Buzz on Berlin

52ND BERLIN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL February 6-17, Berlin, Germany. Rating: NNNNNberlin -- potsdamer platz once was the heart of.


Rating: NNNNN

berlin — potsdamer platz once was the heart of Berlin. Then came a wasteland cut through by that famous, angry wall. Now there’s a palace for movies here, and a castle for Sony, and a mall with incredible ice cream.People complain that nothing feels real in Potsdamer Platz , but real compared to what? Upstairs at the Arkaden, I watch Berlin’s own ghetto-fabulous women slurp huge scoops of schokolade. They’re decked out in eerie orange suntans and lemon-blond dye jobs. In the heart of this new Berlin, they’re keeping it real.

This year the Berlinale’s competition jury embraced both the decorative and the apparently real. They split the Golden Bear between Hayao Miyazaki’s anime fantasy Spirited Away and Paul Greengrass’s Northern Ireland docudrama Bloody Sunday.

The frothy 8 Femmes scored a special Silver Bear for its all-diva cast. But the best-actress prize went to Halle Berry, for her stripped down performance in Monster’s Ball (see sidebar).

Away from the declared fictions of the competition section, realism felt less like a political response to real events. It became a style choice, another mode of adornment.

Finnish ragamuffin Mika Kaurismaki adopts a deliberate transparency in his new Brazilian music documentary Moro No Brasil.

The buzz before the screening was electric. Everyone’s looking for another Buena Vista Social Club. But Kaurismaki lacks Wim Wenders’s discerning ear, and throws mediocre forro together with sublime samba.

Wenders has his own music film here, Viel Passiert — Der BAP-Film. BAP is a veteran German rock band with deep roots in Cologne and a genius for bittersweet anthems. Wenders stitches interviews and performance together with a flow of archive footage. Amazingly, it’s completely engrossing. But it’ll never match Buena Vista.

Typically, Wenders uses archive images to mark time and feed melancholy. It’s the opposite of Mike Hoolboom’s approach in Tom. Hoolboom recuts clips not to produce moments of recognition — the usual thrill of archive — but simply to construct his film. Why shoot real cars on a real street when millions of such images already exist? Tom is a portrait of New York artist Tom Chomont, but it works best as a manifesto for new methods.

Tom screened in the Forum, Berlin’s most independent, and increasingly most interesting, section. It’s also where Michael Snow unveiled his new digital epic, *Corpus Callosum. For 92 minutes, the camera observes an office and a living room set where people and objects shape-change like pixel plasticine, thanks to Houdini f/x software.

Snow manipulates the actors and the objects in *Corpus Callosum equally, and includes the sound of his own voice directing the actors’ movements. The effect is playful but weirdly soulless. It was only while watching this tape that I realized I’ve often found Snow’s works, even the ones I love, unconcerned with human emotion.

Not far from Potsdamer Platz, along the broad, imposing Unter Den Linden, the Deutsche Guggenheim has a show up by video visionary Bill Viola. It’s an immersive, five-screen piece called Going Forth By Day. Viola deploys a stark, elegant artifice similar to Snow’s. But his camera observes death, birth, shock, suffering, perseverance. Human things.

And that makes all the difference.

fest winners

Golden Bear for Best Film

Spirited Away, directed by Hayao Miyazaki, and Bloody Sunday, directed by Paul Greengrass

Silver Bear, Jury Grand Prize

Grill Point, directed by Andreas Dresen

Silver Bear, Best Director

Otar Ioselliani for Monday Morning

Silver Bear, Best Actress

Halle Berry for Monster’s Ball, directed by Marc Forster

silver bear, best actor

Jacques Gamblin for Laissez-passer (Safe Conduct), directed by Bertrand Tavernier

silver bear, Individual Artistic Contribution

Ensemble cast of 8 Femmes, directed by Francois Ozon

Silver Bear, Best Music

Antoine Duhamel, for Laissez-passer

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