Festgoers still waiting to be bowled over
Four days into the action, and with just over a third of the Competition already unspooled, Berlin festgoers were still waiting to be bowled over.Crix faces are by no means as wintry as the temperatures on the streets around Potsdamer Platz, but not warm enough to melt the snow that’s enveloped the city. Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en Rose” predictably delighted the Berlinale Palast’s opening crowd, and has been warmly embraced by fans of the songbird’s music. Overall, crix were more mixed, carping about the film’s antsy flashback/forward structure but praising the astounding perf of lead actress Marion Cotillard. The Berlinale’s first few days are traditionally slow, as international preems of U.S. studio fare or Oscar contenders are rolled out and world preems of foreign fare dominate the following week. Pics by several big guns (Jacques Rivette, Jiri Menzel, Paul Schrader, Francois Ozon) are yet to unspool. Yank entries “The Good German” and “The Good Shepherd” — or “The Good German Shepherd” as they’ve been twinned here — failed to make the mercury rise. Reactions ranged from OK-ish to overlong (Robert De Niro’s “Shepherd”) to uninvolving (Steven Soderbergh’s “German”). However, Berlin scribes weren’t seemingly miffed by Soderbergh’s re-creation of their city on Burbank backlots. Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima” was respectfully, rather than enthusiastically, received. Foreign-lingo fare in Competition has so far set few tongues wagging. Cao Hamburger’s Brazilian entry, “The Year My Parents Went on Vacation,” is a charming but lightweight story of a soccer-mad kid who’s temporarily adopted by his Jewish grandfather during the World Cup. Also politely received, though dealing with weightier political/racial issues, was Bille August’s cool and uninvolving “Goodbye Bafana,” a period drama based on Nelson Mandela’s relationship with his white-supremacist jailer. Though Park Chan-wook’s “I’m a Cyborg, but That’s OK,” a semi-fantastic love story set in a loony bin, was adjudged overlong, but even its severest detractors recognized the South Korean helmer’s distinctive personal stamp on the fragile material. The other Asian entry so far, Chinese helmer Wang Quanan’s Inner Mongolian-set “Tuya’s Marriage,” was far better received, though with no great passion. Perhaps the most compelling pic so far has been Stefan Ruzowitzky’s German-Austrian co-prod “The Counterfeiters,” an edgily-shot WWII prison camp drama, based on fact, in which Jews were used to fake British and American currency to create economic chaos during WWII. Pic could well be in the running for a best actor gong. Prize so far for the most mystifying entry goes to Saverio Costanzo’s “In Memory of Myself,” set in a Venetian monastery, which mixed a highly burnished look with head-scratching spiritual content. With the Competition in neutral gear, most of the fireworks have come from the parallel sections of the fest. In Panorama, Julie Delpy’s Woody Allen-like comedy “2 Days in Paris” proved a crowdpleaser, while Australian drama “The Home Song Stories” and French-helmed “Lady Chatterley” have drawn highly appreciative nods. The Forum selection is also turning out to be strong, with early kudos going to the Swiss-set obsessional drama “Parting Shot” by Jeanne Waltz; stunning U.S. family revenge drama “Shotgun Stories,” a first feature by Jeff Nichols; and Hong Kong surveillance ensembler “Eye in the Sky,” the debut of Yau Nai-hoi, Johnnie To’s regular scripter.