Sunday, 12 February 2012

Berlinale 2012, Part 1

This year I have definitely taken a step back in terms of my film schedule and emphasized networking, socialising and even a touch of partying over serious film-watching. I think I've earned the break.

That said, I've seen a few films so far:

As part of the Retrospective this year, Berlin is looking back at the work of joint German-Soviet studio Mezhrabpom-Film, which released dozens of films in the 1920s and 1930s before the Nazis shut it down. GOLDEN LAKE was an expedition adventure film with a strong Communist message and some daring rock climbing. It's the original Mission Impossible stunts: actors, clearly working with few regards for health & safety, fight, jump and swim through the Mongolian landscape with verve. The film was a little clumsy, and its message none too subtle, but I enjoyed it.

The next of the Soviet retrospective was THE GIRL WITH THE HAT BOX, a charming comedy commissioned by the Government to sell premium bonds, it's one of the wittiest films I have ever seen, and it was silent. I had no idea silent comedies could be anything other than slapstick - this was like a Soviet Lubitsch at work; and some research reveals that director Boris Barnet was one of the leaders of his filmic generation without the fame of an Eisenstein or Vertov. This is the best film I've seen so far here.

The first (and only so far) competition film I saw was the Taviani Brothers' CAESAR MUST DIE, a docudrama hybrid about a group of inmates in a high security prison performing Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar. It was imaginative, inventine, honest and often funny - and made the play come alive. Everything CORIOLANUS, which I saw last year in the same cinema, should have been.

After getting shut out of CAPTIVES, we took a punt on Panorama documentary MARINA ABRAMOVIC: THE ARTIST IS PRESENT, which was an emotional and pleasant surprise; a fairly generic HBO doc which is elevated by its subject matter - an incredible artist and woman about which I knew very little and now want to know a lot more of.

Finally, another shut-out pushed me into Tony Gatlif's INDIGNADOS (THE OUTRAGED), a well-intentioned but fairly awful piece of agit-prop cinema that is loosely linked to the Occupy movement which started in Spain last year. Clunky, like a university project created by committee, I really wanted to like this but it just made it impossible to.

Tomorrow I switch gears and will begin to watch a lot more - first screening at 9am!

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