Sunday, February 19, 2012

Berlinale 2012 remarks

The Berlin film festival has not in recent years had as high a profile as Cannes and Venice, but it is the most popular of the big film festivals, "a people's festival", which takes place in the heart of a big city. It is a rewarding venue for makers of difficult films who can show their new work to large and appreciative audiences.

I visited Berlin just for meetings and did not see a single movie, but I asked everybody about the movies they saw and kept putting together my personal jigsaw puzzle about this year's supply.

THE RETROSPECTIVE, The Red Dream Factory: Mezhrabpom / Prometheus, was exceptionally strong, based on solid research, and will be remembered.

THE EXHIBITION: Am Set / On the Set: Paris – Babelsberg – Hollywood, 1910–1939. Deutsche Kinemathek, December 15, 2011 to April 29, 2012. A brilliant exhibition with photographs by masters such as Roger Forster, Raymond Voinquel, Walter Limot, Roger Corbeau and Sam Lévin in France, Horst Von Harbou, Rudolf Brix and Curt Oertel in Germany, and George Hurrell, Ruth Harriet Louise, Clarence Sinclair Bull and Laszlo Willinger in the USA.

OKTYABR / October, 1928, D: Sergei Eisenstein, was seen in a reconstructed version based on the Münchner Filmmuseum source print and with the Edmund Meisel score arranged and conducted by Frank Strobel. It was the film historical sensation of the festival. The bruitist score seems to have been too much ahead of its time, and its time seems to have come first now.

DER TOTENTANZ / The Dance of Death, 1912, D: Urban Gad, starring Asta Nielsen, the first film shot in the Babelsberg Studios exactly a hundred years ago, was shown in a new reconstructed (but still uncomplete) version from Münchner Filmmuseum.

SIDE BY SIDE, D: Chris Kennelly, was regarded as an important documentation on the 35 mm / digital transition, with David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Lars von Trier, James Cameron, Steven Soderbergh, and Christopher Nolan going on record about their differing views.

CESARE DEVE MORIRE / Caesar Must Die, D: Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, the Golden Bear winner, the story of a Shakespeare production in prison, divided opinions among the critics.

BARBARA, D: Christian Petzold, the tale of the oppression of a doctor (Nina Hoss) in East Germany, was appreciated by most Germans.

GNADE / Mercy, D: Matthias Glasner, was preferred even more by some because of its stark vision of the Far North.

TABU, D: Miguel Gomes, the black and white love story set in colonial Africa, was admired by lovers of magic realism.

REBELLE / War Witch, D: Kim Nguyen, stood out as a remarkable account of child soldiers; opinions were divided.

CSAK A SZÉL / Just the Wind, D: Bence Fliegauf, commanded respect as an account of an oppressed Romany family in Hungary.

JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR, D: Billy Bob Thornton, was appreciated by some as a portrait of the era of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s.

FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE, D: Tsui Hark, impressed 3D specialists as a particularly successful effort in three-dimensional cinematography.

HAYWIRE, D: Steven Soderbergh, surprised by its solid action direction.

DEATH ROW 1-4, D: Werner Herzog, was a stark documentary tv mini-series on four U.S. American convicts in the death chamber.

KEYHOLE, D: Guy Maddin, got a mixed reception, but lovers of David Lynch style surrealism were impressed by its nightmare journey.

MARLEY, D: Kevin MacDonald, was seen as a great portrait of the legendary singer by the master director.

INDIGNADOS, D: Tony Gatlif, was appreciated as a story of a young illegal immigrant girl in Europe.

IRON SKY, D: Timo Vuorensola, was the favourite guilty pleasure of the festival. Nazis have been hiding on the dark side of the Moon, and now they are ready for a Blitzkrieg from outer space.

AL JUMA AL AKHEIRA / The Last Friday, D: Yahya Alabdallah, is an account of a taxi driver in Amman, capital of Jordania.

AVALON, D: Axel Petersén, follows a group of ageing tennis-playing party people who want to start a new club in Sweden.

EVERYBODY IN OUR FAMILY / Toata lumea din familia noastra, D: Radu Jude, tells about a father who gets desperate in arranging a vacation for his daughter.

WHAT IS LOVE (in German), D: Ruth Mader, is a collection of five vignettes from Austrian life, all about love about to be suffocated by routine.

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