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The Berlinale expanse

Clemens von Wedemeyer’s installation Afterimage at Forum Expanded; photo: Berlinale

The Berlin International Film Festival is not only one of the oldest and most prestigious in Europe, it has also turned into a personification of EU-rope, both politically and culturally. It does not look like a coincidence that the festival opened with Wes Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL and then awarded the film with the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize. As Joachim Kurz first stated in his video diary for Kino-Zeit.de and then wrote in his review, Wes Anderson (re)created a fairy-tale Europe, a feel-good territory of imagination and retro humor. Thus, we launch our heavy-weight bear coverage as a tribute and a follow-up to this year’s IFFR Slow Criticism edition by focusing on the way Berlin / Europe and the world cinema , presented at the festival, relate to each other. Our starting point is the so called periphery, with Greg de Cuir, Jr's take on Forum Expanded – as we progress to what appears to be the center (or die Mitte), hopefully we will find some new answers… or questions.

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Great Expectations Cannes - Day 11

My most anticipated film at Cannes 2013 is Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE from the Official Competition. He is a special director, one of the few whose entire career I have followed. I happen to love vampire films and am very eager to see his take on the genre. I do not necessarily expect an outright masterpiece upon first viewing, but Jarmusch’s films are like fine wines that age extremely well with time. THE LIMITS OF CONTROL (2009) left me a bit cold. BROKEN FLOWERS (2005) blew me away. I will be perfectly happy if ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE lands somewhere in the middle.

Greg de Cuir, Jr is Belgrade-based freelance writer, translator, and programmer who contributes regularly to Festivalists and writes also for Cineaste, Jump Cut, KinoKultura, as well as for his own film blog.

Great Expectations Cannes - Day 10

I am writing this Great Expectation thing when I am feeling low. And it is James Gray’s THE IMMIGRANT (working title: LOW LIFE/insert: poetic justice) from the Official Competition. Gray is a master of neo-classicism, able to twist the ’70s crime tragedy à la Coppola with the pen of a Russian writer and the light of a Renaissance painter. Just pick THE YARDS or WE OWN THE NIGHT. THE IMMIGRANT (previously titled THE NIGHTINGALE) is a new territory for him: a period piece (New York in the twenties) and a woman (Marion Cotillard) as the main character in his manly world. I expect drama, skillful shots, and some grainy image. A trusted acquaintance promised me something as heavy as THE YARDS, some beautiful dark matter that it is impossible to fully digest right after the screening. My main regret? I will not be in Cannes to check these many shades of Gray.

Léo Soesanto who writes for Les Inrockuptibles (except for Festivalists), plus selects for Cannes Critics’ Week and is the artistic director of the Bordeaux International Independent Film Festival

Erik Matti is the crazy, unmatchable king of Pinoy B movies, with a resume that includes such gems as the Third World Spider Man-spoof GAGAMBOY or the outrageous erotic drama PROSTI. Venturing in cinematic territories close to Johnnie To’s, he could have set a landmark in Filipino genre cinema with ON THE JOB (Directors’ Fortnight).

—Paolo Bertolin is a consultant and a former member of the selection committee at Venice International Film Festival with his specialty being Asian cinema. As a film critic and journalist, he has written for Il Manifesto, Cineforum, Segnocinema, Cahiers du Cinéma, Positif, Senses of Cinema, and many others.

Great Expectations Cannes - Day 9

Again, my Great Expectation about BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR / LA VIE D’ADÈLE - CHAPITRE 1 & 2 by Abdellatif Kechiche (Official Competition) is based on my previous knowledge on the film director. From the moment I watched his film COUSCOUS WITH FISH / LA GRAINE ET LE MULET (2007), I was fascinated by the way he expresses the relationship between the native French and the immigrants, avoiding the stereotype of films dealing with this topic, even if the director himself is a Tunisian resident in France. His previous film is also full of unique scenes celebrating life, especially the long sequence of artistic belly dancing with the actress Hafsia Herzi. I watched the feature within the Panorama of European Films in Cairo, and from that moment I was waiting eagerly for his next.

—Safaa El-laisy Haggag is an Egyptian film editor, critic, writer, and activist. She is also member of the FIPRESCI jury in this year’s edition of Cannes festival.

Lav Diaz is one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers. Every new film of his is a miracle. His first appearance in Cannes with NORTE, THE END OF THE HISTORY / NORTE, HANGGANAN NG KASAYSAYAN at Un Certain Regard is to me one of this year’s greatest cinematic events!

—Paolo Bertolin is a consultant and a former member of the selection committee at Venice International Film Festival with his specialty being Asian cinema. As a film critic and journalist, he has written for Il Manifesto, Cineforum, Segnocinema, Cahiers du Cinéma, Positif, Senses of Cinema, and many others.

