The Exberliner bloggers are just as baffled by the jury’s decision to give the Golden Bear to China’s Black Coal, Thin Ice as Rory was when he blogged the film a couple of days ago. Maybe their decision to give Best Actor Award to its male lead is just more justification: “This was so good, we’re giving it two prizes.” Although choices for best actor were poor to middling at best this year. But maybe this is all about something else. China has just “dashed Hollywood’s hopes” for greater access to Chinese markets by keeping the quota of imported US films at 34, rather than a projected 44. Could Germany pick up some of that slack?
And if the jury’s decision to pass over a film of such obvious merits as Richard Linklater’s Boyhood has anything to do with the fact that it premiered at Sundance, maybe it’s time to rethink the invitational criteria. Getting a prestige film on board as critical and popular bait and leaving the director clutching a consolation Silver Bear: that’s just churlish.
Exberliner’s bloggers stand above the fray of tawdry commercialism. We’ve identified some 10 Berlinale films (in no particular order) that deserve your attention over the coming months. These are the ones to watch.
- Boyhood by Richard Linklater is landmark cinema history, keeping the everyday experience of growing up unobtrusive but making it special, nonetheless.
- The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson combines all the elements that charmed us in earlier work – setting, script, costumes and young loves – in a masterpiece of digressive density. (March 6)
- David Zellner’s Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter meta-reflects on contemporary entertainment ethics, but tells a damn good story as it does so.
- Things People Do by Saar Klein pairs vivid cinematography with an American morality tale of multi-layered bankruptcy to unusual and innovative effect.
- Yoji Yamada’s The Little House is a wonderfully traditional portrait of romance in wartime Japan and is delivered with the assured delicate touch of its old pro director.
- From the eyes of a young British soldier, ‘71 not only captured the incredible complexity of what was going on in Belfast in the lead up to Bloody Sunday, but did so without taking sides.
- Set in middle-class Berlin and a refugee-centre on the outskirts of Vienna, Edward Berger’s Jack and Sudabeh Mortezai’s Macondo are memorable for their uncompromising look at choices made by young boys overburdened with responsibility. The results are fresh and defiantly powerful. (Jack: March 27)
- Michel Houllebecq brought down the house as he played himself with nihilistic swagger in the fly on the wall Stockholm syndrome gem The Kidnapping of Michel Houllebecq.
- In Nymph()maniac Lars von Trier re-sets the re-invention bar, exploring promiscuity through obscure – and obvious – narrative parentheses: fly-fishing, death, reverse-parking, lust. Add irony and humour as extra filters and you got yourself a party. (February 20)
- The Second Game by Corneliu Poromboiu verges on anti-cinema: the filmmaker and his father comment on grainy black and white TV coverage of a Ceausescu-era game, which the father refereed: bold, thoughtful and radically different.
Your blogger team signs out from the Berlinale 2014 with the words of the great Jimmy Dean as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, newly remastered for this year's Berlinale Classics: "Turn out the lights!" Please.