Posts Tagged ‘Roman Polanski’

Berlin 2010: And the Winners Are …

February 20, 2010

After two weeks of films and wurst, the bears were let free. The Berlin jury, headed by perambulator extraordinaire Werner Herzog, gave its top prize of the Golden Bear to Semih Kaplanoglu’s Bal (Honey). The Turkish film mined a favorite theme of the festivals–fathers and sons–in its story of a young boy who goes into the woods to find his beekeeper dad. Bal also snagged the Ecumenical Jury Prize. Roman Polanski won the best director Bear for The Ghost Writer. Regardless of what anybody thought of the thriller’s merits, he was a clear sentimental favorite.

Other notable winners include the Romanian prison drama Eu Cand Vreau Sa Fluier, Fluier (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle), which won the Silver Bear and Alfred Bauer Prize. Sight & Sound‘s Nick James damned the film with faint praise, saying the “well-regarded, -made and -acted” film was marred by a “predictable storyline.” Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right went from Sundance to Berlin acclaim and was named the best film by the Ted Queer Film Awards. Winning two prizes for acting and cinematography was Kak Ya Provel Etim Letom, the new film from Road to Koktebel director Alexei Popogrebsky. It’s a two-hander set in an isolated Arctic station. Mohamed al-Daradji’s Iraqi odyssey Son of Babylon also won a pair of prizes.

Lucy Walker’s documentary Waste Land, about an artist finding inspiration in the scrapheaps of Brazil, won the Panorama Audience Award and the Amnesty International Prize. It was also a good week for James Franco, whose short film The Feast of Steven won the Best Short Film Teddy Queer Film Award (phew!). Derived from an NYU course, the five-minute film adapts a poem by Anthony Hecht. The complete list of winners continues after the jump. Click on the titles for more info and to watch trailers.

Golden Bear: Bal (Honey) (Semih Kaplanoglu)
Silver Bear – The Jury Grand Prize: Eu Cand Vreau Sa Fluier, Fluier (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle) (Florin Serban)
Silver Bear – Best Director: Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
Silver Bear – Best Actress: Shinobu Terajima in Caterpillar
Silver Bear – Best Actor (shared): Grigori Dobrygin and Sergei Puskepalis in Kak Ya Provel Etim Letom (How I Ended This Summer)
Silver Bear – Best Screenplay: Tuan Yuan (Apart Together), written by Wang Quan’an and Na Jin
Silver Bear – Artistic Contribution: Kak Ya Provel Etim Letom (How I Ended This Summer), cinematography by Pavel Kostomarov (Russia)
Alfred Bauer Prize: Eu Cand Vreau Sa Fluier, Fluier (If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle) (Florin Serban)
Best First Feature Award: Sebbe (Babak Najafi)

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Berlin 2010 Preview: Competition, Part 1

February 3, 2010

The Berlin Film Festival is often overshadowed by Cannes Film Festival as it’s very difficult to dock a yacht in Berlin. It’s endured for 60 years, though, as an early warning system for the best of the year’s international art house fare. The Competition strand features those films vying for the Golden Bear, which in past years has gone to Jose Padilha’s The Elite Squad and Claudia Llosa’s The Milk of Sorrow. The field’s first half features Japanese war stories, the making of one of the worst films ever made, criminals old and young and the returns of Polanski, Baumbach and Popogrebsky.

Bal (Honey)

Turkish director Semih Kaplanoglu’s fifth film is a father/son story set in the remote mountains. Young Yusuf is ostracized at school for his stammer, but worships his beekeeper dad, who tends to a network of precarious treetop hives. When his father is called away on business, Yusuf follows him into the forest.

Kyatapira (Caterpillar)

Lieutenant Kurokawa returns from the front of the second Sino-Japanese War. He’s had his arms and legs blown off. Shigeko is expected to dutifully attend to her immobile war hero husband. Director Koji Wakamatsu’s previous film, the acclaimed United Red Army, still awaits release in the U.S. Based on the story by Edogawa Rampo, which was censored by the Japanese authorities in 1939.

