Daily | Berlinale 2015 Lineup, Round 5

Queen of the Desert

Werner Herzog and his crew shooting ‘Queen of the Desert’

Last month, the Berlinale announced the first seven titles lined up for the Competition, including world premieres of the new films by Terrence Malick, Peter Greenaway and Andrew Haigh. Today, the festival releases the Kraken with its second round of eight titles, all of them world premieres excepting the Wen Jiang’s film.

Bill Condon‘s Mr. Holmes. With Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada and Hattie Morahan. Out of competition. From Pamela McClintock in the Hollywood Reporter: “Set in 1947, an aging Holmes returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. Now, in his remote seaside Sussex farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days with only the company of his housekeeper (Linney) and her young son, Roger, whom he comes to rely on. Grappling with the diminishing powers of his mind, Holmes comes to rely upon the boy as he revisits an unsolved case that forced him into retirement, and searches for answers to the mysteries of life and love before it’s too late.”

Di Phan Dang‘s Cha và con và (Big Father, Small Father and Other Stories). With Do Thi Hai Yen, Le Cong Hoang and Truong The Vinh. From Ties That Bind: “In 1990s Saigon, photography student Vu falls in love with his roommate, Thang, a heroin dealer. When Van, a singer at the club where Thang works is attacked, they run away to Vu’s hometown. Sau welcomes his son home, but after seeing Vu kisses Thang tries to separate the two. Six months later Thang has fallen into debt, so Vu introduces him to a woman who arranges vasectomies for quick cash. At the hospital, Thang goes for a smoke, from which he never returns. Later, Sau takes his now pregnant daughter to Saigon to look for Vu, but they can’t find him.”

Werner Herzog‘s Queen of the Desert. With Nicole Kidman, James Franco, Damian Lewis and Robert Pattinson. Based on the life of Gertrude Bell, who, as her Wikipedia page has it, was “an English writer, traveller, political officer, administrator, archaeologist and spy who explored, mapped, and became highly influential to British imperial policy-making due to her skill and contacts, built up through extensive travels in Greater Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor, and Arabia. Along with T. E. Lawrence, Bell helped establish the Hashemite dynasties in what is today Jordan as well as in Iraq.” Talking to the Playlist‘s Edward Davis in June, Herzog said of Kidman’s performance: “Wait for that one. Wait for it. I make an ominous prediction: How good she is.”

Benoît Jacquot‘s Journal d’une femme de chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid). With Léa Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Clotilde Mollet, Hervé Pierre and Vincent Lacoste. The fourth adaptation of Octave Mirbeau’s 1900 novel, following M. Martov’s (1916), Jean Renoir‘s (1946) and Luis Buñuel‘s (1964), tells the story of “Celestine, a beautiful Parisian domestic who, upon arrival at her new job at an estate in provincial 1930s France, entrenches herself in sexual hypocrisy and scandal with her philandering employer.”

Jafar Panahi‘s Taxi. It doesn’t seem much is known yet about Taxi other than, as Scott Roxborough notes in THR, that it’s “Panahi’s third film to run in competition in Berlin. His drama Offside, about Iranian girls dressing as boys to sneak into soccer matches, won Berlin’s Silver Bear in 2006. The director is currently serving a six-year jail sentence in Tehran for ‘propaganda against the Iranian government’ and has been officially banned by the Iranian regime from making movies for 20 years.”

Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria. With Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, Max Mauff and André M. Hennicke. From cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen: “The night is coming to and end. At a club Victoria gets to know four Berlin guys, Sonne, Boxer, Blinker and Fuss. There is an immediate spark between Sonne and Victoria, but the time for romance is soon put to an end, when Sonne and his friends are forced to settle an old debt. When one of the four friends unexpectedly is unable to help out, Victoria steps in as the driver. What started like a big crazy adventure, quickly becomes a nightmare.”

Malgorzata Szumowska‘s Body. With Janusz Gajos, Maja Ostaszewska and Justyna Suwala. In May, Will Tizard noted in Variety that Szumowska won a Teddy at the 2013 Berlinale for In the Name Of. Body is “a return to her roots after working on the Paris-set Elles” with Juliette Binoche. The new film “explores lonely men and women’s relationships to bodies, both physical and spiritual.”

Wen Jiang’s Yi bu zhi yao (Gone with the Bullets). With Wen Jiang, You Ge, Yun Zhou, Qi Shu and Huang Hung. In December, writing for THR, Clarence Tsui called the film “an extraordinary mélange of seminal stylistic tropes from abroad, a two-hour-plus journey taking in nods to newsreels, silent slapstick, musicals, film noir and even New Hollywood—not to mention the specific pastiches of The Godfather, Chicago, The Italian Job and even the Bogart-Bacall whistle moment in To Have and Have Not. But a mish-mash of references a masterpiece does not make.”

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