Wednesday, February 12, 2014

2014 Berlin International Film Festival: Day 7

Berlin Haus der Kulturen der Welt

Recap of the seventh day of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival (Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin), which runs until February 16.

Screening In Competition today:

  • Aloft by Claudia Llosa.

    Peruvian director Claudia Llosa, 2009 Golden Bear winner, (The Milk of Sorrow), returns to the competition for the second time with a drama about a struggling mother and the son she abandoned 20 years ago. It stars Jennifer Connelly, Cillian Murphy, and Mélanie Laurent.

    Official Synopsis:
    The story of a struggling mother, and her evolution into a renowned artist and healer. When a young journalist tracks down her son 20 years after she abandoned him, she sets in motion an encounter between the two at the very edge of the earth that will bring the very meaning of their lives into question, and force them to contemplate living life to its fullest, despite the distance between them and the uncertainties littering their paths.
  • Black Coal, Thin Ice by Diao Yinan.

    Yinan Diao, a leading figure in China's avant-garde theatre scene, and winner of the 2003 VIFF Dragons and Tigers Award (Uniform), makes his Berlinale debut this year with his third feature film, a noirish thriller set in a remote village in Northern China.

    Official Synopsis:
    North China: Investigating a murder, Zhang, a detective is badly wounded and forced to retire. 5 years pass. More murders occur. Zhang, determined to solve the case, falls in love with a mysterious woman, Wu Zhizhen, who seems to be connected to the victims.
  • The Third Side of the River (La tercera orilla) by Celina Murga.

    Argentinian director Celina Murga's third fiction feature and her first to screen in competition at the Berlinale is a drama (notably executive produced by Martin Scorsese) about a teenage boy torn between the mother who raised him, and the estranged father who wants the boy to follow in his footsteps.

    Official Synopsis:
    Seventeen-year-old Nicolas lives with his mother and younger siblings in a small provincial city. His estranged father, Jorge, a respected doctor, has decided that Nicolas will be his successor in both his medical practice and agricultural business. Nicolas is pressured by his father’s steps to prepare him for this responsibility, leaving no room for the teenager’s feelings. Nicolas obeys his father, but he hates him. He has seen his mother suffer because of Jorge’s double life. The first one with his official family, and the other one with Nicolas’ family, not acknowledged publicly. As tensions between father and son rise, Nicolas realizes that he must make a choice and take action toward his own future

  • Day 7 - Wednesday, February 12
Competition Film
directed by Claudia Llosa
Spain, Canada, France

Critical response:
"The odd thing about Aloft, which is bleakly bonkers, is that it keeps your attention in skeptical suspense, at least up to a point. It's arrestingly pretentious."Tim Robey (The Telegraph)
"Llosa shoots for the stars with her oblique pseudo-think piece, but unfortunately ends up dragging her latest offering down to the bottom of the coldest, darkest abyss of cod spirituality imaginable."Daniel Green (CineVue)
"New Age hooey, is gorgeously visualised, very well acted but only intermittently convincing."Demetrios Matheou (Screen Daily)
"Strip away its gorgeous wintry landscapes and we are left with a symphony of ponderous New Age mumbo-jumbo masquerading as philosophical wisdom."Stephen Dalton (The Hollywood Reporter)
"In the end, everything fits together rather ingeniously, though it’s clear that in orchestrating her needlessly complicated nonlinear narrative, Llosa has mistaken confusion for suspense."Peter Debruge (Variety)

Competition Film
Black Coal, Thin Ice
directed by Yinan Diao
Hong Kong, China

Critical response:
"What’s missing is a solid, well-told plot to keep audiences alert and justify the painstaking trouble taken with the background."Dan Fainaru (Screen Daily)
"Perhaps the most innovative of the Chinese films creating buzz in Berlin, Black Coal, Thin Ice is a salute to the classic Hollywood film noir, an exciting stylistic tour-de-force."Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter)

Competition Film
The Third Side of the River (La tercera orilla)
directed by Celina Murga
Argentina, Germany, Netherlands

Critical response:
"A typically modest but beautifully achieved film in which the most important things remain unspoken and placid surfaces belie cauldrons of violent emotion."Scott Foundas (Variety)
"As absorbing as it is affecting, this is a small but beautifully observed film."David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)
"It’s an intelligent, contemplative film, its social details finely sketched, and well acted... But ultimately the low-key, fragmentary approach makes the film a rather more introverted experience that it ideally might have been."Jonathan Romney (Screen Daily)

Screening tomorrow at the Berlinale (Thursday, February 13):
  • Boyhood by Richard Linklater (In Competition)
  • No Man's Land by Ning Hao (In Competition)

See our other coverage of the 64th Berlinale:

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