Archiv der Kategorie: English

Berlinale 2019: Day 1

By Sascha Krieger

The Kindness of Strangers (Competition / Denmark, Canada, Sweden, Germany, France / Director: Lone Scherfig)

At 2001’s Berlinale, Italian for Beginners brought a lightness to Denmark’s purist Dogma 95 movement that it had hitherto lacked. The film’s festival success kicked off director Lone Scherfig’s international career, so it seems fitting that she was allowed to open this year’s edition. One year on from the start of the #MeToo movement, the festival is aiming for a strongly female point of view. This Scherfig’s new film provides. It centres around a young mother of two who leaves her abusive husband to hide in New York City. After a few rejections, they begin to meet the title’s kind strangers, mostly people having had some low movements themselves, some of them being in dire need of help. Stylistically, the film could hardly be removed any further from Dogma 95: heavily edited, full of (mostly string) music, carefully composed images lit, of course, artificially. The story is heavy, filled with homelessness, loneliness and two near-deaths from freezing. At the same time, Scherfig’s fine sense of humour is present – as things get more hopeful, the tone gets lighter. The story has its issues, some of its turns are close to cringe-worthy, bordering on kitsch. However, Scherfig is clearly aiming at a fairy-tale like feel, turning a drab naturalistic tale into a vision of hope, centering more and more on an out-of-time Russian restaurant that, seemingly removed from the outside world, ist this film’s version of a fairy-tale castle. The way, she intertwines the various strands reveals a masterful lightness, finely balancing out the film’s heavy subject. The price is that it can feel a little lightweight at times and can be a bit of a tear-jerker at others as well a being somewhat flat on character depth and development. The pronouncedly female message of hope it delivers does feel honest though and has its effect. A brilliant cast led by Zoe Kazan and Andrea Riseborough does the rest.

The Kindness of Strangers (Image: © Per Arnesen)

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The White Saviour

Film review: Green Book (Director: Perter Farrelly)

By Sascha Krieger

On the surface things look great when it comes to diversity in film: out of the eight films nominated for a „Best Picture“ Academy Award this year, thee deal with racism and equality for people of colour, two of them, BlackKkKlansman and Black Panther even include „black“ in the title, all feature strong performances by very diverse casts, Black Panther only has two white cast members. Following Wonder Woman and shortly joined by Captain Marvel it is praised for infusing the super hero and blockbuster fields with diversity and the chance to inspire groups of people traditionally on the sidelines of such films. All good in Hollywood? Not really. The year’s most remarkable film about race relations and discrimination, Barry Jenkins‘ If Beale street Could Talk, a film with an almost all-black cast, an all-black story and told from a decidedly black view-point – as well as being a masterpiece in its own right – was snubbed at the nominations. The question why is hard to answer but there is something it lacks that the other films have: a white saviour, the traditional benevolent white man (usually) who helps the non-whites to win the day. Black Panther has this in the form of Martin Freeman’s CIA agent and even BlacKkKlansman, while offering a story driven by the black protagonist, has a figure for the white audience to identify with in Adam Driver’s indispensable undercover cop. See how even this review only mentions white actors‘ names. Here you go.

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Love and Distance

Film review: Beautiful Boy (Director: Felix van Groeningen)

By Sascha Krieger

Eventually ending up as the festival’s Panorama section audience award winner, the 2013 edition of the Berlin Film Festival featured a film that would send theatres full of hardened critics and experienced film lovers into collective crying fits that would last beyond the closing credits. That film, The Broken Circle Breakdown, the story of a great but tragic love, established Belgian film maker Felix van Groeningen as a master of raw, undiluted and painfully honest emotion. In his newest effort, Beautiful Boy, he dives into highly emotional waters again, exploring that first love of all, that between parents and children. Based on David Sheff’s book of the same name and his son Nick’s follow-up Tweak, it tells the real-life story of their struggle with and ultimately against Nic’s drug addiction that he got captured in during his teenage years. It covers several years, jumping back and forth, treating time not as a linear entity but a stagnating event, stuck in repetition, going in, yes, broken, circles.

