Posts Tagged ‘BERLINALE 2015’

Counting (2015)

Director: Jem Cohen

111mins   Documentary  US

‘Sleeping dogs; Waking cats; Straws that break the camel’s back

The subtle urban portraiture of Jem Cohen’s work could be described as tragi comedy in motion. His recent drama MUSEUM HOURS was a hit amongst the arthouse crowd but COUNTING is a straightforward documentary that explores the peripatetic fillmaker’s wanderings through New York, Moscow, St Petersburg, Istanbul and an unknown city in the Middle East (Islamabad?).

Taking the form of 15 different but interconnected fragments, a lose narrative gradually emerges that points to a World where everyone is in contact but no one is actually engaging; people are talking but no one is listening. So COUNTING feels like an intensely personal take-down of our contemporary cities where animals and people are increasingly bewildered and alienated from their urban surroundings.

Continually leavening his film with ironic commentary that juxtaposes images of alienated people, cats or dogs photographed against the urban landscape often with poignantly amusing signs, his acute observations reflect the state of play in contemporary society. Whether faintly amusing or poignantly sad, they put Terrence Malick’s saccharine Hallmark greetingcard platitudes to shame, making Jem Cohen a unique and inventive director who deserves more acclaim. A treasure not to be missed, but not his best outing. MT

ON RELEASE 20/9/2016 FOR BARBICAN ARCHITECTURE ON FILM SERIES | BERLINALE 2015 review

Eisenstein in Guanajuato (2015) | bluray release

Writer/Director: Peter Greenaway

Cast: Elmer Bäck, Luis Alberti, Maya Zapata, Lisa Owen, Stelio Savante,

105min  Comedy Drama

Peter Greenaway proudly presents this fast-talking, flashy and visually overloaded outing that aims to shed a light on Sergei Eisenstein’s transformative trip to Mexico in the early 1930s.

Having achieved success with STRIKE, BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN and OCTOBER (TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD) by his late twenties, Eisenstein arrived in Hollywood 1930 on the invitation of Paramount Pictures. But movie plans fall through and he travels down to Mexico to meet the writer Upton Sinclair and make a film with him and his wife Mary Craig Kimbrough, Que Viva Mexico. It was never made.

The tone is unapologetically provocative with beefy Finnish-born actor Elmer Bäck playing Eisenstein as a bumptiously theatrical, overgrown baby with flyaway hair and a propensity to walking around his hotel room in the nude talking to his penis to the overbearing tones of Dance of the Knights from Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet. This is possibly due to the sweltering heat and culture shock brought on by discovering this new and uninhibited exotic playground: there’s even running water in the bathroom. Away from the strictures of Stalinism, Sex (Eros) and Death (Thanatos) take over his thoughts and coalesce with the steamy temperatures to have a transformative effect on Eisenstein’s libido of that of his local guide a well-endowed and sultry, Palomino Cañedo (Luis Alberti), who indulge in ultra-marital anal sex during their afternoon Siesta giving the Russian director two new experiences to take home. This affair was to have a dramatic effect on his creativity when he returned to Russia, and Greenaway cleverly evokes this transformation of his style from one of conceptual filmmaking to a fascination with more human concerns. His visit coincides with Mexico’s Day of the Dead (images of the Museum of the Dead here are accompanied to a playful Mexican score in contrast to those of Herzog’s sinister opening sequences of NOSFERATU.

The film is beautifully-crafted as one would expect with visuals morphing from the vibrant colours of the Mexico to the stylish bedroom interiors and black and white, Greenaway’s trademark montages are evident as are triptych split screens showing different timings of events and imaginative set-designs by Hector Iruegas (Post Tenebras Lux). There are exquisitely-tailored costumes for the men and soigné attire for the women courtesy of Brenda Gomez. Those expecting to learn anything about Eisenstein or indeed the films themselves or even Mr and Mrs Sinclair will be disappointed as this is largely a vanity piece for Greenaway to showcase his considerable filmmaking talents (and possibly even align them to those of Eisenstein); Elmer Leupen’s impressive editing skills and Reinier van Brummelen expertise with his lenses. Despite all this cleverness – THE DRAUGHTSMAN’S CONTRACT still remains his best film MT.

REVIEWED AT BERLINALE 2015 IN THE COMPETITION LINE-UP | NOW ON BLURAY 

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Knight of Cups (2015)

Director|Writer: Terrence Malick

Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto

118min  | Drama  | US

There is still a great deal to admire here in this saccharine series of simpering stories, largely thanks to Emmanuel Lubezki visual wizardry. But Malick’s style, which scratched the edges of mannerism in To The Wonder, has now broken fully into the confines of cliché in a drama whose intention is to evoke the tinseltown tedium of the Big City seen through the existential crisis and subsequent epiphany of its self-regarding central character, a writer, played by Christian Bale.

Terrence Malick succeeds in offering up another empty experience, ushered in by a pompous voiceover with John Gielgud reading from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and leading to a similarly swirling set of images and thoughts that shaped To The Wonder. emanating from a Hallmark Greetings style storyboard, and ultimately feeling meaningless to the thrust of the narrative. LA’s beautiful people float and tease to a backdrop of glittering sunsets and show-house interiors. Lovers smooch and flirt as they dance into the sea, fully clothed, or run their fingers sensuously through the limpid waters of infinity swimming pools, in luxury locations.

Rick (Bale) is good-looking, narcissistic and – we are led to believe – successful, but his marriage to his medical director wife Nancy (a shimmering Cate Blanchett) has faltered, and so has his relationship with his father (Brian Dennehy) and brother (Wes Bentley). And the tragedy of his trashed apartment, turned over by robbers, is treated with the same dreamlike delicacy of touch as the moments where gorgeous girls trip lightly behind him in their filigree frocks. Despite this seemingly minor setback, Rick continues to caruse and cajole with his coy admirers in a series of glitzy hotels and parties, occasionally contemplating his life in the desolation of the desert or showing his spiritual side by consulting a Tarot reader for guidance.

According to Tarot legend, the Knight of Cups is a charmingly emotional youth who is willing to please, but naive as a puppy. And the problem with Rick is that, by the end of the story, rather than evolving into a real person, he still appears to have the emotional depth and integrity of a new born despite Malick’s desperate attempts to have us believe otherwise, by association with his folie de grandeur lifestyle and literary success. MT

BERLINALE 2015 REVIEW | NOW OUT ON RELEASE AT SELECTED ARTHOUSE VENUES from 6 May 2016

 

Victoria (2015)

Director: Sebastian Schipper

Cast: Frederick Lau, Laia Costa, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, Max Mauff

138mins | Thriller | Germany

A night out for a Spanish girl in Berlin is a life-changing experience in this self-indulgent ad lib thriller whose unique selling point its shooting, in one single take, by German actor turned director, Sebastian Schipper (Run Lola Run).

Schipper is so focused on his mobile phone experiment that pacing and authenticity falls by the wayside in this woozily kinetic, high octane night ride into danger and then oblivion. It seems our eponymous heroine (Laia Costa) has lost her way and her moral compass in Berlin. The classically-trained pianist is so desperate to meet new friends she is prepared to tolerate any kind of nonsense from the crowd of dodgy guys she meets, who predictably turn out to be wasters at best, criminals at worst. Needing to open her cafe at seven, she is no hurry to prepare to a busy day and loiters around idly, shooting the breeze, until she finds herself in deep water, as part of a heist that endangers her own life.

The star turn here is Frederick Lau as Sonne, a charismatic natural who carries the film through from its dialogue heavy first act through to its dazzlingly dramatic denouement. As Victoria, Laia Costa fizzes with energy and high-spirits, refusing to call time on the one-dimensional guys who constantly push the limits on her good nature. She has a fleeting chemistry with Sonne, but doesn’t have to be there for him through thick and thin, with a gun against her head. Her character is the weakest link in this high-octane thriller that has its moments, but pushes its luck too far. There are just too many plot-holes in Schipper’s narrative. Would such an intelligent woman seriously engage in a robbery with three men she has only just met? Is there no security in Berlin’s banks?  In the hotel bathroom, after a tense shoot-out, wouldn’t you not need to use the loo or wash the blood of your hands? These are just a few of the endless implausibilities that make this slick and easy-going roadshow much less clever than it thinks it is, in retrospective analysis.

Schipper tightens the tension in the second act, the shaky camera tracking the action against the fuzzy nightscape of Berlin’s trendy Mitte district and making great use of the natural light of a gradual dawn from 4.30am until nearly 7am. Electronic music from Berlin compose Nils Frahm often takes over the dialogue, driving the action forward with its finger firmly on the pulse. Go for the ride but be prepared to suspend your disbelief. MT

NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 1 APRIL 2016

The Club | SILVER BEAR winner Berlinale

Director: Pablo Larraín

Cast: Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zeggers, Marcelo Alonso, Roberto Farias

98mins  Thriller  Chile

Chilean director Pablo Larraín is well-known for exploring the dark corners of his homeland to ferret out a few skeleton’s from the nation’s history. THE CLUB is such a story. There is always a place for his regular collaborator Alfredo Castro in these dark and often gloomy dramas. In this one, Castro (From Afar) gets a leading role hiding out in a windswept coastal backwater as a crusty old paedophile priest, Padre Vidal. And he’s not alone, sharing his grim beachhouse are four other priests, serving time for a variety of sexual misdemeanours in the name of God. Victoria Zeggers is Sister Monica, the young woman who keeps house for these miserable old men whose only pleasure in life is their obsession with a jointly- owned greyhound they race at competitive meets.

Sergio Armstrong’s cinematography captures the wide open emptiness of gloomy seascapes beaten by winds and endlessly suffused by a dank and dreary fog. The old buggers (quite literally) are on their last legs, rationed in their movements and deprived of any kind of physical enjoyment with limited contact with the outside world. It’s a sobering regime but a bearable one, until one night a troubled fisherman Sandokan (Roberto Farías) fetches up in the front garden hurling an unsavoury humiliating accusations at the one of the priests. His gripe, it appears, results from being repeatedly sexual abused in childhood by one of the priests. This toe-curling outpouring is unspeakably filthy and the men of God are mortified by this public take-down that is met the follow day by the arrival of Father García (Marcelo Alonso) with a mission to close down this cosy little seaside set-up. Father García is rather sultry and inappropriately attractive for the job in hand, leaving us wondering about his own motives in the scandalous affair.