Even if the format of 3X3D, the closing film at the Critics’ Week, reminds me of the 2004 triptych EROS (which was with very dubious results and whose best segment’s author, curiously enough, is now retiring), I still consider the film one of the most important events of this year’s Cannes edition. It was a splendid idea to unite two of the most prominent misanthropes in cinema, Jean-Luc Godard and Peter Greenaway, with an artist who has such a diverse experience with transmedia and comics like Edgar Pêra. I would also like to see more “auteur” experiments with 3D, because when Wim Wenders’ PINA came out, for example, it was a rarity per se and at the same time turned quickly to a distribution cliché, so this did not allow us to see the film for what it is – pure beauty. At the same time, with 3X3D, I am glad that the attention towards the imposing JLG will be kind of distracted, as all the great expectations associated recently with his persona are simply not wholesome, especially for his work.

—Yoana Pavlova is Festivalists’ own founder and editor-in-chief.

Great Expectations Cannes - Day 8

In my cinematic-cinefanatic surrounding Nicolas Winding Refn’s new movie ONLY GOD FORGIVES (Official Competition) is the most expected of the whole festival – a real cult-movie avant la premiere with more than great expectations. Last year I saw a small excerpt in a night screening during the Cannes festival and since that event the prospects went really wild, constantly fed by microscopic particles of information and published through a Facebook fan-page that fanatically collects even the tiniest bits of facts. Even alternative movie posters are on their way – normally you need to be a real classic or to have an extremely smart PR-company to achieve that.
In the strange case of ONLY GOD FORGIVES it seems to be a mixture of both of that, when you keep in mind that the enormous fan-base of the movie would not accept a failure. For them it is clear: ONLY GOD FORGIVES is a ‘classic’ right from the start (and before that), so it has to be one. And if you, as a critic, do not agree, you run the risk of looking like Ryan Gosling on the first poster of the movie.
Nevertheless, I am really looking forward to the screening, because DRIVE hit me like a hammer, and it was like a positive trauma to me. Ever since I saw DRIVE, my interest in genre cinema (especially the often overlooked European representatives) constantly grew – a development that still continues.
Random fact, coincidence or (self-fulfilling) prophecy - during the same night-screening of upcoming movies last year in Cannes I had a first look on Wong Kar Wai’s THE GRANDMASTER and was fascinated by its looks and the atmosphere, too. The result: the movie was one of my big disappointments of this year’s Berlinale.
So, I will try to keep cool and protect myself from any kind of punches – no matter if they come in my face from the screen (which would be better) or from furious fans and friends on my head (which would be harder). Hit me, hit me hard! In other words, “Don’t believe the hype” vs. “I want to believe”. An ambivalence in extremo which shows the difficulties of being a film critic and a film buff at the same time. But I like difficulties – they make life a little bit more exciting.

—Joachim Kurz is editor-in-chief of Kino-Zeit

Great Expectations Cannes - Day 7

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THE GREAT BEAUTY / LA GRANDE BELLEZZA by Paolo Sorrentino (Official Competition) might prove the ultimate plunge into the dismal aesthetic and moral decay Italy has been experiencing through the Berlusconi age.

—Paolo Bertolin is a consultant and a former member of the selection committee at Venice International Film Festival with his specialty being Asian cinema. As a film critic and journalist, he has written for Il Manifesto, Cineforum, Segnocinema, Cahiers du Cinéma, Positif, Senses of Cinema, and many others.

My Great Expectation for this year’s Cannes is Claire Denis’ BASTARDS / LES SALAUDS, in Un Certain Regard. Why? Because she astonishes me every time with her breadth and scope, with her ability to tackle the broadest range of stories and yet make them all unmistakably hers thanks to an unfailing openness to humanity, with all its foibles. Uncompromising and visionary, Denis remains one of the most interesting directors working today.

—Jay Weissberg, critic, Variety.

Great Expectations Cannes - Day 6

I am eager to see Hany Abu-Assad’s OMAR (Un Certain Regard) because of his previous film PARADISE NOW, a controversial feature about Palestine. Being an Arab of 48 who emigrated abroad at 19, enabled him to have mixed culture, so with his talent he can express the combination of a human divided between his origin and his ambition, defending his rights to live in peace. Still, I believe that in OMAR he applied everything he already knows so well about his native people and he will succeed in presenting them, especially with all the experience he has from working in different productions systems.

—Safaa El-laisy Haggag is an Egyptian film editor, critic, writer, and activist.

My second pick is AS I LAY DYING by James Franco (Un Certain Regard) because adapting Faulkner’s novels to the screen has never lead to much and because James Franco’s artistic sensitivity is so surprising and open to a diversity of influences that we can expect anything from such an encounter.

—Frédéric Viaux is founder and editor-in-chief of Quelques Films, as well as quality manager at Neoledge Cinéma.

Great Expectations Cannes - Day 5

One of my two Great Expectations is BORGMAN by Alex van Warmerdam (Official Competition), in hopes of finding the black humor and the poetic and absurd quirkiness of DE NOORDERLINGEN that fascinated in a way his following films did not.

—Frédéric Viaux is founder and editor-in-chief of Quelques Films, as well as quality manager at Neoledge Cinéma.

The lunchbox is something indispensable in my country. I love it! This is why, I am very intrigued by this Indian film, THE LUNCHBOX (Critics’ Week).

—Akiko Kobari is a Japanese journalist at Yukan Fuji who was part of the Nespresso Grand Prize jury at the Critics’ Week in 2012.

