If there was one thing that our Berlin Competition Preview lacked, it was smiles. I mean, just get a load
of all the glum, tortured faces from stills! The only character who's not miserable is the girl in the Hong Sangsoo movie -- and she's asleep!
So, for the preview of the Panorama and Forum programs, I did a bit of active searching for more uplifting material, just to shake things up a bit. It was not easy. In fact, reading the synopsis of every film is probably as good of a way to catch up on cultural and economic woes as any newspaper. Maybe some of the films are more uplifting than they sound, or perhaps Prozac is a festival sponsor this year. Regardless, since my search for fun, breezy selections proved fruitless, I ended up just choosing what sounded most interesting (again based on talent, synopsis, stills, word of mouth).
Once again, there are a number of movies in these programs that people are already talking about, including Shane Carruth's Upstream Color
, Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha
and a double shot of James Franco with both INT. Leather Bar
. Also once again, I tried to move beyond the buzz-titles for my preview, and instead went through every synopsis and every still, and ultimately came up with the following selections:Yesterday Never Ends
- Set in 2017, Isabel Coixet's drama follows a separated couple who reunites for the first time in five years at their son's grave... then things get worse. Coixet's short in Paris Je T'aime
about the man who discovers his wife has cancer right as he's about to leave her for a younger woman, has held up really well for me. Her last feature, Elegy
, received mostly positive reviews as well. Belleville Baby
- A personal documentary reconstructing a love affair from eight years older between a film student in Paris, and a criminal. The film student is now a mother living in Sweden, but a call from her ex after he gets out of jail brings everything back. Swimming Pool
- A slice-of-life piece about one fateful day at the local pool when four disabled Spanish teens show up for swimming lessons. The description makes this one sound like a slightly more hard-edged version of a Bill Forsyth movie -- we'll see. Reaching for the Moon
- This one follows poet Elizabeth Bishop on a trip to Brazil which somehow leads to an ill-fated love triangle, anguish and self-destruction. You wouldn't know it from that still though! Look at those smiles. Cold
- A melodramtic Greek tragedy-style story that takes place in a snow covered town in Turkey. Dark Matter
- An observational documentary about a military missile testing site in Sardinia, which appears to be the most picturesque weapons testing site ever. The fact that there's minimal commentary and interviews makes me hope for a fascinating, visually stunning assembly of images, that, I imagine, ultimately pack quite a wallop. Town of Whales
- Three teens go on a mystical journey across Japan to find their friend, who disappeared six years earlier. Assuming it delivers more than just a teen L'Aventura
, I'm intrigued. Broken Circle Breakdown
- A portrait of a tumultuous relationship between a European bluegrass musician who idolizes America and a female owner of a tattoo parlor. A Single Shot
- Sam Rockwell has a hunting accident and shoots a person. This leads to a cover-up, which naturally leads to even more trouble. Jeffery Wright and William H. Macy co-star. Shirley - Visions of Reality
- A fictional actress wanders through several vignettes, all modeled after Edward Hopper paintings. Pretentious disaster or compelling film/painting hybrid? I want to find out! If nothing else, it looks like they nailed the production design. A Fold in my Blanket
- A surreal look at a man smothered by conformist life in a Russian small town. His only escape is going off to climb mountains. One day a stranger shows up and takes him on a climbing expedition... then vanishes. Mostly, that great still piqued my interest. Elelwani
- A couple drives to a village in South Africa to declare their love to the parents of the girl. It turns out though, that she's already been promised to a tribal king. The festival synopsis describes this as an "ethnographic thriller with incredibly beautiful images and a disturbing plot." The stills seem to suggest that at least the "beautiful images" part is accurate.