THE CLUB is a sinister and suspenseful piece of filmmaking. A palpable tension hovers over proceedings like heavy fog drifting in from the sea; continually threatening but always managing to contain is subversive undercurrents. Guillermo Calderón and Daniel Villalobos contribute to a screenplay that villifies the characters but never completely demonises them, leaving much wit and wisdom for all to enjoy in the devilish den of iniquity. “I am the king of the repressed,” says Father Vidal (Castro). Darrain’s El Club is not an edifying story but an fascinating one. Meredith J Taylor.

ON RELEASE FROM 25 MARCH 2016 | REVIEWED AT BERLINALE 2015

 

Sworn Virgin (2015) | BFI Flare 2016

Director: Laura Bispuri   Writer: Elviria Dones

Cast: Alba Ruhrwacher, Flonja Kodheli, Lars Eidinger, Emily Ferratello, Luan Jaha

90mins  Italy/Albania  Drama

‘Swearing Virginity’ is an ancient practice that still exists today in remote areas of Albania. Young women sacrifice their physical and emotional freedom in order to enjoy the privileges and rights only accorded to men, who enjoy complete independence and command the respect of the womenfolk in their community .

In Laura Bispuri’s sensitive feature debut, the sworn virgin in question is Hana Doda, played convincingly here by well-known Italian actress Alba Rohrwacher (Best Actress at Venice last year for HUNGRY HEARTS). As ‘Mark’ Doda, she eventually decides to leave her mountain home and seek refuge and a new life with her sister Lila (Flonja Kodheli) in Italy, after spending a decade of deprivation in a mountain village.

In Milan life feels very different for ‘Mark’, as she gradually adjusts to the modern world and a future of freedom, while constantly revisiting her painful past, seen in flashback. Feeling awkward and alienated by these new surroundings, it is never full explained why she continues to use her male name and dress as a man after arrival in their home. Teenage niece (Emily Ferratello) realises that things are not normal, despite her mother’s protestations to the contrary, and appears understandably hostile and questioning. Lila’s husband also seems to treat ‘Mark’ with a certain degree of frostiness, particularly when he sees the sisters experimenting with a new bra. It is only when she meets a life guard (Lars Eidinger) at the local swimming pool that Hana’s female longings start to awaken and her femininity blossoms.

Laura Bispuri adopts a less is more approach to her slow-burning narrative: dialogue is minimal, both in Italian and Albanian, and a stark steely blue aesthetic lends an aura of sombre frigidity to the narrative, keeping the tension simmering while details slowly emerge as the film unspools. SWORN VIRGIN is Based on a novel by Albanian writer Elvira Dones, the medieval practice stills survives today in backward mountain areas where brides are taken fully veiled by their husbands so they are unable to find their way back home. A bullet is included in their dowry by the bride’s father, just in case they fail to please their intended spouses. MT

Now SCREENING DURING BFI FLARE FESTIVAL until 27 MARCH 2016

ERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY 2015 – ALL OUR COVERAGE IN UNDER BERLINALE 2015

 

The Pearl Button | Berlinale 2015 | Competition |

Director: Patricio Guzman

82min  | Documentary | Chile

Where NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT studied conditions in the Atacama Desert, THE PEARL BUTTON focuses in sparkling 2k digital on the medium water, in an attempt to link the element with the disappearance of five native tribes of Patagonia and the genocide of countless political prisoners during Pinochet’s dictatorship.

A bright light shining through a block of crystal imbedded with drop of water seems an exciting way to open a documentary on how water came to be on the Earth. But after a brief look at celestial comets that purportedly conveyed the element to our planet, the narrative then wends its way into the tribal question to examine the ancient seafarers who once inhabited the southern tip of Patagonia (Land of the Large Feet). Chile benefits from a massive 2,670 mile seaboard, providing a fabulous climate for a successful wine industry, but its maritime possibilities appear to have been thwarted by the tragic wiping out of much of this seagoing ancestry in the early 1800s, by settlers intent of making the region their home. Three survivors of these tribes still keep their native tongues of Kawesqar, Yagan and Selk’nam alive and they give testament to a vibrant past when they circumnavigated over 600 miles of the regions southern seaways and lived completely at one with nature. Guzman combines his interviews with fascinating archival footage showing some eerie photographs of tribal indians painted with body designs and garments resembling the klu kluk clan.

The Pearl Button

The title of the film comes from a young Yagan teenager who was sold to the British Navy for the price of a pearl button in 1830. It emerges that a pearl button was also discovered welded to a metal girder discovered at the bottom of the sea during Pinochet’s reign of political terror and indicating widespread genocide of innocent people. Ultimately these historical tragedies are so individually important that they each deserve a separate film rather than one that runs for under two hours.

That said, Guzman has made a visually extraordinary film that wafts over the magnificent scenery and glacial landscapes of this South American nation. A gently meditative voiceover wafts over us providing space for contemplation but leaving us feeling both bewildered and unsatisfied. MT

BERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY 2015 | NOW ON GENERAL RELEASE 

 

Taxi Tehran (2015) | Berlinale 2015| GOLDEN BEAR 2015

Director: Jafar Panahi   |  With: Jafar Panahi

82mins  Drama   Iran

The third film to be released by Iranian director Jafar Panahi, since being placed under house arrest, plays out like a living, breathing video essay on the director and his work. But it also manages to capture so much about Iranian filmmaking, and cinema as a whole. Panahi takes us on a dense, multi-layered cab ride through the streets of the capitol; a thought provoking journey, packed with warmth and humor, and dotted with the sort of fleeting moments- some chance, some not; that make Iranian film so sublime.

Filmed entirely from small portable cameras in a Tehran taxicab, Panahi plays it all quasi-documentary as an undercover cab driver. On his 90-minute spin around the city’s streets, the director picks up a motley crew of passengers, many of whom offer little winks to the director’s past work.

The first argument about justice, we’re told, is taken from CRIMSON GOLD. Then there’s a blood covered man who must be rushed to hospital; a man with a bag of counterfeit DVDs; two old ladies in a rush with some goldfish; and the director’s niece trying to make a “distributable” film herself. The soft-spoken Panahi just sits and takes their confessions.

Through these conversations, the film throws up a number of questions about the role of the filmmaker, and whether or not it is right to follow any sort of moral code. When his niece enters the cab she recites the cultural ministry’s statute of what makes a film “distributable”. Then, just moments later, the girl attempts to direct the events of a little street-side drama so that her film will follow the code. The next passenger in the cab is a lawyer who has defended cultural dissidents, and Panahi has her show up with a giant bouquet of roses. It’s clear where his allegiances lie.

With Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, now both living in exile, the director is one of the last remaining lights of that old guard to stay home. And TAXI has retained many of the fine elements that made those directors’ New Wave films so great. The idea of automobiles as a center for conversation; the lightning in a bottle effect of filming children who seem oblivious to the lens; and the belief in cinema as a transcendental medium and one which can connect us, no matter how varied our situations are.

By putting himself in front of the camera, as well as behind it, is the film a touch too narcissistic? Perhaps. That said, Mr. Panahi has been collecting major plaudits since his house arrest took effect, and TAXI might just be the best of the lot. Rory O’Connor

REVIEWED AT BERLINALE  2015 | 30 OCTOBER 2015 NATIONWIDE

Life (2015) | DVD blu-ray release

Director: Anton Corbijn  Writer: Luke Davies

Dane DeHaan, Robert Pattinson, Joel Edgerton, Ben Kingsley, Alessandra Mastroardi

111min  Drama  US

Dutch director and photographer, Anton Corbijn, is best known for his 2007 biopic CONTROL, it was also his most emotionally-involved work as a director. LIFE is a character piece on the legendary James Dean and his formative relationship with the photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) after he was assigned by Life magazine to create a series of photos to capture the imagination of the American public and launch this new edgy and camera-shy star. US actor, Dane DeHaan steps up to the challenge of playing the legendary fifties actor with moodiness and aplomb, conveying his troubled and unsettling persona with conviction and feeling.

Corbijn shies away from the traditional biopic style drama in attempting to show how this troubled human being became an icon and how it affected him as a young actor making his way in early fifties Los Angeles. Dennis Stock is another artist also searching for identity and success from a different yet equally difficult start in life. Married with a wife and young son, he is driven by anxiety and the will to succeed but also support a young family. Whereas Pattinson’s Stock is hungry for success, DeHaan’s Dean is a chilled and laid-back individual who almost avoids success, shunning the limelight and preferring to stay in bed with his girlfriend, Pier Angeli, an actress who has already achieved stardom. Ben Kingsley is mesmerising in cameo as Jack Warner, head of Warner Brothers and Dean’s boss.

LIFE follows the pair on a trip to Dean’s native Indiana where they reconnect with his farming roots and his homespun, God-fearing folks. Meanwhile, Stock is under pressure not only to deliver the goods to his editor but also to be a responsible father to his young son back in New York. LIFE is a sensitively-crafted and well-performed drama and avoids hagiography. At nearly two hours, Corbijn’s film never outstays its welcome, leaving you wanting to stay longer and experience more of this fascinating period in film history. Meredith J Taylor 

REVIEWED AT BERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY. FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE UNDER BERLINALE 2015 | NOW ON DVD / Blu-ray

 

Aferim! (2015) | Berlinale 2015| SILVER BEAR | DVD BLU

Director: Radu Jude
Writer: Radu Jude, Florin Lazarescu
Cast: Teodor Corban, Mihai Comanoiu, Cuzin Toma

Romania / Bulgaria / Czech Republic Historical Drama 108 min

MIDNIGHT RUN meets THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADAS ESTRADA in Radu Jude’s third feature AFERIM!—an unlikely pairing by which to describe a road movie set in 1830s Romania. From its opening credits sequence (lively music and foregrounded cacti) to its crisply shot rural vistas, though, there’s more than a touch of the western about this talky and occasionally very funny film, which bowed in competition this week at the Berlin Film Festival.

While a Ford or a Hawks may have felt compelled to have their protagonist transcend the moral restrictions of his time, Jude doesn’t afford his central figure such a luxury. Gendarme Costadin (Teodor Corban) is employed by a local boyor (high ranking aristocrat) to hunt down Carfin (Cuzin Toma), a gypsy who has run away following accusations of an affair with his owner’s wife. Accompanied by his son and protégé Ionita (Mihai Comanoiu), Costadin travels on horseback across the racial hotbed of feudalist Wallachia in search of his bounty, encountering various people of impoverished or inferior stations—gypsies and women chief among them.

