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This week at the kino

What’s on at Berlin cinemas this week?

We round up the best new releases, film festivals and cosy highlights at Berlin cinemas this week.

EVENTS

FESTIVAL OF ANIMATION

Image courtesy Raman Djafari.

Since 2017, Festival of Animation Berlin has been a hub of innovative imagination and a fertile forum for all things animation. A veritable capital in the geographical landscape for the animation heads out there, it is a platform exclusively dedicated to animation. Each year, the festival showcases the best recent national and international films for the ever-expanding and always expanding filmic world of animation: from stop motion and CGI to traditional, multi-media hybrids and 360° films. 

Much more than just a festival, it is a community where kindred spirits align to share their love of the form, as ever the program is accompanied by a range of different activities and guests from the art and animation industry – this year’s special guest is Raman Djafari (a  singular talent in the music video world, he has worked with labels such as Universal, Warp Records, Downtown Records, The New Yorker). Elsewhere there is a plethora of workshops and events such as ‘Animators Unplugged: Contributions & memories from workshops with Gil Alkabetz’ and ‘FAB Pitching Session: Presentation of project ideas’.

This festival consists of five categories: German Animation, International AnimationNew TalentsPink Panda (for kids of different age groups) and the Commissioned Animation. Spread across the categories are some stunning picks, a few highlights include festival favourite Steakhouse  by Spela Cadez, the internationally acclaimed Bestia by Hugo Covarrubia, and Evgenia Gostrer’s Kirschknochen. Best advice is to go see as many as you can, if animated film all that orbits it is your bag then this is your place. Likewise for those less versed, animation is perhaps one the the purest and most accessible forms – go check it out you might be pleasantly surprised. 

  • City Kino Wedding, Silent Green Kulturquartier | September 30 – October 2 

Homage Marcello Mastroianni @ Arsenal Kino 

The late-great Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni (1924–1996), with a prolific and near perfect body of work – from his light comedies to existential dramatics. Arsenal will be presenting a selection of his 17 films with his work showcasing his work with the likes of Luciano Emmer and Federico Fellini. Whilst perhaps best recognized from La Dolce Vita, his career is worth the deep dive, including his work on Antonioni’s ‘trilogy on modernity and its discontents’, a real master. Get to know!

  • Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, E.V. through October 30

Wings Of Desire @ Lichtblick-Kino 

Not many films symbolise Berlin in its tense moments before the fall of the wall as coherently as Wings of Desire. Set over the city’s troubled skies, Wender’s philosophical symphony of angels raises questions on life, death and the experiences in between. The late, great Bruno Ganz is an immortal angel, able to dip in and out of mortals’ thoughts. He finds lost souls along the way, in touching vignettes of humanity. While Wenders finds moments of tenderness in the landscape of Berlin and its people, the shifts in colour to black and white represent the angel’s viewpoint. The film features cameos from Nick Cave, a beautiful soundtrack by Jürgen Knieper and Laurent Petitgand, and Claire Denis on camerawork duties. An iconic piece of 1980s cinema, not to be missed. 

  • Lichtblick-Kino, Friday September 30th

Jean-Luc Godard Retrospective at Babylon Berlin

Jean-Luc with actress Isabelle HuppertPhoto: IMAGO / ZUMA/Keystone.

You may have missed it due to that other big funeral we had in recent weeks, but cinema legend Jean-Luc Godard passed away on September 13. To celebrate his life and works, Babylon Berlin is showing a selection of his greatest films (with English subtitles) including Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis, Le Mépris and Vivre sa vie.

  • Babylon Berlin 29.9-02.10 details here.

Baby Wolfgang at Wolf Kino 

Image: courtesy Wolf Kino

Enjoy cinema in a comfortable atmosphere with like minded new parents at Wolf Kino. Baby- Their weekly screenings are a lovely concept and perfect opportunity for parents and infants (up to eleven months) to enjoy cinema together. Making sure that parents can keep up with contemporary film even after the visit for the stork, they present current films in a climate where breastfeeding and sleeping are more than welcome! Understanding the sensory dynamics of the experience with reduced volume and a dimly lit auditorium to make babies feel comfortable. A storage space for baby carriages and a changing table, plus some good old fixtures such as their beautiful care where you can grab a drink – if the wee one permits! Surrounded by people in the same boat, you can skip the stiffness of the normal cinema experience – if your baby cries they’ll understand! Plus all films are subtitled – so it’s easier to keep pace if things do get a lil restless! 

  • Wolf Kino, every Tuesday, 11:00 

Werner Herzog: The Exhibition  

Opening August 24, it is the first time the extensive Werner Herzog Archive, which is maintained by Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, will be made accessible to the public. An internationally collaborative project, curated in cooperation with EYE Amsterdam and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) in Melbourne, Werner Herzog: The Exhibition aims to reconsider the discourse around “media phenomenon” Herzog’s cult status. Accompanying the selected exhibits will be media installations which encourage critical engagement on the ethical responsibility and aesthetic strategies in his work.

  • Deutsche Kinemathek through March 27, 2023

Films and Reviews

WE MIGHT AS WELL BE DEAD

The spectral high-rise: Phoebus House. Photo: HEARTWAKE films

Natalia Sinelnikova’s mesmeric debut, We Might as Well Be Dead, has all the hallmarks of a modern masterpiece. An utterly startling achievement, all the more so given that it sprouted from her studies at Babelsberg Film University and is a graduation project.

A dark and dystopian film about a group of people trapped inside a gated tower-block, WMaWBD tackles issues of alienation in modern society with a measured absurdity and an off-kilter tonality, Sinelnikova meditates on the mechanics of fear, doing so with a brave-faced-bravado.

