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Berlinale 2018 #3: Our final update of this year’s Berlin Film Festival
March 1, 2018
Our final update of some of the films we saw at last weeks Berlinale 2018. Our round-up includes two Hollywood big guns: Steve Soderburgh’s Unsane and Gus Van Sant’s He Wont Get Far On Foot as well exceptional indie and experimental features Madeline’s Madeline, Iranian entry Khook as well as Gael Garcia Bernal starring Museo. Read our thoughts below.
Khook is a dark comedy with a rather unsubtle commentary of Iran’s film censorship. Based around the sinister events of a series of murders of prominent Iranian directors, well known director Hasan Kasmai ( played by Hasan Majuni, a renowned Iranian theatre actor) starts to fear for his life. Hasan, sporting a permanent dishevelled look with a penchant for heavy metal T-shirts, is banned from making movies and is resigned to producing commercials for pest control products. With the pending gloom of being murder, his career on hold and the rejection of his muse (Leila Hatami); its safe to say Hasan is not at a good place and the onset of an existential crisis is inevitable. It’s a humurous and engaging effort which gives insighful glimpses of the more liberal pockets of Teheran. It falls flat mid-way, as the plot stagnates, but is salvaged be a colourful and elaborate finale.
This big Hollywood Soderbugh film starring Claire Foy was hidden amongst the plethora of low key indies. Foy plays a convincing Sawyer who unawares locks herself up in a psychiatric ward after a visit to a therapist; a ploy used by the clinic to claim on her health insurance. Naturally Sawyer resists the imposed confinement diging her hole evn deeper, however things turn even more sour when a stalker from her past manages to infiltrate his way into the hospital pretending to be an orderly. Clever camera work and grainy cinematography give Unsane a disturbing, gritty realness. Soderburgh blurs the lines of real and imaginary at first, by giving a Sawyer more complex and questionable character. Foy excels in an authentic portrayal, making a further impression on her rising star. Unsaneis a suspense thriller that despite following a familiar well-trodden path, its nonetheless very entertaining watch, perhaps one of the few times throughout the week that I was able to sit back and be guided by a film’s narrative.
DON’T WORRY HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
Gus Van Sant’s tragic comedy about alcoholism and self-destruction, told through the true story of cartoonist John Callahan. An endearing, eye-opening tale starring Joacquin Phoenox as Callahan who negelected at birth, finds solace in alcohol in early age only for its excesses to get the best of him , where a night out with a new acquaintance Dexter (Jack Black) will have him embroiled in a car accident and render him paraplegic. Post-trauma, a moment of spiritual awakening has him seek AA, embarking on the 12 step programme where his new-found sobriety reveals a talent for cartoon drawing. Par from some moments of over-sentimentality, this film is a pleasurable experience which depicts the fragility of life. Joaquin is his usual brilliant self as a sensitive and troubled figure, but the star of the show is Jonah Hill’s epic performance as the unrecognisable Donnie, as the zany AA spiritual coach.
Madeline’s Madeline showcases director Josephone Decker’s unique and exceptional filming talents. Centred around three women: teenager Madeline (Helena Howard), her mother Regina (Miranda July) and her drama teacher/ mentor Evangeline (Molly Parker). The story moves as we get introduced to all three characters through the eyes pf Madeine. We observe Madeline’s adolescent extremities, such as her self-absorbed nature and eating disorder, her mother’s erratic insecure adolscent behaviour or teacher Evangeline becoming consumed by Madeline. We see the film fluctuate from narrative to tangents of visual montages and improvisational theatre and dance scenes; but Decker still manages to produce one cohesive piece of art form. Madeline’s Madeline is a highly stimulating, thought-provoking effort that alters the viewer’s preception of what to expect from a film.
Gael Garcia Bernal stars as university drop out, Juan Nunez, in this rather endearing 80s heist dramedy based on a true story. Juan along with his childhood friend Wilson (Leonardo Ortizgris) foolishly and remarkably easy rob one of Mexico City’s national museum 140 prehistoric artefacts and proceed on a road trip to Acapulco to sell them, only to realize that the pieces are too priceless to flog, whilst simultaneously the journey provides a vehicle for self-discovery. Remarkably Bernal still looks youthful and energetic enough to make him perfect for the role. On overally cute and entertaining film with melancholic undercurrents of lost and misguided youth.
IN DEN GANGEN (IN THE AISLES)
Yes we are talking about supermarlet aisles! Specifically the ones featured in this quriky German indie where everyday characters manning the internal workings of a supermarket. The story unfolds through the eyes of newbie employer Christian (a second appearance in the festival by Franz Rogowski) as we see the interpersonal relationships in this work place play out. Midway the film starts to lose its a way; the director, perhaps wishing to add depth to his characters takes the film outside the supermarket realm and thus overindulging on plot that it drags on. So much so, that once it reaches a supposedly tragic moment, it fails to garner any emotion. Noteworty performances by all cast, but the highlight is the welcome presence of Toni Erdman’s Sandra Huller as Chtistian’s congenial love interest.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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