Berlinale Favorites

So far, there are three movies that to me were clearly far above average and worth to see several times: “Final Portrait” by Stanley Tucci, “The Party” by Sally Potter, and “God’s Own Country” by Francis Lee.

Berlinale "Final Portrait"
Final Portrait
Competition 2017
GBR/FRA 2017
by: Stanley Tucci
Armie Hammer, Geoffrey Rush
© Parisa Taghizadeh

In “Final Portrait”, Geoffrey Rush plays Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti who wants to portray American art writer James Lord (Armie Hammer) and says that he would only need a couple of days. It turns out that those couple of days turn into an eternity with Giacometti stopping the process, then starting it again, then throws everything away to start all over etc. It is fascinating to witness this chamber theater-like performance and the endurance of Lord and his fascination for the artist, but also the painter’s vanity and insecurity at times. The studio in Paris looks like you would imagine it to be: all torn-up and chaotic, with numerous famous busts and other things spread around. The way Giacometti quarrels with himself is brilliantly played by Rush who deserves to be awarded for this work, and who already received the Berlinale Camera last weekend.

Berlinale "The Party"
The Party
Competition 2017
GBR 2017
by: Sally Potter
Timothy Spall, Cillian Murphy, Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson
© Adventure Pictures Limited 2017

More or less displayed as a chamber theater piece, too, is Sally Potter‘s “The Party” about Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) and her recent appointment as Health Minister. She invites a few friends over for a dinner party and things go dramatically weird and chaotic in the ensuing 70 minutes (it is really refreshing to see a movie well below 90 minutes these days I might add). Her best friend April (Patricia Clarkson) and her boyfriend, the esoteric Gottfried (Bruno Ganz in a hilariously funny role), her sister Martha (Cherry Jones), a lesbian, feminist academic, and her partner Jinny (Emily Mortimer), and Tom (Cillian Murphy), the cocaine-sniffing banker whose wife Marianne never shows up and slowly but surely, we get to know why. Janet’s husband Bill (Timothy Spall) spreads the news that he is terminally ill and wants to spend his final days with Marianne with whom he had an affair since about a year or maybe two. Tom has found out earlier that day and Janet gets the news first-hand. And so, the party totally runs out of control with numerous cynical and really grotesque conversations until we find out at the very end how totally kaputt all of the participants really are – psychologically disrupt, morally poisoned, and socially corrupt through and through. Best scene: April tells her friend Janet to go back to politics and focus on what she really needs to do. In what seems to be a totally consoling conversation she reveals to her that she can’t continue without having her hair done.

Berlinale "Gods Own Country"
God’s Own Country
Panorama 2017
GBR 2017
von: Francis Lee
Alec Secareanu, Josh O’Connor
© Dales Productions Limited/The British Film Institute 2017

My third favorite, “God’s Own Country“, was premiering in the Panorama section last night and also won the World Cinema Directing Award in the Drama category at this year’s Sundance Film Festival where it had its world premiere on January 23rd. And while comparisons to “Brokeback Mountain” seem obvious, I think this one goes much deeper into the unspoken feelings dynamic and the way the main characters Johnny (Josh O’Connor) and Gheorghe (Alex Secareanu) develop their relationship with a lot of uncertainty and helplessness at the beginning, with more expressive flings of wanting and needing the other, and with the description of the relationship to his parents, especially his father, as being pretty shy, dry, and emotionless and his own coping with being a gay farmer in the middle of nowhere, but with a beautiful landscape surrounding him and his parents to look after. It is an almost heartbreaking scene towards the end when Johnny is trying to get Gheorghe back to his farm and his inability at first to explain his desire and his feelings toward him and almost losing it.

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