Berlin may not be over until Sunday, but our Criticwire members in Germany have given us a slight sampling of what might have lasting power through the festival and even into the rest of the year.
Whether the festival atmosphere or the overall quality of the films is to blame, the volume of sub-B grades coming in from critics has been higher than it was last month at Sundance. A few films have distanced themselves from the rest of the program, but among the rest, there's not much that critics seems to be enthusiastic about.
THE ONE-WORD TITLE WONDERS
Director Christian Petzold, a Berlinale veteran, also makes a strong showing: His “Barbara,” the tale of a young doctor in East Germany in the early ‘80s, ties with "Tabu" with the other highest aggregate score of the competition. Meanwhile, “Sister” is poised to be the Berlin film to draw great marks from audiences and critics alike. While the film hasn’t reached complete consensus approval level (likely due to the apprehensions about the story’s originality, as Indiewire’s Eric Kohn points out in his review), “Sister” might be the likelier of the two to make the jump abroad and be heard from later in the year. (It was recently picked up for U.S. distribution by Adopt Films.)
Barbara: A-Sister: B
THE POLARIZER AND THE PILLORIED
Brillante Mendoza’s hostage drama “Captive,” based on a series of true events from a decade ago, has received a decidedly split reaction. According to several critics, its early scenes show promise, but as Patrick Gamble writes in his Cine-Vue review, “No degree of aesthetically-pleasing camerawork or impressive acting from Huppert can save ‘Captive’ from its disappointingly languid pace and blotted runtime, yet this gruelling experience is certainly worth watching if only for its claustrophobic atmosphere of helplessness.”
Meanwhile, the Berlin director with the most name recognition, Billy Bob Thornton, has received some of the festival’s most disappointing notices. Despite some impressive pedigree among the cast and crew of “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” all indications point to the scatter-shot slice of life in the 1960s American South being as mild as its reviewers enthusiasm.
“Shadow Dancer” premiered at Sundance last month, opening to one of the most solid set of “B” reviews imaginable. While Berlin did bring the first Criticwire detractor of James Marsh’s new film, the rest of the grades are in line with its Park City predecessors: no effusive praise, but firm recommendations.Stay tuned for more analysis of Criticwire feedback from Berlin in the next few days. If you are a critic attending this year's festival, don’t forget to send your letter grades and review links to firstname.lastname@example.org.