Berlinale Roundup

The Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale goes to “On Body And Soul” by Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi. Finally, a winner movie that I’ve actually seen during the last 10 days and one which would have been lost in other editions of the festival. But does this really mean that the 67th Berlinale was weaker than others? One of the strong assets of this still very popular festival is the fact that there are hundreds of movies each year and that a good festival isn’t necessarily defined through its competition. Here’s my roundup of the movies I’ve seen in addition to those I reviewed here already. And then it’s back to music!

Berlinale "Helle Nächte"
Helle Nächte | Bright Nights
Competition 2017
DEU/NOR 2017
by: Thomas Arslan
Tristan Göbel, Georg Friedrich
© Schramm Film / Marco Krüger

Bright Nights (Helle Nächte): Georg Friedrich has won the Silver Bear for Best Male Actor in this road movie about a father-son relationship. Both travel to Norway and go on a hiking trip and never really succeed in having a “normal” relation to each other. There are long stretches in the movie where absolutely nothing happens. There is a very, very long piece which takes you on a road through the mountains with the weather getting foggy until there is almost nothing left to see. It left me with a feeling of nothing left to feel…

Call Me By Your Name (Panorama): This is a lovely tale of a teenager growing up and finding his own (homo)sexuality in early 80s rural Italy. Armie Hammer is seen as the assistant to a professor whose son has really nothing to do except listening to music and reading books (Armie Hammer was also featured this year in Stanley Tucci’s “Final Portrait”). Slowly but surely, both the assistant and the professor’s son get to know each other really well and fall for each other in a country and at a time in history where relationships like that were totally taboo. But it’s with a certain lightness and a bright cinematography through which director Luca Guadagnino succeeds here.

Dayveon (Forum): In this story about a 13-year old growing up in rural Arkansas and becoming part of a gang in which his older brother had been shot, you wonder if there is really some hope and a future in the life of the young boy who is soon taking part in shootings and robberies. It’s a destroying and very pessimistic view of the life of young, black, urban life in the middle of the very poor American south.

Berlinale "Dream Boat"
Dream Boat
Panorama 2017
DEU 2017
by: Tristan Ferland Milewski
© Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion

Dream Boat (Panorama Documents): The best example of why I never ever want to go on a gay cruiseship is this documentary movie. Director Tristan Ferland Milewski has a few protagonists who explain why they wanted to go on board in the first place. And there is one scene which is exemplary for a turn like this: one young guy from Dubai is saying after one of the numerous parties that he had never felt so lonely in his life. The silly costume parties which are shown here in abundance really make me wonder why you would ever want to take part in something like this.

A Fantastic Woman (Una Mujer Fantástica) (Competition): I think it is a smart move of having a story about a transgender woman in the main section of an international film festival, just to raise awareness of the topic. But there is just one scene which to me has totally ruined the sincerity and courage of the whole movie: driving in the car which she has to drop off at the ex-wife of her lover, Marina is turning the radio up and what do we hear? “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman”!. Stereotyping at its worst.

Félicité (Competition): Interesting to see a lot of day-to-day life scenes in what must be a pretty chaotic Kinshasa where Félicité is trying to survive as a single mother, singing in bars for an audience where you also have the occasional drunk. As soon as she finds out that her son had a terrible motorbike accident, she is trying to come up with all kinds of ways to collect money for an operation. Direcor Alan Gomis never really comes to an end – he just tells another story that is completely open as to how it is going to continue.

Berlinale "I Am Not Your Negro"
I Am Not Your Negro
Panorama 2017
by: Raoul Peck
James Baldwin
© Dan Budnik

I Am Not Your Negro (Panorma Documents): The comparison between the situation of black lives in the 60s and today is almost shocking. Police brutality during the lives and times of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Medgar Evers and during the devastating times of Ferguson in 2014 hasn’t changed a bit. Through the text of author James Baldwin’s observations, based on his piece “Remember This House”, and narrated in a very labored way by Samuel L. Jackson, we are treated to some tumultuous scenes both from half a century ago and from today and being forced to ask ourselves: has anything changed?

La Reina De Espana (The Queen Of Spain): I have nothing good to say about Fernando Trueba‘s new movie which features Penelope Cruz. Too many shenanigans going on here, things are supposed to be funny, but they’re not. There’s no real flow in the story. A total mess and proof that a big star is not necessarily translating to big success. I had to leave this one early – couldn’t stand the idiocy any longer.

Berlinale "Sage Femme"
Sage femme
Competition 2017
FRA/BEL 2017
by: Martin Provost
Catherine Deneuve, Catherine Frot
© Michael Crotto

Sage Femme (Out of Competition): Martin Provost has found the perfect role for the inimitable Catherine Deneuve in this comedy/drama where Frau Deneuve plays an elderly woman (Béatrice) who is trying to cope up with her past and her dim future when she finds out that she has cancer. There’s nothing wrong with drinking red wine in abundance or having some oysters or a piece of steak or whatever in her position, but Claire (with whose father Béatrice had an affair long time ago), working as a midwife, keeps on telling her (among many other things of course) that it is not good for her to eat and drink too many “unhealthy” things. The portrait of those two women and how they are slowly but surely getting warm with each other is a joy to watch.

Ein Weg (Paths) (Perspektive Deutsches Kino): A gay couple where one of the guys brings a son from an earlier affair into the relationship and the story of how they wander away from each other over the years and each finds his own little life. Fair enough. And once again an intimate and thoroughly told story about respect and relations with an open end.

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