Women and gypsies get the brunt of it in Jude and fellow writer Florin Lazarescu’s script (which, as a long list of historical texts indicates at the very end of the film, in addition to the beautiful production design and costume design by Augustina Stanciu and Dana Paparuz respectively, is the work of impressive research). Costadin refers to one woman he comes upon early in the film as a hag. Others are referred to as crows and filthy whores. Not that our protagonist is especially tyrannical. Though he claims to be “as harsh as a hot pepper, born of Father Garlic and Mother Onion”, Costadin goes about his daily routine with palpable ambivalence, making ends meet with an unquestioning deference for the prevailing status quo while admitting, in those moments of downtime he enjoys with Ionita, that “this is a dog’s life: we sweat like beasts for a piece of bread.” Later, a chemistry almost forms between the policeman and his quarry, as Costadin agrees to put a word in for Carfin upon returning him to his master—though he doesn’t quite extend such sympathy enough to free him, upon Ionita’s suggestion.

The casual, accepted misogyny that pervades the film is exemplified best by the puppet show that Costadin observes among many other onlookers, in which a male marionette beats his wife to death. Young viewers begin to inspect the motionless puppet, convinced that it’s real. Up to this point, the film has been free of explicit violence, though the darker impulses revealed in dialogue (“gypsies: are they people, or Satan’s spawn?”) prepare us for an outcome that denies a happy resolution. True to recent traditions in Romanian cinema, AFERIM! is an effectively frustrating look at how the unequal power relations of any historical period absurdly go unchallenged by those who benefit from them most.

“This world will stay on as it is,” Costadin tells his son. “You can’t change it, try as you might.” But we know different. Though inequalities still exist, the situation in Eastern Europe has changed dramatically. While it’s refreshing to see a Romanian director turning to a more remote point in his nation’s history (as opposed to, say, its search for a post-communist identity), the film speaks to the present juncture—not least of all in its authentic depiction of how gypsies were treated in the 1830s. Just as the movement for freeing gypsies (then regarded as slaves) began to gather momentum in the mid-19th century—resulting finally in the 1856 bill declaring their emancipation—we find much solace in the systematic changes that have unfolded since, and in those that are still to come. MICHAEL PATTISON

ROMANIA’S OSCAR 2016 ENTRY | REVIEWED AT BERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY 2015 | FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE UNDER BERLINALE 2015 | DVD BLU RELEASE

13 Minutes (Elser) 2015 | DVD release

Dir.: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Cast: Christian Friedel, Katherina Schüttler, Burghardt Klaußner, Johannes von Bülow, Lissy Pernthaler, Udo Schenk

Germany 2015, 114 min.

On the 8th of November 1939, George Elser tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler in the Bürgerbräu Keller in Munich, where Hitler and the NSDAP leadership celebrated their failed “Beer Hall Putsch” of 1923. Due to a forecast of fog, Hitler decided to leave early for Berlin at 21.07, thirteen minutes before Elser’s bomb exploded, bringing part of the roof down and killing eight people.

We meet Elser (Friedel, The White Ribbon) in 1932 first near the Bodensee as a young clockmaker, playing the accordion and being quite a ladies’ man. Later he is called home to Koenigsbronn in Swabia, where his father, a drunkard, is unable to keep the family farm going. There he falls in love with the married Elsa (Schüttler), her husband Erich – abusive and alcohol dependent, is suddenly is written out of  the picture. Whilst Elser had sympathies for the Communist Party, he never became a member, but he and Elsa are seen feeding one of his old friends, who has to work in a factory for a nearby concentration camp. After the couple’s baby dies, Elser, seemingly unmotivated, leaves Elsa and builds the bomb to kill Hitler (Schenk).

Steeling dynamite and other material, he spends many nights in the Bürgerbräu Keller to install the bomb. On the night oft he failed assassination, he is caught by border guard s at the Swiss border, carrying tools and technical drawings of the bomb. The next day, Elser is transferred to the Gestapo HQ in Munich, were he is interrogated by Nebe (Klaußner) and Gestapo chief Mueller (von Bülow). Whilst Nebe is certain, that Elser had no help, Mueller supports Hitler’s quest to find his co-conspiritors. Elser is tortured and pumped full of Pervertin, but to no avail. Finally, he is transferred to the KZ Sachsenhausen, where he is treated as a „special prisoner“. After taken to Dachau KZ, he is shot there on April 9th 1945, aged 42.

Oliver Hirschbiegel’s (Downfall/Diana) 13 Minutes is even more sensational, schematised and banal than Klaus Maria Brandauer’s Elser portrait 7 Minutes (1989). Like in Downfall, Hirschbiegel personalises and simplifises historical events, and reduces them to emotional tear-jerkers. Told in recurring flashbacks, the narrative is reduced to episodes, giving the film little coherence. Everything is without contradictions: Elser’s hometown is first an arena for the fighting communists and fascists, then suddenly a model Nazi town.

Hirschbiegel never explains why the great majority of Germans were so willing to follow Hitler, whose lust for hysteria, sadism and utter (self)destruction they shared. Instead, we are seeing the demure female minute taker (Pernthaler) during interrogations, who tears Elsa’s photo from the file and gives it to Elser. Worst of all, Nebe, chief of the Kripo (Criminal Police), who already joined the Nazi Party in 1931, and was responsible for he “Einsatzgruppen” in Russia, who murdered Jews and mental patients, is shown as a humanist, who is kind to Elser. After the failed Officer’s coup of July 1944, he is hanged with piano wire, his long drawn-out death another example of endless scenes of “torture porn”.

Hirschbiegel is obviously not alone, choosing sentimentality instead of analysis, showing the Nazis, not as murderous racists but instead resorting to trivia. And why do some films about the Nazi period humanise mass murders like Nebe? In the end, the director even minimalises his hero for an aesthetic stunt: flames are reflected in Elser’s goggles, whilst he is welding his bomb. 13 Minutes does not do Elser any justice, good ensemble acting is not enough to save a film, in which camera and narrative conspire to hide the truth just to give the audience a spectacle. AS

NOW ON DVD

Mr Holmes (2015) | dvd blu-ray release

Director: Bill Condon

Cast:  Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiyoyuki Sanada

Cert. PG 104mins. US/UK 2015

It is 1947 and Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) is now in retirement in Surrey, assisted by his housekeeper Mrs Munro (Laura Linney). Now 93, he has been retired for 30 years, and feeling that he had failed in his last case has made him rather grumpy and not a very happy man. His former colleagues – Dr Watson, Mrs Hudson – have died and Holmes feels even more alone. His main joy is beekeeping which also interests the widowed Mrs Munro’s young son, Roger (Milo Parker). He recognises that Roger is very bright and, in his direct manner, tells Mrs Munro, “Exceptional children are often the product of unremarkable parents.”

Holmes ponders on his last case; remembering Ann Kilmot and her husband’s instruction to follow her to see what she is up to. Through his detective work Holmes manages to work out that although Ann seems to be plotting to kill her husband in fact she intends to kill herself. The rest of Ann’s story is harder to discover and it is that which makes Holmes admit failure. He does not agree with Watson’s written story in which Holmes becomes the hero of this particular case.

In the early scenes we see Holmes returning from a trip to Japan where his host Umezaki Tamiki (Hiroyuki Sanada) tells him that he believes Holmes was involved in the disappearance of his father in England. This is yet another mystery for him to solve as his formerly strong memory has deteriorated and he can’t even remember meeting Umezaki’s father.

The starry cast of well-known actors includes Roger Allam as Sherlock’s doctor, Frances de la Tour as a kind of mystic who mentors Ann Kilmot, Phil Daniels as a police inspector and Hattie Moran as Ann. Laura Linney manages an impeccable English accent and, as usual, gives a most sensitive performance. The boy, Milo Parker, is just right as young Roger and he and McKellen work very well together. Of course the film belongs to McKellen who embodies the ageing detective in a realistic manner. In fact he plays two different ages – younger Sherlock in the scenes showing his interaction with Ann and the present day 93-year-old.

This is a gentle character-driven movie about the older and then very old Sherlock Holmes. It has a lot to say about ageing and nearing the end of life and also about love – the love of Mrs Munro for her son and her memories of a loving relationship with her husband and now being without him and the deep affection of Sherlock for young Roger. Carlie Newman.

OUT ON DVD | BLU RAY ON 10 November  2015 | SEE OUR INTERVIEW 

45 Years (2015) | Berlinale | Silver Bears for Best Actor | Best Actress | Edinburgh

Director: Andrew Haigh   Writer: David Constantine and Andrew Haigh

Cast: Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Geraldine James, David Sibley, Dolly Wells

93min   UK  Drama

The past can rock the future even in the toughest of relationships; chipping away at stable foundations; challenging deeply held beliefs and tricking the mind until nothing seems certain anymore. 45 YEARS is a sensitively-performed character study where an avalanche of feeling slowly builds momentum. Based on a short story by David Constantine, Andrew Haigh’s follow up to his breakout success WEEKEND (2011) is a drama full of the unexpected.

Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play retired couple, Kate and Geoff, now in their 45th year of marriage. Both have played vital roles in the Norfolk village where Kate is a retired headmistress and Geoff a former trade unioner. Clearly she is posher that he is and the more introverted of the two. Keeping a certain dignified distance from the world, she is elegant, understanding and discretely passionate. Geoff is clearly slightly older, more erratic in his moods and movements but less emotionally buttoned down, especially after a drink or two. Content to be together in companionable silence, they are sociable without being overly involved in the outside community and still enjoy occasional sex. There are no children to fuss over, but Kate walks in the countryside with her Alsatian, Max, and Geoff is an armchair philosopher dabbling in the works of Kierkegaard. Arrangements are in place for an anniversary celebration in the village and Kate is putting the final touches in place when Geoff receives a letter.

The body of his previous girlfriend, Katya, has been discovered after disappearing during their walking holiday in the early 60s. The news triggers a reaction in Geoff that cannot be brushed aside. At first, Kate is unperturbed by the news but gradually the ripples of this revelation ruffle their regular routine. The absence of any clarity from Geoff as to why the tragedy has affected him so deeply sends Kate rummaging through the attic looking for evidence.

