Winter weather with an often biting wind persisted in the German capital throughout the first weekend of the the Berlin International Film Festival, and, in fact, more snow has fallen here during the Berlinale than visiting attendees experienced at the recent Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Meanwhile, inside the many Potsdamer Platz movie theaters and around the crowded convention halls of the European Film Market at nearby Martin Gropius Bau, industry attendees have been buzzing about a number of titles, from a culture clash romantic comedy by Julie Delpy, to the latest from Park Chan-wook and a new top secret documentary by Morgan Spurlock lands at The Weintein Company.
EDITORS NOTE: This story was updated on Monday with additional details about Morgan Spurlock's new documenary.
Delpy's "Days" Back in France
Julie Delpy's "2 Days in Paris" is one of the hot films so far, particularly among U.S. execs who have been buzzing about the movie since its world premiere on Saturday. A sort of "Meet The Parents" set in Paris, Delpy's sharp, entertaining low-budget movie offers both hilarious and poignant elements after lead character Marion (played by Delpy) brings her liberal yet neurotic New Yorker boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg) to visit her loud, sometimes brash family in Paris (played by Delpy's own parents) at the end of a vacation in Venice.
Cut to their two-day stay in Paris, the couple experience the good and bad of modern French life, and along the way run into a several of her ex-boyfriends and a noteworthy "fairy" terrorist, played by Daniel Bruhl. A few buyers informally polled indieWIRE about the movie in recent days to gauge critical response to the winning comedy, some expressing concern that it might be a bit too similar to the recent "Before Sunset." Insiders expect the movie to easily strike a theatrical deal with a U.S. buyer, with one distributor telling indieWIRE that a sale was expected to close on Sunday night.
"Every time I went back to France, after spending a lot of time in Los Angeles, I was so amused by Parisians and how rude they were," smiled Delpy during a Berlinale press conference over the weekend, noting that people back home are, "very rustic and tough and rude and disrespectful. And I kind of like that in people."
As noted, for some Delpy's new film evokes her recent "Before Sunset," which also depicts a couple's relationship at a crossroads in Europe. "It could be like 'Before Sunset'," Delpy agreed, cautioning, "But it is not at all. This one is not really a romantic comedy--people are rude and people (are) tough... 'Before Sunset' expressed a romantic side...with this one I wanted to express something else." Concluding the thought, she added, "It's a comedy, it's a funny film, (but) underneath, (there is) something serious about it. In typical Amer-indie style, Delpy not only wrote, directed and stars in the film, but she also wrote music for the movie and also edited the picture. The film was shot in HD in just 20 days.
Having already made short films, and with an Oscar nomination under her belt for writing "Before Sunset" with Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke, Delpy sees "Two Days in Paris" as a stepping stone towards a much anticipated new film that she hopes to make next called, "The Countess," a project she calls a "dark drama about murder and cruelty." Delpy said during the press conference that for years she has been developing what she describes as a dark, ambitious 16th century drama. "It took me awhile to put it together," she noted, adding that she expects Ethan Hawke, Radha Mitchell, and Daniel Bruhl to star, with additional roles still to be cast.
"Now people know I won't have a breakdown two weeks into the shoot because I am an actress, (they) know I am not crazy, or at least I am hiding it well," Delpy laughed and expressing excitement about the upcoming project. "The Countess," she added, "to me is the favorite thing I have written. I feel more of a (sense) of achievement than everything else." [Eugene Hernandez]
Park Chan-wook Counters Vengeance With "Cyborg"
Acclaimed Korean director Park Chan-wook is in the Berlinale competition film with a new film that may seem a bit unlikely to fans of his recent work. It's a unique love story of a different sort. Park's latest, "I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK" (which premiered over the weekend) is a dist inct departure from such films as "Oldboy" and "Joint Security Area." In his latest, Young-goon (Lim Soo-jung) is in a psychiatric hospital because she is convinced she is mechanical. Declining food, she instead "recharges" herself via electric shock, which naturally affects her health. Young-goon's fellow patients, including one who is addicted to cosmetic surgery and another who suffers from an over-zealous guilt complex, are prone to conversation with imaginary stimuli, while Young-goon spend time relating to her "fellow machines," including a lamp and slot machine.
Circumstances seem to improve the day Il-soon arrives. Played by Korean music personality Jung Ji-hoon in his first acting role, the handsome young man has his own quirks, including a fondness for masks and anti-social behavior. He also convinces fellow patients that he has the ability to steal their personality traits. Nevertheless, a romance develops with Young-goon, even though her condition continues to descend because of the ongoing electro-shock treatments. But with the help of fellow patients, Il-soon tries to prevent off her demise.
"My films are influenced by my experiences in South Korea during the '80s," said Park via a translation into English at a festival press conference over the weekend. He commented that the oppression he witnessed during his country's authoritarian regime during that decade provided inspiration for his stories generally, though the crackdowns and arrests he saw during the era aren't literally depicted. Actress Lim Soo-jung praised her experience working on the film, saying that she had "complete freedom" with her character and wondered aloud if she'd have that experience in the future.
Post-screening conversation revealed a divide, with some praising the film while others saying they expected the it to be trashed by trade reviews. In fact, that polarization continued in the following days among the daily trade papers, with Variety praising the film and The Hollywood Reporter giving it a mostly negative review. Perhaps Screen International's Lee Marshall summed up the divide among Park fans, calling "Cyborg" a "frustrating, whimsical, baffling but utterly original work. [The film] seems designed expressly to alienate those who were turned on to the Korean director by his Vengeance trilogy." [Brian Brooks]
Spurlock's Secret Doc: "Where in the World..."
Outside the festival, indeed outside the European Film Market altogether, Cinetic Media and dejected sellers Wild Bunch (the international sales company that set up a renegade booth outside the EFM in protest of what it says was ill-treatment from Berlinale brass), staged a screening that has had industry insiders buzzing. At the Movenpick Hotel near Martin Gropius Bau on Friday, a bearded Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me") spilled the beans for buyers about a new film project that he's been quietly working on, namely a new documentary about finding Al-Qaeda leaader Osama Bin Laden. The film is currently in post-production and buyers were shown about 15 minutes of footage on Friday.
Monday morning in Berlin, insiders close to the film confirmed that The Weinstein Company acquired North American rights to Spurlock's "Where in the World..." (as it is currently titled).
Overall, attendees were quiet about the new project because they were met with a non-disclosure agreement prior to entering the private screening. A sizable contingent from The Weinstein Company attended the showing of clips, along with buyers "from all over the world," according to an anonymous indieWIRE source, specifically an exec from a rival company who declined to further discuss the content of the film out of respect for both Spurlock and the ultimate distributors of the project.
Still, some seemed stymied by the screening, calling it a stunt. An anonymous source, clearly miffed by the move, told indieWIRE that the NDA showing was above and beyond the call of duty, creating an unnecessary level of secrecy for a staged screening. Meanwhile another company head, who had no problem with the situation, noted separately that Wild Bunch brokered deals for Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and that Cinetic sold "Bowling For Columbine," each projects that required some level of secrecy in advance of release.
Rumors of a TWC deal for the Spurlock doc spread on the grapevine at the European Film Market party Sunday night at the Berlinale Palast, but insiders remained quiet on the matter and TWC has yet to officially announce its North American rights deal. With U.S. rights sealed, Wild Bunch is understood to be eyeing additional pacts in specific international territories. [Eugene Hernandez]
indieWIRE's coverage from the 2007 Berlinale and the European Film Market continues in a special section.