite of his European upbringing, Fanon never wanted Africa to become a material rich continent like Europe, because too much humanity would have to be sacrificed. And he names the USA as an ex-colony of Europe, who has become a Moloch and worse than the Colonialists themselves. Fanon wanted Africa to give the world something very, very different.

The mosaic structure of the film helps to take in the huge amount of information delivered. With the quotes of Fanon’s work always displayed like subtitles, we can compare and contrast these with the documentary excerpts and form our own ideas about how the colonial the past, not only in Africa, has formed our present. CONCERNING VIOLENCE is not easy to watch, but extremely gratifying. AS

NOW ON DVD COURTESY OF DOGWOOF, HOME ENTERTAINMENT

 

 

 

Stations of the Cross (2014) Kreuzweg| Interview with Dietrich Brüggemann

Matthew Turner spoke to Dietrich Brüggemann, director of German indie, STATIONS OF THE CROSS, which won the Berlinale 2014 SILVER BEAR for Best Script

Where did the idea come from, first of all?

Dietrich Brüggemann (DB): Well, basically out of thin air. I had made a film with a lot of long shots earlier on, it was my graduation film that I made at film school. That principle of the long, steady shot had fascinated me and I always wanted to return to that. And first of all, with Catholicism, we had this episode in my childhood where we actually went to church with this very pious community, so we knew those people. And in some way, over the last few years, religion has had this kind of comeback, like everyone talking about it and fundamentalists in America and even those strong, fierce opponents like Richard Dawkins, they’re all about religion. So that was the thin air where the idea just sprang from, one day, I thought, like, ‘There are fourteen stations of the cross, why not shape a film after that? There should be a main character who follows the main path of Jesus, but actually suffers for religion’. So that was how it happened.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in doing the single shot for those fourteen takes?

DB: Obviously it was a huge challenge for the actors to learn their lines, yes – there was more line-learning than on a usual film. On the other hand, for the actors, it was hugely liberating, because it gave them the opportunity to play out those long scenes without splicing it up into lots of set-ups or repetitions. It was a huge gift to the actors. And the main challenge was to get the writing right, to get the script right, because you can’t fix it in the editing, because you don’t have the opportunity to re-edit the scenes that don’t work [on the page]. So the script has to be in pretty good shape and you really have to know your way around what each scene is about. And yes, the whole dialogue thing, I think that was the main challenge, but that’s fun, that’s something I enjoy doing. And also, the technical process of making the film was so rewarding, in a way, because on a normal film, you’re always in a hurry and you’re always late, because you keep setting up shots and breaking them down and moving on, and it was basically very, very different on a film like this.

What was the highest number of retakes you had to do on any single scene?

DB: I think the highest figure on the slate we had was something like 20. Other scenes were more like 15. With the scenes that were so very, very long, we didn’t do that many takes on those, because they were just too long, you’d get exhausted after a few times. And those scenes where the two kids are acting with each other without any other actors, they required a bit more work, because I had to work more technically on them, telling them where to stand and how to do timing, so these typically required a few more takes, but shooting is actually a bit like constant rehearsal, you do it over and over again and you have the camera rolling each time and it’s technically a take, but on the other hand it’s just a rehearsal and each one is a step to perfection and then at some point you get the perfect take, which is very often actually the last one and then you know it and then you can stop.

Am I right in thinking the camera only moves twice in the entire film?

DB: No, actually, it’s three times. It moves from left to right twice and there’s a crane shot that goes up at the end.

I wanted to ask what the significance was of moving the camera from left to right in those two shots?

DB: It could have been from right to left, it was more due to the nature of the locations we shot in. Maybe from left to right is just a more basic way of moving in our culture – it’s the direction we write in, it’s the direction the sun moves in the sky, you always have left-right movements there, so that is the normal way you tend to unfold a story. Like in [inaudible], the character always runs from left to right, so we didn’t want to go against that. Hey, you’ve never seen [inaudible] run from right to left, have you?

Who were your key influences as a director? I’m guessing maybe Dreyer…

DB: Well, Dreyer was an obvious reference for this film. Actually, funnily enough, the films that really influenced me are hugely different from this. So, the one film that really blew me away when I was 20 was Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. That made me want to make films. And then a strong influence for this particular film is the works of Roy Andersson, the Swedish director, who’s not as famous as he deserves to be. I absolutely adore his films, I watch them on my knees and that’s maybe the main tipping point reference for Stations of the Cross. On the other hand, of course, we try to kind of outdo him, by telling an actual story and having even longer shots, you know?

What’s your own relationship with religion?

DB: Well, I’m not really against it. Apart from all the theological stuff and all the voodoo and all the ‘Does God really exist?’ questions, the basic thing I see that are the reasons for people going to church are singing hymns and playing the organ and gathering together, flocking together and supporting each other in a basic, everyday way and what’s wrong with that?

I really liked the complexity of the ending in terms of whether or not you’re religious, the fact that the miracle works, if you like?

DB: Or is it a miracle to start with? I wanted it to be that complex – it’s not even being complex, it’s about encouraging difference and maybe even contradicting expectations.

I wondered if you’d seen a film called Lourdes?

DB: Yeah, I saw that. It’s by Jessica Hausner, an Austrian director. Yeah, of course, I had to watch it before making this one. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it, I thought it was okay. I don’t have any strong feelings, at any rate, towards that film.

It just seemed to be playing around in similar ideas with quote-unquote miracles and religious bases for those miracles.

DB: Yeah, it plays around with the same ideas, but it treats its characters in entirely different ways, it’s more like that cold, distant, arthouse stance it takes towards its characters and I’m just not fond of that, you know?

Can we talk briefly about the casting? How did you come to cast Lea van Acken as Maria?

DB: Actually just by following the usual path. When you set out to do a film like this you hear all these stories that people tell you from other films, you know, like, ‘We looked at 5000 people and went to every school in the country’ and I was prepared to do that, of course, but then what you do first is approach the usual agencies and just ask who they have and they had Lea van Acken. She just wanted to act and had left her previous agency and they put her into their files – she hadn’t done anything at that point, it was her first film. And so we ran the first day of casting and we had seven girls to try out that one scene and she was really, really good and she was one of those seven. So in the evening, I was like, ‘This is too easy, now I’m supposed to look at 5000 people and go to every school in the country…’ But it was that easy, actually.

Do you have a favourite scene or moment in the film?

DB: Not really, I like them all. I have a favourite set. All these sets were built on a stage, you know, and my favourite set is the undertaker’s office, because it’s so intimidating. It’s like a nightmare version of an undertaker’s place where all these coffins approach you like the guns of a battleship. And that’s my favourite set and that’s why we didn’t put a picture of that in the publicity stills, because I didn’t want anybody to see that before.

Normally at this point I would ask if you cut anything out that you hated to lose, but I suppose with the structure of the film and the continuous takes, you couldn’t really cut anything out at all?

