In spite of its name, the Unknown Pleasures film festival (returning to Babylon Mitte for the fifth time) features some very known quantities – for cinephiles, at least, who’ll appreciate a rare chance to see their indie favourites on the Berlin big screen.
Programmed and directed by Hannes Brühwiler, the fest presents a broad selection of US indie films, starting (on Jan 1, 19:30, also Jan 5, 20:00) with Michel Gondry’s The We and the I: 100 minutes set on one bus journey home from the last day of school in New York with a vast array of teenagers from bullies to nerds, portrayed by an assortment of first-time actors gathered at an after-school programme in the Bronx. Although intermittently tedious, the typically Gondry-esque music choices, quirky video fragments and keen characterisations keep it moving.
Two films that adhere strictly to the ‘mumblecore’ sub-genre, now an indie fest staple, are Nathan Silver’s Exit Elena (Jan 10, 20:00), a realistic documentary-style dark comedy about a live-in nurse and an overbearing family, and Adam Ross Perry’s The Color Wheel (Jan 11, 19:30) – a low-budget, well-scripted, slightly perverted film about sibling rivalry on a brief road trip, shot in 16mm black and white.
A special in this year’s festival is the complete Whit Stillman retrospective, including Metropolitan (Jan 3, 22:00), Barcelona (Jan 6, 17:30), The Last Days of Disco (Jan 5, 22:00) and Damsels in Distress (Jan 4, 19:30). The latter is Stillman’s latest venture, starring Greta Gerwig and displaying dry wit and sardonic observations of American university life as it follows a sickeningly conscientious quartet of girls in their quest to improve the etiquette of fellow students.
An exclusive premiere of Kathryn Bigelow’s much-anticipated Zero Dark Thirty (Jan 7, 20:30) will doubtless bring in the punters. For repeat showings check www.unknownpleasures.de.
UNKNOWN PLEASURES #5, Jan 1-16 | Babylon Mitte