Andrew Haigh’s drama offers endless opportunities for speculation: Does anyone really know their partner or, indeed, themselves? One of the photos Kate discovers seems to hint that Katya may have been pregnant, yet the childlessness of Geoff and Kate is never discussed? Perhaps they couldn’t have children together so this putative pregnancy pushes Kate over the edge leaving her feeling jealous and even envious of a child that was never born. Was their marriage built on rebound love: Did Geoff settle for second best and is their relationship just a sham? Endlessly, the narrative picks away at scabs long-healed and threatens to create new ones.

During the party, Geoff seems over-emotional but Kate is distant. Her friend Lena (a delightfully voluble Geraldine James) hints at tears for the men “they always break down’ and yet it appears that Kate is the one who feels more cheated; smiling through the pain of this sudden slap in the face, with a false bonhomie: all along she felt she had triumphed in the game in of life; came up and finished first – is she now just a disillusioned loser?

After a silent hour or so of the drama, the party band strikes up with Golden Oldies from the sixties. But are they tunes that Geoff enjoyed with Katya? The almost unbearably poignant dance scene is loaded with so much latent anger and unexpressed emotion it echoes that of PHOENIX (coming in May). This is a fine and complex drama featuring two skillful performances from a legendary British duo. MT

BERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY – ALL OUR COVERAGE IS UNDER BERLINALE 2015 DVD RELEASE 

 

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Why Me (2015) | Cambridge Film Festival 2015

Writer|Director: Tudor Giurgiu

Cast: Emilian Oprea, Mihai Constantin, Andreea Vasile

125min  Romanian  Political Thriller

Romanian director Tudor Giurgiu crafts a caustic Kafkaesque thriller based on a true case of political and police corruption.

Romanian new wave drama WHY ME is Tudor Giurgiu’s third fiction feature and a no holds barred exposé of Romanian state criminal prosecutor Cristian Panait (29), who was found dead in suspicious circumstances in 2002 after he took a fearless stand to uphold the truth in a case the high-profile corruption battle that still resonates for those involved and affected. Whether it will have appeal for general audiences is questionable but this offers absorbing entertainment for keen cineastes or the Eastern European arthouse crowd.

Serving as an allegory for Post Communist Romania, WHY ME has all the trappings of a grown-up crime thriller. Slick production values and Giurgiu’s masterful direction elicits a dynamite performance from the dashingly dour Emilian Oprea in the lead as Cristian Panait (here called Panduru). As a university lecturer and leading light in the criminal prosecution service, his strict moral code does not extend to his sexual relationships: he enjoys a high octane feisty chemisty with his girlfriend Dora (Andreea Vasile) while hotly pursuing the charms of his female students. At only 29, he is put forward to handle a thorny corruption case against Bogdan Leca (Alin Florea), another prosecutor involved in smuggling charges against prominent political figures in post Soviet Romania. Although Panduru initially leaps at the opportunity to handle the case, he becomes less keen when he suspects the authorities of using him as a pawn. But his life downsirals into paranoia after backing out of the Leca case and soon he feels unable to trust even his own doting mother, with tragic consequences.

To some extent WHY ME is semi- autobiogrpahical for Giurgiu, who ia Romania’s best known director, both at home and abroad. He was also the main proponent of Romania’s BBC equivalent before resigning under political pressure. Not for the feint-hearted, the film is hard-hitting and heavyweight with some emotional scenes but very few glimpses of the usual dry Romanian sense of humour.

Through suberb widescreen cinematography WHY ME offers some opportunities to see Bucharest and the surrounding  scenery and local architecture as well as the smoke-filled corridors of government power where Panait fought to expose corruption. Eventually, possibly through his efforts, Romania disbanded its secret forces in a widescale crack-down on  corrupt politicians. Worthwhile and intelligent. MT

CAMBRIDGE FILM FESTIVAL RUNS FROM 3 SEPTEMBER UNTIL 13 SEPTEMBER 2015

 

Body (2015) | Berlinale | Karlovy Vary

Director Malgorzata Szumowska

Cast: Janusz Gajos, Maja Ostaszewska, Justyna Suwala

There is something rather tragic about Malgorzata Szumowska’s BODY. And I don’t mean to insult the Silver Bear Winner or her latest drama. She encourages us to chuckle at this darkly ‘humorous’ portrait of a father daughter relationship that has clearly gone off the rails. Yet there is nothing remotely funny about the themes explored: a lonely ageing widower, a troubled daughter at odds with her life, a bereaved single mother who cannot move on from the death of her young son. The tone is upbeat in comparison with Elles and In The Name Of,  yet BODY never really offers a satisfactory or involving story with these well-drawn and worthwhile characters.

Veteran actor Janusz Gajos (Three Colors: White) plays a murder prosecutor whose own life is far from a picnic. In a grey and dreary Warsaw, his daily grind involves a stream of mutilated bodies, although the suicide victim he visits in the opening scene, bizarrely, comes back to life. Very black indeed. His wife has sadly died and left him living with his nubile daughter, Olga (Justyna Suwala), whose mother’s death has widened the existing rift between them. Their lack of affection has left her with an eating disorder. After a particularly bad attack, Olga finds herself in hospital and visited by Anna (Maja Ostaszewska), a therapist who treats bulimia and anorexia. Her placid serenity is conducive to her work as a clairaurient psychic, who dashes down messages from ‘spirit’ in a febrile frenzy.

Back at the family home, a poltergeist appears to be up to its tricks with leaks and creaks and other strange events. Michel Englert’s script attempts to turn these into witty vignettes yet they are laced with tragic overtones and gradually the promising plotlines pale into insignificance as we mull over the broken lives of the protagonists. Then suddenly something quite lovely happens with our mousy medium Anna. As she sits round a table with father and daughter, joining hands in a seance that began at night and is still going as the dawn breaks, a most uplifting moment makes this awkward drama sing out with heartfelt soul. The strange and magical alchemy of Englert’s clever cinematography and superb performances (particularly from Ostaszewska) manage to create a mesmerising finale. MT

BODY WON A SILVER BEAR AT BERLINALE 2015 | KARLOVY VARY RUNS UNTIL 11 JULY 2015

 

Love & Mercy (2015)

Director: Bill Pohlad    Writers: Oren Moverman

Cast: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti, Dee Wallace, Jake Abel, Joanna Going

121min   US   Biopic of Brian Wilson

LOVE & MERCY explores the life of iconic Beach Boys front man Brian Wilson during the formative years of the band and the abusive relationship with his father that led to mental illness that worsened under the control of a doctor whose care he sought in his troubled adult years.

In a resonant and well-managed double act Paul Dano (young Brian) and John Cusack (older Brian) evoke the creative brilliance of an intuitive soul caught between the strong egos of his father and the other band members while he strove to channel his musical talents into a string of highly original hits capturing the upbeat sunny vibe of America in the sixties while echoing the tender tones of love and loss.

Oren Moverman’s fractured narrative flips back and forth from the opening scenes as John Cusack’s quirky and quixotic older Brian is buying a cadillac from Melinda Ledbetter (a superb Elizabeth Banks), who is to play a crucial part in his adult years – and the early life portrayed by Paul Dano’s sensitive young Brian who is physically and mentally abused by his unhappy father, as he patiently feels his way ahead on a thrilling musical adventure. Although occasionally slack in places where the film attempts to drift into the dreamlike mindset of a creative genius or reflect the gruelling nature of recording sessions, this affecting emotional drama sings out with spine-tingling soul.

In some ways Bill Pohlad’s direction has tragic overtones of a man who succeeded against the odds. Wilson is seen as being constantly besieged by negative characters, amongst them his father, Murry Wilson (Bill Camp) who will eventually sell the rights to the Band’s music for less than a million dollars; bandmate and naysayer Mike Love (Jake Abel), not to mention the vehemently vicious Doctor Eugene Landy (a brilliantly ebullient Paul Giamatti), his disturbed legal guardian, who uses a toxic brew of Pavlovian tricks to keep Wilson psychologically under control. But glimmers of hope gradually transform the drama in the final scenes – and if you don’t know the story, this will come as a welcome surprise.

In the early years, a puppy-like Paul Dano paints Wilson as a home-loving peacemaker who relies heavily of intuition to be productive and uses accomplished professional musicians known as the Wrecking Crew to create the unique sound of mega hits ‘God Only Knows’ and ‘Good Vibrations’. In one scene, we see him cancelling a $5000 dollars recording session simply because “the vibes don’t feel right”. Drummer Hal Blaine offers Wilson the only professional praise in the entire piece, assuring him: “Phil Spector’s got nothin’ on you”.  This is a heart-warming moment in contrast to the many scenes of flagrant emotional abuse that Wilson suffers at the hands of Dr Landy and his father who continually puts him down: “Five years from now no one is going to remember you or the Beach Boys.”

John Cusack reflects Wilson’s inate good-nature but also his warped and tortured soul in the desperate lines “I want you to leave now, but I don’t want you to leave me”, after spending a romantic afternoon with Melinda in his beach-house. Their relationship develops under the constant control of Dr Landy, who insists on over-medicating Wilson, being a permanent presence in his daily acitivities and even dictating his living arrangements and attending his dates with Melinda. And as the couple gradually fall in love, the defensive Landy insists that Wilson wants no more of Melinda in his life due to his recording commitments.

Pohlad’s biopic is by no means hagiographic and this is the essence of its success as it accurately reflects the real nature of an intensely private man whose creativity strove to express deep-felt emotions and continual inventiveness and rather than a desire to engage with fans and pursue fame. And this is perhaps, in some ways, why Wilson was at odds with his bandmates. But even if you know nothing of the man himself but are familiar with the legend of the Beach Boys and their songs, this is moving musical biopic with appeal for the arthouse crowd and mainstream audiences alike. MT

ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 10 JULY 2015

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Dora or the Sexual Neuroses of our Parents (2015) | East End Film Festival 2015

Director: Stina Werenfels Writer: Boris Treyer| Stina Werenfels

Cast: Victoria Schulz, Jenny Schily, Lars Eidinger, Urs Jucker

90min   Drama   Austria/Switzerland

Stina Werenfels first came to Berlinale in 2006 with a powerful debut GOING PRIVATE. DORA marks her return with a morally challenging and visually appealing drama that probes some sensitive issues for the family of a disabled young woman in contemporary Switzerland.

