The 60th Berlinale kicked off Thursday with Chinese director Wang Quan’an “Tuan Yuan” (Apart Together), which explores the divide between mainland China and Taiwan. indieWIRE’s Brian Brooks reports on the festival’s opening at which Wang discussed the parallels between his country’s and Germany’s history, noting that “If you think about Berlin, this city was ripped apart, so people here understand.”
“If director Wang Quanan is known outside of China at all, it’s most likely for ‘Tuya’s Marriage,’ which won the Golden Bear here in 2006 and was indeed one of the better entries in the sudden wavelet of yurt movies a couple of years back,” writes David Hudson in his review for The Auteurs. “The biggest name in his new feature, ‘Tuan Yuan’ (Apart Together), is Lisa Lu. Granted, the 83-year-old actress has had a stellar career, appearing in, among dozens of other films, Bertolucci’s ‘The Last Emperor’ and Ang Lee’s ‘Lust, Caution,’ but as a paparazzi magnet, she’s not exactly Mick Jagger. Most importantly, though, ‘Apart Together’ breaks the curse of the opening night film with virtues so simple yet powerful it will surely be remembered long after tonight.”
“An original choice to open Berlin on its 60th anniversary, this modest family melodrama turns out to be a thin – if kindly – bittersweet autumnal romance,” reports Dan Fainaru in his review of the film for Screen Daily. “Whatever political intentions may have been buried in Apart Together’s script, which follows a Kuomintang solder’s attempted reunion with the woman he left behind in Shanghai forty years previously, there is little trace of them left onscreen.” The Times’ Stephen Dalton echoes this sentiment: “The low-key family drama that follows finds history repeating itself, more as farce than tragedy, with flashes of lyricism and dry humour. Set in an increasingly globalised and modernised Shanghai, ‘Tuan Yuan’ is a universal human story with no obvious political subtext but plenty of gentle charm.”
Meanwhile, one of the festival’s most anticipated films, Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” will premiere today–without the director, under house arrest in Switzerland, present. indieWIRE’s Brian Brooks reports “that the film only received tepid response after its initial screening” for press. The Boston Globe’s Geir Moulson has more from the film’s press conference. “While Mr. Polanski’s films are generally not self-revealing in any literal sense, he invites psychobiographical criticism because he has been, for almost his entire career, that relatively rare entity: a celebrity director,” writes Dennis Lim in a feature on the controversial director for the New York Times. “His persona is so much a part of the public imagination that it looms even over a movie as devoid of autobiographical echoes as ‘The Ghost Writer,’ which…opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.”
Time Out London’s Dave Calhoun has one of the first reviews up of the film: “Coming just days after Tony Blair’s appearance at the Chilcot Inquiry, this adaptation of Robert Harris’s 2007 novel feels spookily on the money, even if its plot is largely a teasing exaggeration,” notes Calhoun. “For such a wild story, it’s never less than compelling and maintains its themes of duplicity and guilt throughout, lending special attention to the escalating fear of McGregor’s character, something of a Hitchcockian fall guy, as a jobbing British writer increasingly biting off more than he can chew in this sinister, foreign world. Occasional humour –including any smiles raised by McGregor and Cattrall’s wobbly southern English accents – fends off any creeping pomposity and Polanski leaves us with a final image to die for.”
Finally, Roger Ebert reports that the “eagerly awaited restored version of Fritz Lang’s silent classic” “Metropolis,” which includes “nearly an hour of footage long thought to be lost” will be streamed live online today for those not at the Berlinale. You can stream the screening here beginning at 8:15pm Berlin time (that’s 2:15pm EST, though Ebert reports that viewers in America may have trouble streaming it). “The new version restores characters who had been sidelined or removed and elucidates parts of the hitherto dizzying plot, such as why Maria, the workers’ insurrectionist leader. is mistaken for a female robot,” writes Kate Connolly for The Guardian. “A spy has been reintroduced, a character who helps the idealistic Freder gain access to the underworld has been expanded, and a scene in which children are saved from slavery is much more violent and dramatic.” More from The Hollywood Reporter’s Kirk Honeycutt.