Browsing: Berlinale 2014

Berlinale 2014 thesecondgame_2014_1

Porumboiu is, without the shadow of a doubt, my favourite representative of Romania’s celebrated New Wave. His brilliant 12:08 East Of Bucharest (2006), a tremendously sharp but unassuming dry comedy in which a local television host invites a guest line-up to look back at the events of the 1989 Romanian revolution, is perhaps my pick of the bunch. That film’s whole set-up is something of a satirical farce, the show’s guests bicker incessantly about minor details that may or may not even be relevant. In The Second Game, Porumboiu substitutes the depiction of a fictional experiment on memory with a real-time recording of a similar endeavour in which the director participates alongside his father.

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I have to admit that I really like Nick Hornby novels, British comedies and British humor in general, so it does not come as a big surprise that I enjoyed the adaptation of Hornby’s bestseller A Long Way Down since it is a combination of those three. Written for the screen by Jack Thorne and directed by Pascal Chaumeil, A Long Way Down deals with taboos such as suicide and depression, but the film handles those issues with great care, dark humor, witty dialogue and a decent amount of irony.

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As part of the Generation 14+ section, the Scottish musical drama God Help the Girl is a young, fresh film for a mainly young, teenage audience. Created by first time writer and director Stuart Murdoch, the film focuses on a broken artist who is trying to find and define herself through the art of music.

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After ’71, the Berlinale’s second International Competition war film, was afforded a solid initial reception, pressure would’ve been on laid on Inbetween Worlds (Zwischen Welten) to similarly distinguish itself but also outdo the former were it to have any chance of converting critics and audiences to its cause. Instead, while the first took the form of a thrilling hybrid between the action-survival flick and the war genre, Feo Aladag’s latest is as cautious, and in many ways conventional, take on Western military intervention in the Middle East as seen through the eyes of one soldier and his allied local interpreter. There’s nothing inherently wrong with taking the classical aesthetic route, but its combination with an uninspired script and a preachiness that blatantly oversteps into jingoistic territory ultimately conspire to condemn it to irrelevancy.

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Screenwriter Hossein Amini, mostly known for his screenplay for Drive (2011), has adapted and directed The Two Faces of January. The film, based on the novel of the same name by Patricia Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley), marks his directorial debut.

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After several days of a drastically uneven Berlinale, I half-heartedly found the motivation to attend the screening for Yi’nan Diao’s third feature Black Coal, Thin Ice (Bai Ri Yan Huo). My expectations, at that point, were close to non-existent, and it is to my great surprise that I found myself genuinely captivated by this stylish neo-noir set in China’s industrial districts. Dong Jingong’s lambent cinematography delightfully captures the tale of the consequences of a gruseome crime, and how it brings a classical wounded femme fatale and an ex-cop closer together amidst a world of nebulous morals. The precise contours of its gripping narrative and purposeful sense of direction eventually recedes around midway, at which point the script begins to lose focus, its meandering state a resounding turn-off.

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The bright sunshine creates a glimmering atmosphere between the clear blue sky and the sandy colors of the Brazilian dunes where two motorcyclists ride across the wide and open landscape. The two men obviously enjoy their travels and embrace their freedom, driving towards the Praia do Futoro, a beautiful beach where they are about to have a swim. The energetic opening sequence is followed by a tragic incident. Heiko, one of the German travelers drowns while his friend Konrad (Clemens Schick) is saved by the lifeguard on duty, Donato (Wagner Moura).

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Richard Linklater, the director, writer and producer of Boyhood, first started shooting his film in July 2002 and continued to work annually over a time span of over a decade to realize the unique cinematic project. The cast and crew came back to work for few days on set, marking a total of 39 days in 12 years. The story is structured around a middle-class family consisting of Olivia (Patricia Arquette), a single-mother, her children Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and Samantha (Lorelai Linklater) and their father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke), who occasionally visits them.

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Critical favourite Tsai Ming-liang teams up with Lee Kang-sheng for a third time (after the recent Walker and Walking on Water), as the latter assumes yet again the role of the Bhuddist monk who treads the world with the slowest of motions. On this occasion, Kang-sheng’s hyper-languid mobility is set against the backdrop of Marseilles, from the rubble of a ruin to the front of a tea room by way of the seaside. While the film consists almost entirely of patience-testing shots of the monk as the city life bustles dynamically around him, its opening shot is an extreme close-up of Denis Lavant’s face, a landscape of crevices, imperfections, shadows and distinctive sadness.

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Stellan Skarsgard was given a second chance to be involved in a press conference not interrupted by a Shia LaBoeuf’s tongue-in-cheek plagiarism shtick after the premiere of In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten), an intermittently funny Norwegian revenge-thriller about a snow-plowman’s exacting vendetta on the criminal organisation who killed his son. Hans Peter Moland has essentially delivered a nominally lighter take on the popular Taken archetype. Additions include: a touch of dark humour, an abundance of blood, a great over-the-top villain and some less than serviceable writing.

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