DB: That undertaker scene I think started maybe two or three lines earlier, there was some kind of exchange that we actually cut and that’s the only cut we made in the film.

What’s your next project?

DB: Oh, well, it’s very very different. It’s probably going to be a comedy about neo-Nazis in Germany. We had this case that went all over the news, maybe not that internationally. It was a huge farce that was going on and someone had to put this in a film. A strong reference for that film is Four Lions, but on the other hand we have a wider scope, so it’s not completely about some neo-Nazi idiots, it’s about a whole country that is too stupid to come to terms with a bunch of stupid neo-Nazis. It’s a bold attempt at doing a 360-degree comedy about all aspects of German society. Well, we’ll try.

And have you left behind the attraction to fixed longshots or will it be similar?

DB: Ah, well, I think I’ll always return to that every once in a while!

STATIONS OF THE CROSS is out on general release on 28 November 2014

Blind Dates (2014) – Sarajevo Film Festival 2014

Director: Levan Koguashvili

Cast: Andro Sakvarelidze, Ia Sukhitashvili, Archil Kikodze.

99min   Georgian with subtitles   Drama

Dry humour and a sense of the absurd pervade this second feature from Georgian director Levan Koguashvili.  Set on a wider scale than his 2010 debut Street Days, and casting a mixture of professionals and newcomers, he offers another glimpse of Georgian society, tough and determined despite economic adversity and social unease.

In a bus station in Tbilisi, a middle-aged teacher Sandro (Andro Sakvarelidze), and his mate Iva (Archil Kikodze) are are waiting for some girls to arrive on a date. This is a meeting culled from the internet and doesn’t look promising when Lali arrives on her own.  Why Sandro takes her to a hotel room is not clear but adds to the sense of irony and the two get on despite Lali’s mysterious bad mood; arranging a follow-up. Back at the family home later, Koguashvili contrasts traditional values and new hopes in Sandro’s narrow-minded parents who constantly berate him over his lack of a bride, like a couple of Yiddisher snorrers, despite their Orthodox origins.

Then Sandro bumps into Mañana, the mother of one of his pupils and a strange chemistry develops, despite her marriage to Tengo, who is soon to be released from prison. Sandro finds himself drawn into their domestic arrangements as Tengo’s driver and general side-kick in his recidivist activities. There’s a raucous and hot-headed humour to the Georgian males in Tengo’s criminal coterie which is the source of much fun in a society where men are macho and women, feisty.  It also turns out that Tengo has not been altogether faithful during his time in jail. BLIND DATES is entertaining despite some narrative cul de sacs and offers wry insight into Georgian society through its amusing characters and rich textural asides.

Tbilisi’s faded glamour provides a majestic backdrop to the melancholy tone and is lavishly captured by Tato Kotetishvili on the widescreen and in intimate scenes.  MT

SCREENED IN THE BERLINALE 2014 FORUM SECTION. also at EDINBURGH FILM FESTIVAL 2014

Copenhagen Architecture x Film Festival 27 – 30 March 2014

Pomerol_Herzog_de_Meuron_HD_1-960x540 copySome of the the World’s finest filmmakers are Danish: Carl Theodor Dreyer; Lars von Trier; Thomas Vinterberg; Nicolas Winding Refn and Susanne Bier. The Danes also excel in architecture, design and the spatial arts. With this in mind, COPENHAGEN ARCHITECTURE X FILM FESTIVAL will open its doors for the first year of what aims to become an annual event. Offering 80 films and events. including first-run as well as older releases showcasing  architectural space as only cinema can. Copenhagen Architecture Festival x FILM is built around 6 strands: Cinematic and Architectural Space; Landscape and FilmPersonal SpacesArchitectural Processes;  Ritual, and Modernism.

oscar-at-niteroi_still_04-960x540 copyThe inaugural festival presents the world premiere of Heinz Emigholz’ entire trilogy of DECAMPMENT OF MODERNISM, the 21st part of his monumental series PHOTOGRAPHY AND BEYOND. All three films will be shown including the final part: THE AIRSTRIP, hot from Berlinale 2014with an an introduction by the filmmaker himself.

Wim Wenders’ 3D project CATHEDRALS OF CULTURE (2014) also comes fresh from its Berlinale 2014 World premiere and there are other treats in store: KOOLHAAS – HOUSELIFE  that takes a looks at the designs of legendary architect Rem Koolhaas and MICROTOPIA, Jesper Wachtmeister’s documentary study about a group of designers whose work focuses on the use of recycled and industrial products in order to minimise waste and human footprint. Dieter Reifarth’s HAUS TUGENDHAT (2013) explores the fascinating history of Mies van der Rohe’s functionalist villa from private ownership in the thirties to official functions under the Germans and Russians to its current status as a stylish backdrop to films such as Hannibal Rising.

niemeyer27shouse2-960x540 copyTHE NEW RIJKSMUSEUM, Oeke Hoogendijk’s prize-winning documentary is a massive undertaking that charts the controversial renovation of one of the World’s oldest and best known museums. Angel Borrego Cubero’s documentary masterpiece THE COMPETITION (2013) explores the working relationship of star-architects Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Dominique Perrault and Zaha Hadid’s through the tense process of tendering for the design of a new Arts Museum in Andorra.

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There will be a chance to revisit the past with DOG STAR MAN, Stan Brakhage’s experimental sixties piece that prioritises the visual to create the concept of an ‘optical mind’, and Werner Herzog’s acclaimed sci-fi documentary FATA MORGANA (1971), that imagines the world’s most remote corners as another planet.  Critic Sophie Engberg Sonne looks at Wong Ka Wai’s films in the context of his greatest muse: Hong Kong: this artist-city double-act will be illustrated with excerpts from his oeuvre including HAPPY TOGETHER and    THE CROWD, King Vidor’s psychogeographical 1928 silent epic, based in New York; and Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s haunting and sinister documentary ABENDLAND, that takes a voyeuristic look at the vast continent of Europe from the night skies.

COPENHAGEN ARCHITECTURE X FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 27-30 MARCH 2014  

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Cracks in Concrete (2014) Risse Im Beton Berlinale 2014

Director: Umut Dag     Writers: Petra Ladinigg/Umut Dag

Cast: Murathan Muslu, Alechan Tagaev, Mehmet Ali Salman, Margarete Tiese

101min   Turkish/German with subtitles   Thriller/Drama

Best known for his work on 2007 Oscar-winner The Counterfeiters, Umut Dag’s drama explores the under world of a close-knit Turkish community in Vienna. Running along the usual lines of crims going against the grain of their previous misdemeanours to make good, it follows two men on a quest for acceptance and respect.  Ertan (Murathan Muslu) has served time for murder and is now on parole, Mikail is a teenage drug-runner for Yilmaz (Mehmet Ali Salman), and is hoping for a better life as a rapper.  But what makes this thriller really stand out from the crowd is the dynamic performances of the two leads Muslu and Tagaev.

