Friday, February 8, 2013

2013 Berlinale: Day 2 Report

Friedrichstadt-Palast © Berlinale
  • Day 2 - Friday, February 8

  • Recap of the second day of the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin), which runs until February 17.

    Three competition films were screened today.

    From Poland, Malgorzata Szumowska's, In the Name of. One of three women directors in this year's competition. Her film tells the story of a homosexual Catholic priest in rural Poland who struggles with his secret love for a troubled youth.

    From the USA, Gus Van Sant's, Promised Land, written by and starring both Matt Damon and John Krasinski. A tale about a small town farm boy who has become a sucessful corporate salesman, and now faces some difficult moral choices. The film was by and large critically panned following its limited release in America late last year.

    From Austria, Ulrich Seidl's, Paradise: Hope, his first film presented in competition in Berlin, is the third and final part of his 'Paradise' trilogy following Love and Faith, making him the first director since Krzysztof Kieslowski to have films premiere in succession at Venice Cannes and Berlin. This one follows the overweight teenage daughter of the protagonist from Love, who is sent to a diet camp in the Austrian mountains at the same time her mother is vacationing in Kenya, where she falls in love with a much older doctor.

    Also screening in the Panorama section, was the European premiere of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut, Don Jon's Addiction, which premiered at Sundance last month. A comedy written by and starring Gordon-Levitt as a porn-addicted pickup artist who begins to change his ways after he falls for a character played by Scarlett Johansson.

    Competition Film
    W imie... • In the Name of
    directed by Malgorzata Szumowska
    Quotes from the press conference:

    The director on the premise of the film: "My first feeling was to make a film about longing and about love. I think it's hard to imagine a more lonely person than a priest."

    Critical response:
    "Beautifully shot through a haze of warm sunsets and glistening skies, evoking the majesty of creation, in a way that perfectly reflects it spiritual backdrop. Sadly, behind this sumptuous imagery lies a film that needs to be far more concise and assured of its message" - Patrick Gamble - (CineVue)

    "Hovers in an interesting middle ground between Gothic expressionism and psychological drama, heightened by a fine cast and outstanding performances. It should put respected young writer-director Malgoska Szumowska’s career back on track after her critically unpopular Elles" - Deborah Young - (The Hollywood Reporter)

    "While thesps Chyra and Kosciukiewicz embody the physical aspect of their characters' relationship comfortably enough, their pairing as lovers lacks both chemistry and narrative credibility." - Alissa Simon - (Variety)

    "Suffers from its dramatic looseness, and doesn’t finally transcend a traditional vein of art-house melodrama. But as a humane, non-judgemental look at enduring contradictions of Catholicism and mortal sexuality, it’s a film to be admired, if not worshipped." - Jonathan Romney (Screen Daily)
    Andrzej Chyra, Malgoska Szumowska and Mateusz Kosciukiewicz
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)

    Competition Film
    Promised Land
    directed by Gus Van Sant

    Critical response:
    "For all the timeliness of the subject matter, Promised Land too easily pushes a complex issue into the background to focus on a familiar character arc." - Tim Grierson (Screen Daily)

    "Despite an interesting subject matter and a stellar cast, it’s a film that falls apart due to some of its preachiness as well as a messy third act that includes a ludicrous twist." - Steven Flores (Surrender to the Void)

    The topic of discussion is definitely an important one, but it constantly hammers you over-the-head with it, that you begin to lose a care for what they say and an even bigger loss of care over the predictable story, and what direction it goes in." - Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

    "At its core, Van Sant offers a pretty formulaic movie, and Damon delivers a performance that's less than stellar." - James Brown (Sobriety Test Movie Reviews)
    Gus Van Sant, John Krasinski, Matt Damon
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)

    Competition Film
    Paradies: Hoffnung • Paradise: Hope
    directed by Ulrich Seidl
    Austria, France, Germany
    Quotes from the press conference:

    Seidl on improvisiation and the casting of non professional actors: "Many professional actors don't like working with non profressionals. You really have to take a risk. There aren't terribly many actors who are prepared to go along with that, or are prepared to do it."

    Screenwriter Veronika Franz on the concept of the film: "We had in mind a lolita story but not from the perspective of the man, but from the point of view of the girl."

    Critical response:
    "This is the most accessible, commercially viable installment of the three, even allowing for the fact that it pivots on the taboo subject of desire across a 40-year age gap, handled here with discretion, sensitivity and admirable honesty." - Leslie Felperin (Variety)

    "While Hope is made with Seidl’s signature austere aesthetic – short tableau-like scenes containing little if any camera movement, blunt edits, no non-diegetic music – there’s uncustomary warmth here, and a sensitivity to the characters’ vulnerabilities that is often missing from this director’s work." - David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)

    "The moments of grace and compassion which lent depth to his sardonic approach in the past, are less effective here, and the trilogy which started with a shout and went to a scream, wraps up in a whisper." - Dan Fainaru (Screen Daily)

    "Seidl's keenly absurd eye for detail and physical ritual is wide open here -- abetted, as in the other two, by the stark, symmetrical compositions of cinematographer Ed Lachman -- with much incidental humor gleaned from the everyday operation of the fat camp" - Guy Lodge (HitFix)

    Ulrich Seidl
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)

    Panorama Special Film
    Don Jon's Addiction
    directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
    Quotes from the press conference:

    JG-L speaking about the premise of the film: "I'm fascinated with the way the media can impact our perspective on things."

    On why he chose to make it a comedy: "I didn't want to make a heavy or heady movie. I find that humour and comedy is oftentimes the best way to get at substantial themes and questions in an engaging way that everyone can relate with."

    Directors who influenced him: "Mike Nichols, Hal Ashby, Tarantino, the Cohen Brothers, Christopher Nolan, Rian Johnson"

    On whether he will have to make cuts to get an R rating in The States: "I think it is important that those images are in there, but what precisely you see isn't that important, what's important is the rhythm of the film, the repetition of what the character does."

    Critical response:
    "Ultimately too scattershot in its humour and, later, its stabs at drama, but the movie catches the rising star trying to push against the banality of romantic-comedy conventions." - Tim Grierson (Screen Daily)

    "An impressive directorial debut, bringing to the screen a fully realized character who is searching for something, but doing so down all the wrong avenues." - Allison Loring (Film School Rejects)

    "The overall effect is a little garish, loud and simplistic, but it's his first movie and he follows the comedic tropes of situational repetition to good effect" - Jeremy Kay (The Guardian)

    "Where Steve McQueen's Shame took the more obtuse artfilm approach to this sex-obsessed phenom, Gordon-Levitt weaves the topic into a broadly accessible romantic comedy, one that ultimately uses its in-your face style to sneak a few old-fashioned insights about how self-centered guys can learn to respect their partners." - Peter Debruge (Variety)

    Ram Bergmann, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
    (Source: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images Europe)
Our other coverage of the 63rd Berlinale:


Steven Flores said...

Thanks for including my review of Promised Land. I expected better from an auteur like Van Sant.

d_4 said...

According to most of these reviews.. I could wait to see most of these, if at all.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

No problem!

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I agree. Though I will likely see Paradise: Hope, to compare to the others.

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