D. Strauss, longtime Exberliner Senior Editor, here. Edible eats for the first time in 64 Berlinales is as miraculous an appearance as Jesus in a Dreyer film, and considerably less predictable – previous years found Emma Stone and Anna Karina digging for potatoes in the Tiergarten – although the puzzling absence of lockers in the press room means that I’m getting mustard all over my Mac. Opening days are slow ones for the non-fame besotted at Berlinale – there’s a video in the press floor on loop dedicated to reminding us that Greta Gerwig is a star, too – and the architecture on Potsdamer Platz could leach the glamour from Garbo. Or even James Franco!
The exception: Wes Anderson’s minor-star studded The Grand Budapest Hotel, for which you have already been given the wink earlier in this blog. I did manage the press event – dutifully reported by Eve in the blog directly beneath this one – in which Bill Murray played the role of Bill Murray as he described working with Wes – “You lose money on the deal. You spend more in tips than you make in money” and Jeff Goldblum played the role of Jeff Goldblum by staring bemusedly at Bill Murray from the other end of the table. Tilda Swinton and Willem Dafoe sported similar 5 year-old boy haircuts: Defoe’s in shocking brown. And Wes Anderson claimed Lubitsch as a model for the new film – one can connote a touch of the Lubitsch touch in his work. Though not nearly so much grip.
As a former New Yorker, I take the whole celeb thing a bit for granted – George Clooney doesn’t posses 1/10th the power that Jamie Dimon has – and while Berlinale used to be the most international event in the city, the last couple of years have shown the rest of Berlin catching up. Still, Berlinale loves its multikulti, which often finds it putting the cart before the oxen that drive it. There’s a new-ish sidebar to the Forum entitled NATIVe – A Journey Into Indigenous Cinema which could only sound more condescending if the films weren’t directed by actual natives.
Such as American Damian John Harper’s Los Ángeles, financed with the sort of German money that often suggests well-meaning, ham-fisted exotica. Taking place in Santa Ana del Valle, Mexico with a cast of unknowns and non-actors (the main protagonists take their names from the individuals who portray them), it’s the sort of film where, when a dog is lovingly pet in act one, you know it’s going to end up in a dumpster by act three. There are some strong, minimalist performances, particularly by lead actor Mateo Bautista Matías, whose star turn evokes silent conflict with an unsettling gentleness, and the film does offer a general air of quietude, though that’s a cliché in its own right. But in addition to the strained attempts at verisimilitude and, in an attempt to signify “the real,” a camera so shaky that you’d think the D.P. was working a second job during cocktail hour, just about every note from the Melodrama Handbook is hit: from saintly mothers to gang violence to absent fathers. By the end I was wondering if this wasn’t some sort of commentary on the Mexican telenovela, but then my attention was taken up waiting for that dog to die.
Los Ángeles screens Feb 08, 19:15 (CineStar 8), Feb 09, 22:30 (Cubix 9), Feb 11, 20:00 (Colosseum 1), Feb 14, 22:00 (CineStar 8)