Thursday, February 25, 2010

Berlinale Redux

Sunday evening, the last day of the Berlinale, Rosa, The Director, The Pirate and I debriefed at the home of Berlin's best green curry. The Director and I had already decided this year's Berlinale was hands-down the worst for years (it's my fourth). The others couldn't weigh in as I've never seen the Pirate set foot in a movie theater and this was Rosa's first. I didn't see anything that would come even close to being that little gem that every film addict hopes for, at best, once a year. I saw, sadly, quite a lot of aimless, self-involved documentaries and pointless, uninteresting feature films; this in a year when I strategically avoided the competition section, focusing on the Forum, Panorama and Generation14Plus. I saw what could possibly qualify as the worst mockumentary of my film-going career (Putty Hill): need I say more than “karaoke at a white-trash funeral”? Was this a group of alt film-makers sitting around, sniggering, thinking to themselves, what is the WORST film we could possibly make? Good God, Berlinale Forum reviewers, what were you thinking??

Then there was I Shot My Love, hmmmm, the cutesy title should have warned me off. The most interesting thing about the whole film was the admission by the film-maker that he met his lover at Berghain the night after screening his first Berlinale film four years ago. But the film suffered from a terrible lack of direction and an unsteady hand, both literally and figuratively [directors, jolting hand-held cam is so NINETIES]. We're heading toward the teens of a new century... and wobbly home movies frankly just give us headaches. Next on my list of memorably bad film was Asheen (Still Alive in Gaza), which defined aimless. Yes, it was timely that the film-makers got in right after Israel bombed Gaza to smithereens this last time (a year ago), but timeliness is simply not sufficient to make a film worth seeing, as this meandering film was definitely not.

What else happened this year? With four years of experience under my belt, I'm starting to see the phenomenon of Berlinale favorites (as in directors), though this year without paying enough attention, I ended up in three.; I now know to control for this. Ines de Oliveira presented La Extranjera (an Euripedean tragedy) two years ago, which I found nearly perfectly unwatchable, but I liked some things about her current effort, El Recuento de los Danos (an Oedipal tragedy). From Tayfun Pirselimoglu's film Riza a few years ago showing the dark side of Istanbul, I knew to watch out for the genre, but I confused another Turkish film with Pus (Haze), ending up in this, Pirselimoglu's latest, and sure enough, it was a seen-one, seen-them-all situation. Having gotten this straightened out, I bought tix to Kosmos, from Hayat Var's director Reha Erdem, and although I liked the fantastical style of this film, it didn't have the substance of his previous film and I left feeling it was simply not as masterful.

Well, you might ask, Katchita, was there anything at all that you liked? I'd have to say my favorite was Winter's Bone, an American film that I saw primarily because I couldn't get tickets to anything else that day. I found the complex character portrayals combined with what seemed to me a painstaking ethnograpic examination of a very closed society (an Ozark Mountain clan) to be fresh and new. I also quite liked Bibliotheque Pascal, another fantastical film with exquisite imagery. Neither was a perfect gem, although Winter's Bone came quite close. Following my usual practice of managing to see nothing that would win an award, the only time Rosa and I split off from each other, she seeing Budrus and me Plein Sud (a feature film that was masturbatory crap if I ever saw it), and me never managing to get a Budrus ticket after she recommended it, I found out it won the Panorama 2nd place. I'll conclude with Black Bus, which I quite liked for its perspectives on women attempting to leave orthodox Jewish communities. As usual, I am displeased when the most interesting part of a film is the Q&A that follows. In this case the clear statement that since ultra-orthodox families are reproducing at a hugely accelerated rate, in the space of one generation or less, they will be the majority in Israel, is something that simply cannot be left out. So I'd suggest that this point should be emphasized, which could even be done with a simple written statement as the film ends, before the credits roll.

Oh well, there's always next year...

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