“The international economic crisis’ impact on the movie business has been a constant topic back home, so it’s no surpirse that it comes up frequently while networking in the halls of Martin Gropius Bau, site of the European Film Market that runs concurrent with the annual Berlin International Film Festival,” indieWIRE‘s Eugene Hernandez reported from Berlin. “Numerous folks have been saying in recent days that the EFM feels quieter this year, with sellers bemoaning a sizable drop in the prices that buyers will pay for the movies on sale here.”
While the market might be quiet, the Berlinale itself was anything but in its first few days. indieWIRE was on the scene at a variety of events, including the world premiere of Francois Ozon’s latest, “Ricky.” “Ahead of the packed first press and industry screening today, fest attendees here in Berlin were eagerly anticipating Ozon’s latest,” Brian Brooks noted. “The ads feature a huge close-up of a baby’s head and the image has piqued a fair amount of curiosity. “What is this film about?” asked one industry person last night at an informal gathering.” (Warning: Brooks’ report uncovers that mystery, and its a bit of a spoiler… indieWIRE‘s Eugene Hernandez recommends going in knowing nothing).
Reviewers all seemed rather disenchanted. Variety‘s Boyd Van Hoeij said “Ricky” “never really takes flight,” while The Hollywood Reporter‘s Neil Young called, the film “a bold, ambitious hybrid that only intermittently reaches the heights toward which it audaciously aims.” Screen International emulated the same idea, saying “this flight of fancy never quite lives up to the bravura of its big idea.”
indieWIRE was also on hand for a press conference for Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader,” which turned more to talk of present star Kate Winslet’s Oscar than anything else: “Asked about the race for her role in Stephen Daldry’s best picture nominees, [Winslet] said proudly, ‘I’m thrilled to be nominated.’ Follow-up quesions about the Academy Awards resulted in a sharp retort from the moderator, who exclaimed, ‘This is a conversation about ‘The Reader,’ not the Oscars.’ So that was that, but Winslet’s role continued to be a focus of the packed forty minute conversation.”
The strong buzz surrounding competition entry “Storm”‘s Kerry Fox could perhaps put in her in Winslet’s shoes a year from now, reports Eugene Hernandez. The film “marks a key leading film role for an actress who was a fast-rising international star after receiving acclaim for her work in Jane Campion’s ‘An Angel At My Table’ (1990) and Danny Boyle’s ‘Shallow Grave’ (1994),” said Hernandez. “After today’s screening, numerous folks were buzzing about her turn in this film. She shares the screen with Anamaria Marinca who plays a young Bosnian woman convinced to testify against an alleged war criminal.” Variety‘s review wasn’t quite in agreement, saying a “rather tired-looking Fox doesn’t breathe much life into her conflicted role as both UN careerist and social conscience,” though The Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycutt said that the film’s “acting is across the boards splendid. Rage, mistrust, passion and despair — all are suggested without histrionics.”
Bertrand Tavernier’s latest, “In the Electric Mist,” which Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Peter Sarsgaard and Mary Steenburgen, was also among the many films making their Berlinale debut this weekend. Based on the novel “Into the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead” by Janes Lee Burke, the story unfolds prior to Hurricane Katrina, and indieWIRE reported that Tavernier defended his decision to include footage and reference of the disaster by explaining that “it seemed [odd] to me to go to Louisiana and not address Katrina. It gives the characters more depth.”
Matt Rivera reviewed the film for his website, noting: “Alas, it’s the script which stumbles – more than once – landing the film in the murky, alligator-infested waters of Louisiana,” while Variety called it “well-executed but dramatically foggy.” Screen International‘s Jonathan Romney said Tommy Lee Jones was the film’s “weakest link.”
Other films that screened over the fest’s first few days include Jean-Marc Vallee’s “The Young Victoria” (which Screen called a “lovingly-detailed, lavishly-recreated British period production with all the right cast giving all the right performances”), Henrik Hellstrom and Fredrik Wenzel’s “Burrowing” (which Variety noted as an “intermittently mesmerizing, low-budget experimental mood-piece,” Florian Gallenberger’s “John Rabe” (“a credible and entertaining portrait of a ‘good Nazi,'” said The Hollywood Reporter), and the 2009 Panorama Opener, Rie Rasmussen’s “Human Zoo” (Rasmussen also produced, wrote and edited the film as well as playing the lead and Screen finds “it’s obvious she took on too much, starting out with something akin to ‘Lorna’s Silence’ but ending up with a cross between ‘Femme Fatale’ and ‘Nikita’.”)
The festival continues through next weekend. indieWIRE will continue to report from the scene.