Thursday, February 07, 2002

Berlin Film Festival 7-10 Feb 2002

I spent four days in Berlin Film Festival as a guest to the Retrospective. Not having visited Berlin in seven years, I was amazed at the changes to the Festival, to the film organizations of Berlin, and to the city itself.

Many of Berlin's essential film cultural organizations are now located in the Sony Building at Potsdamer Strasse 2, part of the Film Festival area. I had a special tour at the Film Museum (the exhibition and the office), at the Freunde der deutschen Kinemathek, and at Cinema Arsenal 1 and 2, whose programming is Berlin's counterpart to our Cinema Orion. Impressive and efficient.

The Festival was well organized, as always. Inevitably, the most popular shows were sold out, and tickets to them had to be acquired the day before. Thus I missed the opener, Tom Tykwer's Heaven. My hotel housed many FIAF colleagues for good breakfast company.

Many of the Berlin retrospectives of the past have been extremely important for me: the great ret-rospectives on film technology, including the ones on special effects, colour, and scope; and even more importantly the great journeys of discovery to German cinema, including the ones on Erich Pommer and Babelsberg.

It was an honour to be invited to present a Finnish contribution to the retrospective European 60s. Onnenpeli and Yksityisalue, the Finnish films shown, were selected by the Festival. A Finn's choice would have been different (neither of the films was on my personal shortlist). The programme see-med very interesting. Unfortunately, there was only minimal information on the films in the festival publications. I tried to correct the situation with Onnenpeli by writing a programme note on the spot.

Onnenpeli (FI 1965, D: Risto Jarva). This film, which even the makers themselves considered small and sketchy at the time, has aged gracefully, and it delighted the audience. I heard that Yksityisalue wasn't received that well. ***

Soy Cuba (SU/CU 1964, D: Mihail Kalatozov). Worthy of Eisenstein (Que viva Mexico) and Welles (It's All True, Touch of Evil), a powerful, vibrating portrait of Cuba on the eve of revolution. Breathtaking cinematography could serve as a model to any master class. They are still figuring out how some incredible camera movements were realized. Wow! ****

Prosoppo me prosoppo (Face to Face, GR 1966, D: Robert Manthoulis). I know Manthoulis only from his fine music documentaries. This is a witty, humoristic and sensual story about a young teacher and his pupil, a rich and spoiled 18 year old girl, who has to go through a crash course of English as a part of her marriage preparations. ***

Before Miyazaki, Marc Forster's Monster's Ball, which I missed, was everyone's favourite.

Laissez-passer (FR, D: Bertrand Tavernier). 170 min. The drama of French cinema under German occupation, based on the true stories of Jean Aurenche and Jean Devaivre. Fascinating stuff for film lovers and historians; sloppy storytelling. In the presence of Tavernier, Jacques Gamblin (who plays the role of Devaivre) and Christian Berkel (who plays Dr. Greven, the German head of French cinema under the occupation). **½

8 femmes (FR, D: François Ozon). Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Béart, Fanny Ardant, Virginie Ledoyen, Ludivine Sagnier, and Firmine Richard. Great star cast in a brightly coloured musical whodunit, where every lady gets to sing. Theatrical and sty-lized, a complete departure for Ozon after the subdued Sous le sable. Technically brilliant, a big hit in France, emotionally empty. In the presence of Deneuve, Ozon, Huppert, Ledoyen, Sagnier, and Richard. **½

Brucio nel vento (Burning in the Wind, IT/CH, D: Silvio Soldini). Based on a novel by Agota Kristof, this is a bitter drama of a forbidden love affair between Czech emigrants in Switzerland. Well made, but the story is bit too strange. **½

Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (Spirited Away, JP, D: Hayao Miyazaki). After Princess Mo-nonoke, another masterpiece from Miyazaki. Like Alice in Wonderland, but completely original. Miyazaki can now be considered the best director of animation ever. ****

Big Shot's Funeral (CN/HK, D: Feng Xiaogang), starring Ge You, Rosamund Kwan, Donald Sutherland, Paul Mazursky. Funny satire about the cultural clash between Chinese and Americans. The story is about the production of a big budget remake of The Last Emperor. As the director Do-nald Sutherland is to be replaced with an MTV kid, the old man falls into coma and to grant his last wish, the Chinese DP starts to arrange a "comedy funeral". ***

Moro no Brasil (Sound of Brazil, DE/FI/FR/BR, D: Mika Kaurismäki). A musical road movie in search of the treasures of Brazilian popular music, including the maracatú, the frevo, the coco, the forró, the embolada, and Brazilian versions of rap and funk. Fine follow-up to Buena Vista Social Club also brings to mind Saura's Flamenco in its focus on the music and the dance exclusively. The best-known stars are consciously left out. Instead, the film gives an idea of the wealth of the many musical traditions of the huge country, and highlights many kinds of root music, like the candomblé sound. This is no museal endeavour, however. There is great warmth and love, a sense of the joy of life all through the picture. It's Mika's best Brazilian film so far. In the presence of Mika Kaurismäki, the musician Seu Jorge, the DP Jacques Cheuiche, and the ARTE producer. ***