In Zurich, a happily married couple in their early forties are parents to Dora (newcomer Victoria Schulz), a mentally retarded but attractive 18 year-old. Kristin (Jenny Schily) and Felix (Urs Jucker) have raised her with complete devotion but Dora is now an adult and certainly old enough to realise that she cannot interrupt her parent’s love-making by climbing into their bed. The problem is that Dora is still being treated like a child because her brain has not developed at the same time as her body and so she lacks the behavioural changes that normally follow puberty and adolescence.

The decision to stop taking her medication has had the added complication of making Dora completely sexually uninhibited. And this is both shocking and bewildering for her parents, and particularly her mother. Jenny Schily gives a convincing turn as Kristin, a loving woman who is deeply uncomfortable with her daughter’s burgeoning sexual prowess that appears not to know any shame (she comments on her father’s erect penis calling it ‘a front bum willy’ after surprising them in the throes of passion).

After an incident in a public lavatory, where Dora consents to a brutal rape by a stranger, she then embarks on a regular sex life with the man in question, much to the alarm and disappointment of her open-minded yet, understandably worried parents.  All this is delicately and almost dreamily photographed by Lukas Strebel’s pleasingly soft-focused lens, a style that softens and blunts the emotionally traumatic nature of the subject matter

Come to my Voice | Were Denge Min (2013) | LTFF 2015

Dir: Huseyin Karabey

Cast: Feride Gezer, Melek Ulger, Tuncay Akdemir, Bahri Hakan

Turkey/France/Germany 2014, 105 min.

Set in the magnificent landscape near Lake Van in Southeast Turkey, Huseyin Karabey (My Marlon and Brando) tells a simple, but beautifully-crafted tale about repression, liberation and the power of storytelling. A Kurdish village is gathering around a bard, to hear the story which unfolds as the film. At the same time, Berfe (Gezer) tells her granddaughter Jiyan (Ulger) the story of the fox, who lost his tail – his pride and joy. Just when she starts talking about the many tasks the fox has to perform to regain his tail, Turkish soldiers, under the leadership of a sadistic captain, raid the village, demanding to be handed over weapons, in the village’s “secret” arsenal. But it emerges that this is ploy of a jealous informer, no weapons are found, and the men are taken to prison, among them Berfe’s son Temo (Akdemir). Soon it becomes clear, that the soldiers are looking for free weapons, in exchange for the imprisoned men, so that they can sell them for profit. Neither Jiyan’s plastic pistols nor Berfe’s father’s old rifle are deemed acceptle , and after trying her luck with a smuggler, Berfe travels with her granddaughter to the nearest city, to visit her relatives. There she steals a revolver, and with the help of travelling group of blind bards, led by Casim (Hakan), they smuggle the weapon through the many control points. When the two come home, a surprise awaits them.

Karabey’s inventive structure is fascinating, the story of the fox, told in many instalments, is a parallel story to Berfe’s struggle to find a weapon, to free her son. We can imagine, how further generations will hear the story of Berfe’s adventures with her granddaughter. This sense of history binds the villagers together, their collective memory much stronger than the blunt, simplistic and brutal approach of the Turkish soldiers. All families have either dead or imprisoned members, mistrust of the Turkish occupiers is everywhere. But the Kurds, personified by Berfe and Jiyan, use the stunning landscape to their advantage, they become a part of the wild and beautiful terrain. There are long stretches in Come to my Voice, where not a word is spoken, but the power of the images does not need much explanation, and the majority of the dialogue is short and up to the point. Anne Misselwitz’ camera is always gliding over the terrain; then, in gentle curves coming down to show the impressive faces of the actors, some like Gezer, being amateurs. A very impressive, touching but never sentimental film, which tells a rich and varied folk tale. AS

THE LONDON TURKISH FILM FESTIVAL | 7- 17 MAY 2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

Director: Brett Morgan


132 minutes (US) MUSICAL BIOPIC  

Over 20 years after his death, what is the enduring appeal of Kurt Cobain? Does it speak of the anodyne, characterless musical landscape du jour that we are still so enamoured with his rise and fall? Or is it simply down to appreciation of a musical visionary? Alternatively, is it the gruesome romance of suicide; the garish, tragic apex of that stereotyped notion of the tortured artist? Or a complex compound of the two?

Presented as a HBO production, Montage of Heck is the latest in a substantial line of documentaries to look into the late icon’s life. Rather than the probing, but ultimately unauthorised, illegitimate and dissatisfying Nick Broomfield doc Kurt & Courtney (1998), director Brett Morgen’s film secures a modicum of legitimacy due to the calibre of its witnesses and previously unseen video footage.

It is a film that is ghoulish, schizophrenic and chaotic. As the follow up to his jumbled and only partially successful 2013 Rolling Stones film Crossfire Hurricane, Morgan’s latest suffers from similar failings. Clocking in with considerable heft at 132 minutes, he certainly hasn’t scrimped on detail. Most of the main players in the Kurt story are present and (depending on perception) correct, bar one notable absentee in the form of Kurt’s former drummer, and now full time founding Foo Fighter, Dave Grohl. Interest is undeniably piqued upon hearing testimony from his mother and father, alongside his old bass player Krist Novoselic and former girlfriends, which include the ever candid Courtney Love. They offer a window into the teenage and adult Cobain like never before.

So far, so interesting. It is with considerable disappointment, therefore, that the residual impression left by this documentary is a negative one. Aside from this writer’s considerable ethical issue and umbrage with the work (as outlined below), Montage of Heck is sprawling and undisciplined.

For a band whose catalogue only contains one song that ends on a fade out, this is the antithesis of their focused, no-frills ethos. At times, it is far too digressive and takes those digressive turns in the wrong places. If Kurt’s notes portray concern at violation, then he would be horrified by this work. It is guilty of raiding, ransacking and violating his personal, private moments whilst his corpse gathers dust.

You may not need to see Montage of Heck to have formed the opinion that the Love/Cobain relationship was toxic. You can read enough articles to construct that opinion vicariously. However, to see the home video footage is to really ram the point home. As Courtney openly confesses her heroin consumption during her pregnancy, she also recounts how Kurt stated, ‘I’m going to get to $3m and then become a junkie’. It is all rather sad, and it is the Love material that makes matters particularly uncomfortable, as this slide towards the abyss gathers pace.

It takes a strong stomach not to squirm at the footage of Kurt and Courtney kissing in extreme close-up or wallowing around in the narcotic den that formed their home; blissfully out of their not so pretty (at the time) heads in a druggy haze. Such intimate and frequently unflattering moments are dredged up time and time again. It is increasingly disquieting to witness and exacerbates the feeling that the audience is being subjected to a voyeuristic trip that feels improper; like a Peeping Tom.

It isn’t all negative though. Aside from clips of the familiar (for example, the blistering Reading festival headline performance from 1992), what could have been presented as a whisper of a memory from friends and relatives, is frequently enhanced by the drawings, audio clips and super 8 home video footage (which, for better, or the worse as outlined above, is a treasure trove). It is worth checking out the fleeting sound check footage that hints at the historical lack of love lost between Dave Grohl and Love. It is fascinating. Further, the ad hoc utilisation of animated sequences to provide a bridge to many of the excerpts lifted from Kurt’s diaries and other such voiceover accompaniment is visually arresting and effective.

Montage of Heck, for all of its faults, represents another coup for a filmmaker who is making a habit of securing great access to the great and the good within the hallowed halls of rock history. The debate can rage on as to whether the world needed to peel the curtain behind the public persona of Cobain as it does here. Maybe the elusive enigma that hitherto prompted endless conjecture on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ on his suicide benefited from a lack of video disclosure. Instead of conjuring nostalgia and sadness, the film – either intentionally or not – pops the bubble of romance. In doing so, it shows the dark(est) underbelly of this musical giant. Greg Wetherall.

IN CINEMAS FROM 10 APRIL 2015

Greenery Will Bloom Again | Torneranno i prati (2014) | Cinema Made in Italy

Writer/Director Ermanno Olmi

Cast:Claudio Santamaria, Camillo Grassi, Niccolò Senni,

80min   Italian   Drama

English translations of subtitles and films titles leave a great deal to be desired. Are they all being churned out from a trailer park in deepest Albania by teenagers googling internet translation sites? Not that I have anything against either but the English in the subtitles simply does not do these arthouse and independent films any favours – it does not reflect the tone or content accurately. The English translation of TORNERANNO I PRATI is GREENERY WILL BLOOM AGAIN. Surely MEADOWS WILL BLOOM AGAIN would more evocatively conjure up the hope of Peace and renewed prosperity after the grim hardship of War in this starkly drawn First World War drama by one of Italy’s most talented contemporary filmmakers, Ermanno Olmi.

Shot in a sombre palette of gunmetal and taupe by cinematographer (and son) Fabio Olmi, the anti-War story unfolds in the desolate mountains of North Eastern Italy near the Austrian border, where a winter landscape envelopes a group of exhausted and grimy soldiers, chilled to the bone despite being swaddled by heavy (and sodden) uniforms. Led by a strong performance from Claudio Santamaria as The Major, who arrives with a dispatch that can only lead to tragedy for all concerned in the bunker of death. In the meltdown that follows, soldiers lose their lives and are interred in the heavy snow.

The strength of Olmi’s drama lies in his stark depiction of the miserable drudgery of combat: an uneasy tension builds as the platoon waits in appalling conditions for certain death either from the elements or the enemy. TORNERANNO I PRATI is a gruelling mood piece that fails to match the complex narrative of his previous outings THE PROFESSION OF ARMS or TREE OF WOODEN CLOGS but nonetheless conveys the pity and futility of war. This is war that affects ordinary working men equally – there are no good or bad characters here, just simple farmers or tradesmen forced to fight in a senseless battle where no one is ultimately a winner, Olmi’s tragedy delivers its message simple and soberly.MT

Reviewed at Berlinale 2015 and screening at the CINEMA MADE IN ITALY festival here in March.

Ned Rifle (2015) |Berlinale |

Director/Writer/Producer: Hal Hartley

Cast: Liam Aiken, Aubrey Plaza, Parker Posey, Bill Sage, James Urbaniak, Thomas Jay Ryan

85min  US Drama | The third installment of Hal Hartley’s ‘Henry Fool’ trilogy

After disappearing from indie filmmaking for several years – during which he lived in Berlin – Hal Hartley is back on brilliant form with a deconstructed drama that’s fast-moving, deadpan and deliciously offbeat.