CRACKS hits the floor running with a devastating opening scene where a middle-aged white woman is repeatedly slapping a heavy-set young man. Later we discover this was Ertan in an attempt to gain forgiveness from the mother (Margarete Tiesel/Paradise:Love) of his victim. Having fallen from grace with his father, brother and girlfriend, Ertan strikes a macho yet vulnerable figure in the ‘hood, and matters don’t seem to improve.  Meanwhile, Mikail is, in many ways, a younger version of Ertan and Dag’s narrative soon reveals that the ties run much deeper that initial appearances might suggest. But when Ertan gets a job in Mikail’s recording studio,  there is no doubt about their hidden connection, although at this stage Mikail is oblivious to the truth.

As a crestfallen antihero, Muslu is superb in a believable performance reflecting Ertan’s gradual descent into social hell, exquisitely etched in his myriad expressions of pain and dejection, as he reins back from violence and recidivism. The young Tagaev lacks Muslu’s acting finesse but projects a strong image of a broken teenager, gentle and fearful behind his ‘no-fear’ persona.

Shot through with its cool blue aesthetic, Georg Geutebruck’s agile ‘chiaroscuro’ camerawork skilfully captures both light and dark in a visually stylish thriller that races forward in the filmic ambience of a seedy concrete underworld, throbbing with sinuous energy and nightclubs throbbing with exotic totty and macho males. There’s a stunning sequence towards the end where Ertan is walking along the street, that makes you forgive Dag his slightly formulaic narrative in a feature that literally pulsates with the rhythm of life. MT

CRACKS IN CONCRETE SCREENED AT THE BERLINALE 2014

 

Berlinale Daily Bites 6-16 February 2014

D A Y    O N E

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KUMIKO, THE TREASURE HUNTER *** The surreal collides with the banal in Nathan and David Kellner’s genre-blurring black comedy drama, in which David Kellner also stars. Kumiko, a doltishly passive Japanese woman, abandons her dull life in Tokyo to travel to snowbound Minnesota on the strength of an imagined treasure trove she sees buried in a film, aided and abetted by the kindness of narrow-minded strangers who help her on her mission. If you can suspend your disbelief and tune into the weird humour, this is a work of inspired genius and well-planned eccentricity: Alexander Payne put his money into it and the Kellner Brothers’ drama has shades of Joel and Ethan Coen about it. MT  105min  FORUM

The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel.jpg_rgb copyTHE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL ****   SILVER BEAR, GRAND JURY PRIZE

Ralph Fiennes is pure magic as Gustav H, a legendary lothario and eloquent hotel manager in this witty, whimsical and very European tale within a fairytale, inspired by the Gorlitzer Warenhaus on the Polish/Czech border (which is currently being renovated) in a fictional Republic of Zubrowka.  Written and directed by Texan Wes Anderson, it’s probably his finest film to date: perfectly scripted, beautifully acted by an assembled cast of Tilda Swinton, (who must be the most elegant and ethereal woman on the planet) Lea Seydoux, Jude Law, Matthieu Almaric, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan and newcomer Tony Revolori (as the young Zero M); it’s also gorgeous to watch with its candy-coloured aesthetic and fairytale sets.  Appealing to all ages, despite moments of scary violence, it tells the story of how the hotel came to be handed down to Zero Mustafa via a rich and riotous history. MT  World Premiere IN COMPETITION  100mins

20142188_1 copyIn Josephine Decker’s debut feature BUTTER ON THE LATCH, we first meet the central character Sarah, when she stumbles around dreamily in Brooklyn and sleeps with a man she picked up in a nightclub. Suddenly, she appears again at a summer festival of Balkan folk music in some woods near Mendecino, California. There she seems at first to settle down with girlfriend Isolde, but then the two get lost in a wood and nearly set it on fire. Exchanging intimacies and secrets, the two become become increasingly closer, but something is worryingly wrong with Sarah. We might connect her otherworldliness with the Balkan stories of people beings possessed by dangerous animals, like dragons (clearly shades of Tourneur’s Cat People). But before we are able to guess further, Sarah suddenly turns to the young Steph, but their relationship culminates into a dramatic and violent end near a lake in this inventive, dreamy, fantasy horror.  See full review

D  A Y   T W O

20142060_5 copyJACK ****  A leafy Berlin is the setting for Edvard Berger’s touching drama underpinned by newcomer Ivo Pietzcker’s performance of tear-swelling poignancy as Jack, a little boy left in charge of his half-brother, when their feckless mother abandons them.  Sensitive and filmic, it’s an old-fashioned portrait of childhood anxiety that echoes The Kid With A Bike; and shows that kids are sometimes far more intelligent than we give them credit for but also that responsibility and self-reliance can be the making of them. MT. 104 MIN  GERMANY. IN COMPETITION

20140777_1’71 ****  TV director Yann Demange (Top Boy) has chosen the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland as the subject of his feature debut ’71, setting his tightly-plotted narrative from the perspective of a young British soldier (Jack O’Connell) left behind by his unit following a street riot. The memory of the terrible internecine warring is brought back with visual clarity and some of the best street combat scenes ever committed to film.  Demange has masterful control of his subject-matter and delivers an utterly gripping thriller with a strong central performance from Jack Connell (This is England) and a superb all-British cast including Sean Harris, Sam Hazeldine and Paul Anderson MT 99min UK  IN COMPETITION.

20144685_1TWO MEN IN TOWN **

Rachid Bouchareb’s is an award-winning filmmaker known for LONDON RIVER, picking up a Silver Bear Award at Berlinale 2009.  Here he casts Brenda Blethyn as a lil’ ol’ Kansas probation officer who sets out to assist Forest Whitaker’s reformed convict, Garnett, in a small community near the Mexican Border. Recently converted to Islam, Garnett does his best to make a go off things but Harvey Keitel is determined to put a spanner in the works, as the local sheriff, so we know the outcome of this story before the get-go. Despite some filmic moments and an experienced cast, it feels about as plausible as Jesus coming down from the cross. MT  120mins  IN COMPETITION.

