This year’s Berlinale is quickly drawing to a close. As we wait impatiently for the final award announcements, let’s discuss several titles that caught our attention due to the high expectations surrounding them and the considerable notoriety that has followed them for some time now. What struck us about these films was that they all felt like well-intentioned labors of love that may suffer from a lack of focus.
(dir. David and Nathan Zellner)
The John Wayne-type of old-school western may be long gone, but its second, post-modern life is stronger than ever, marked with thrilling titles such as Slow West, Hell or High Water, and No Country for Old Men. With Damsel, the eccentric and exciting Zellner brothers demonstrate their skill in demystifying the ethos of the Old West. Damsel is a well written, subversive, beautifully shot (by Jeff Nichols’ regular collaborator Adam Stone) minimalist odyssey. It’s an unpredictably fun parody that skillfully plays with viewers’ expectations every step of the way.
The landscapes and mise-en-scène mesmerize, and Robert Pattinson impresses as an earnest adventurer/troubadour on a quest for his loved one. On the other hand, the usually flawless Mia Wasikowska, playing the stubborn and defiant Penelope, seems a little too one-dimensional and literal to be considered a real female hero for this neo/anti-western.
(dir. Benoit Jacquot)
Bertrand (Gaspard Ulliel)—a young, handsome dramatist (and plagiarist as we quickly find out)—has lost his touch and is desperate for some instant inspiration. He’s hoping to find some in a secluded cabin in the hills of Annecy in France, where he unexpectedly meets an older couple when they barge in uninvited during a snowstorm. As it turns out, the woman (Isabelle Huppert) is a no-nonsense prostitute on a date with her client. Bertrand is immediately attracted to her and begins to think that the mysterious Eva might be exactly what he needs to write his sophomore play. This realization marks the beginning of a curious power play.
The latest feature from Benoit Jacquot might seem like a mystery drama in the spirit of The Talented Mr. Ripley, although it is neither as stylish nor as electrifying as that 1999 movie. Unfortunately, despite Huppert and Ulliel’s efforts, it disappoints on many levels and the script and execution fall short.
(dir. Lauren Greenfield)
Lauren Greenfield, the director of the artful and engaging Queen of Versailles, gets back with a new feature documentary where she continues tackling capitalism, consumerism and L.A. kids (including the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kate Hudson). The territories she revisits in her latest work, Generation Wealth, may already be quite familiar, but the tools and means she uses to demonstrate her point are quite different.
For the last 25 years Greenfield has been researching and chronicling wealth and the culture of excess in America. Her collection of photographs and memories was recently turned into an extravagant exhibition, a large, glossy album and a documentary essay that is a very ambitious, but unbalanced project. For someone having a quarter-of-a-century worth of stories and experiences, Greenfield’s theses seem a little too convenient, superficial and exploitative (if not hypocritical). In the end, the effect seems closer to the “where are they now” narrative then to an attempt to provide viewers with actual answers.
Read more about some of the most interesting films playing at the Berlinale Film Festival right here!