With regular collaborators including the sparky Parker Posey, Hartley completes the trilogy of HENRY FOOL that burst onto the scene in 1997 and continued with FAY GRIM a decade later. NED RIFLE sees their son Ned (Liam Aiken,a John Cusack doppel-ganger in both looks and style) embark on a journey to track down his father Henry (Thomas Jay Ryan) and kill him for ruining his mother’s life. Meanwhile, Fay is in prison serving a life sentence for her alleged ‘terrorism’ while Ned has been cared for in the community by a vicar (Martin Donovan) and proclaims himself a ‘chaste’ Christian.

Ned’s search starts in New York with a visit to his uncle Simon (James Urbaniak) who is learning to be a stand-up comic: “people want a good laugh occasionally, Ned, trust me”. But events are waylaid by the sultry and sexy Susan (Aubrey Plaza), who can only be described as ‘kooky’ – if you’re American, or if you’re European ‘distraite’ – and who fosters an obsession with his father that predates Ned’s arrival in the Grim family, or so we discover later. Ned makes it clear to Susan that he is not interested in a relationship but she tags along on the journey that leads them to Seattle (Hartley filmed this segment with local photos to keep the budget down) where Susan is increasingly desperate to get her paws on Ned – even sleeping in hold-ups and black underwear.

Performances are characteristically artificial and tongue-in-cheek with newgirl on the block, Aubrey Plaza, adding a certain foxy charm to the mêlée with her philosophical diatribes and smudgy red lipstick that drifts onto everyone’s cheek. Ned is given to hilarious religious soliloquys and is both appealing and convincing as a born again Christian. Hartley’s original score adds texture and a certain quirkiness to proceedings with its electric guitars that punctuate moments of drama. Fans will be delighted that the story finally finds a satisfying and amusing denouement, and there is much to enjoy in the acting and wittiness for those joining the party.

Hartley raised the finance (USD 400K) for his movie through a Kickstarter campaign and while the film may not get a theatrical release in the UK, there’s certain to be a DVD/VOD option on the way. MT

BERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY 2015 – FOLLOW OUR COVERAGE UNDER BERLINALE 2015

 

The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) | Berlinale 2015 | Generation

Director: Marielle Heller

Cast: Bel Powley, Alexander Skarsgård., Kristen Wiig, Christopher Meloni

102mins  Drama   US

There are a number of films out there in the cinematic plains that are alleged to “rock”. There are probably some lost souls who claim that Cameron Crowe’s ALMOST FAMOUS “rocks”. Or perhaps some slightly more informed folk who say that DAZED AND CONFUSED “rocks”. Even typing the words feels a little mortifying. Marielle Heller’s THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL – that won this year’s Sundance cinematography award and is based on Phoebe Gloeckner ‘s book- really does sort of rock. There’s just no better word for it. In a ‘boot through the saloon door, balls to the wall’ kind of way. It’s not just a film about enjoying sex, it is (God help us all!) a film about a young woman enjoying sex. And not only that, it announces Heller as a zest fresh, ballsy first time writer/director, while introducing American indie cinema to an electric new star.

Bel Powley is that star. She jumps from her small screen role in BENIDORM (whatever that is) to play Minnie, the titular teenage girl. DIARY opens on Minnie’s first post-coital strut; slow-mo, eyeing up the world, flares waving from side to side. We’re back in the 1974; Patty Hearst’s just been kidnapped; things are getting a little wild. Minnie takes us through her first sexual experience, sleeping with her mom’s boyfriend Monroe; a dim, handsome golden retriever of a man, played by Alexander Skarsgård. She’s swept away, but is it him she falls in love with him or is it simply the sex?

Her best pal is a skinny blonde, so Minnie naturally considers herself fat and ugly (who doesn’t at that age). But sex just seems to liberate her from all that. So we follow Minnie as she goes off trying new things, leaving a trail of men behind her, making pals, taking drugs and dancing to rock and roll. She’s a cartoonist too and her illustrations, which come alive in the frame, also play a central role. This might all sound a bit familiar, but the cartoons- taken from Gloeckner’s original work and brought to life beautifully by the film’s animation team- are more in the vain of Robert Crumb’s grotesque human comedy than anything we saw sprouting out of Joseph Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer.

So Minnie’s an artist, and a badass, and she smokes pot and listens to Iggy Pop. Sounds horrendous but by some sort of miracle, it’s not annoying at all. Perhaps it’s a matter of attitude, or simply offering up two fingers to the world.

And how rare and special a thing that is. A badass story finds a badass director and an equally badass star. Bel Powley is pure lightning in a bottle; bursting at the seams with strength, vulnerability, sexuality, and youth. That (500) Days mention really is telling. By comparison, Heller’s film is like a Sundance EASY RIDER. Despite being set over 40 years in the past, it leaves that last generation of indie film looking strangely creepy and desperately old-fashioned. A last nail, perhaps, in the manic-pixie coffin.

The film screened in the Berlin Film Fest’s Generation sidebar. A program selected for young people aged 14 or over. We can only hope and pray such leniency is awarded when national ratings boards catch the scent. Whatever the case, it seems safe to wager that by this time next year, Bel Powley will be everyone’s favourite new star. Expect inundated Facebook feeds whenever Fox Searchlight see fit to release it. Hop on the wagon quick, those seats are gonna go fast. Rory O’Connor.

BERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY 2015. ALL OUR COVERAGE IS UNDER ‘BERLINALE 2015’

Under Electric Clouds (2015) | Berlinale | Competition

Director/Writer: Alexey German Jr.

138mins  Apocalyptic Drama  Russia/Ukraine/Poland

The end of times never looked as pretty as they do in Alexey German Jnr’s fourth feature UNDER ELECTRIC CLOUDS, unveiled in competition this week at the 65th Berlinale. German, whose most recent directorial credit prior to this was in helping to complete his late father’s epically grotesque swansong HARD TO BE A GOD, has made a similarly sprawling if less assaultive account of the times we live in.

201507331_4But while dad’s final film (no more mentions after this, I promise) was a science fiction work whose explicit allegorical links to our present-day transglobal crisis were half-cloaked in a tale set in a far-off planet suffering through its middle ages, UNDER ELECTRIC CLOUDS doesn’t afford our suspensions of disbelief the luxury of such temporal displacement: his film takes place in 2017, on the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Despairing through an endless winter characterised by gentle snow and an ecru-puce atmospheric haze, its ensemble of characters do not, however, have much to draw upon in terms of an industrialised class politically conscious enough to enact the wholesale change that is so evidently needed. Lenin is merely a statue here: the new future of post-communist Russia is a half-constructed building soon to be demolished.

Ranging from a Kyrgyz worker to two teen heirs of a deceased father’s estate to a museum guide and culture expert, to a jobless architect (“incredibly trendy, but meaningless”), German’s ensemble of unfortunates wander somewhat listlessly through the bleak, icy landscapes trying to figure out just what’s gone wrong. “The past is gone,” one of them notes. “We can build a new world, we just need to get rid of the dead weight.” Such lines, coming in a film whose opening ident ominously reveals funding from Russia’s Ministry of Culture, are at the very least ambiguous in intention. If the Brechtian mouthpieces don’t quite expose the film’s propagandistic agenda, German’s own penchant for half-baked ideas can often work against the film. (This is not to claim the film has an overtly propagandistic agenda; nor is it, of course, to claim it isn’t confused.)

Is this about the fall of capitalism, the ruthless world of real estate, or both? (The two, surely, are linked.) Perhaps the closest the film comes to addressing the root causes or results of our impending doom is in its nods to global warming (“In twenty years the climate here will be tropical”). “We enter a new era armed with historical experience,” one character claims. But there’s scant evidence here that the Russians can help themselves out of their rut. Multiple nods to China, the nation to which failing capitalist economies have looked with hopeful curiosity in recent years, offer little optimism: that too is in crisis. Japan doesn’t look much better. (Pepsi and Coke survive like unscathed ancestors, which might give some indication as to where Putin’s Russia needs to aim.)

Though it’s perhaps too stylised to be fully engaging as a drama, however, there are certainly things to admire, even love, about UNDER ELECTRIC CLOUDS. To a certain degree, this seven-chapter marathon works through its own lethargies in often teasing fashion, hinting at deeper truths about our ongoing catastrophe. German shoots at times from afar, allowing his actors full bodily expression while zooming into them to such an extent that their movements are often obscured, if not negated. The film is at once expansive and claustrophobic. Sergey Mikhalchuck and Evgeniy Privin’s cinematography, conveying a half-abandoned world of mist and infrastructural failure, compensates for scenes that German only intermittently feels the need to direct. Indeed, the visual beauty is often at odds with the content – perhaps deliberately so – so considered are the visual textures in contrast to what is sometimes a directorial laziness. MICHAEL PATTISON

BERLINALE 5-15 FEBRUARY. ALL OUR COVERAGE IS UNDER ‘BERLINALE 2015’

Nuclear Nation II | Berlinale 2015

Dir.: Atsushi Funahashi;

Documentary; Japan 2014, 114,min

Director Funahashi follows the refugees from Futaba on their long journey for an honourable resettlement. The accident at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima in 2011 made their town uninhabitable and killed 53 of them). Funahashi takes things from where he left them in Nuclear Nation at the end of 2012. The plant is still leaking and the 6942 ex-inhabitants of Futaba are living all over the province. The mayor, Mr. Idagowa, blames the government and TEPCO, the Atomic Energy Council, for the delays in the re-settlement of the town’s people, but his opposition holds him responsible for the delays and has him removed after a non-confidence vote.

On the second anniversary of the disaster the tone is solemn but progress has not been made. Particularly the elderly are suffering in makeshift accommodation in Kisai High School, where 801 days after the incident, 123 people are still living and sleeping in a vast room, which was once the art department of the school. Archive films show us Futaba before the first reactor was built in 1967: ramshackle buildings and a poverty-ridden countryside. By 1978, when reactor number six and seven were built, the town was booming. A café owner reports that his income doubled every year, “we had forty years of good time”. A huge sign at the entrance to the town, proclaims “A prosperous future for the birthplace of Nuclear Energy”.

