Berlin Film Festival 2013: Twitch Previews the Competition

Brian Clark, European Editor
Moving right along from Sundance and Rotterdam, here comes Berlinale! Starting Thursday, we'll be bringing you updates from the festival, but before the cold-weather movie marathon begins, lets take a look at some films that stood out in the lineup. Narrowing down these preview pieces was quite an undertaking, since the lineup is massive, but I have indeed gone through every film and made judgements based on talent involved, the synopses and even the stills.

We'll begin with competition films. Within this category are several films which have already screened to considerable buzz elsewhere, including Prince Avalanche, Promised Land, the unfinished River Phoenix/George Sluizer collaboration Dark Blood, and the much-anticipated opening selection, Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster. But, while I may chime in on the newly edited version of The Grandmaster at some point, I'll be mostly taking gambles on films that haven't screened anywhere and trying to discover new gems of world cinema. And so, here are the premieres that caught my eye in the competition lineup.

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Paradise: Hope - Part three (following Love and Faith) in Ulrich Seidl's trilogy dealing with the impossibility of paradise. This one follows a teenager which Seidl introduced in Paradise: Love and the likely soul-crushing escapades in which she partakes while her mother goes to Kenya in search of for-sale sex. Here's hoping for a movie just as transgressive, shocking, moving and funny as Paradise: Love.


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Vic + Flo Saw a Bear - Perhaps the most eccentric-sounding of the lineup, Denis Côté's film follows a woman just released from prison who meets up with her lover and takes a journey through the wilderness of Canada. There, they run into an array of problems and bizzare characters. And hopefully also a bear.


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Camille Claudel 1915 - Juliette Binoche plays artist Camille Claudel, the lover of August Rodin, who was committed to a psychiatric clinic in the South of France. The film takes place mostly within the said ward, with actual mentally handicapped actors playing the patients. Since it's directed by Bruno Dumont (Twentynine Palms, Outside Satan), you can go ahead and drop any expectations of the film going anywhere remotely uplifting. 


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Layla Fourie - A single mother in Johannesburg gets a job as a polygraph operator, only to quickly become enmeshed in a web of lies and deceit. A new milieu for the paranoia thriller genre.


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Night Train to Lisbon - I love trains, I love Lisbon, and I mostly love the work of director Bille August (Pelle the Conquerer, Zappa). The cast of Jeremy Irons, Melanie Laurant and Charlotte Rampling doesn't hurt either. Sold. Apparently this is based on a best-selling novel that I've never heard of by Pascal Mercier.


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Nobody's Daughter Haewon - Hong Sangsoo's latest follows the dream-like state of a depressed student who is having an affair with a professor. Meanwhile, her mom is making plans to move to Canada. Somehow she eventually ends up in the mountains.


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Closed Curtain - This is the latest from Iranian director Jafar Panahi (The Circle, This is Not a Film), who, as you may recall, was sentenced to six years of house arrest and banned from writing screenplays or making films for 20 years because the Iranian government saw him as a threat to the regime. Despite the sentence, He managed to make This is Not a Film, which was then smuggled out of Iran in a thumbdrive in a cake! Now, the determined director has somehow made a new one, which concerns two outlaws holing up in a secluded house.


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Child's Pose - A bourgeoisie woman struggles to get charges dropped against her son, who accidentally hit and killed a child while driving way too fast. Yep, more smiles and sunshine from Romania, the country responsible for feel good classics like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu! Seriously though, there seems like a lot of potential here for exploring different perspectives on justice, corruption and of course, the court system of the country.


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The Nun - A young woman is sent to a convent against her will in this adaptation of Denis Diderot's novel, which has also been tackled by Jacques Rivette back in 1966. The always lovely Isabelle Huppert co-stars with lead Pauline Etienne.


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Harmony Lessons - This intriguing-sounding film from Kazakhstan begins with a thirteen year-old's humiliation in front of his peers during a medical examination, then follows him down a longer spiral later on in a small town with his grandmother. Based on the still, it looks like bleak stuff.
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  • mightyjoeyoung

    "Child's Pose - A bourgeoisie woman struggles to get charges dropped against her son, who accidentally hit and killed a child while driving way too fast. Yep, more smiles and sunshine from Romania, the country responsible for feel good classics like 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days"

    Smiles and sunshine....you got that right, Mr Clark, sounds like another dark drama from Romania.

    "Harmony Lessons - This intriguing-sounding film from Kazakhstan begins with a thirteen year-old's humiliation in front of his peers during a medical examination, then follows him down a longer spiral later on in a small town with his grandmother."

    A country to keep an eye on, I guess.......all that oil money....who knows what surprises they will bring in the future?

    Thanks for the list, Mr Clark, but Bille August......I dunno, don´t get your hopes too much Mr Clark, he has some hits & misses......

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