By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 12, 2009 at 5:42AM
"I don’t think you’ve earned the right to spew biliously about a movie you didn’t even watch in its entirety," actor Wiley Wiggins commented regarding Shane Danielsen's first Berlinale critic's notebook (his second will arrive later today). "Your comment about other filmmakers killing for Bujalski’s ‘position’ is also telling. The movie should be allowed to exist on its own without any of the pressure of whether he is squandering his ‘critical support’ or not."
Wiggins is referring to Danielsen's thoughts on Andrew Bujalski's "Beeswax," of which Danielsen said "says nothing of even the slightest interest, displays no care or forethought in its conception, and positively revels in its slipshod amateurishness." He wasn't alone in his disagreement with Danielsen's critique. Another commenter angrily debated Danielsen's review of Hans-Christian Schmid's "Storm" (join in on the fun here!).
It'd be interesting to hear what any of them think of Mitchell Lichtenstein's "Happy Tears," which some feel deserves the dishonorable distinction of being the most reviled film of a festival widely considered to be a huge critical disappointment. The story of two sisters (Parker Posey and Demi Moore) who reunite in Pittsburgh to take care of their slowly degenerating father, indieWIRE reported from the film's premiere. “I thought ‘Happy Tears’ was an embarrassment,” one frustrated buyer told indieWIRE today after the screening, venting about the movie. “It’s a market film at best.” Our own Eugene Hernandez wondered if it was the worst movie he's seen in years.
Variety's review was slightly kinder saying "like its almost oxymoronic title, indie pic 'Happy Tears' is a contradictory creature, both insightful and dumb, sometimes innovative and sometimes just plain inept." Screen's Fionnuala Halligan, on the other hand, seemed to actually quite like the film: "Mitchell Lichtenstein tackles some conventional subject material in an unconventional way in Happy Tears, throwing up a surreal performance from Parker Posey and a surprisingly warm supporting turn from Demi Moore."
indieWIRE also covered a Berlinale '09 rarity: not critically divisive or universally despised, the generally enjoyed "Cheri" marks a return-to-form for Michelle Pfeiffer as she reteams with her "Dangerous Liaisons" director Stephen Frears. “I was thrilled when Stephen Frears called me about this,” said Pfeiffer at the film's press conference. iW's Brian Brooks reported that Pfeiffer "also noted the parallels of age both at the time of 'Cher” and now, being quite open about her own age. 'If you think hitting 40 is liberating, wait until you hit 50,' she said. 'The anticipation of hitting it is worse - then it happens and you’re greatful for what you have and, you know, it’s better then the alternative.'"
Screen's Mike Goodridge called "Cheri" a "sumptuously mounted film of Colette's novel Cheri is for the most part an entertaining drama boasting a host of deliciously poised performances," while The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt referred to it as "a smart and lushly romantic film adaptation of a Colette story of a doomed love."
In an earlier roundup, it was noted that some considered So Yong Kim's "Treeless Mountain" as the fest's best so far. indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez sat down with Kim and her husband, Bradley Rust Gray, also in Berlin with his film, "The Exploding Girl." Gray’s “Girl” had its world premiere here this week, while Kim’s “Treeless Mountain” had its European debut after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Hernandez noted that the duo make movies under their company label, soandbrad, inc. "'I definitely see it as we’ve made four films,” Gray explained, looking at his wife while their young daughter played nearby. 'There is a definite continuous arc, our styles are very similar. I wouldn’t work on something if So didn’t like the idea.'
'I get a lot of out his films and ideas,' concurred Kim, referring to her husband’s work. The two reiterated that they are inspired by the work of their spouse. 'I think we are learning from each other,' Gray added."
The Auteurs, who had noted "Treeless" as the best offering of the Berlinale's first three days, made another list of days 4-6. They note Maren Ade's "Everything Else" as their top pick, saying: "Five years ago the Berlinale unveiled one of the most uplifting relationship films of the decade, Before Sunset; this year’s competition film to beat is also a sharp observation of a couple who share an uncommonly wacky rapport, except here their amorous vibe is threatened by the looming specter of adult respectability."
But as numerously aforementioned, "Everything Else"'s glowing critical response is not similar to everything else at Berlinale '09 (though the festival did break attendance records anyway). Festival director Dieter Kosslick defended the overall criticism in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "There's a difference between watching a film at 9 a.m. with disappointed journalists and seeing the same film at night with enthusiastic viewers," Kosslick said, noting the festival's tremendous success with "ordinary" filmgoers in Berlin. "I think what was interesting was how many films split critics this year," he added. "You have French critics calling (Francois Ozon's competition entry) 'Ricky' a masterpiece of the century and others tearing it up."
The festival concludes this weekend with the announcement of the festival's Golden Bear winner (The Auteurs offer some predictions).