Image: (c) 2018 AMAZON CONTENT SERVICES LLC. François Duhamel

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Into the Light

Film review: If Beale Street Could Talk (Director: Barry Jenkins)

By Sascha Krieger

Dream and reality: In the opening moments of Barry Jenkins‘ new film, they clash with a ferocious matter-of-factness that will make the unsuspecting viewer draw their breath. A quietly poetic apotheosis of love in warm colours and in almost otherworldly imagery gives way to the cold efficiency of a prison visitors area. The protagonists in both scenes are the same: 19-year-old Tish and 22-year-old Fonny, lovers, soon-to-be parents, the latter falsely accused by a racist cop and a matching justice system of a rape he cannot have committed. the way, Jenkins, fresh off his Oscar triumph Moonlight, juxtaposes the two realities, the harsh one of racist America and the too-good-to-be-true variety of young love, so extraordinary and fragile when you happen to be black, invokes the same sense of poetic transcendence coupled with unapologetic realism that made Moonlight  such a miracle. Like James Baldwin’s must-read book, the film intertwines both levels: the now in patient, matter-of-fact, quietly framed images exuding a kindness that comes from accepting reality, the same acceptance Tish’s family has learned and translates into a stubbornness that cannot fail to move; and the then, drenched in warmer, more fuzzy colours, driven by the dream-like music of Nicholas Brittell, that seems to be suspended somewhere in the in-between of love, and a gently dynamic imagery with camera zooming in, hovering above and around entangling its objects in a loving gaze that borders on the dream-like.

Image: ©Tatum Mangus Annapurna Pictures DCM

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Life Is an Ocean

Film review: Roma (Director: Alfonso Cuarón)

By Sascha Krieger

It might not be a co-incidence that two of the three A festivals‘ winners in 2018 dealt with the question what it means to be a family. In Shoplifters, winner of Cannes‘ Palme d’or, Hirokazu Kore-eda lovingly portrayed a makeshift family breaking all of society’s rules to uphold one of its professed core values. In Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, awarded with Venice’s Golden Lion, the family is more traditional: mother, father, four children – and a servant doubling as an improvised nanny. Cuarón looks back at his own childhood – and pays homage to his family’s real centre piece: Liboria Rodriguez, called Libo, to whom the film is dedicated, an indigenous woman working in the Cuarón household and more of a second mother to Alfonso and his siblings. Roma’s version is called Cleo but she, too, remains a steady presence in a world, big and small, in which certainty’s seem to be disappearimng at an alarming pace. The father leabves the family – not on a work assignement as pretended initially – but for another woman, while 1970 Mexico is rattled by civil unrest and the backlash from an increasingly authoritarian government.

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We Won’t Rock You

Film review: Bohemian Rhapsody (Director: Bryan Singer)

By Sascha Krieger

Musicians‘ biopics are not among the least popular fares of cinema but they aren’t without risks either. While the fanbase can usually be counted on to run to the theatres in flocks and – depending on the notoriety of the subjects – the celebrity-curious masses will as well, depictions of beloved stars‘ lives will invariably meet with a long litany of criticisms especially from devoted fans who are bound to find the portrayal of their darlings inadequate. However, as this usually does not to affects at least the initial box office numbers significantly, it was only a matter of time until Freddie Mercury’s life would make its way to the big screen. Mercury, lead singer of the legendary hit factory of bombastic rock anthems that was Queen, is one of the most intriguing figures in the history of popular music: a flamboyant and mesmerising performer with an unmatched voice and unbelievable vocal range, an eccentric and hedonist capturing the desires of many, the curiosity of almost all and the fear of some. And, following his untimely death at the age of 45, an icon in the fight against HIV and AIDS and by proxy against discrimination and for tolerance and diversity.

Image: © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox

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Look Back in Awe

Film review: A Star Is Born (Director: Bradley Cooper)

By Sascha Krieger

A Star Is Born is Hollywood’s own rising from the ashes Cinderella story. The seemingly plain, unrecognized young girl discovered by  a successful yet somewhat desperate man, benevolently lifted by him into the spotlight where the duckling turns into a swan and blossoms and blooms and fullfils all her potential because, well, there was a man to recognize it, help her, make her, while he himself goes down. The films had three incarnations already, the first in the 1930s, the last it the mid-70s, before it was remade again, curiously in year one of the #MeToo era. A chance, of course, to retell the story as an emancipatory tale, focus on the female perspective, level the playing field, re-invent the central couple as partners. There’s just one problem: not only is the director male, he also plays the male protagonist, setting the film up for a level of lopsidedness not easy to overcome. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.