Some of the inhabitants go back to the town for a limited two hours, to rummage around, putting down anti-rodent poison, trying to salvage some items, but knowing very well that they will never return to Futaba. The new mayor is as helpless as the old one. During a meeting in posh hotel, he has to admit that the inhabitants of Futaba are living all over the province, divided not only by distance but different categories of support, which is not good for unity. At the same meeting, the Energy minister blames the media for the “demonisation” of the Nuclear Power industry. At the end of 2013 the last refugees leave the Kisai High School, together with the administration – the latter would return in early 2015. By then, an area has been designated for de-contamination, many buildings in the town will be lost for ever, even though the government has declared “that radiation will not leak beyond a certain point” – but nobody believes any more what comes out of Tokyo.

NUCLEAR NATION II is impressive because it avoids dramatics and listens to the refugees. The cinematography is inventive showing the small details underlining the misery for the sad victims. Funahashi avoids the usual talking heads as much as possible leaving the audience space for imagining the tragedy and contemplating the misery.AS

BERLINALE 5 -15 FEBRUARY 2015 – FIND OUR COVERAGE IN BERLINALE 2015 SEARCH TAB

A Minor Leap Down | Berlinale 2015 | Panorama

Director: Hamed Rajabi

So it seems Jafar Panahi won’t be the only subversive Iranian voice to be heard at the Berlinale this year. Apparently slipping through the cracks of that country’s strict cultural ministry comes a debut feature of great wit and defiance. Hamed Rajabi’s Paridan az Ertefa Kam Ukhra (A MINOR LEAP DOWN)  follows the trials of an Iranian woman who, upon losing her unborn child, decides that she’s just not gonna take it anymore.

We meet Nahal in the waiting room of her gynaecologist as she receives the tragic news. In normal circumstances it should hit her like a tonne of bricks, but under the veil of her social etiquette, as well as Negar Javaherian’s deadpan performance, it’s really quite difficult to tell. Nahal sheds some tears but decides not to tell. The established forces in her life- doctors, husband, family- keep asking what’s wrong; pushing Nahal to take her meds and enjoy her life. You might expect the director to indulge in some cinematic moping from here, but it’s not tragedy that the horrid situation brews, it’s defiance.

Nahal goes on a relatively mad spree. She splashes out on her husband’s credit card; she writes off his car; and, in the film’s most audacious scene, she invites friends and family for juice… She’s like Iran’s mild mannered answer to Michael Douglas in Falling Down (it might even be a reference in the title?).

Like Paul Schrader’s ‘one man in a room’ theory, the viewer is privy to absolutely nothing the lead character doesn’t see, so we walk the entirety of the film in her modestly heeled shoes, and we quickly get inside her head. You can just feel the frustration of an indifferent, dust coated society and revel as Nahal raises two fingers towards it.

The film also seems to look at a cultural changing of the guard. Nahal is a woman stuck on the tail end of her generation and her tragedy seems to sever the connection with that past. Her younger sister represents a new age in the country. Her clothes are bright and chic; her friends are cosmopolitan; chilling in a trendy Tehran cafe. It’s a scene we seldom see in Iranian cinema. The group pokes fun at the old fashioned way Nahal carries herself, despite there only being a few years between them. At one point our hero retreats to the cafe’s kitchen to make a cup of tea. She finds a young handsome employee and enjoys a charming, flirtatious chat. He shows her a kitten he’s been hiding in a shoebox under the stove. It’s tiny, beautiful and oblivious to the world. Nahal’s eyes immediately widen.

Javaherian ends his terrific film on a choice for Nahal, between conformity and independence; the old world and the new. We’re left wondering how many other woman might be making that choice as we sit there in our seats. It’s great stuff, great cinema. The empathy machine humming away on an 88 minute cycle. Rory O’Connor

BERLINALE RUNS FROM 5-15 FEBRUARY 2015. ALL COVERAGE IS UNDER BERLINALE 2015 in search

Queen of the Desert (2015) | Berlinale 2015 | Competition

QueenDirector/Writer: Werner Herzog

Cast: Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis, Robert Pattison, Jenny Agutter

121mins  Historical Romantic Drama  Germany

Werner Herzog is considered one of the leading lights in German cinema along with Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Wim Wenders but those expecting quirky outlandishness from his dazzling epic that imagines the life and loves of explorer, writer and suave diplomat Gertrude Bell, will be disappointed. But don’t lose heart. QUEEN OF THE DESERT is devastatingly romantic, deliciously witty and Nicole Kidman gives a dynamite turn in the leading role.

In this drama Herzog embraces the sweeping romantic ideals that were central to FITZCARALDO and even NOSFERATU. rather than a straightlaced bluestocking, he styles the intellectual Gertrude as a imaginative and emotional character, whose independent nature and shrewd persuasiveness lead her to become one of the leading diplomats in Middle Eastern politics and tribal dealings leading up to the Great War and helping to establish Hashemite Kingdoms in Jordan and in Iraq.

QUEEN OF THE DESERT is all about heart and soul and yet Gertrude is far from being a pliant female. Starting life as one of the first women to study at Oxford, her mother (a luminous Jenny Agutter) advises her to “listen to the men and smile” rather than wield any intellectual prowess. Begging her father to ‘send her anywhere’ away from the comfort of the Shires, she is dispatched on a trip to Tehran where she is seduced by the unsuitably smarmy and langourous charms of James Franco’s, Henry Cadogan, a betting-man and attaché at the British Embassy. A palpable chemistry fizzles between the two and Gertrude is smitten but marriage plans are thwarted by her father, whereupon Cadogan hurls himself from the nearest rockface.

In Egypt, her next port of call, Gertrude actually befriends T E Lawrence – a vapid Robert Pattinson who lacks the charisma or clout of Peter O’Toole. This is a relationship that has more grounding as they were eventually to work together with Winston Churchill on the Ottoman question. But there is no real romantic tension between the pair and while Nicole Kidman has the freedom to create her own persona for the largely unknown character of Gertrude, Pattinson has a difficult act to follow in the dapper footsteps of O’Toole. For her part, Nicole Kidman portrays Gertrude as playful, charming, socially adept and highly elegant. She displays the confidence of good breeding, is never back-footed but supremely poised at every encounter even when she is waylaid by an Arab Sheikh as the intended newcomer to his harem. She presents an ideal female role model for contemporary audiences and yet she is one of many fearless women of the era who were simply held back by their peers and elders rather than by their ambition and capabilities, At 47 she looks extraordinarily delicate in close-ups and moves with a litheness and gentleness in every scene even excelling in a ‘wet tee-shirt moment’. After the Franco affair she creates a similar chemistry with Damian Lewis’s suave Charles Doughty-Wylie, an officer who is captivated by her charms, and the two correspond with smouldering billets doux, despite his ailing marriage.

The desert scenery or Morocco and Jordan is magnificently beguiling and we are carried along by Klaus Badelt’s exotic score that transports us back to Lawrence of Arabia, potent with Eastern promise. And although QUEEN lacks the dramatic punch of David Lean’s epic, the emotional roller-coaster that drives Gertrude forward to bigger and better adventures somehow adds tension to the narrative from a female perspective as Gertrude sublimates her romantic feelings and channels them bravely into higher goals: It’s almost as if Herzog is writing this with a female voice in his head and can read a woman’s mind. There’s also a feeling that QUEEN is a bridge he has built to allow wider and more mainstream audiences access to appreciate his legendary filmmaking talents. Arthouse audiences will enjoy this film but so will those who otherwise may be put off or scared of his usual arthouse or inaccessible fare. MT

THE BERLINALE RUNS FROM 5 -15 FEBRUARY – to follow our coverage search BERLINALE 2015

 

Corbo (2014) | Berlinale 2015 | Generation 14plus

Director: Mathieu Denis,

Cat: Anthony Therrien, Antoine L’Ecuyer, Karelle Tremblay, Tony Nardi, Marie Brassard

110mins  Drama  Canada

Montreal in the late sixties: the French-speaking minority are being repressed by the Anglophone majority in the rest of the county – English rules, not only in parliament. The “Liberation Front of Quebec” (FLQ) also holds sway in the region of Quebec. It’s a radical underground organisation, not unlike the “Baader Meinhof” Group in Germany and the “Red Brigades” in Italy, which followed in their footsteps by the end of the decade. The FLQ are using violence in the pursuit of their target: they want to bomb their way to independence from the rest of the country. Like the European groups that followed, the movement attracted, disaffected young people, mainly romantics from middle class backgrounds. Corbo is one of these young men.

Quebecois director, Mathieu Denis’s observational and linear narrative drives his elegantly-styled, classicly-framed drama forward. Jean Corbo (Anthony Therrien) is a shy boy who felt alienated even in his own family and persecuted in school, were he is a misfit due to his Italian origin. At home, Jean’s father is a Liberal careerist lawyer who does not want to be reminded by his son the Italian population of Canada were put in camps after the outbreak of WWIII. His older brother agitates for the “Quebec Independence Party”, a very tame outfit, compared with the FLQ. As is happened so often in “revolutionary” circles, alliances are often the result of love affairs (successful and failed ones), and Jean also falls first for Juliet (Tremblay), and joins the FLQ to impress her. Unfortunately for him, Jean has to prove to himself and the leading theorists of the movement that he is not a pampered result of middle class upbringing. And whilst Juliet and another comrade are not ready to use violence any more, after a woman is accidentally killed in a bombing, Jean develops a radical mindset that leads to tragic consequences.

Denis is careful in his characterisation of Jean, making him neither a hero nor a villain – just a mixed-up kid who wanted to impress his girl fr show his family that he was their equal, not the baby. His politics were immature, his longing to be a revolutionary founded on sentiments alone. CORBO shows the leaders of the FLQ (who, in 1970 would kidnap and kill a minister of the Quebec government and a British diplomat), as manipulative and remote. Therrien is convincing as Jean, showing youthful vulnerability and daredevil tendances. Denis and his cinematographer, Steve Asselin, capture the details sensitively, crafting the oppression of the secure, middle-class world Jean is desperate to escape. CORBO is a powerful and truthful portrait of a romantic soul lost in power games that lead to drastic consequences for all concerned. AS

CORBO IS SCREENING DURING THE BERLINALE  5 – 15 FEBRUARY 2015 

 

Berlinale 2015 | Panorama |Selection

P A N O R A M A   S E  C  T  I  O N  –  PROBING THE PAST TO SHAPE THE FUTURE

The 36th Panorama titles reflect global concerns from America to East Asia and tackle themes from the past that are still having a deep impact today on the society and people they represent:

DRAMAS

54 copy54: The Director’s Cut – USA  (SEX, DRUGS)
By Mark Christopher.

