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Berlinale in Review

By Brendan Power . February 19, 2014

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So that’s it. It’s over for another year. Bye bye movie stars, so long famous directors, fair well artsy documentaries and Asian film noir. Now that the Berlinale has moved on ’til 2015, it won’t quite be a case of returning to a film diet of chick-flicks and blockbusters, but I will miss the surprise factor of going into a theatre to watch a film I know almost nothing about except the title. For me that was one of the beautiful things about my first Berlinale experience as  a member of the press.  While there was a lot of hype surrounding movies such as Nymphomniac, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and American Hustle, I equally, if not more, enjoyed those free hours between those big hitters and their crowded press conferences, where I could walk into the Cinemaxx building and casually stroll into any one of their dozen or so screens, allowing Lady Luck to decide what movie I was to watch.

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Oh yeah there was a competition running through this whole thing right? OK better get the main winners out of the way I suppose. There were a lot of awards categories for a lot of films I didn’t get to see, so I’m sticking to the main movie/director/actor/actress awards here, and as you will notice there was a decidedly Asian flavour to the jury’s choice this year.

Golden BearBlack Coal, Thin Ice (Bai Ri Yan Huo) by Diao Yinan (pictured above with best actor winner, Liao Fan)
This award for best film proves I know nothing about cinema. I neither highly enjoyed nor disliked this film, and yet it took top prize of the Golden Bear, so go figure.  A complicated Chinese quasi-murder-mystery, which centers around a detective struggling with love and alcohol addiction, I probably missed the importance of many of the cultural references here, but the pace of the film was, at least, enjoyable to me.

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prix: The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson
I’ve already spouted enough nonsense about my enjoyment of this excellent film, but in case you missed it you can read about it here

Silver Bear for Best Director: Richard Linklater for ‘Boyhood
I missed the screening for this one, but as far as director’s awards go, a film like this which followed the same actors over a period of 12 years was always going to be a hit, right?

Silver Bear for Best Actress: Haru Kuroki in The Little House
This was the final film of the competition to be screened on Friday last, and what a memorable way to end it all. Haru Kuroki is indeed peerless as the former Tokyo housemaid who, through writing her memoirs, relives the complicated and forbidden love story between her mistress and her master’s apprentice.  This one turned me into a fan of veteran Japanese director, Yôji Yamada, literally overnight.

Silver Bear for Best Actor: Liao Fan in Black Coal, Thin Ice
As mentioned above, the movie didn’t exactly blow me away, but Liao Fan as the booze-riddled detective at the heart of the film, did give a strong performance as the lustful cop who just won’t quit.

 

There were of course many many other memorable movies at the festival, and it would have taken almost a 3 months of back to back viewing to see them all, but of the ones I managed to catch at my first Berlinale, here are the 6 films, either in or out of the competition, which I most enjoyed.

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Six Festival Favourites

1.   The Square/ Al Midan (Jehane Noujaim)
Already reviewed here on these pages, this fascinating documentary goes right to the core of the Arab Spring.

2.   The Little House (Yoji Yamada)
A timeless study of hidden and forbidden romance in pre-war Tokyo and deserved winner for best actress, as Kuroki is fantastic in her role as the faithful housemaid at the centre of the story. (poster above , right)

3.   Cesar Chavez (Diego Luna)
Rightfully giving non-violent protest and workers’ rights leader, Cesar Chavez, his moment in the spotlight, I really hope this makes the waves it deserves upon its US release next month. (poster above, left)

4.   ’71 (Yann Demange)
It’s rare to see a film on such a delicate subject as the sectarian troubles in Northern Ireland come out so balanced and impartial. A gem of a directorial debut from Yann Demange. (poster above, centre)

5.   Nymphomaniac Vol I (Lars von Trier)
A rip roaring return to form for LvT, check back a few posts for the full review or click here!

6.   The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson)
Wes Anderson’s most playful and enthralling movie for years!

 

Photo credit to Berlinale.de

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