Run Naomi Run
Categories: 2009 Berlin Film Festival
At 82, the Polish master Andrzej Wajda (Sweet Rush) may be the oldest director in competition, but he's young enough to be the son of Portugal's unstoppable Manoel De Oliveira, whose latest feature, Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl, screens in the non-competitive Berlinale Speical sidebar, which also includes Bellamy, the latest from French suspense maestro Claude Chabrol (a mere 78, and with nearly that many films under his belt). Meanwhile, in the Forum -- a home for more independent and experimental works roughly equivalent to Cannes' breakaway Directors Fortnight section -- one can find everything from Beeswax, the third feature by Funny Ha Ha director Andrew Bujalski, the latest architectural essay film by Heinz Emigholz and Love Exposure, a four-hour Japanese film about an adolescent sexual voyeur who falls in love with the man-hating step-daughter of his priest father's lover. (The Forum program intriguingly states that the film "composes the extremes of human behavior into an ecstatic passion choreographed to religious music, the Bolero, the funeral march and the Japanese band Yura Yura Teikoku's J-Pop music.") As a fan of long-form films, I welcome that challenge, but take due pause at the prospect of German director Ludwig Schönherr's New York. Ein visuelles Arbeitstagebuch, a Super 8 "visual diary" of New York City that reportedly takes more than four days to view in its entirety.
Like last month's Sundance Film Festival, which saw even its biggest buzz usurped by the U.S. Presidential Inauguration, the 2009 Berlinale coincides with its own bit of national history: the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which, although it will not be officially marked until November, is the subject of various year-long commemorations throughout Germany, including a special Berlinale sidebar, "After Winter Comes Spring - Films Presaging the Fall of the Wall," comprised of 13 features and several shorts produced in the GDR and other countries of the former Communist East.
Since I'll be writing about The International at length for next week's editions of the Weekly and The Village Voice, when the film opens in worldwide commercial release, I won't belabor the matter now, except to say that this poor man's Parallax View, about a sinister Luxembourg bank that runs a brisk sideline in third-world revolutions and black-market arms sales, can't hold a candle to the geopolitical nail-biters presently unfolding in the pages of your morning newspaper. Oh, and I'd be remiss not to mention the elaborate shootout that occurs in, of all places, Manhattan's Guggenheim Museum, which should appease anyone who has ever wondered what a Michael Bay gallery installation might look like and provides The International with a working metaphor for its own shotgun wedding of grindhouse inclinations and art-house ambitions.