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BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL, 2007 -- A VIRTUAL REPORT

Alex Deleon is a festival ambassador with filmfestivals.com portal and fest21.com the online community for festival professionals.

57th BERLIN FEST OPENS WITH STARS TO BURN

The Berlin Film Festival is traditionally one of the most star studded events on the annual Festival calendar and this 57th edition is no exception.  Among stars and celebrities already spotted either on the red carpet entering gala screenings, at press conferences, or at events in other parts of town away from Marlene Dietrich square, in just the first four days; Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Clint Eastwood, Antonio Banderas, Catherine Deneuve, Judie Dench, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Carl Lagerfeld, Julie Delpy, Robert De Niro, Lauren Bacall, Willem Defoe and Paul Schrader, besides the usual suspects from the German film pantheon such as Mauritz Bleibtreu, Daniel Bruhl and Martina Gedeck, not to overlook Berlin's famously gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit and his "life partner", Jorn Kubicki.  Actress Bacall (Mrs. Humphrey Bogart) and Actor Defoe are jury members on a panel being presided over by American director Paul Schrader, which makes for an unusually heavy American bias in this key festival sector.

The opening night film on February 8 was a French entry, "La vie en Rose", yet another Edith Piaf biopic, strring actress Marion Cotillard in the title role -- well, not exactly the title per-se -- but the central figure. "La Vie en Rose" (Life through rose-colored glasses) is the title of one of Piaf's greatest hits, a perennial standard of the piano lounge even today, a song which the legendary Parisian songbird herself composed and which would become her signature number.  Marion Cotillard (30) and director Olivier Dahan (39) were in attendance.  The director started out as a painter then worked on music videos and TV and has also made a few minor features, but this is his first really big one. The film has a gold plated supporting cast with names such as Sylvie Testud and Depardieu in the line-up and the word of mouth is nothing but hot.  The original French title is "La Mome" (The kid, female) but for international release it was felt that "La vie en rose", a song title known world-wide would give the pic far more up-front recognizability. Clearly one to watch for.

Latin lover Antonio Banderas has stepped behind the cameras and is in Berlin to present his new directorial effort entitled "El camino de los ingleses" (Road of Englishmen) which deals with poetry and the aspirations of young people. Buena suerte, Senor Banderas.  Clint Eastwood has been in town to accompany his highly touted Japanese language film (!) "Letters From Iwojima", out of competition here, but very much in contention for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Eastwood was himself presented with a  Berlin-Kamera award for his overall career.

The big event of the first festival week was the "Cinema for Peace" gala party held 'off campus' at the opera house. This is essentially a fund raiser for the beleaguered children of Darfur (Sudan) and for Tibetan refugee children.  It was stars galore and all the morning papers featured a shot of Sharon Stone in a white gown, stretched out nearly lengthwise over a piece of furniture of some sort, to plant a solid smack of the lips on Richard Gere's famous kisser.  Could this be the thrill of a new geritolic romance between actors of a certain age?  It was at this event that Mr. Eastwood picked up his little Berlin-kamera trophy.  Among the international celebrities present Catherine Deneuve, looking mah-ve-lous as usual in a sleek black gown, was swamped and nearly blinded in a furious outburst of camera wielding piranhas.

Both Matt Damon, star of the pic, and director Robert De Niro, sporting a thicket of steel gray hair, arrived to give press conference following the press screening of "The Good Shepherd", De Niro's take on the early days of the CIA.  Seated with them at the conference table was German actress Martina Gedeck who has a featured role in the film and stole the show here last year in the German smash hit "Elementary Particles".  In the evening at the gala entry ritual Matt was detained on the red carpet for some twenty minutes to satisfy the demand for his John Hancock from throngs of screaming young ladies pressing up against the ropes orgasmically on both sides of the Gateway to Heaven.

A particularly unusual film and presence at the festival this year is the celebrated fashion designer, Karl Lagerfeld, and the film about him entitled ”Lagerfeld Confidential”, which is running in the Panorama section. Claudia Schiffer was one of Lagerfeld's proteges and came to fame on his catwalks. This is a documentary in English directed by a youngish Frenchman, Rodolphe Marconi in which, beside Lagerfeld, Nicole Kidman is featured as herself. Both Lagerfeld and the director came to Berlin and Lagerfeld, sporting his patented black goggles under his white mane and ponytail, bestowed an autograph directly on the hat of a Korean lady admirer -- an image which adorned the papers the next morning. (Wonder how much the hat is worth now… )

French-American actress Julie Delpy (she is French but lives in Hollywood and appears almost exclusively in English language films these days -- with barely a trace of an accent) and popular German actor Daniel Bruhl were pumping their new film "Two Days in Paris".  This is a romantic comedy written, directed, and starring Ms. Delpy herself. The story about an American couple who take a vacation in Paris hoping to straighten out their marital problems in the romantic setting of the French capital smacks suspiciously like a replay of several other Delpy films with the same basic plot, but Julie, at 37, is more of an eyeful than ever, so who cares.  A bit of harmless fluff never hurts if the heroine is as fluffy as Delpy. Bruhl was last seen in "Ladies in Lavender" as the Polish musician who washes up on a stony English shore and is taken in by two old ladies, before that in the international German hit "Goodbye Lenin".

Berlinale Camera for Márta Mészáros  and lifetime award for  Arthur Penn.

The Berlin International Film Festival has been presenting the Berlinale Camera since 1986 to film personalities or institutions to whom they feel particularly indebted for one reason or another, and to whom they wish to express their appreciation in the form of a special honor. In recognition of her service to cinema, the Hungarian film director Márta Mészáros was honored on the evening of February 13 at 9.30 p.m. in the Filmpalast Berlin with a Berlinale Camera. Film historian Ulrich Gregor delivered the required eulogy.   Mészáros received a Golden Bear at the Berlinale in 1975 for her drama, Örökbefogadás (Adoption) a film which marked her international breakthrough. After completing her studies at the Moscow International Film School, Màrta Mészáros returned to her native Hungary where she soon established herself as a major Hungarian director and a major woman director internationally. Her debut feature, Eltávozott nap (The Girl, 1968), was the first Hungarian feature film directed by a woman. After the ceremony, her film Örökbefogadás (Adoption) was screened.

Arthur Penn, now 83, (born Philadelphia, 1922) has always been viewed as an off-beat director of unusual, intelligent, and to some extent experimental, films, but always with major actors who considered it a privilege to work with him.  His big decade was the sixties with three major box-office hits;  “The Miracle Worker” (1962), “Bonnie and Clyde” (’67), and “Little Big Man”, 1970. “Alice’s Restaurant”, 1969, was also a big hit with the marinated counter-culture youth of the time.  Penn’s directorial star then went into a gradual decline and his last feature of any note was “The Portrait”, 1993, with Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall.  Despite his recent inactivity Arthur Penn must be recognized as a major creative and influential force in the making of the New Hollywood, and this is precisely what Berlin is doing this year by presenting him with a life achievement bear.   Well done.

Chaim Pevner-Deleon, Feb. 13, 2007
in Virtual Berlin (at the Goethe Institute, L.A.)

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THE FESTIVALS BLOG by Alex Deleon. Watch for festival coverage from the circuit.

Ambiance and reviews from the hot spots. Welcoming your comments too.


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