D A Y   T H R E E

AMMA & APPPA (2014) ***

Franziska Schonenberger’s debut documentary is a part-animated story of twenty-somethings who meet at University and fall in love.  Across the cultural divide of his strict Tamil parents, who envisaged an arranged marriage, and her homespun Bavarian background; a touching and immersive story emerges which is really a doc-style Meet the Parents, with some equally hilarious moments.  MT 89 min Panorama Germany

Free Range copyFREE RANGE- Ballad on Approving of the World  ** (2013)

Fred is a chain-smoking pseudo-intellectual with a high opinion of himself. After losing his job as a deliberately abusive film journalist and mindful of looming fatherhood, he turns his hand to working in a timber factory with equally disastrious results. Veiko Ounpuu’s bleached- out, grainy visuals evoke the lemon n lime beauty of the Estonian spring to great effect in this sardonic drama which is accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack of hits from ‘The Smiths’ among others, but it’s difficult to care what happens to Ounpuu’s unappealing characters who never really feel authentic or to engage with his facile narrative. MT  104min. Estonia. Forum Expanded

20143250_2 copySTO SPITI (2014) At Home (2013) ***

The stunning coastal location and elegant summery visuals of Athanasios Karanicolas’s serene feature debut bely the melancholic nature of his narrative that follows a wealthy Greek family who are finding ends increasingly difficult to meet in the financial crisis. When their long- term Georgian housekeeper falls sicks it’s clear that life will have to change but also rather predictable in the way it does. So no surprises here but certainly some applause for this well-crafted and promising film. Maria Kallimani gives a performance of great subtlety in the central role. MT. 103min  Greece/Georgia. Forum Expanded

20147918_7 copyTHE MONUMENTS MEN (2014) ***

George Clooney has made a brave and well-intentioned bid to shine a light on one of the most important episodes of Art history – the looting of art treasures by the Nazis during their retreat during the Second World War. The result, in which he also stars as art historian Frank Stokes, (a fictionalised version of George Stout) along with a fine cast of Matt Damon, Jean Dujardin, Bill Murray, and High Bonneville, is rather too worthy for its own good. This is his 5th big screen outing and sees him and his colleagues setting out to France in 1944 where they discover  the Russians are also hot on the trail, and intend to keep to uncovered treasure as spoils. Cate Blanchett is remarkable as a bluestocking curator under the Nazis, who at first is unwilling to cooperate but finally falls for Damon’s charms. The search goes underground and there is much ranting and raving in rhetoric about the supreme value of Art, as if Clooney underestimates his audience, although naturally he has the best orating.  Production values are slick and strong and Alexandre Desplat’s score is well-pitched and moving, but ultimately this is a rather artless drama that sacrifices suspense for altruism. MT,  120mins  US IN COMPETITION

D A Y   F O U R

PatardzlebiBLIND DATES (2014) ***

Levan Koguashvili’s follow-up to STREET DAYS (2010) is another tale of contemporary Georgian folk with particular emphasis on womens’ issues in this male-dominated culture. Unexpectedly funny and feisty, it explores young hopes versus old ways in the crumbling splendour of Tbilisi through a tentative romance between 40 year old bachelor Sandro and a woman whose husband has just been released from prison. MT 95 mins. Georgia. Forum

20142588_3 copyHISTORY OF FEAR (2014) **

Random acts of violence, criminal activity and hostility between neighbours punctuate a hot summer in down-town Buenos Aires. Benjamin Naishtat’s first full-length drama strings together a series of interconnecting events in an attempt to evoke a climate of uncertainty and paranoia but leaves the audience bewildered and disengaged in the process. Ultimately he offers no reason for us to feel anything for his characters despite their plight and his narrative drifts aimlessly without a really immersive plot-line in the chaos.  MT Argentina. 79mins IN COMPETITION

20148131_5 copyNYMPHOMANIAC 1 *****- Director’s Cut

The entire, director’s cut version of Lars von Trier’s culminating segment of his ‘Melancholy’ trio that began with ANTICHRIST and MELANCHOLIA leaves in some minor footage and artistic flourishes but fails to add anything to the plot, ultimately rather than gilding the lily it actually detracts from the piquancy of his brilliantly enigmatic narrative. 145mins  See our review

The Two Faces of January THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY (2013) *****

With a narrative based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, this long-awaited debut feature from DRIVE screenwriter Hossein Amini is a lavish affair set in sixties Greece. And what could go wrong with such a fabulous cast, magical sets, gorgeous tailoring and a romantic original score by? The answer is nothing! One of the most gripping and sophisticated thrillers for some time, THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY stars Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst as an American married couple, the MacFarlands, and Oscar Isaac (Llewyn Davis) as their tour guide, Rydal. After meeting up in by chance in Athens, a tragic accident forces the trio to flee to the islands whence they embark on a dangerously eventful journey that ends in  tragedy for all concerned. 96min UK USA France

D A Y   F  I V E 

20141257_1 copyIN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE (2014) *** 

Bruno ganz and Stellan Skarsgard star in Hans Petter Moland’s dark comedy follow-up to A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN (2010) has some of the best snowscapes that you’ll probably see this year and also possibly the most unapologetically un-politically incorrect script. Skarsgard plays, Nils, a Swedish man living in Norway who drives a snow plow and has just been award ‘Best Citizen’. But when his son dies in a drug overdose, Nils turns vigilante to find out who is responsible.  That said, the tone is light-hearted: Moland wanted s narrative reflecting what happens when society’s attributes of decency get mixed up with the baser instincts that kick in when we are threatened: “Norway has a history of being generous to people in need but now this is being challenged” he said at the press conference. The comedic style was the best way to deal with this theme positively.  “Violence lurks within us and occasionally erupts in normal, well-adjusted people like Stellan’s character.”  What ensues is a brutally violent chase to track down the two rival gangs of traffickers: one Serbian (lead by Ganz as Papa), one local (lead by Pal Sverre at Greven).  There are some great gags that arise out of ‘ad-libbing’ rather than sticking rigidly to Kim Fupaz Aakeson script and give this piece a fresh and authentic feel, although 115mins is a tad long for this simple crime caper. MT  100min  Norway/Denmark  IN COMPETITION

_CALVARY copyCALVARY (2014) ***           ECUMENICAL PRIZE

A priest’s struggle when his life is threatened during a confession:”I first tasted a man’s semen when I was 7 years old”, is a metaphor for the continuing challenge The Church faces to retain a place of respect and succour in today’s society. Traditionally the bedrock of Irish communities, it gets a really rough ride in this black comedy that examines the role of the local priest amongst a group of characters in a small Sligo village, who have lost their way.  Gloriously set in this verdant Southern Irish county, Brendan Gleeson leads with a performance of rare dignity and integrity as the Father concerned , in this follow-up to THE GUARD.  Less comedic and that the former, CALVARY’s soul is a more brooding and desperate one, leavened by moments of gentle often caustic humour.  Pointing its finger at paedophilia amongst Church leaders,  it follows the tone of the recent PHILOMENA echoing documentaries such as Alex Gibney’s MEA MAXIMA CULPA.  For John Michael McDonagh it is a triumph and a far better drama than the recent and glib, SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS.  A superb all-Irish support cast of Kelly Reilly, Chris O’Dowd, Aidan Gillen, Dylan Moran and Isaac De Bankole make this thoughtful and trenchant second feature a rare pleasure that stays in the memory long afterwards. MT 100min  UK/Ireland  Panorama Special. 

