Berlin takes ‘Notes,’ ‘300’

Few German pics on lineup

BERLIN — The Berlin Intl. Film Festival will kick off Feb. 8 with a strong showing of high-profile U.S. titles in its main Competition section, including the world premiere of Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s ancient Greek tale “300.”

Fest organizers added 11 films Monday to complete the Competition lineup, which is heavy on U.S. and French fare, as well as international co-productions, but low on Teutonic titles.

The program comprises 26 films, including 19 world premieres, six international premieres and one European premiere. Four films will screen out of competition: Snyder’s “300” and Richard Eyre’s “Notes on a Scandal” starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, plus the already announced Paul Schrader U.S./U.K. co-production “The Walker” and Clint Eastwood’s “Letters From Iwo Jima.”

New additions in the running for the Golden Bear are David Mackenzie’s “Hallam Foe,” which stars Jamie Bell as a young man unable to cope with the loss of his mother; and Francois Ozon’s English-language “Angel,” which chronicles the rise and fall of a woman who breaks into the highest echelons of British society as an author. Romola Garai, Charlotte Rampling and Sam Neill star in the film, which closes the fest.

In addition to “Angel,” Gallic pics include fest’s opening film, “La vie en rose,” as well as “Les temoins” (The Witnesses) and “Ne touchez pas la hache” (Don’t Touch the Ax).

Among the seven U.S. films screening in and out of competition is “When a Man Falls in the Forest,” a Canadian-U.S. co-production starring Sharon Stone, Timothy Hutton and Dylan Baker from Ryan Eslinger (“Madness and Genius”) that focuses on people coming to terms with isolation and loneliness.

Pic joins heavyhitters tailor-made for the Berlinale such as Robert De Niro’s CIA drama “The Good Shepherd” and Steven Soderbergh’s post-war drama “The Good German.” Also in the U.S. lineup is Gregory Nava’s “Bordertown.”

Latin America is repped by two films: the Brazilian-Argentinean co-production “O ano em que meus pais sairam de ferias” (The Year My Parents Went On Holiday) by Cao Hamburger, about a 12-year-old boy growing up in Brazil in the 1970s during the military dictatorship; and Ariel Rotter’s “El otro,” an Argentinean-French-German co-production about a man who changes his identity. Julio Chavez (El Custodio) stars in the pic, which was backed by the Berlinale’s World Cinema Fund.

Israel offers a timely work in Joseph Cedar’s “Beaufort,” about the last military unit to be stationed in southern Lebanon prior to the troops’ withdrawal from the country.

Among contenders from Asia are Zhang Lu’s South Korean-French co-production “Hyazgar” (Desert Dream), about three people whose lives cross in a village on the Chinese-Mongolian border; the Chinese pic “Tu ya de hun shi” (Tuya’s Marriage) from director Wang Quan’an (“The Story of Er Mei”), about a woman’s efforts to find a husband; “Sai bo gu ji man gwen chan a” (I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK), from South Korea’s Park Chan-wook; and “Ping Guo” (“Lost in Beijing”), Li Yu’s Chinese film examining the longings and fears of Beijing residents.

This year’s Competition has fewer German films than recent years, when the Berlinale became an international platform for local filmmakers.

Christian Petzold’s “Yella” and Stefan Ruzowitzky’s German-Austrian co-production “Die Faelscher” (The Counterfeiters) are the only two German-language pics in the lineup, although selection includes German co-productions, such as “Goodbye Bafana” and “Irina Palm.”

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