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Must See Movies: February 2010

January 31, 2010

With the dregs of January swirling down the drain, audiences can prep themselves for classier fare. This month marks the return of two cinematic masters in the form of Scorsese and Polanski. Their works might look a little loosey-goosey, but there’s little doubt about the razor-sharp talents behind a pair of crime dramas from Israel and France. Finally, get some uplift as Shah Rukh Khan battles Homeland Security for his dignity.

Ajami
Release date: Feb. 3
The pitch: Israel’s problems—and lord knows there’s a lot of them—are filtered through several interlocking stories set in a tough neighborhood of Jaffa. It’s an Arab-Israeli Wire!
Fun fact: Jaffa gets a nod in the Bible as the port where Jonah boarded a ship on his ill-fated escape to Tarshish.
Why it could be great: After earning acclaim on the festival circuit, this tough drama won Best Picture and Director at the Israeli Oscars last year.
Why it could suck: There are very few happy endings in Israel.

My Name is Khan
Release date: Feb. 12
The pitch: An autistic Muslim (Shah Rukh Khan) finds happiness with a single mom (Kajol) in San Francisco. Then 9/11 turns his world upside down.
Fun fact: Last August, Khan was detained by Newark Airport security for questioning while promoting the film.
Why it could be great: SRK stars in a story that’s sure to tug the heartstrings of discriminated-against immigrants and angry liberals alike. There’ll be a few musical numbers, too.
Why it could suck: The emotional maelstrom reaches fever pitch when Khan embarks on an odyssey to meet Barack Obama himself.

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Trailerama: The Ghost Writer

January 29, 2010

A ghost writer is hired to help pen the memoirs of an ex-prime minister who resembles Tony Blair but looks more like Pierce Brosnan. When a body turns up off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and the PM is charged with war crimes, meeting that deadline seems more and more remote. Roman Polanski returns to thriller territory, with Robert Harris adapting his bestseller The Ghost. It’s our hope that Polanski exposes the political world as a pool full of Noah Crosses. The crazy cast, which includes Ewen McGregor and Kim Cattrall, suggests that it’s more likely to descend into absurdist nonsense.

Antichrist: Vu de l’extérieur

January 14, 2010

It says something about the extraordinary Antichrist that the first time Squally saw it, the film felt like a comedy. The second time, it felt like a tragedy. The movie was greeted with jeers at Cannes, which writer/director Lars von Trier brushed off with the proclamation, “I am the world’s greatest filmmaker.”

The critics were trying to take Antichrist too seriously. In dealing with the disintegration of a woman, after all, Von Trier was walking on hallowed ground. The cracked woman is a favorite trope of (male) directors, whether it’s Marnie or Rebecca, Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Monica Vitti in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert, any number of women in Bergman’s films, Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes’s A Woman Under the Influence, Julianne Moore in Todd Haynes’s Safe, or especially Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher, by von Trier’s bete noire, Michael Haneke. Squally could go on, but let’s just say that it’s one of the greatest clichés of the art house cinema: a beautiful woman goes to pieces, the beautiful actress who plays her is acclaimed for the performance.

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Roman Polanski’s Ghost Gets the Green

April 15, 2009

roman-polanskiRoman Polanski has enjoyed something of an autumn harvest, with both The Pianist and Oliver Twist showing a director finally comfortable with his late period-style. Now Variety reports that Polanski has the go-ahead for his next movie, The Ghost. The political thriller has received a cash injection from Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, a German film subsidy board.

In Robert Harris’ novel, Britain’s former prime minister Adam Lang is putting together his memoirs. His collaborator drowns in Martha’s Vinyard, and an unnamed writer is hired to take his place. Then Lang is called up before a war crimes tribunal, and the ghostwriter ends up in possession of the hottest manuscript in town.

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Trailerama: Antichrist

April 14, 2009

Lars von Trier regrouped following the critical and commercial shrug which greeted Manderlay. Plans to complete his “USA: Land of Opportunity” trilogy were scratched. Perhaps von Trier had overreached by repeating himself. The demon dog of Danish film then took a left turn with 2006’s Direktøren for det hele/The Boss it All, crafting a sly boardroom comedy with a novel Automavision process that only von Trier will ever use. Now he’s whiplashing back with the psychological horror film Antichrist, which narrows his focus down to a man, a woman, and the scary primeval woods.

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