LifeAIMER, BOIRE, CHANTER – THE LIFE OF RILEY (2014)       ALFRED BAUER PRIZE

For his 50th film, Alain Resnais adapts the work of Alan Ayckbourn in this stagey farce with garish theatrical sets and occasional glimpses of the leafy countryside of the Yorkshire Dales. Starring his wife Sabine Azema, Sandrine Kiberlain (Bird) Andre Dussollier and Hyppolyte Girardot, it’s just the sort of thing that older French audiences lap up but do we really need another stage adaptation (his third) of YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET?.  This turns out to have additional flourishes with drawings by French artist Blutch and puppetry to boot!  You know the story here – middle-aged, middle-class couples whose close friend is diagnosed with cancer. Or is he?  Mannered performances all round will appeal to his devotees. MT 107min  France IN COMPETITION

20142278_2 copyHUBA, PARASITE (2014)

The work of Polish filmmakers, Wilhelm and Anka Sasnal (IT LOOKS PRETTY FROM A DISTANCE)  focuses on simple lives of working people in the Polish countryside; their latest film is no different. A tender portrait of family closeness centres on an old factory worker and his daughter and her baby, who come to live with him.  Intimate in scale, daily rituals are viewed at close quarters with a ‘warts and all’ approach that provides an immersive and worthwhile testament to the continuing narrative of rural lives under threat in remote locations.  MT. 66min Poland  Panorama

D A Y   S I X 

20142433_4 copyPRAIA DO FUTURO (2014)

With some of the most captivating photography of Brazilian and Berlin skylines, Karim Ainouz’s filmic and leisurely-paced drama is sadly let down by poorly fleshed-out characterisation of its protagonists, who we hardly get to know at all.  Appearances can be deceptive and we soon find out that Praia do Futuro is one of the most beautiful but deadly beaches in Brazil. It also has the saltiest water, making it a hostile environment for living in.  When his friend is drowned, a Brazilian lifeguard follows his lover back to Berlin to discover a new life that’s both liberating and bewildering. Ainouz creates a palpable sense of place and identity but sadly the narrative floats untethered in a sea of plotholes with not enough momentum or feeling for his characters or their lives to carry it through to a meaningful conclusion. MT 106mins. Brazil/Germany  In COMPETITION

20148119_1SOUVENIR (2014)

German photographer Alfred Diebold disappeared during an Arctic cruise in 2009 leaving a massive collection of videos archiving his peripatetic life as an attention-seeking traveller, husband and politically engaged also-ran. André Siegers doc looks back at his footage (407 videos in all) but despite some moving moments from Alfred’s intimate family life, it’s difficult to work out why he considered this film worthy of the public domain (let alone financing) as it is neither involving, visually inventive nor particularly interesting from a historical point of view. Maybe a German audience would feel more empathy with the subject-matter. MT 81mins Russia/Germany Forum

20142517_2 copyTO MIKRI PSARI – STRATOS (2014)

Although not particularly intended as such, Yannis Economides’ drama serves as a metaphor for the parlous state of moral and physical decline that Greece has suffered over the past several decades.  In STRATOS communities are breaking down, buildings have fallen into disrepair and parks are overrun with weeds. Even felons are at each others throats, overworked by the burden of debt-fuelled crime in their neighbourhoods.  Economides’ narrative steadily builds into a caustically angry thriller involving local low-lives and their families. Tightly-plotted: the story is told through a series of one to one to conversations between the fellow criminal fraternity that grow in vehemence, and focus on the gang-leader in jail.  The story is told from the point of view of Stratos, (well-played by Vangelis Mourikis), a wealthy local crim who is called upon to finance the release of the gang-leader and in so doing is drawn further into a web of lies, deceit and paedophilia. Cracking performances from the support cast and Babis Papadopoulos’ edgy score help create a feeling or menace and desperation throughout. MT 136 min  GREECE  IN COMPETITION

D A Y   S E V E N

20142336_2 copyTHE THIRD SIDE OF THE RIVER  ***

‘Another Us and Them’ drama from Argentina. This time Celina Murga delivers a soft-focus, slow-burner about an affluent family in Buenos Aires, seen through the increasingly critical eyes of the eldest son. This disapproval of his father’s dominating ways gradually leads to a startling epiphany in this melancholic tale of a boy who is forced into responsibility at a young age. Not sure why Martin Scorsese gave this his ‘seal of approval’? Wait a minute – was his money involved? : yes Siree!. Nonetheless, this is a decent story, well-told and well-acted but hardly anything to write home about as a competition headliner. Spain. 104mins In COMPETITION

GUIDELINES: Le Marche a Suivre *

Jean-Francois Caissy fails to flag up any changes in the way kids are and always will behave in the classroom and out of it. His tame documentary kicks off, for some reason, rather promisingly with a car trying to cross a ford with difficulty.  Are we in for an exciting adventure? No, this is a predictable affair that focuses on a group of kids in the Canadian province of Quebec. Nicolas Canniccioni’s bland camera-work explores how they interact with each other with close-up one to one interviews intercut with images of the playground and ‘environs’  in and out of the school (i.e. the lens zoom in on a lock, and then a group of kids playing ball, there are frequent ‘black screen moments’).  Visually uninventive, and for the most part repetitive: it nevertheless provides a living testament for the parents involved and those interested in the subtleties of paediatric psychology. MT 76min. French Forum

20147700_1 ALOFT ***

Stunningly shot on the widescreen, this dreamily poetic Canadian drama from 2009 Golden Bear winner Claudia Llosa (from Peru) ‘boasts’ Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy and Melanie Laurent in its star line-up.  Told in fractured narrative style, it follows the central character Ivan (Murphy) as a child and as an adult as he sets out to find his mother who left after a family tragedy to develop her skills as a healer in the Arctic Circle.  Llosa’s highly creative camerawork evokes the enigmatic feel of this drama which is intimate in style yet deep and immersive in its scope and subject matter. There are sensitive performances from Murphy and Connelly as they portray a close son and mother relationship. 112min Spain Canada France. In competition 114min  Canada,  IN COMPETITION

20143347_3BLACK COAL, THIN ICE ***    GOLDEN BEAR WINNER, SILVER BEAR – BEST ACTOR

Chinese director, Yi’nan Diao offers an inventive drama set in a snowbound industrial landscape where body parts appear regularly on asphalt trucks heading off to furnish the country’s burgeoning building boom.  A former policeman turns vigilante in a bid to trace the perpetrator and falls in love with a mysterious woman who seems to be connected to the crimes. MT 106min  World Premiere  China/Mandarin  

D A Y    E I G H T  

20143897_2 copyNO MANS LAND Wu Ren Qu (2013) ***

 

Ning Hao’s follow up to is a slick parable about a society that has completely lost its moral compass in a struggle for wealth and prosperity in the modern world.  In a cheap Chinese car, a cocky lawyer sets off across a rugged Taklamakan desert populated by weird and dangerous wayfarers on his journey to a trial.  Visually and technically superb Ning Hao has excised the heart from his action drama, where men are macho and women are still looking for a hero to rescue them. There aint any here,  but then its really just abit of fun and a homage to Sergio Leone’s epic desert westerns minus the great performances the the killer soundtrack. That said, there are brilliant moments in this desert. of MT 119min Republic of China Mandarin COMPETITION

