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Berlinale 2019 #4: Our final picks of this year’s Berlin film festival
February 21, 2019
From Cornish fishing indie Bait to LGBT+ themed Chinese movie Dog Barking At The Moon to French actress/ feminist Delphine Seyrig tribute documentary Delphine & Carole, here is our final picks of films we’ve seen at this year’s Berlinale 2019.
Another impressive entry was Bait dealing with the opposite spectrum of the British class system to Joanna Hogg’s upper class analysis The Souvenir, as the influx of tourism to a quaint Cornwall fishing village reshapes the local industry, jeopardising the livelihood of the native fishermen, such as the brutish Martin (Edward Rowe) who is having none of it and like a bull in a china shop proceeds to take matters into his own hands. Filmed in analogue on 16mm in black as white and purposefully edited in a vintage rickety style reminiscent of films from 50s-60s, with the added effect of sound and dialogue dubbed over in post-production. As director Matt Jenkins opts for narrative and stylistic composition over realism, creating a gripping arthouse movie, masterfully executed in likely budget constraints, signalling to his immense talents. Its strong political themes zoom in on those less fortunate left behind, its message echoing outside of its Cornwall eco-system, a commentary on the current state of play of Britain and the wider world.
Dog Barking At The Moon
Homosexual themes are seldom the subject matter of Chinese cinema, so when a film like Dog Barking At The Moon appeared on the schedule it was one that was not to be missed, even at a 23:00 screening. A semi-autobiographical tale by newcomer director Lisa Zi Xiang who charmingly along with her producer husband who were present at the screening to introduce their film. Fluctuating from different time periods, the crux lies within of a familial setting, commencing with a wife’s discovery of her husband’s homosexuality. When their daughter, now an adult and married to an American comes to visit other secrets slowly come to light. The parent’s reluctance to confront matters, augmented further by societal pressures finds them willing to resolve their issues with more extreme measures such as joining a cult or carrying on illicit affairs. An exceptional debut, this meticulously crafted loaded with oodles of comedy and equal parts tragedy, acerbic societal commentary. as well as visually, the cinematography, the acting, its intricate pace; it’s all just simply genius.
An Instagram sensation/ model/ sex worker Eva lives a life of youthful complexity in Berlin as she navigates a world of social media notoriety and rollercoaster mental health, all through the veneer of stylised aesthetics. At various life moments Eva reaches a psychological breaking point and erases herself completely from any public consciousness only for her to re-emerge later with a completely different look and persona. This patters has been repeated several times over the course of her young life as the documentary jumps from past to present, detailing each of her various phases. Some are truly fascinating; baring your life so openly like that and the way Eva she uses self-expression as her commodity in all aspects of her life, from her sex work to her gender fluidity to her artistic pursuits, if predicatbly tainted with an Instgram filter. On the other hand, there is a pervasive feeling of self-indulgence, which as a viewer looking in, feels like you’re contributing to it. A montage of hand-held camera, photo shoots and conversations with followers are edited together in perfection, creating an interesting documentation this perhaps more style over substance.
US indie flick Fourteen is a lesson in subtly and realism. Fourteen is the age when Mara (Tallie Medel) and Jo (Norma Kuhling) meet at school to form a lasting if mutable bond, as they drift in and out of each other’s lives. Director Dan Sallitt, who shot the film using up all his total of 3 week holiday, plays on the nuances of friendships and the shifting of dynamics over time, Mara takes on the more responsible role whilst Jo battles with mental health and addiction. It’s an insightful and remarkably smooth film, which resonates with audiences as it delicately observes the unfolding of two lives. Medel and Kuhling adroitly underplay their characters be-fitting the film’s low-key chilled temperament, where silences, awkward moments and motionless camera angles, speak volumes.
Delphine & Carole
A collage of video footage, interviews, TV interviews and film scenes seamlessly woven together by Callisto McNulty, the granddaughter of Carole Roussopoulos who along with well-known French actress Delphine Seyrig, are the focus of this documentary. They two came up with the concept in the 70s to interview various Hollywood actress around the themes of feminism and the misogynistic nature of the industry. The camera turns also on to Carole and Delphine dissecting their own careers and how they used their work to champion women’s right. Special mention to Syerig’s exceptional performance as the mother/ prostitute role in Belgian director’s Chantal Ackerman’s pioneering film and feminist masterpiece Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles.
The 69th Berlinale ran from the 7th-17th February 2019.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
For more of our Berlinale 2019 updates here.