The Berlin critics, many of whom are old and bearded, are not exactly the target audience for a film based on E. L. James’ trashy S&M romp. Yet for those of us prepared to be a little more open-minded, the credentials of director Sam Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) have allowed her to transform the trash into a palatable fantasy romance where the virginal woman turns the tables on her billionaire séducteur by having him fall for her charms. We have to remember that given how James based her novels on Bella and Edward from Twilight, there is a specific audience for this film. That said, Jamie Dornan, who impressed in The Fall, is worth the price of a ticket for women of all ages. Dakota Johnson has the sweetness—and the steeliness—of her mum, Melanie Griffith.
54: Director’s Cut
The 1998 film that Ryan Philippe has never lived down, yet where he is his most beautiful, was ravaged by Harvey Weinstein at the time of its US release so that the original plot changed drastically. (Miramax cut almost a third from the movie and then had its writer-director, Mark Christopher, complete half an hour of reshoots.) The film now reflects Christopher’s original intention to present the story of an ambisexual opportunist at work in one of New York’s most notorious nightspots, the legendary Studio 54, after he realises that his honed body can take him places. Christopher’s love letter to the disco scene of the late 1970s was almost as hot a ticket in Berlin as Fifty Shades of Grey.
13 Minutes (aka Elser)
After working in English on three films, German director Oliver Hirschbiegel (he made Diana with Naomi Watts, The Invasion with Nicole Kidman and Five Minutes of Heaven with Liam Neeson) returns to the era of his 2004 Oscar-winning movie, Downfall, to tell the riveting true story of Germany’s unsung resistance figure Georg Elser, who may have prevented World War II had he blown up Hitler and his henchmen. He missed by 13 minutes.
Jafar Panahi may no longer be under house arrest in Iran, yet he is still forbidden to make films. Even with few resources he remains a director to reckon with, as he skirts the official ruling by driving around in a taxi in Tehran. He gives us new insights into his homeland and displays he has not lost his sense of humour.
Charlotte Rampling is at her understated best as a woman whose husband, Tom Courtenay, drops a bombshell regarding his previous love, who died before they met. Rampling is a frontrunner for the Best Actress Silver Bear in a moody film she compares to François Ozon’s Under the Sand (available to watch now on SBS On Demand). Like Ozon, her 45 Years director Andrew Haigh is openly gay, and she says gay men know how to direct her.
From Chilean director Pablo Larraín (No, Tony Manero; available now at SBS On Demand), The Club is currently the favourite for the Golden Bear. Even so, jury head Darren Aronofsky may have other ideas. The film is certainly topical with its focus on defrocked priests who live in a seaside colony and don’t have a bad time at all. In our interview, Larraín, the son of a politician, says such colonies are supported by the Catholic Church all around the world, and while Pope Francis advocates sweeping changes, the Catholic Church needs to instigate fundamental changes in its policies and structure.
Knight of Cups
I was not a fan of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, yet I enjoyed Christian Bale as the lead in the director’s latest offering more and found that the delirium was more suited to the Hollywood setting with famous types of all shapes and sizes coming in and out of the frame, as well as some incredible architecture. Bale says the film is an ode to Los Angeles.
Benny Andersson of ABBA and his son, Ludvig, have produced and financed the Swedish fantasy thriller The Circle, focusing on a group of girls with magical powers in a provincial high school. Clearly someone is possessed by the bad spirit and it’s just a matter of time before we discover who it is. Based on the first book in the bestselling Engelsfors Trilogy, the film appealed to the teenagers in the crowd, and Andersson will fund the sequels if the first movie, which releases in Sweden next week, is a success. And no, ABBA will not be reuniting if he has anything to do with it.
Queen of the Desert
Whether looking imperious on a camel or striding to meet and ultimately impress men in positions of authority, Nicole Kidman impresses as Gertrude Bell, a luminous woman who usually gets her way with leaders of the Bedouins and the British army alike. Still, one wonders where eccentric director Werner Herzog got the idea to cast Robert Pattinson as a young TE Lawrence aka Lawrence of Arabia.
Ian McKellen has 1.5 million followers on Twitter because of The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and X-Men. When the first shots of the actor as 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes appeared on social media during the festival, they attracted over a million hits on the first day. Of course, the popularity of the super sleuth has been propelled by Benedict Cumberbatch in the television series, yet McKellen has never seen that.