Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Berlinale, Part 2

My second and last update for the Berlinale 2012 edition is much smaller as I've taken a much more relaxed approach to the scheduling as mentioned in my previous post. I also recorded a podcast with Rob Beames, who has seen a lot more films than me.

Here's a summary:

Chris Keneally's documentary SIDE BY SIDE was one of the highlights of the festival. A comprehensive doc about the advent of digital technology in cinema, it addresses every single aspect of the debate from the sceptics (Chirstopher Nolan) to the evangelists (David Fincher). Keanu Reeves produced and did the interviews himself, and was on hand to talk about the film afterwards. You'll never think of Neo the same way again.

Zhang Yimou's epic THE FLOWERS OF WAR, starring Christian Bale, was an epic misfire. Tasteless, over the top and frankly offensive, this movie fails on every level. I can't see this working at all outside China.

Billy Bob Thornton's first film in a decade, JAYNE MANSFIELD'S CAR, suffers from both too long a running time and too short a running time; developed as an HBO show this could be masterful, and cut by half hour it could be a real gem. The writing is sharp and some of the vignettes are pure Raymond Carver but too many characters deliver long speeches about the war - bringing the movie to a halt. Robert Duvall on LSD is a sight to behold, however.

Swiss-French production SISTER was another good, but not spectacular, film which was mildly satisfying - with some amazing performances and scenes, but nothing I haven't seen before. Watching Gillian Anderson speaking French is always a pleasure.

German family drama HOME FOR THE WEEKEND was a modest, quiet affair that felt like Germany's answer to ARCHIPELAGO, the story of an upper middle class family facing some internal trauma. Like many of the films in the festival, a decent, 3 out of 5.

One of the worse films to play in a major festival as far as I can recall, CHERRY was like an episode of 90210 turned into a feature by virtue of the presence of James Franco and Heather Graham (in a clear nod to BOOGIE NIGHTS, which this does not even come close to). Poorly directed, acted and written, it was a hard watch.

A nice surprise came from the FORUM section, where German feature SPANIEN played at the beautiful DELPHI cinema in West Berlin. A collection of intertwining stories with a very Kaurismaki tone, the film delivers tension and laughs in equal measure with a keen eye for details. A real gem.

I'm now back in Brighton and will be recording a full round up next weekend on our podcast so you can get the full lowdown on every feature in competition, plus all the awards and buzz.

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