Berlin 2010 Preview: Competition, Part 2

This year’s Berlinale features established filmmakers wandering into unfamiliar territory. Martin Scorsese gives a Dennis Lehane tale all the gaudy trappings of a Hammer horror film. Zhang Yimou puts down his ornate sword-play films for a farcical take on the Coen Brothers. 24 hour party person Michael Winterbottom even takes Texas by the tail in a full-blown film noir. Matters of faith also loom large in films from Germany, India and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Berlin is a broad church.

Read the first part of our Berlin Film Festival Competition preview.

The Killer Inside Me

Lou Ford is one of author Jim Thompson’s greatest antiheroes. Ford’s a psychotic charmer who keeps the peace in a town populated by mattress-happy dames and lowdown double-crossers. Guerilla filmmaker Michael Winterbottom (The Road to Guantanamo) isn’t everyone’s first choice to helm a Lone Star noir, but Casey Affleck seems just the right feller to fill Ford’s bloodstained boots.

Mammuth (Mammoth)

It’s easy to take Gerard Depardieu for granted, yet the shaggy icon delivers. Here he plays a worker who can’t retire until he finds his last six employers. That sends him on a journey around France astraddle his Mammoth motorcycle. Among the figures from his past is Isabelle Adjani, asleep for the last four decades. Written and directed by Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern (Louise-Michel).

My Name is Khan

While Aamir Khan’s blockbusting 3 Idiots leads Bollywood’s bum-rush on the global mainstream, Shah Rukh Khan remains Indian cinema’s most charismatic star. He takes a risky role in Karan Johar’s film. Khan is an autistic Muslim who runs afoul of Homeland Security post-9/11. B’wood is better known for songs than subtlety, but its ram-raid approach to issues guarantees a unique emotional wallop.

Na Putu (On the Path)

A different take on Islam comes from Bosnia-Herzegovina director Jasmila Zbanic, who won the Golden Bear in 2006 for Grbavica. Zrinka Cvitesic plays a woman whose husband (Leon Lucey) embraces Islam after a job at a Wahhabi commune purges him of bad habits. Desperate for a child and haunted by her country’s violent past, Cvitesic struggles to cope with her convert hubbie’s new world.

Ototo (About Her Brother)

Yoji Yamada directed his first film in 1961. Eighty-one movies (!) later, he’s enjoyed a career renaissance with the mature wushu films The Twilight Samurai and The Hidden Blade. Yoji closes the Competition section with a domestic drama about a sister (Sayuri Yoshinaga) who invites her terminally-ill brother (Tsurube Shofukutei) to die at her already-divided home.

Please Give

Beginning with 1996’s Walking and Talking, filmmaker Nicole Holofcener has established herself as an answer to Woody Allen, wryly chronicling the foibles of New York’s moneyed class. Her fourth film stars Catherine Keener as an unscrupulous antiques dealer who soothes conscience with charity. A confrontation with her neighbor’s daughters—Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet–prompts further wry navel-gazing.

Rompecabezas (Puzzles)

Here’s a puzzle: What is it with Argentine filmmakers’ obsession with the middle-aged? Lucrecia Martel’s former assistant director Natalia Smirnoff borrows The Headless Woman’s Maria Onetto for her debut. Her suburban housewife has the knack for solving jigsaws. It brings her to the attention of an elderly millionaire. A date at the world puzzle championships changes her life in oh-so-subtle ways.

San qiang pai an jing qui (A Simple Noodle Story)

The guy who staged that ostentatious Beijing Olympics opening ceremony remaking Blood Simple? Sounds like the sort of notion that comes after that second bottle of baiju. Zhang Yimou—yep, he made Hero–even dials back the setting of a noodle shop owner’s disastrous plan to bump off his adulterous wife a few centuries. The results play like all the bits in a kung fu film that aren’t kung fu.

Shahada (Faith)

The Muslim experience is heavily represented at this year’s Berlinale. Burhan Qurbani’s first film looks at three Germans who find their religious identity compromised by the pressure of contemporary melting pot Berlin. Qurbani is himself the son of Afghan refugees and grew up in Germany. His 2007 short Illusion won a jury award at the Hamburg International Short Festival.

Shekarchi (The Hunter)

Ali is released from prison and sets out trying to put his life back together. He lets off steam by hunting in the forest. All seems well until a political demonstration leads to tragedy. Ali finds that the woods are also his refuge, as he plays a game of hunter and hunted with Johnny Law. Iranian filmmaker Rafi Pitts (Zemestan) stars and directs this in-no-way-indebted-to-First Blood thriller.

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese’s latest film also looks like his loopiest. ‘Tec Leonardo DiCaprio visits an island-bound asylum for the criminally insane to sniff out an escaped inmate. A hurricane leaves him stranded on the rock, where he smells a rat among the hospital staff and becomes haunted by his tragic past (aka Michelle Williams). Drawing on the stuff of drive-in nightmares, Scorsese turns the Gothic up to 11.


The family unit is always rife with drama. Nobody knows that better than Dogme 95 figurehead Thomas Vinterberg, who crashed on the scene with Festen. Jakob Cedergren and Peter Plaugborg play a pair of estranged brothers. One is a violent alcoholic. The other is a junkie raising a son on his own. Do these wrecked men have anything to offer one another? Based on the novel by Jonas T. Bengtsson.

Tuan Yuan (Apart Together)

When China fell to Mao Tse-tung, Kuomintang soldier Liu Yansheng skipped to Taiwan. Now he’s back, seeking to find the love he lost. Director Wang Quan’an returns to the Berlin Film Festival after winning the Golden Bear for Tuya’s Marriage in 2007. Leaving behind Wang’s rural dramas for an epic era-spanning romance, Tuan Yuan is due to be the competition section’s opening film.

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3 Responses to “Berlin 2010 Preview: Competition, Part 2”

  1. Berlin 2010 Preview: Panorama Main/Special, Part One « SquallyShowers Says:

    […] Read the first part of our Berlin Competition preview. Read the second part of our Berlin Competition preview. […]

  2. Berlin 2010 Preview: Panorama Main/Special, Part 2 « SquallyShowers Says:

    […] Read the first part of our Berlin Panorama preview. Read the first part of our Berlin Competition preview. Read the second part of our Berlin Competition preview. […]

  3. Berlin 2010 Preview: Panorama Main/Special, Part 3 « SquallyShowers Says:

    […] Read the first part of our Berlin Panorama preview. Read the second part of our Berlin Panorama preview. Read the first part of our Berlin Competition preview. Read the second part of our Berlin Competition preview. […]

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