“Las Herederas”, the heiresses, is the debut by Marcelo Martinessi from Paraguay. The movie had its world premiere last night at the 68th Berlin Film Festival. It’s about an older, lesbian couple whose lives start to separate during one of the ladies’ stay in prison. Chela, the one who stays home (wonderfully portrayed by Ana Brun), seems to loosen up, coming to life because she is starting her own little business in the neighborhood by driving friends around town with their beautiful Mercedes-Benz (a 240 from the 80s). Both Chela and her partner Chiquita (Margarita Irún) are selling off lots of stuff from their household, including furniture, paintings, and glasses. Chiquita has to spend some time in jail because of fraud and after her release, it turns out that she had sold the Mercedes as well. That’s when Chela decides to take the car keys and drive away, leaving everything behind. The cinematography is abundant throughout and during her time driving people around, Chela slowly but surely starts to find a younger woman attractive and she has to cope with her desires. It’s the Mercedes though that keeps the movie flowing, making it the centerpiece of the plot.
It’s not a car, but the sumptuously flowing Absinth which is sort of a thread in Rupert Everett‘s “The Happy Prince” about the last years in Oscar Wilde’s life. Everett himself plays the highly eccentric, witty, desperate, forlorn and collapsing writer and does so with amazing infatuation. It seems that he is alone with his own former stories and tales and only starts to live a little again when he has the ability to tell his stories to his two street boys. An affectionate portrait and a good reason to start drinking Absinth again more often. The movie was shown in January at Sundance.
Back to the competition: “Damsel”, the western by David and Nathan Zellner, also had its premiere at Sundance in January. It features a lot of comedy, unexpectedly hilarious dialects, and a startlingly convincing Robert Pattinson, playing Samuel Alabaster on his way west to get married with his early love Penelope. In tow, a miniature pony called Butterscotch as a wedding present. Turns out that Penelope doesn’t want him and never did. The very strong Mia Wasikowska as Penelope portrays a very strong woman, but the parson who accompanies Samuel on his journey, is played with too much absurdity on the brink of not being funny at all. The cinematography is outstanding – I must visit Oregon sometime soon.
Another Berlinale Special is “The Bookshop”, directed by Spanish Isabel Coixet who also wrote the script. It is based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald and set in a small town in late 50s England where a widow wants to start her own bookshop, much to the disapproval of many other people in town, including the influential Violet Gamart, who originally wanted to turn the house into an arts center (played by Patricia Clarkson who doesn’t resonate at all). Emily Mortimer plays Florence Green, the bookseller, who orders the biggest amount of any book with Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita”, is torn between her immense courage which seems to come only natural to her, and her final failure to fulfill her dreams. Once again I think the cinematography is outstanding (shot in Northern Ireland) and Frau Mortimer is the star indeed.