20148190_1BOYHOOD (2014) *****     SILVER BEAR, BEST DIRECTOR

Richard Linklater is popular in Berlin. Last year he collected an Honorary Bear and here’s back this year with Sundance break-out hit: BOYHOOD.  Following the life of Mason from five until eighteen it stars Ellar Coltrane in the leading role with Linklater’s regular collaborator on the series Ethan Hawke, it authentically captures these years of growing up into an immersive and moving drama that runs for nearly 3 hours. Although this will make it a headache for cinemas, it is elegantly paced, engagingly scripted and performed with seamless authenticity by Mason and his extended family and friends, amongst whom by Patricia Arquette as his mother and Tamara Jolaine, as his sister, particularly shine .  Ethan Hawke brings to his performance the same laid-back charm that he works so well in the Midnight Trilogy.  In order to achieve the subtle changes in the characters, Linklater began the project in 2002, with the crew getting together annually to film the developing story.  This isn’t the perfect childhood, but it’s warm, witty and deeply-felt and stands as a record of turn of the century interpersonal relationships and family life in the Western World.  This is drama that will be the talk of filmlovers for quite some time. MT 166min  US Drama COMPETITION

20143562_3 copyTHE FOREST IS LIKE THE MOUNTAINS (2014) ****

This quietly observed and beautifully filmed documentary was one of the standouts of this year’s Berlinale.  Debut Directors Christiane Schmidt and Didier Guillain spent some time in the enchanting mountain setting of Sfantu Gheorghe, central Romania, with a community of Roma people. Living a self-regulated existence and avoiding interaction with the Establishment except when their annual potato harvest is sold to the local council, they follow the Seventh Adventist Faith, trusting in the spirit of a supportive and intuitive community and Christian prayer for guidance. Aron Lingurar is the self-appointed head of the village, commanding respect as the ‘governor’ he is a man of integrity who runs the show and instills a sense of respect amongst his people.  Christiane Schmidt’s sublime cinematography and clever eye for colour and framing make this a joy to watch and with a total absence of sound, apart from natural dialogue, it is serene experience to behold.  It would seem we have much to learn from these people. MT 101min  Romania/France/Germany  Drama  Forum

D A Y   N I N E

TriptyqueTRYPTYCH ****Canadian filmmakers have brought some great films to the Berlinale this year and this avantgarde piece from Pedro Pires and Robert Lepage is one of the best. Well-known for his theatrical work, Robert Lepage excels here with a transgenre drama that follows the lives of three interconnecting characters, sisters Marie and Michelle and Thomas, Marie’s soon to be partner. In an snowy timeless Quebec, Michelle, a book specialist, is recovering from depression. Michelle arrives to announce her marriage to Thomas, a brain surgeon. Dreamlike sepia-tinged visuals, unsettling characterisation and an eclectic score of jazz and classical music combine with Lepage’s unique approach make this an experience not to be missed. Sombre in tone, TRYPTYCH alludes to the deep melancholy of ageing, loss and illness. Lepage evokes a strong sense of the Quebec and Montreal but it is timeless in feel. MT 94min. Canada French/English

20141359_4 copyLA BELLE ET LA BETTE (2014) ****

Jean Cocteau’s gothic horror original was an pioneering piece of magic made when he turned his hand to filmmaking during WWII. With very limited resources, the result was enchanting and eerie. Even with a large budget (and filmed in Babelsberg where Metropolis and The Blue Angel were shot) this doesnt engender the same mystique but is a lavishly-imagined if over-the-top frolic from Christophe Gans that spans both Renaissance and Napoleonic eras. It has Lea Seydoux as a gentle Belle and Vincent Cassel as her fiercely masculine Beau yet elegantly pathetic Beast – essentially an asshole who turns into a nice guy. Andre Dessollier is strong as the kindly father. Because all the leads were versed in mime and method acting the piece really benefits from their acting chops and makes it a success, if you can overlook the overzealous CGI. Narrative-wise Gans has developed Cocteau’s original here, with co-writer Sandra Vo-Anh adhering faithfully to Madame de Villeneuve’s book to explore the origins of the Prince’s curse and its connections with the forces of nature. The result is more a chilldrens’ fairytale than Cocteau’s enchanting and subversive outing but there are some dark moments too. MT. 111min. In COMPETITION (out of competition)

the Little House copyTHE LITTLE HOUSE ***    SILVER BEAR, BEST ACTRESS

There’s something very sweet and old-fashioned about this Japanese domestic drama set in Wartime Tokyo. Taki (Haru Kuroki, who won Best Actress) looks back on her life as a maid in a well-to-do household (the red-roofed little house) echoing the previous Tokyo Family in tone. Now as an old woman, she tells her grandson in flashback what was really happening at home while the fighting was going on in the cities. There’s a genteel ‘soap-like’ quality to the drama and also shades of Hayao     Miyazaki’s recent THE WIND RISES to the storyline. But forget WWII, this really concerns the emotional yearnings of women in a society where men have the upper hand and the State dictates how society should conduct itself. Based on a novel by Kyoko Nakajima, THE LITTLE HOUSE quite literally explores the discrete charm of the bourgeoisie. Taki nurses the infant son through polio while also serves as a companion to the beautiful wife, Tokiko. The narrative shifts backwards and forwards from 1936 to the present, eventually engaging our attention as we witness the Tokiko’s affair with her husband’s colleague, a young and timid architect who doesn’t exactly set the night of fire, but buys into to her endless drivel. Engaging and demure, it may appeal to more traditional art house audiences for its quaint performances but lacks the romantic thrust or erotic charge to garner mainstream indie fans. MT  136min  Japanese  COMPETITION

photo-2A N D   T H E    W I N N E R S   A R E:

GOLDEN BEAR FOR BEST FILM

Bai Ri Yan Huo Black Coal, Thin Ice by Diao Yinan

SILVER BEAR GRAND JURY PRIZE

The Grand Budapest Hotel The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson

SILVER BEAR ALFRED BAUER PRIZE for a feature film that opens new perspectives

Aimer, boire et chanter Life of Riley
by Alain Resnais

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST DIRECTOR Richard Linklater for

Boyhood (Boyhood)

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST ACTRESS

Haru Kuroki in
Chiisai Ouchi (The Little House) by Yoji Yamada

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST ACTOR

Liao Fan in Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice) by Diao Yinan

SILVER BEAR FOR BEST SCRIPT

Dietrich Brüggemann, Anna Brüggemann for Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross) by Dietrich Brüggemann

SILVER BEAR FOR OUTSTANDING ARTISTIC CONTRIBUTION

in the categories camera, editing, music score, costume or set design

Zeng Jian for the camera in
Tui Na (Blind Massage) by Lou Ye

BEST FIRST FEATURE AWARD

Güeros
Güeros
by Alonso Ruizpalacios

FOR MORE COVERAGE ON THE BERLINALE 2014 .  FOR MORE IMAGES AND VIDEOS VISIT THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

 

Berlinale 2014 preview

20147918_7 copyThe 64th Berlin International Film Festival is ready to roll with 20 of the 23 films in the Competition programme vying for the GOLDEN and SILVER BEARS. The following countries are participating: Algeria, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Uruguay and the USA. The Competition programme includes 18 world premieres and three feature debuts.The Award Ceremony will take place at the Berlinale Palast on Saturday, February 15, 2014.

