Friday, February 7, 2014

2014 Berlin International Film Festival: Day 2

Friedrichstadt-Palast © Berlinale

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

Screening In Competition today:

  • Jack by Edward Berger.

    Berlin based director Edward Berger, known mainly for television and commercial work, makes his Berlinale competition debut with a film about a 10-year-old boy with a neglectful and irresponsible single mother.

    Official Synopsis:
    Although he is only ten years old, Jack is responsible for himself and his little brother Manuel and this fills him with pride. Their single mother works during the day and often goes out at night. There’s no father in sight. One day, Manuel burns himself with boiling hot water while bathing and Jack is blamed for the incident. It's reason enough for social services to put him in a home where he is dreadfully homesick. He soon gets into trouble and bolts, heading for home. He arrives back, only to find his mother is once again absent. Jack and Manuel roam the city in search of her. They sleep in parks and in an underground car park, run away from the police and encounter adults, some of whom help and others who are indifferent.
  • Two Men In Town by Rachid Bouchareb.

    French-Algerian filmmaker Rachid Bouchareb, returns to the Berlinale competition for the fourth time. It's the second part in a trilogy of English language films that explore the relationship between America and the Arab world, and is loosely based on the 1973 French film Two Men In Town starring Alain Delon and directed by Jose Giovanni. It tells the story of a born-again Muslim ex-con played by Forest Whitaker who is hounded by a vengeful cop played by Harvey Keitel.

    Official Synopsis:
    A small town in New Mexico surrounded by desert which, time and again as the day breaks, disgorges an increasing number of Mexicans who have either been murdered or have died of thirst. A convict is released from prison. Thanks to his new-found Muslim faith, William Garnett’s behaviour has been exemplary and, with the aid of a sympathetic parole officer, he begins a new life in the town. But his past is well-known and before long, a sheriff bent on revenge and an ex-crony from the underworld are both breathing down his neck.
  • '71 by Yann Demange.

    Acclaimed Paris born, London based, television director Yann Demange (Dead Set) makes his feature film debut with '71. A thriller set in 1971 Belfast starring Jack O'Connell, as a young British soldier accidentally abandoned by his unit during a deadly riot.

    Official Synopsis:
    A young British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast in 1971. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape.

  • Day 2 - Friday, February 7
Competition Film
Jack
directed by Edward Berger
Germany

Critical response:
"Nods credibly to the Dardenne brothers and Ken Loach ... but is short on character development and socio-economic texture."Guy Lodge (Variety)
"Doesn’t really say anything new, especially when compared with, say, the recent Short Term 12 or Ursula Meier’s Sister, the latter another Berlin competitor made a couple years back, which covered similar ground with more bite."Leslie Felperin (The Hollywood Reporter)
"a thoroughly watchable film that never resorts to simply overly dramatic moments, instead favouring a steady and thoughtful story that respectful to the children’s journey."Mark Adams (Screen Daily)
"Pietzker proves he has great potential on the silver screen. Born in Berlin, the promising young actor carries the film on his own, and nobody would be surprised if Jack is only the first in a series of great characters that he plays."Stefan Dobroiu (Cineuropa)

Competition Film
Two Men In Town (La voie de l'ennemi)
directed by Rachid Bouchareb
France, Algeria, USA, Belgium
Quotes from the press conference:

"I was very happy that Rachid asked me to work with him again. The experience I had working with him and his team on London River was one of the highlights of my career."Brenda Blethyn
"It was one of the greatest experiences I've had working with a filmmaker."Forest Whitaker
"I'm from a Muslim family. I think it's interesting to give some background. To explore what's happening in the world today. It's my point of view in the ongoing debate."Rachid Bouchareb on the recurring influence of Islam on his work.

Critical response:
"While this puzzling remake can sometimes shudder tonally, Forest Whitaker plays smooth and true throughout."Fionnuala Halligan (Screen Daily)
"A game cast isn’t enough to make this choppy drama work in a convincing fashion."Deborah Young (The Hollywood Reporter)
"A standard-issue drama set in New Mexico, where grand open spaces highlight the big open gaps in logic."Jay Weissberg (Variety)

Competition Film
'71
directed by Yann Demange
United Kingdom

Critical response:
"Outstanding, muscular feature debut almost never puts a foot wrong, from the softly underplayed performances to the splendidly speckled cinematography and fine-grained period detailing."Leslie Felperin (The Hollywood Reporter)
"Tactile and expressionistic rather than journalistic, its initially opposing British perspective blurring amid the carnage, it’s effectively a horror film with a strict historical pretext."Guy Lodge (Variety)
"Balances intense and often thrilling action with intriguingly developed and complex supporting characters."Mark Adams (Screen Daily)

Screening tomorrow at the Berlinale (Saturday, February 8):
  • Beloved Sisters by Dominik Graf (In Competition)
  • The Monuments Men by George Clooney (Out of Competition)

See our other coverage of the 64th Berlinale:

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