BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL 2008 – PREVIEW
BERLIN SCORES SCORSESE & THE STONES
On the eve of the 58th Berlinale, Nick Roddick sums up the mood as the red
carpet crowd anticipate the arrival of not just Martin Scorsese but the subjects
of his new film, gladiator rock band The Rolling Stones, gathering the moss of
The Berlin Film Festival, which gets under way for the 58th time tonight,
(Thursday, February 7) has had to cope with two major (albeit very different)
problems in its middle age: the fall of the Wall and the change in the date of
the Oscars ceremony. When the Wall came down almost 20 years ago, West Berlin
lost its politically-heightened status as an outpost of 'the West' buried deep
in the Eastern bloc. With that status came a lot of Deutschmarks to ensure that
the city's cultural flags - among them the Film Festival - continued to fly
Nowadays, Berlin may be the capital of Germany; but, culturally, it's just
another city and the flag-flying funding that kept the Film Festival sleek and
glossy had been sharply reduced. That's Problem One.
But Problem Two - the shift in the date of the Oscars four years ago, from March
to February - hit the Berlinale even harder. It used to be that the nominations
were announced the day before the Festival opened. That made Berlin the perfect
platform for the studios to strut their stuff, with its red-carpet photo ops and
press junkets guaranteed to keep the contenders fresh in the minds of the
Academy voters back home in Beverly Hills. Now, the nominations are out in
mid-January and the campaigns are all but over.
As a result, of the three 'big festivals' (Cannes and Venice are the other two),
Berlin now finds it hardest to get the big films - and big stars - that attract
local attention and maintain the Festival's status. Last year, the Festival
opened with La vie en rose - a crowd-pleaser, to be sure, but not one to get
front-page coverage around the world. The year before it was Snow Cake, a rather
small Canadian film starring Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver.
"Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick has struck gold"
This year, however, Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick has struck gold: on
the red carpet tonight it’s not just one of the world's great directors, Martin
Scorsese, but 'the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world' - or that, anyway,
is what the PA announcement at Rolling Stones' concerts has said since the early
1970s. Mick, Keith, Charlie and Ronnie are scheduled to show up to support the
world premiere of Shine a Light, the documentary Scorsese has made about them.
The much-talked-about film - a kind of sequel to Scorsese's Bob Dylan film, No
Direction Home - has been in post-production for what seems like forever (it was
due to premiere in Toronto last September) but is a definite coup for Berlin.
The crash barriers will be up; the TV crews will be out; the politicians will be
there; and everyone will be happy.
But, in terms of international profile, Kosslick rather seems to have maxed out
his credit card on Wednesday's splurge. Only one other high-profile Hollywood
flick - Paul Thomas Anderson's multi Oscar-nominated There Will Be Blood, which
is already a Golden Globe winner - features in the line-up. And it probably
would have been there anyway, since Anderson is a Berlin regular, having won the
Festival's top prize, the Golden Bear, for Magnolia in 2000.
Elsewhere in the line-up are a few other star-supported films, including
Fireflies in the Garden, a mid-Western family saga starring Julia Roberts, which
is directed by first-timer Dennis Lee; and the new film from Eternal Sunshine of
the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry, which was unveiled at Sundance. It's
called Be Kind Rewind and is a typically oddball tale starring Jack Black as a
video store clerk who manages to wipe his entire stock, then tries to hide the
fact by re-enacting everything from The Lion King to Back to the Future while
his friend videos him in the store's back yard.
Franco-German friendship being back on the agenda, there is the usual line-up of
French films - including Lady Jane, the latest from Marseille director Robert
Guédiguian, another Berlin regular; and the English-language debut by Eric Zonca,
who made a name for himself on the arthouse circuit a decade ago with The
Dreamlife of Angels. His new movie is called Julia and stars Tilda Swinton as an
alcoholic driven by desperation to a criminal act.
"Most speculation prior to the prize giving..."
Most speculation prior to the prize giving in 10 days time, however, is
likely to be on whether Brit director Mike Leigh will pull off the film festival
equivalent of a trifecta. Leigh won the Palme d'Or in Cannes in 1996 for Secrets
& Lies, following it up with the Golden Lion in Venice in 2004 for Vera Drake (a
film which, ironically, Cannes turned down). Now, he could become the first
director in history to win the top prize at each of the three major festivals if
he scores with Happy-Go-Lucky, which stars relative newcomer Sally Hawkins as
Poppy, a young London teacher whose easygoing charm and confidence have got her
through every problem she has encountered… until now.
Festival director Kosslick - a man who exudes charm and confidence and has done
much to secure the foundations of the Berlinale in the current climate - will
doubtless be hoping to do the same.
Published February 7, 2008
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Sally Hawkins stars in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky
If there's a bear on it, the Berlinale can't be far off: Teddys, T-shirts, zipper jackets, ski hats, scarfs and gloves, the official Berlinale bag, a key chain, a suitcase strap as well as the popular mug can be found in the Berlinale shop in the Potsdamer Platz Arkaden from February 5. Above: Dieter Kosslick with not a golden bear….