20146244_3 copy

Of the festival big-hitters, Wes Andersen’s UK dramady THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is the star-studded, opening gala showcasing the experiences of an inter-war concierge and one Zero Moustafa; NO MAN’S LAND from China is an adventure drama set in the Gobi desert and George Clooney’s wartime drama THE MONUMENTS MEN, in which he also stars alongside Matt Damon and Bill Murray, are the titles that will attract the glitzy crowds.

Hot of the runway at Sundance is Richard Linklater’s highly-regarded BOYHOOD. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as his parents, it follows a small boy from six to eighteen through emotional development and introduces Ellar Coltrane as Mason.  John Michael McDonagh’s latest tale from Ireland, CALVARY is a dark morality tale that broods on Catholism, good and evil in the modern world and stars his long-term collaborator Brenden Gleeson. The full, unexpiated version of Lars Von Trier’s NYMPHOMANIAC (Part One) is also headlining the festival, although quite why this features so prominently when both parts have already been released in Europe, is beyond comprehension. THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY is the long-awaited directorial debut from Hossein Amini, based on a Patricia Highsmith novel, it stars Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst. The Korean break-out hit SNOWPIERCER will finally screen in Berlin. It imagines a world where the rich and the poor are divided on a train after an ice-age apocalypse sends humanity into meltdown. And best of all, it stars Tilda Swinton.

Tournage YSLBut in the lesser-known section of the festival, there are undoubtedly some hidden gems. Of the French films, I’m looking forward to Sophie Fillieres’ comedy IF YOU DON’T, I WILL (Panorama) which stars Mathieu Amalric and Emmanuelle Davos.  I’m also intrigued to see how Christophe Gans will re-work LA BELLE ET LA BETE (Competition, out of Competition) with his stellar cast of Vincent Cassel and Lea Seydoux.  Jalil Lespert’s biopic drama about the fashion designer SAINT LAURENT and his life with partner Pierre Berge also looks a glossy art house treat, despite its distinctly un-starry cast.

Norway leads the Nordic contribution this year with Hans Petter Moland’s Competition entry IN ORDER OF DISAPPEARANCE. It has Stellan Skarsgard and Bruno Ganz and promises to be great fun, judging by his quietly humorous previous hit, A SOMEWHAT GENTLE MAN (from 2010).  From Norway also comes BLIND (Panorama). Written and directed by Eskil Vogt (Oslo, August 31st), it bravely attempts to probe the subconscious of a newly sightless woman.  Documentary-wise Norway also brings architectural portmanteau piece CATHEDRALS OF CULTURE, which boasts a fine pedigree of directors including Wim Wenders, Robert Redford and Michael Madsen.

20143250_2 copyThe Greek New Wave has been the source of much excitement in recent years and we can look forward to Yannis Economides’ competition entry TO MIKRO PSARI, a crime drama that follows in the footsteps of his previous successful outings MATCHBOX and SOUL KICKING. Athanasios Karanikolas will be in Berlin to present STO SPITI (Forum), a family drama. Yorgos Servetas’ STANDING ASIDE, WATCHING, is another bracing New Wave piece that uses deserted streets and industrial sites to express the lethargy that has descended on a small community after the troubles.

Also on the documentary front, anyone who enjoys Canadian Denis Cote’s work – BESTIAIRE, CURLING AND VIC + FLO SAW A BEAR, will be glad to see his latest film,  JOY OF MAN’S DESIRING (Forum), an absurdist piece that ponders the working connection between man and machine.  German doc VULVA looks like an intriguing examination of the timely issues of circumcision, anatomical myths and intimacy surrounding the most sensitive part of the female body.  Another provocative-looking and very welcome documentary is FUCKING DIFFERENT XXY  in which initiator Kristian Petersen bravely attempts to break down classic gender identities in order to overturn stereotypes of ‘what’s normal’.  Other gay-themed outings at the festival are TEST, US director Chris Mason Johnson’s eighties drama set during the AIDS crisis and UNFRIEND, a Filippino drama which explores and expresses the repressed emotions unleashed from a gay teenage break-up.

And where would Berlinale be without the tradition of the homage and retrospectives strands. This year’s glittering classics in the Retrospectives this year range from Howard Hawks’ AIR FORCE; to Jean Cocteau’s LA BELLE ET LA BETE;  Orson Wells’ CITIZEN KANE;  Murnau’s FAUST; Clarence Brown’s FLESH AND THE DEVIL; Satyajit Ray’s NAYAK; and Marcel Carne’s QUAI DES BRUMES; not to mention Akira Kurosawa’s RASHOMON; Josef von Sternberg’s SHANGHAI EXPRESS. But lovers of Derek Jarman will be pleased that his own retrospective will be taking place at the BFI during February and March.

Here’s the C O M P E T I T I O N section in full:

20143347_3

Bai Ri Yan Huo (Black Coal, Thin Ice)  WORLD PREMIERE

People’s Republic of China

By Yinan Diao (Night TrainUniform)

With Fan Liao, Lun Mei Gwei, Xuebing Wang

 

20148190_1Boyhood – INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

USA

By Richard Linklater (Before Midnight, Me & Orson Welles)

With Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater

the Little House copyChiisai Ouchi (The Little House) INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

Japan – IMAGE TO FOLLOW

By Yoji Yamada (Tokyo FamilyAbout Her Brother)

With Takako Matsu, Haru Kuroki, Hidetaka Yoshioka, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Chieko Baisho

 

Historia del miedo (History of Fear)  WORLD PREMIERE History of Fear copy

Argentina / Uruguay / Germany / France

By Benjamin Naishtat – feature debut

With Jonathan Da Rosa, Claudia Cantero, Mirella Pascual, Cesar Bordon, Tatiana Gimenez

Jack copyJack – WORLD PREMIERE

Germany  – IMAGE TO FOLLOW

By Edward Berger

With Ivo Pietzcker, Georg Arms, Luise Heyer, Vincent Redetzki, Jacob Matschenz, Nele Mueller-Stöfen

 

20141257_2Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance) WORLD PREMIERE

Norway / Sweden / Denmark

By Hans Petter Moland (A Somewhat Gentle ManThe Beautiful Country)

With Stellan Skarsgård, Bruno Ganz, Pål Sverre Hagen, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Jakob Oftebro, Anders Baasmo Christiansen

 

20147599_1Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross)  WORLD PREMIERE

Germany

By Dietrich Brüggemann (MoveRenn, wenn du kannst)

With Lea van Acken, Franziska Weisz, Florian Stetter

20141359_2La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast) INTERNATIONAL PREM

