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Berlin fest sets agenda

Wenders pic to open Berlin fest

BERLIN — The 50th edition of the Berlin Intl. Film festival, which kicks off Feb. 9 with Wim Wenders’ “The Million Dollar Hotel,” will touch down with a strong mix of European and Asian fare, as well as the usual Oscar contenders and a number of A-list stars.

This year sees 21 pictures vying for Berlin’s top accolade, the Golden Bear, in addition to 10 out-of-competition screenings and 11 short films.

The fest’s exec director, Moritz de Hadeln, heralded the 50th Berlin batch as continuing to employ “technical and aesthetic innovations.”

“The great impact of European film on American cinema is both remarkable and exciting, and it has occurred without European and American filmmakers losing their artistic identity,” de Hadeln said.

American pie

U.S. pics in competition are Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia”; the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer “The Beach,” directed by “Trainspotting” helmer Danny Boyle; Milos Forman’s “Man on the Moon”; Norman Jewison’s “The Hurricane”; “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” directed by Anthony Minghella; and Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday.”

Asian pics see the return of fest favorite Stanley Kwan, who will make his fourth appearance at the fest with “The Island Tales,” a tale of four people from diverse cultures put under quarantine on an island when an epidemic breaks out.

Asian fare

Chinese helmer Zhang Yimou returns with “The Road Home,” which is set against the funeral of the village schoolteacher and tells the story of a deep love threatened by the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution.

Questioning Japanese society is “Boys’ Choir,” directed by Akira Ogata, which uses the rehearsals of a boys’ choir to mirror larger social conflicts in Japan of the late ’60s.

Turkish pics again feature, as they did last year with “Journey to the Sun.” This year sees “Clouds of May” in competition. Directed by Nuri B. Ceylan, pic is about a father who takes on the authorities over a contested piece of forest.

Rounding out the competition are a number of Euro pics, including “The Sea,” directed by Spanish director Agusti Villaronga, which examines how the Spanish Civil War left deep wounds on four young people.

Italian helmer Lucio Gaudino’s “First Lights of Dawn” is about two brothers, whose parents are victims of the Mafia, who meet again in Sicily.

Claude Miller’s “Of Women and Magic” is based on a novel by Siri Hustvedt. Pic is shot with the aid of a modern HDTF camera.

Magical, mystical

Another pic using state of the art technology is Jonathan Nossiter’s “Signs and Wonders,” which has Theo Angelopulos’ cameraman Yorgos Avanitis doing the technical wonders. Pic stars Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling and Dimitris Katalifos.

French cinema bad boy Francois Ozon returns after “Sitcom” was pulled two years ago for Cannes with “Raining Drops on Burning,” which is based on a play by German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder.

“The Captain’s Daughter” is directed by Aleksandr Proschkin and was made in tribute to Pushkin in honor of his 200th birthday.

Women helmers are, as usual, few and far between. Laetitia Masson is in competition with “Love Me,” an introspective journey about a woman looking for her identity.

“Sky Hook,” directed by Ljubisa Samardzic, takes place during the bombardment of Belgrade in spring 1999.

Home-team advantage

Strong on German talent this year, comp features “Rita’s Legends,” directed by Volker Schlondorff and “Paradiso — Seven Days with Seven Woman,” directed by Rudolf Thome. Pic is about a composer’s wife who invites six women who have played an important role in her husband’s life to his 60th birthday. Wenders is also in competition.

Out of competition screenings include:

  • the return of Brazilian vet Bruno Barreto with “Bossa Nova,” a love story set in Rio;

  • Shakespeare pic “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” which is directed by Kenneth Branagh and set just prior to World War II; and

  • Julien Temple’s documentary “The Filth and the Fury,” about the Sex Pistols told from the perspective of their manager, Malcolm McLaren.

Special screenings include “The Deer Hunter,” in a salute to Robert De Niro, and, as part of a tribute to Jeanne Moreau, the Berlinale’s guest of honor, “Mademoiselle,” a 1966 pic directed by Tony Richardson.

This year’s International Jury, which will be headed by Chinese actress Gong Li, includes Lissy Bellaiche from Denmark, German critic Peter W. Jansen, Canadian Jean Lefebvre, Spanish actress Marisa Paredes, French producer Jean-Louis Piel, Brazilian director Walter Salles, German actress Maria Schrader and Polish director Andrzej Wajda.

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