The Berlin International Film Festival came to a close this weekend, but there’s many filmmakers and actors from the festival we’ll likely be hearing about for some time. Over the course of the festival, there were numerous names few had heard of a few weeks ago that all of the sudden, were the subject of conversation thanks to their breakout work in the festival’s program. Here’s 10 in particular:
Brooke Bloom and Anja Marquardt, “She’s Lost Control”
opening minutes of “She’s Lost Control,” it’s clear that newcomer Anja
Marquardt’s portrait of a sex surrogate in New York City will take its
subject matter seriously, using a studied manner that gives the material
fresh context. With Brooke Bloom’s central performance giving the movie
its dramatic anchor, “She’s Lost Control” strikes a fascinating mood
between slow-building angst and cold remove not unlike the Joy Division
song that provides the film’s title. An under-the-radar entry in Berlin, “She’s Lost Control” is poised to receive more attention for both Bloom and Marquardt at SXSW, where it will make its U.S. debut next month.
Josephine Decker, “Butter on the Latch” and “Thou Wast Mild and
We’d call it a Double Decker, but everyone at the Berlin Film Festival already did.
American filmmaker Josephine Decker was the talk of Berlin thanks to the programming of both her first
and second features, “Butter on the Latch” and “Thou Wast Mild and
Lovely.” The latter — which could be more or less described as an
existential and highly sexual horror film set on a farm — world
premiered in Berlin’s Forum section. The former — set in a Balkan folk
camp and dealing with similar themes — was shot way back in the summer of 2011, and premiered
at very under-the-radar at the Maryland Film Festival back in May of last
year. For them both to hit Berlin — finding strong reviews, no less — is a pretty remarkable feat.
Yann Demange and Jack O’Connell, “’71”
A gritty, relentless wartime drama that blends its action set pieces with palpable despair and historical observation, “’71” marked a major discovery in first-time feature director Yann Demange. And Demange’s lead Jack O’Connell — who we’ve seen in “This Is England” and British series “Skins” — aids him with a gripping central performance as a British soldier marooned in a sharply divided Belfast over the course of a single, violent night during the height of the Northern Ireland conflict. “’71” constantly thrills without sensationalizing its surprises. Expect to hear lots about both its director and star in the future (particularly the latter, given he’s the lead in Angelina Jolie’s upcoming directorial effort “Unbroken”). Read Indiewire’s review here.
Saar Klein, “Things People Do”
Like a condensation of the
plot and themes in “Breaking Bad” without the meth, director Saar
Klein’s impressive debut “Things People Do” (which will screen at SXSW next month) puts a criminal spin on
suburban discontent. Aided by a grave, committed performance by Wes
Bentley in the lead role, Klein’s story treads familiar territory but
doesn’t take its appeal for granted. The story of settled insurance
salesman Bill (Bentley), who turns to robbery after losing his job and
hides it from his wife, “Things People Do” makes its dramatic material
stick — despite a few screenplay imperfections — by upping the tension
with ample restraint: guns are brandished but rarely fired, voices
almost never raised. Klein maintains the intensity while delivering the
heavy-handed themes with a whisper.
Haru Kuroki, “The Little House”
At 23 years old, Japanese actress
Haru Kuroki offers a touching, breakout performance as a maid working in
Tokyo before and during World War II in Yôji Yamada’s “The Little
House.” She clearly won over the hearts of James Schamus, Christoph Waltz, Greta Gerwig and company, as they and their fellow Berlinale jury members decided Kuroki would follow in the mighty
footsteps of Paulina Garcia (“Gloria”), Sally Hawkins (“Happy-Go-Lucky”)
and the female cast of Oscar-winning Iranian film “A Separation” as the festival’s Silver Bear winner for best actress.
Benjamin Naishtat, “History of Fear”
Buenos Aires is a haven
for paranoia and confusion in Argentinian writer-director Benjamin
Naishtat’s mesmerizing debut “History of Fear,” though its title is
something of a misnomer. Rather than chronicling the timeline of the
listless quality that characterizes Argentina’s suburban class — and,
by extension, those around the world — “History of Fear” hypnotically
sets its gaze on the present. Borrowing the beats of a disaster movie
without ever giving the invisible threat a name, Naishtat explores the
tenuous constructs that allow a subset of the population to deny the
harsher ingredients of the world beyond their safety zone — until it’s
thrust right in front of them. Read Indiewire’s review here.
Ivo Pietzcker, “Jack”
Berlin offered a very strong batch of performances from child actors, not least among them young Ivo Pietzcker in the well-received homegrown competition entry “Jack.” In the title role, Pietzcker portrays a 10 year old Berliner responsible both for himself and his little brother as their single mother works during the day and often goes out at night. That is until Jack is blamed for burning his little brother with hot water (even though it’s not his fault) and social services puts him in a home — only he quickly escapes and goes out on a quest through Berlin to find his mother. It’s a lonely, poetic story from director Edward Berger that Pietzcker has no issue anchoring — breaking our hearts in the process.
Tony Revolori, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”
Speaking of young actors, 17 year old Anaheim-native Tony Revolori follows “Moonrise Kingdom” stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward in managing the ultimate dream of a feature film debut: co-starring in a Wes Anderson movie. In “The Grand Budapest Hotel” — which opened the Berlinale to raves — Revolori plays Zero Moustafa (or “Lobby Boy”), a role that placed him within an epic Andersonian cast including Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe and Jeff Goldbum. But Revolori more than holds his own, and when “Budapest Hotel” hits US theaters in March, there will be more than a few folks talking about him.