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The Berlinale Blog: Retrospective binge

This year's fantastic Retrospective proved what everyone suspected – Hollywood was a German invention – says Ben Knight.

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“Out of the Past”

You have one day left of the festival. Here’s what you should do: abandon all your needy feelings about being invited to parties – they’re no good for you anyway – and give the whole day to the last of this year’s delicious Retrospective section.

If you’re good, you could catch four or five of those dark, dazzling films. That would mean camping out in either Cinemaxx 8 or the Zeughaus Kino, or attempting mad dashes between the two (take the 200 bus, not the S-Bahn – it’s only seven minutes). You can eat on the way – pack an ample supply of carb-heavy snacks. If you’re going to stay in one, the obvious choice would be the Cinemaxx, which is gorging itself on unmatchable classics like Casablanca, Some Like It Hot and Ernst Lubitsch’s To Be Or Not To Be, but real Retrospective goers never do the obvious. They take the more introverted option and go to the Zeughaus Kino, where they can hang out with kindred souls, watching the more obscure ones.

Not that they actually talk to each other. The Zeughaus Kino, tucked round the back of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, is the Berlinale’s repository for all its shy, tragic souls. The audience is slightly older, drier, and worse-dressed than elsewhere. When we wait for the lights to dim, we all sit quietly reading novels and avoiding eye contact. The bald man who introduces the screenings – God bless him – wears wire-framed glasses and a big scarf and speaks in a tight, emotion-free voice to a spot above everyone’s heads.

But that caricatured German’s secret this week was that he had the best films all along. This year’s Retrospective, “The Weimar Touch”, basically proved that Hollywood cinema was originally invented in Germany, by Germans. Specifically, during the Weimar Republic, from 1919 to 1933, when Germany’s creative, liberal, democratic golden age coincided happily with the dawn of talking pictures.

When Hitler destroyed that, its spirit was exported direct to sunny LA, where the likes of Fritz Lang and Max Ophüls and Ernst Lubitsch and later Billy Wilder created melodramatic gems like Letter From An Unknown Woman, which is on at 4pm today, or cross-dressing, rule-breaking Some Like It Hot (7pm). Weimar was also instrumental in creating the film noir, which you can see an example of in the dark, mad Robert Mitchum vehicle Out of the Past (4:30pm).

That’s it – that’s what you should do today – my last and best advice to you for this year.