Berlinale Through the YearsFebruary 9th, 2012 by Ran
The 62nd Berlin International Film Festival starts today, which is a great opportunity to recall some of the great titles that have won awards in this prestigious festival, second to Cannes in its importance. In the midst of Oscar madness, while trying to calculate each movie’s chances of winning the statuette and predicting which star will be best dressed, you can take a break and watch different kinds of movies. These movies come from different countries, they don’t always conform to the known cinematic conventions, (they sometimes even create new conventions), and their only hope of getting American attention is a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars or an American remake. So let’s take a look at some of the great movies that have passed through Berlin since its formation in 1951:
1. Wild Strawberries (1957) - Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece, which received the Golden Bear, tells the story of an elderly gentleman’s journey through his past with his estranged daughter. Like most of Bergman’s films, it is a contemplative look at human nature. A movie like that is bound to be sad, but Bergman’s surreal style and enlightening observations make it engaging, and never boring. Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry was a modern take on this story.
2. Repulsion (1965) – Roman Polanski’s first English speaking film is an amazing thriller. It won the Silver Bear, paved the way for Polanski’s international success, while also catapulting the beautiful Catherine Deneuve into stardom. Here we get an insider look into the mind of a young, beautiful, but mentally ill woman (Deneuve), and see her spiraling down. This film is a purely psychological affair, with the camera often glued to the heroine. It is rightfully considered as one of the greatest psychological thrillers of all time.
3. The Conformist (1970) – Bernardo Bertolucci’s political drama received the Journalists’ Special Award at Berlin. Based on a book by Alberto Moravia, this film deals with Italy’s fascist past, trying to analyze it from a psychological point of view. Needless to say that this is a critical look at conformity, and what could happen to someone if he follows a norm he doesn’t necessarily believe in. When the protagonist realizes what he has gotten himself into, he faces a crisis of consciousness. How will he deal with his moral dilemma?
4. Drugstore Cowboy (1989) – Recipient of the C.I.C.A.E. Award in Berlin, Gus Van Sant’s breakthrough film follows a group of drug addicts in their travels through the US Pacific Northwest during the early 70s. Few movies portray social misfits better than this one, with a great performance from Matt Dillon, the protagonist who tries to go straight, but faces obstacles, from society and from within. Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham and a great Electronica score make it an essential film.
5. The Thin Red Line (1998) – Terrence Malick’s anti-war drama shows how different soldiers deal with war. The strength of this movie is the juxtaposition between the epic battles and the look into the mind and soul of the individual soldiers who went to fight for the sake of humanity. The concepts of heroism vs. cowardness and survival vs. death are dealt with great depth and insight, and not with the usual sentimentality of Hollywood movies. If you want to watch a different kind of war movie – go watch this one.
6. Spirited Away (2001) – Most animated features for kids have a very simple storyline, an obvious morality, and a clear distinction between heroes and villains. In contrast, the imaginary worlds that Hayao Miyazaki create are so rich and full of different characters, who are weird, scary and compelling at the same time, that you are swept into them no matter how old you are. Spirited Away won the Golden Bear in Berlin, an Oscar for Animated feature, and became the most successful film in Japanese history. Seeing it will give you a whole new idea of what animated movies can achieve.
7. The Beat that My Heart Skipped (2005) – Jacques Audiard’s release before 2009’s hit A Prophet tells the story of a man torn between his passionate interest, playing piano, and his life of crime. This is not an uplifting tale of redemption, instead Audiard focuses more on the process, and the attempt of rekindling something that was lost, than on the result. Romain Duris does a great job in the lead, showing both a rough and tender side. Niels Arestrup is also great as his sleazy and unsupportive parent.
8. I am a Cyborg But That’s Ok (2006) – Chan-Wook Park understood that if you make a movie in a mental institution your options are unlimited. Why not cooperate with the mentally unstable and show us how they think. A love story between a girl who think she’s a cyborg (and refuses to eat) and a young man who is sure he can steal people’s souls. You will be taken on a ride into their quirky inner worlds, and will not want to get off.
9. The Yes Men Fix the World (2009) - Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno’s sequel to 2003’s hilarious The Yes Men, takes the duo of pranksters to the next level. By impersonating executives from different corporations they try to achieve two things – either expose corporate greed and ruthlessness when the people at corporate lectures agree with some outrageous idea, or show what should be done, by taking fake responsibility or promising to fix things as fake representatives of corporations. It’s a humorous, witty and clever take on very serious subjects.
10. The Turin Horse (2011) – Bela Tarr’s experimental movie (and maybe his last) depicts the bleak everyday life of a father and daughter struggling to survive in an isolated house in the middle of nowhere, in the late 19th century. Beware, This movie is not for the casual movie goer. Saying it is slow would be an understatement, but the cinematography is nothing short of amazing, the score is haunting, and every detailed scene is just breathtaking. Through the repetitive occurrences, and small changes we learn a lot about the relations between man and animal, man and the forces of nature, and maybe even the fate of humanity.
Technorati Tags: Foreign Films, Oscar nominees, Remake, Cannes, Berlin International Film Festival, Ingmar Bergman, Wild Strawberries, Woody Allen, Deconstructing Harry, Golden Bear, Repulsion, Roman Polanski, Catherine Deneuve, psychological thriller, Silver Bear, The Conformist, Bernardo Bertolucci, Alberto Moravia, Drugstore Cowboy, Gus Van Sant, Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, Heather Graham, The Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick, Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki, Japanese history, The Beat the My Heart Skipped, Jacques Audiard, Romain Duris, Niels Arestrup, I am a Cyborg But That’s Ok, Chan-Wook Park, love story, mental institution, The Yes Men Fix the World, Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno, The Turin Horse, Bela Tarr
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