Ritesh Batra’s THE LUNCHBOX has been collecting a number of awards during its developing stage. And it is indeed very promising!

—Paolo Bertolin is a consultant and a former member of the selection committee at Venice International Film Festival with his specialty being Asian cinema. As a film critic and journalist, he has written for Il Manifesto, Cineforum, Segnocinema, Cahiers du Cinéma, Positif, Senses of Cinema, and many others.

Great Expectations Cannes - Day 4

One film I have high hopes on is JIMMY P. (PSYCHOTHERAPY OF A PLAINS INDIAN) / JIMMY P. (PSYCHOTHÉRAPIE D’UN INDIEN DES PLAINES) by Arnaud Desplechin. I am not necessarily expecting a masterpiece, but I am curious to see how Desplechin, with his personal and original approach, deals with such an interesting issue. I am also looking forward to seeing what happens when such a subtle observer of the French character crosses the Atlantic to talk about inter-cultural contact.

Pamela Biénzobas is a Paris-based freelance critic and journalist from Chile. Frequent Festivalists contributor, co-founder of Revista de Cine Mabuse and vice-president of FIPRESCI from 2005 to 2010, right now in Cannes she serves as a FIPRESCI jury coordinator.

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON / SOSHITE CHICHI NI NARU by Koreeda Hirokazu (Official Competition) is a film about which friends in Tokyo have been spreading a good word well in advance. I am very eager to see if Koreeda-san will manage to climb back to the heights of MABOROSHI and DISTANCE.
As for BENDS (Un Certain Regard), Flora Lau directed some excellent short films. Her debut feature is the one I really do not want to miss in Cannes.

—Paolo Bertolin is a consultant and a former member of the selection committee at Venice International Film Festival with his specialty being Asian cinema. As a film critic and journalist, he has written for Il Manifesto, Cineforum, Segnocinema, Cahiers du Cinéma, Positif, Senses of Cinema, and many others.

Since the release of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s THE RAINBOW THIEF in 1990, the prospect of a new Jodorowksy film has been on the cards but has never actually happened. Like his unrealized adaptation of DUNE in the 1970’s, his metaphysical gangster film KING SHOT fell by the wayside and ABEL CAINE (also know as THE SONS OF EL TOPO) was stalled.
However, THE DANCE OF REALITY / LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD has been shot, cut and will screen in Cannes. It is a personal story for Jodorowsky, exploring his unhappy childhood growing up in Chile. The premise of the film sounds straightforward, limited even for a Jodorowsky film, but the director’s boundless imagination, spirituality and wild surreal humor promise more. The fact that he has had full control on the picture, like he did on EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN, also bodes well.
Perhaps even more significant is that THE DANCE OF REALITY may position Jodorowsky to make ABEL CAINE. Jodorowsky is a visionary filmmaker with too many unrealized projects to his name. While the Jodorowsky’s DUNE documentary is bound to be an intriguing experience, it is time to see the great director’s imagination untapped and rendered fully once again!

—Tom Cottey is a critic and short film maker. Berlinale Talent Press alumnus from 2013, now he covers Cannes for the Nisimazine.

Great Expectations Cannes - Day 3

None has been able to capture the contradictions of contemporary China as well as Jia Zhangke has done it in masterworks like UKNOWN PLEASURES, THE WORLD or STILL LIFE. After the disappointing 24 CITIES, I really hope he delivers another great film with A TOUCH OF SIN / TIAN ZHU DING (Official Competition). As for UGLY (Directors’ Fortnight), I am always excited by every new production of the New Bollywood Prince and enfant terrible Anurag Kashyap.

—Paolo Bertolin is a consultant and a former member of the selection committee at Venice International Film Festival with his specialty being Asian cinema. As a film critic and journalist, he has written for Il Manifesto, Cineforum, Segnocinema, Cahiers du Cinéma, Positif, Senses of Cinema, and many others.

I am no specialist in Franco-Canadian cinema, but I love the films of Denys Arcand, Xavier Dolan, and Denis Côté. And I am a fan of Sébastien Pilote’s THE SALESMAN / LE VENDEUR which won several critics’ prizes at festivals like San Francisco and Mannheim-Heidelberg (I was part of the FIPRESCI jury at the latter). When I read the synopsis of his second feature film on the Semaine’s website, it reminded me directly of his fascinating debut (my critique in German).
Both films focus on a father-daughter relationship that is threatened by a personal economic crisis. Maybe it is because of this similarity in the main story line why I expect to find some of the other characteristics of THE SALESMAN in THE DISMANTLEMENT / LE DÉMANTELÈMENT – a slow-paced, yet affecting rhythm in narration with excellent acting and the strong feeling that the story could take place anywhere, but it could only happen right now. Pilote’s THE SALESMAN was a film about the fragility of family ties in our post-industrial, crisis-shaken time, and that is exactly what I expect from his new film, too.
Thus, I would not be disappointed to find out that Pilote’s second film is a variation of his first one. Because I see and feel the need that modern cinema has to care about these personal “small” debacles. They are a part of our lives and we have to deal with them, even if it hurts…

—Joachim Kurz is editor-in-chief of Kino-Zeit