Ready my full review here. ★★★★★

Peter von Kant

Peter von Kant. Photo: Carole Bethuel/Berlin Film Festival 2022

Peter von Kant sees François Ozon revisit the copious source material of revered German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Ozon’s breakthrough came in 2000 with Water Drops on Burning Rocks,  an adaptation of an unnamed Fassbinder stage piece. Now, over twenty years later and no longer a budding young director, Ozon is something of a vanguardista, widely considered one of the most important auteurs of the new ‘New Wave’ of French Cinema. This time, though, Ozon isn’t adapting one of Fassbinder’s stage plays, rather the 1972 West Germanic romantic drama The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant – a landmark of European Cinema. 

The remake’s titular changes are telling: gone are the tears, so too the all-female cast. Petra becomes Peter, something of a reiteration-cum-reimagining of Fassbinder on screen. In opting to flip the film’s integral femininity, in using the mixed cast in Peter von Kant a lot is lost; yet much is gained. Dynamics undoubtedly change with both men and women on screen:  the film feels more buoyant and breathable, but still retains a fundamental camp theatricality. On the flipside: Fassbender’s original had real power, an intensely intimate film devoted to understanding how women act in private spaces, away from the patriarchal powers that be. But Ozon, with the excellent casting, has done a fine job. Sure, there will be histrionics from a Fassbineristas or two, but there will also be those who appreciate the update. ★★★

Ticket to Paradise

Photo: Universal Studios

Ticket to Paradise, is a pedestrian rom-com:  it lacks the humour or gusto of similar parenteral gaze genre work. Lacking the laughs of Meet the Fockers or existential comedy of Up in the Air. Yet, it is an easy watch and undoubtedly it will be a crowd pleaser. Old friends, on and off- screen,  Julia Roberts and George Clooney’s chemistry keeps the films buoyant and brings the odd smirk. For the rom-com nostalgists out there, it isn’t really going to be a hit or miss, just a vanilla affair. But worth the watch for, you guessed it… George Clooney going full George Clooney – a role he has truly mastered. ★★

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

Photo: Film Movement Kopie

A wee look to the left, then a quick glance to the right; then double check again to make no one is in earshot: Drive My Car – Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s previous film – left me cold. The belle of the ball at Cannes last year, adapted from Murakami, Hamaguchi’s story about the mechanic was a tad overlong, and well, a bit… mechanical. By no means a bad film, but, rather unfortunately, the sheer heft of it overshadowed his previous cinematic foray.

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy had debuted at Berlinale a few months before and despite winning the Silver Bear Award, it fell somewhat by the by. A minor little work of mastery, the film unfolds as a narrative triptych. That is to say: an intimate trio of empathetic encounters (something which seems to be a thematic penchant for Hamauchi’s cinema). Beautiful and beguiling, with a dark undercurrent which doesn’t interfere with the film’s tonality – the result is a wistful and humane document. ★★★★

  • With ENG subtitles at Neues Off, Wolf Kino, Lichtblick and Rollberg, until 13.9

Three Thousand Years of Longing

Three Thousand Years of Longing. Photo: MGM

Following the storming success of his master Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller has surprised many by conjuring up an eccentric fantasy, a consciously out of vogue piece, it is a fantasy film with Tilda Swinton – a wary academic and Idris Elba – a bubbly genie. 

It is refreshing to see Miller pursue a passion project in this adaptation of AS Byatt’s novella, The Djinn in The Nightingale’s Eyes. Yet, despite the stellar cast, sincere tone and air of originality. The fundamental problem is that the film lacks any real momentum, perhaps most disappointing is in a work that conjures the spectre of Aladin – we remain unenchanted. The cult following of both Miller and Byatt will no doubt mean that Three Thousand Years of Long will find its geeky enthusiasts, and that this will really hit home for a certain fanbase is a good thing. All in all, I guess that is the beauty of cinema. ★★★

  • Kino International, Passage, Odeon, Delphi LUX, Rollberg, until 14.9

The Good Boss

Photo: Básculas Blanco

Teaming up again with the ever-excellent Javier Bardem, director Fernando León de Aranoa delivers The Good Boss, a heavy-handed neoliberal tragicomedy. A character-driven piece around the morose, amoral middle-aged factory manager, Barden excels in the role. Repugnantly smarmy with gargoyle-like greediness, his ability to embody the beyond-the-pale narcissism of corporate capitalism; the sheer farcicality and decadence of it all, raises the work above a standard workplace satire. 

The smiling face of capitalism, Julio Blanco, is the titular ‘good boss’; a petty David Brent-esque lord on his manor. That manor being Blanco Weighing Scales, his family business, which is shortlisted for a new award. What unfolds is a decent black comedy, although the scales-business-fairness metaphor – which would be funny if it was some meta-meta comic device – is so overdone that it loses sharpness. All in all, definitely worth the watch for Bardem alone: does he ever put a foot wrong? ★★★

Axiom

Axiom. Photo: Bon Voyage Films GmbH

A highlight at this year’s Encounters section at Berlinale, Jöns Jönsson’s second feature Axiom is a stripped-back odyssey into the mechanics of lying. From white lies and seemingly harmless hyperbole to the more serious untruths that uproot reality. This idea is refracted by Jönsson in a character study of Julius, a pathological liar of the highest order, who cannot help his compulsion to, well… you get the drift. An original albeit excruciating character study, fans of Joanna Hogg should check this out (and if this is your kettle of fish, check out the lesser-known Greek gem of awkwardness Suntan). ★★★