Where would movies be without Geoffrey Rush? The 65 year-old Australian who began acting at the age of 20, was honoured with the Berlinale Camera for career achievement on Saturday in the German capital as he premiered yet another strong awards-worthy performance in Final Portrait.
In an introduction, Australian Barry Kosky, the artistic director of the Komische Oper Berlin, spoke of Rush’s theatre work as well as his films, saying he shows us the mystery of life “what bubbles beneath the surface”. Kosky referred to Australians as a nation of dags, of Hugh Jackman, who will later be at the festival, as “a tapdancing dag” and Rush as “king of the dags”, and an “idiosyncratic” actor. “There is only one Geoffrey Rush.”
Festival director Dieter Kosslick then presented Rush with the Berlinale Camera, noting it’s “the last award you don't have.”
Rush was gracious in his acceptance speech. “For me it is a great privilege to work as an actor, a job in which we tell the stories playfully abrasively, absurdly and confrontationally; stories about who we all are,” he told the crowd who responded with a huge applause.
In Final Portrait, Rush hunches himself over and dons a jowly look to embody Swiss-Italian artist Alberto Giacometti in the first film directed by Stanley Tucci in a decade. What sounded slightly limited on paper – American art writer James Lord sits over a couple of weeks in 1964 as Giacometti paints his famous portrait which recently sold for US$20 million – is fleshed out by Rush and American actor Armie Hammer in a highly amusing fashion.
“I always encourage actors to make things their own, and Geoffrey was brilliant and had a great sense humour,” Tucci says.
Hammer: “The experience was like playing tennis with someone who is better than you and in the process of playing they elevate your game. I essentially played a guy who sat across from one of his idols and was just enthralled by the talent of watching him paint, so in the movie all I had to do was sit across from one of my idols and be enthralled by watching him act.”
It’s one of two major roles Hammer plays at the festival. He’s heartbreaking in Luca Guadagnino’s romantic drama, Call Me by Your Name, where Oliver, his 24-year-old academic has a love affair with Elio, the 17-year-old son of friends he is visiting in Italy. Timothée Chalamet, a 21 year-old New York actor is a revelation as Elio and is starring in a spate of movies including Hot Summer Nights, which premieres next month at SXSW Festival in Austin Texas.
Watch 'EMO: The Musical' trailer:
After screening at the Melbourne Film Festival last year, EMO The Musical had its international premiere in the Berlinale’s Generation 14plus section on the weekend. The 95-minute film is an expansion of Neil Triffett’s short, which screened at the festival three years ago.
The film, which ultimately speaks of tolerance, follows Ethan (Benson Jack Anthony) who comes to a new high school after being expelled and identifies with the Emo clique, but can’t help but fall for the uncool Christian Trinity (Jordan Hare).
“The short film and characters were so embraced by the festival circuit we thought we’d be mad not to take it further,” Triffett explains. “The funding bodies were very supportive as the film is different to what anyone else is making in Australia at the moment, so we were very fortunate in that regard. We had the right mix of price [$1.9 million] and concepts.”
Interestingly the film is nominated in the Teddy awards. “This is being perceived as a queer film here as there’s a gay character and the whole group of Emos are sexually ambivalent throughout the course of the movie. But it’s actually a film about coming out in different kinds of ways.”
Red Dog: True Blue, which has already released in Australia, may have screened in Sundance, though director Kriv Stenders was only able to attend the Berlinale, where his film was afforded a prominent berth as the opening film in the Generation Kplus programme.
“We were here six years ago with the first film Red Dog, so it was just a lovely opportunity to come back,” Stenders says. “We had the premiere on Saturday and having 1500 kids watching our film is a pretty cool thing. They reacted to it better than any other audience I’ve seen it with – better than any Australian audience I’ve seen it with. It’s quite extraordinary and it’s very gratifying for me, because I feel we’ve made a film that’s universal.”