The 63rd edition of the Berlinale will open tomorrow Thursday evening for ten days. And like every year, it’s the diversity of the films on hand which makes this festival remarkable.
More than 400 titles will be screened, including big-budget Hollywood movies and a slew of European films (including several first features) addressing controversial contemporary issues like homosexuality within the Catholic Church or land stolen from people hit by economic crises.
Presided over by Wong Kar Wai (“In the Mood for love”) this new edition opens with his latest film “The Grandmaster,” a biopic about Ip Man, Bruce Lee’s Chinese martial arts master.
Oscar-winner Tim Robbins (“Mystic River”), the Iranian filmmaker Shirin Neshat and the Greek Athina Rachel Tsangari, the Dane filmmaker Susanne Bier, German director Andreas Dresen and cinematographer Ellen Kuras as members of the jury will need to choose the one film which will walk away with German gold.
Among the films expected in Berlin are “Promised Land” by Gus Van Sant, starring Matt Damon as a developer trying to convince inhabitants of a U.S. town to allow gas drilling on their land.
Also nominated for the Golden Bear is Steven Soderbergh “Side Effects,” starring Jude Law and Catherine Zeta-Jones, a thriller about how big pharma and its relationship to the psychiatric industry. Fredrik Bond and his film “The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman” starring Shia LaBeouf, Evan Rachel Wood and Mads Mikkelsen. South Korean director Hong Sang-soo meanwhile will go to defend his “Haewon Nobody’s Daughter,” following “In Another Country” which was shown at Cannes last year and Austria’s Ulrich Seidl will present the third part of his trilogy “Paradise: hope” which also had its premiere at Cannes this past May (read our review).
“Dark Blood,” the last film River Phoenix appeared in and which was made twenty years ago and never finished, until now, will be screened out of competition. The new DreamWorks animated movie, “The Croods,” about a prehistoric family discover the world will also land in Berlin this year.
Spain will be represented in Germany with “Gloria” by Sebastian Lelio, which recounts the story of an elderly woman in search of a stable relationship. There will also be “Pozitia copiluluidu” by the Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer about a Gypsy family, and “In the Name of” by Pole director Malgoska Szumowska, which confronts a village to it charismatic homosexual priest.
Danish director Bille August will also compete with “Night Train to Lisbon” starring Jeremy Irons as a teacher who leaves everything to embark on a spiritual quest.
France, the birthplace of cinema, will be presenting “Elle S’en Va” (“She’s leaving” in French) directed by Emmanuelle Bercot and starring Catherine Deneuve, “Camille Claudel 1915” by Bruno Dumont starring Juliette Binoche and “La Religieuse” (“The Nun,” in French) starring Isabelle Huppert as a mother superior.
The jury will award the Golden Bear, the festival’s grand prize, at a ceremony on Feb. 16. In 2012, the Taviani brothers won the coveted award for “Cesare Deve Morire,” about an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” performed by inmates (read A.J. Goldmann’s review)
Finally, everyone’s been talking about the new James Franco effort “Interior. Leather Bar” since its Sundance premiere, a documentary about the gay porn industry which, in a way, could aim at filling a hole. When William Friedkin made “Cruising” in the 1980s, forty minutes from the film were cut to avoid the film getting slapped with a X rating. Franco has expressed an interest in those forty minutes, whatever came of them, if they even still exist? Maybe making this new documentary was a way of exorcising that curiosity for him. Either way, John Cameron Mitchell and Gus Van Sant have been raving about “Interior. Leather Bar” and we hope to bring you our own coverage when our man A.J. Goldmann hits the Berlin pavement tomorrow (watch an interview of Franco at Sundance).
(shown: “The broken circle breakdown” by Felix Van Groeningen, to be shown in the Panorama Section)