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Festival: Around the World in 14 Films 2018 (part 3)

Short reviews of selected films from this year’s festival

By Sascha Krieger

Manbiki kazoku / Shoplifters (Japan / Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda) – Cannes Film Festival

Celebrated Japanese film-maker Hirokazu Kore-eda has made himself a name for tender, subtle, highly observant and quiet family stories, a seismograph for the most essential of social units. Shoplifters, the surprise but wholly deserving winner of the Golden Palm at this year’s Cannes film festival, is no exception. except that the family is highly exceptional. Firstly, it engages in rather unusual behaviour: in a the opening scene, what seems to be a father-son duo expertly and quite poetically steals from a supermarket before they lift a lonely little girl on their way home. Subsequently, it is gradually revealed that the family ties are not exactly what they seem. When something goes wrong and finally the agents of a hitherto almost completely absent outside world enter, efficient and benevolent society does a thorough job in unravelling a family unit that is all their members have, leading to a haunting series of quietly moving final scenes, images mostly, hovering uncertainly between faint hope and shattering desolation.

Image: © 2018 FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK/GAGA CORPORATION/AOI Pro. Inc. All rights reserved.

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Festival: Around the World in 14 Films 2018 (part 2)

Short reviews of selected films from this year’s festival

By Sascha Krieger

The Favourite (UK, Ireland, United States / Director: Yorgos Lanthimos) – Venice Film Festival

Yorgos Lanthimos, the creator of bitter, biting, often very cold allegories on the perversion of (post)modern humanity, has made a costume drama. Two hours later, the most conservative, rule-ridden, comfort-zone-seeking genre will never be the same. The celebrated and much hated Greek film maker tackles it with the force of a hurricane, leaving no stone unturned. On the surface, everything is fine: the sets are as elaborate and injected with a great love of detail as are the costume, the atmosphere of the claustrophobic powder and wig-heavy indoor society that is Baroque England so expertly covered one can almost smell the sweet stench of decay. The story is fictional, some of the characters are not. It takes place in the court of Queen Anne, the forgotten queen between the first Elizabeth and the only Victoria. In the film, she builds around herself a circle of female friends and confidantes: first the resolute, tactically relentless uber-politician Lady Sarah (with biting force: Rachel Weisz), later the fallen former Aristocrate and now servant (though not for long) Abigail (quickly turning from innocent to witty to coldly scheming: Emma Stone). Together they fight the patriarchy by mirroring it: they’re tougher, more ruthless, less scrupulous and a lot more radical than their male counterparts. So much so that ultimately they turn against each other in one of the more epic and brutal battle of wits, minds and bodies you’ve ever seen in film.

Image: © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox

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Festival: Around the World in 14 Films 2018 (part 1)

Short reviews of selected films from this year’s festival

By Sascha Krieger

Se rokh / Three Faces (Iran / Director: Jafar Panahi) – Cannes Film Festival

In 2010, Jafar Panahi was banned from making films for 20 years. Three Faces is the fourth film he’s made since. This time, after being caught in a taxi or his own house, he has a little more room: he haunts his home region, the villages his family came from, a safer place for him than Tehran. Not a freer one though, as his film shows. The beginning is stark: a horizontal cell phone video shot by a girl apparently committing suicide. „This is not a film“, his first post-ban effort was called, „we’re not making a film“, Panahi keeps saying during this one – the beginning makes this statement, too, loud and clear. There is a documentary feel to this film, a sense of uncertainty representative of Panahi’s situation, of the female protagonists of the film – who all bear their real names – and the society depicted. It is a patriarchal one, full of often absurd rules such as the elaborate honking ritual to ensure safe passage on a narrow mountain road when it would be so much easier to just make it wider. Panahi depicts such episodes with glee, with a sly humour and a lightness of touch that astonishes.

Image: © Jafar Panahi Film Production

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