France / Germany

By Christophe Gans (Silent HillBrotherhood of the Wolf)

With Vincent Cassel, Léa Seydoux, André Dussollier

Out of competition

  20142336_2 copyLa tercera orilla (The Third Side of the River)  WORLD PREMIERE

Argentina / Germany / Netherlands

By Celina Murga (A Week Alone, Ana and the Others, Normal School)

With Alian Devetac, Daniel Veronese, Gaby Ferrero, Irina Wetzel, Dylan Agostini van del Boch

 20144685_1La voie de l‘ennemi (Two Men in Town) WORLD PREMIERE

France / Algeria / USA / Belgium

By Rachid Bouchareb (London RiverLittle Senegal)

With Forest Whitaker, Harvey Keitel, Brenda Blethyn, Luis Guzmán, Dolores Heredia

 

20143697_4Macondo  WORLD PREMIERE

Austria

By Sudabeh Mortezai – feature debut

With Ramasan Minkailov, Aslan Elbiev, Kheda Gazieva

 

20142433_1Praia do Futuro   WORLD PREMIERE

Brazil / Germany

By Karim Aïnouz (Suely in the SkyMadame Satã)

With Wagner Moura, Clemens Schick, Jesuita Barbosa

 Tui NaTui Na (Blind Massage)   WORLD PREMIERE

People’s Republic of China / France

By Ye Lou (MisterySuzhou River)

With Hao Qin, Xiaodong Guo, Lei Zhang

 

Ba Na Wu Ren Qu (No Man’s Land)  INTERNATIONAL PREMIERE

People’s Republic of China

By Hao Ning (Crazy Stone, Mongolian Ping Pong)

With Zheng Xu, Nan Yu, Bo Huang, Bujie Duo

20142518_1Zwischen Welten (Inbetween Worlds)  WORLD PREMIERE

Germany

By Feo Aladag (When We Leave)

With Ronald Zehrfeld

 

 

THESE ARE THE COMPETITION TITLES.  FORUM AND PANORAMA TITLES WILL FOLLOW SHORTLY.  BERLINALE RUNS FROM 6 UNTIL 15 FEBRUARY 2014

P A N O R A M A

Panorama fictional features – IMAGES TO FOLLOW SHORTLY

Asabani Nistam! (I’m Not Angry!) – Iran

by Reza Dormishian

With Baran Kosari, Navid Mohammadzadeh, Reza Behboudi, Misagh Zare, Bahram Afshari

IP

_Blind copy Blind – Norway / Netherlands

by Eskil Vogt

With Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Vera Vitali, Marius Kolbenstvedt

EP

 Difret – Ethopia

by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari

With Meron Getnet, Tizita Hagere

EP

Fieber (Fever) – Luxembourg / Austria

By Elfi Mikesch

With Eva Mattes, Martin Wuttke, Carolina Cardoso, Nicole Max, Sascha Ley

WP 

20142287_1 copyGüeros – Mexico

By Alonso Ruízpalacios

With Ilse Salas

WP

 

 

 

Highway  India

By Imtiaz Ali

With Randeep Hooda, Alia Bhatt

WP

Ieji (Homeland) – Japan

By Nao Kubota

With Kenichi Matsuyama, Yuko Tanaka, Sakura Ando, Takashi Yamanaka, Seiyo Uchino

WP

In Grazia di Dio  Italy

By Edoardo Winspeare

With Celeste Casciaro, Laura Licchetta, Barbara De Matteis, Anna Boccadamo, Gustavo Caputo

WP

-LOVEISSTRANGE copyLove Is Strange  USA

By Ira Sachs

With John Lithgow, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Charlie Tahan, Cheyenne Jackson

IP 

 

Mo Jing (That Demon Within) – Hong Kong, China

By Dante Lam

With Daniel Wu, Nick Cheung

WP

20140967_2 copyNa kathese ke na kitas (Standing Aside, Watching) – Greece EP

By Yorgos Servetas

With Marina Symeou, Marianthi Pantelopoulou, Yorgos Kafetzopoulos, Nikos Georgaki

 

 

Night Flight – Republic of Korea WP

By LeeSong Hee-il

With Lee Jae-jun, Kwak Shi-yang

20147070_2 copyNước (2030) – Vietnam  WP

By Nghiêm-Minh Nguyễn-Võ

With Quỳnh Hoa, Quý Bình, Thạch Kim Long, Hoàng Trần Minh Đức, Hoàng Phi

 

 

PatardzlebiPatardzlebi (Brides) – Georgia / France  WP

By Tinatin Kajrishvili

With Mari Kitia, Giorgi MaskharashvilI

Risse im Beton (Cracks in Concrete) – Austria  WP

By Umut Dağ

With Murathan Muslu, Alechan Tagaev, Mehmet Ali Salman, Erdem Turkoglu, Ivan Kriznjak

The Midnight After – Hong Kong, China  WP

By Fruit Chan

With Wong You-nam, Simon Yam, Kara Hui, Janice Man, Suet La

Viharsarok (Land of Storms) – Hungary   WP

By Adam Császi

With Andras Sütő, Ádám Varga, Sebastian Urzendowsky

YE (The Night) – People’s Republic of China  WP

By Hao Zhou

With Zhou Hao, Liu Xiao Xiao, Li Jin Kang, Zhou Feng Qi 

Arrête ou je continue (If You Don’t, I Willby Sophie Fillières, France (WP)

Bai Mi Zha Dan Ke (The Rice Bomberby Cho Li, Taiwan (WP)

Bing Du (Ice Poison) by Midi Z, Taiwan / Myanmar (WP)

Calvary by John Michael McDonagh, Ireland / United Kingdom (EP)

_CALVARY copy

Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (The Way He Looks) by Daniel Ribeiro, Brazil (WP)

Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? by Michel Gondry, France (EP)

O Homem das Multidões (The Man of the Crowd) by Marcelo Gomes, Cao Guimarães, Brazil (IP)

Papilio Buddha by Jayan Cherian, India / USA (EP)

Quick Change by Eduardo Roy Jr., Philippines (IP)

Stereo by Maximilian Erlenwein, Germany (WP)

Test by Chris Mason Johnson, USA (EP)

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The Better Angels by A. J Edwards, USA (IP)

Kuzu (The Lamb) by Kutluğ Ataman, Germany / Turkey (WP)

Things People Do by Saar Klein, USA (WP)

Triptyque (Triptych) by Robert Lepage, Pedro Pires, Canada (EP)

Über-Ich und Du (Superegos) by Benjamin Heisenberg, Germany / Switzerland / Austria (WP)

Unfriend by Joselito Altarejos, Philippines (WP)

Xi You (Journey to the West) by Tsai Ming-liang, France / Taiwan (WP)

Yves Saint Laurent by Jalil Lespert, France (IP)

(WP= World Premiere, IP= International Premiere, EP = European Premiere)

THE BERLINALE RUNS FROM 6 UNTIL 16 FEBRUARY 2014

 

 

 

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