The full and un-expiated version of the famous Mark Christopher’s exploration of the famous 70s NYC nightclub seen and told through the eyes of a young employee. Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek, Mike Myers, Sela Ward, Mark Ruffalo star. World premiere

Chorus copyCHORUS –Canada (BEREAVEMENT)
By François Delisle.

There’s nothing like a good Canadian film and this one, in black and white, is a love story that emerges from mourning. With Sébastien Ricard, Fanny Mallette, Pierre Curzi, Geneviève Bujold. European premiere

Der letzte Sommer der Reichen (The Last Summer of the Rich) –  Austria  (CHILD ABUSE)
By Peter Kern

A rich financier from the crème de la crème of Viennese society is the centre of this fascinating drama from one of Austrian best-known directors. With Amira Casar, Nicole Gerdon, Winfried Glatzeder
World premiere  Der Letzte Sommer der Reichen copy

Dora oder Die sexuellen Neurosen unserer Eltern copyDora oder Die sexuellen Neurosen unserer Eltern (Dora or The Sexual Neuroses of Our Parents)  Switzerland / Germany
By Stina Werenfels
With Victoria Schulz, Jenny Schily, Lars Eidinger, Urs Jucker
World premiere

Dyke Hard – Sweden (LESBIANISM/LGBT)
By Bitte Andersson
With Alle Eriksson, Peggy Sands, M. Wågensjö, Iki Gonzales Magnusson, Lina Kurttila
International premiere

Gukje Shijang (Ode to My Father) Republic of Korea
By JK Youn
with Hwang Jung-min, Kim Yunjin
International premiere

Michael_still5_JamesFranco_JanMaxwell__byCaraHowe_2014-11-28_03-15-51PMI AM MICHAEL – USA (GAY ACTIVISM)
By Justin Kelly
With James Franco, Zachary Quinto, Emma Roberts
International premiere of a yet another film starring James Franco – this time playing Michael Glatze, the co-founder of Young Gay America and former advocate for gay rights, in Justin Kelly’s debut.

Jun Zhong Le Yuan (Paradise in Service) – Taiwan / People’s Republic of China (GANGSTER with a heart)
By Doze Niu Chen-Zer
With Ethan Juan, Wan Qian, Chen Jianbin, Chen Yi-Han
European premiere

Meurtre à Pacot (Murder in Pacot) – France / Haiti / Norway  (HAITI EARTHQUAKE DRAMA)
By Raoul Peck
With Alex Descas, Ayo, Thibault Vinçon, Lovely Kermonde Fifi, Joy Olasunmibo Ogunmakin
European premiere

Mot Naturen (OUT OF NATURE) – Norway (FATHERHOOD)
By Ole Giæver, Marte Vold
With Ole Giæver, Marte Magnusdotter Solem, Rebekka Nystadbakk, Ellen Birgitte Winther, Sievert Giaever Solem
European premiere

NED RIFLE (Ned Rifle) – USA (CRIME)
By Hal Hartley

Parkey Posey stars in Hal Hartley’s latest part of the Grim family trilogy that Hartley began back in 1997 with Henry Fool that one him Best Screenplay at Cannes Film Festival. With Liam Aiken, Martin Donovan, Aubrey Plaza, Thomas Jay Ryan. European premiere

600 millas copy600 Millas (600 MILES) – Mexico
By Gabriel Ripstein

This Mexican thriller stars Tim Roth, Kristyan Ferrer, Harrison Thomas, Noé Hernández, Armando Hernández. World premiere

 

Al Ba  copyAL BAR MIN OURAIKOUM  (The Sea Is Behind) – Morocco

Hisham Lasri’s dramatic story explores violence, intolerance and conservatism in the Arab World. With Malek Akhmiss, Hassan Badida, Yassine Sekkal. European premiere

Al-Hob wa Al-Sariqa wa Mashakel Ukhra (Love, Theft and Other Entanglements) – Palestinian Territories
By Muayad Alayan
With Sami Metwasi, Maya Abu Alhayyat, Riyad Sliman, Ramzi Maqdisi, Kamel Elbasha
World premiere

ANGELICA – USA

TEETH director, Mitchell Lichtenstein’s ghost story is set in Victorian England where a young couple are driven apart after the birth of their child, Angelica. With Jena Malone, Janet McTeer, Ed Stoppard, Tovah Feldshuh
World premiere

Ausencia copyAusência (ABSENCE) – Brazil / Chile / France
By Chico Teixeira

Daily life in all its glory is examined through the eyes of a little boy growing up in a poor neighbourhood of Sao Paulo, Brazil.

With Matheus Fagundes, Irandhir Santos, Gilda Nomacce, Thiago de Matos, Francisca Gavilán. International premiere

 

Bizarre copyBIZARRE – France / USA

Working in a Brooklyn Nightclub, Maurice is haunted by a troublesome past that make him reject everyone who tries to love him. Étienne Faure’s drama stars Pierre Prieur, Adrian James, Raquel Nave, Rebekah Underhill   World premiere

De Ce Eu?DE CE EU? (WHY ME?) – Romania / Bulgaria / Hungary

Katalin Varga producer, Tudor Giurgiu, directs  this drama starring Emilian Oprea, Mihai Constantin, Andreea Vasile, Dan Condurache, Liviu Pintileaska  World premiere

El Indendio copyEl incendio (THE FIRE) – Argentina

In Argentina, a young couple’s love for each other is severely put to the test when their house purchase is jeopardised by unexpected disaster. By Juan Schnitman. With Pilar Gamboa, Juan Barberini. World premiere

Härte (TOUGH LOVE) – Germany
By Rosa von Praunheim
With Luise Heyer, Hanno Koffler, Katy Karrenbauer, Marion Erdmann, Andreas Marquardt
World premiere

HOW TO WIN AT CHECKERS  (Every Time) – Thailand / USA / Indonesia. By Josh Kim. World premiere

NastyBaby_still1_KristenWiig__2014-12-01_09-51-32AM_copyMariposa (BUTTERFLY) – Argentina
By Marco Berger
With Ailín Salas, Javier De Pietro, Julián Infantino, Malena Villa
World premiere

NASTY BABY – USA
Fresh from SUNDANCE FESTIVAL, Kristen Wiig stars in Sebastián Silva’s drama exploring a gay couple’s desperate search to have a baby with the help of their best friend. Also starring Tunde Adebimpe, Mark Margolis, Reg E. Cathey.  International Premiere

NECKTIE YOUTH – South Africa
By Sibs Shongwe-La Mer
With Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, Bonko Cosmo, Emma Tollman, Jonathan Young, Colleen Balchin
World premiere

Onthakan (THE BLUE HOUR) – Thailand
By Anucha Boonyawatana
With Atthaphan Poonsawas, Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang, Duangjai Hirunsri
World premier

out of my hand copyOUT OF MY HAND– USA
By Takeshi Fukunaga
With Bishop Blay, Duke Murphy Dennis, Zenobia Kpoto
World premiere

Paridan az Ertefa Kam (A MINOR LEAP DOWN) – Iran / France
By Hamed Rajabi
With Negar Javaherian, Rambod Javan
World premiere

Petting Zoo copyPETTING ZOO– Germany / Greece / USA
By Micah Magee
With Devon Keller, Austin Reed, Deztiny Gonzales, Kiowa Tucker
World premiere

Pionery-geroi (PIONEER HEROES) – Russian Federation
By Natalia Kudryashova
With Natalia Kudryashova, Daria Moroz, Aleksei Mitin, Aleksandr Userdin
World premiere

Que Horas Ela Volta? (THE SECOND MOTHER) – Brazil
By Anna Muylaert
European premiere

Sangailė (THE SUMMER OF SANGAILé) – Lithuania / France / Netherlands
By Alanté Kavaïté
With Julija Steponaityté, Aisté Diruté, Juraté Sodyté, Martynas Budraitis
European premiere

Sangue azul (BLUE BLOOD) – Brazil
By Lirio Ferreira
With Daniel de Oliveira, Caroline Abras, Sandra Coverloni, Rômulo Braga
International premiere

Zui Sheng Meng Si (THANATOS – DRUNK) – Taiwan
By Chang Tso-Chi
With Lee Hong-Chi, Chen Jen-Shuo, Huang Shang-Ho, Lu Hsueh-Feng, Wang Ching-Ting
World premiere

P A N O R A M A    Documentary FILMS

B MOVIE: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin
Germany
By Jörg A. Hoppe, Klaus Maeck, Heiko Lange
With Mark Reeder, Marius Weber
World premiere

Daniel's World copyDanieluv svet (DANIEL’S WORLD)

Czech Republic
By Veronika Liskova

Daniel is a student and a writer – he’s also a paedophile. This Czech title goes inside a community where people are desperately struggling to come to terms with their sexual orientation. International premiere

El Hombre Nuevo copyEl hombre nuevo (THE NEW MAN)
Uruguay / Chile / Nicaragua
By Aldo Garay

Stephania is a transvestite born in Nicaragua. As a boy, he was adopted by a couple of Uruguayan leftist activists in the midst of the Sandinista revolution. In Montevideo, we explore Stephania’s journey to rediscover her home country where she now wants to be accepted for the woman she is. World premiere

Fassbinder copyFASSBINDER – lieben ohne zu fordern (Fassbinder – To Love Without Demands)
Denmark
By Christian Braad Thomsen
with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Irm Hermann, Harry Baer, Lilo Pempeit. World premiere

 

IRAQI ODYSSEY

Switzerland
By Samir
European premiere

STORIES OF OUR LIVES

Kenya / South Africa
By Jim Chuchu
With Kelly Gichohi, Paul Ogola, Tim Mutungi, Mugambi Nthinga, Rose Njenga
European premiere

THE YES MEN ARE REVOLTING
USA
By Laura Nix, Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno
European premiere

BERLINALE RUNS FROM 5 -15 FEBRUARY 2015.

THE FORUM, PANORAMA and other sections will be updated in due course. MLT

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