The Berlinale is less of a shopping market for film distributors than say, Sundance, where films are snapped up during the event and its aftermath. With Berlin, it helps to know who has secured movies for Australian release, as it helps you know what to see. Still, it’s exciting to see where the dust falls at both festivals.
In Sundance, Australian and New Zealand films fared well this year, with the last news being that a festival hit, the charming and poignant People, Places, Things—with the ever-lovable and hilarious Jemaine Clement playing his first lead in an American film—has been picked up by Sony for the US and most of the world. Those canny folks at Madman scored the film for Australia and New Zealand.
We’re still waiting to hear where Jafar Panahi’s Golden Bear winner, Taxi, will end up, as well as Pablo Larraín’s The Club, which won the festival’s Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize, essentially second place.
The latest Disney extravaganza may have come at the end of the festival, but Kenneth Branagh’s film was worth the wait. Finally, Disney has the ability to render in live action what they were only able to do with animation in 1950’s Cinderella, long considered one of the best animated movies ever made. Coming hot off the heels of Fifty Shades of Grey, another yarn about a rich boy meeting a poor virgin, Cinderella boasts far better frocks—and certainly more of them. At the film’s press conference, a radiant, redheaded Sandy Powell (known for her work with Martin Scorsese) admitted her love for designing for the villains—Cate Blanchett and Stellan Skarsgård both have brilliant red hair, like Powell—and critics concurred that Blanchett as the wicked stepmother steals the show and that she deserves a movie of her own. Not that Lily James isn’t impressive. Possessing one of the best smiles in the business, when her Cinders descends the palace stairs in that incredible blue dress—which is almost as wide as a bus—even the hearts of hardened cynics were leaping out of their woolly layers. Release date: 26 March.
Woman in Gold
Helen Mirren is compelling as always, sporting an Austrian accent as the real-life Los Angeles-based Jewish exile, Maria Altmann, who teamed with young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) to take on the Austrian officials and regain her family’s near priceless Klimt paintings. The overly sentimental, one-sided film which Variety notes has been “Weinsteined to within an inch of its life” is directed by Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn), whose wife Elizabeth McGovern (Downton Abbey) plays a judge in the legal proceedings. (Roadshow)
Knight of Cups
Terrence Malick’s latest offering stars Christian Bale as a lost Hollywood soul and Cate Blanchett as his ex-wife. The Aussie actress admitted she hadn’t seen the movie when she turned up briefly to plug Cinderella. “I don’t even know if I’m in it,” she quipped, referring to Malick’s habit of drastically editing his material, even if she ultimately commends the poetic license he takes. To be released through Roadshow later in the year.
In Berlin, interviews Ian McKellen displayed he was far more sprightly and colourful than his 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes, in yet another Transmission film, where Sherlock comes out of retirement to wrap up some unfinished business.
Madman was a winner at the festival for having acquired this gem of a film beforehand. Quiet in its execution and premise, the story of a couple whose 45th anniversary celebrations are stymied when the body of the man’s former girlfriend is found frozen in ice 50 years after her death in the Swiss Alps creeps up on you. There’s no doubting that Charlotte Rampling and the retiring Tom Courtenay deserve their Silver Bears for acting, and meeting them both was a festival highlight.
StudioCanal will release Oliver Hirschbiegel’s fascinating biopic about an unsung World War II resistance figure Georg Elser, who, in a failed explosion, could have saved the world from Hitler and his henchmen—only he missed by 13 minutes. Hirschbiegel should perhaps stick to filming in his native tongue even if he says he’s happy with his failed English-language efforts, including Diana starring Naomi Watts and The Invasion with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.
Directed by Anton Corbijn, this Germany-Canada-Australia-UK co-production was written by Australian Luke Davies (Candy) and produced by The Kings Speech duo, the UK’s Iain Canning and Australia’s Emile Sherman. The aim was to tell James Dean’s story for a younger generation via his meeting with photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson), who created some of the iconic photos, including Dean walking in the rain through Times Square. (Transmission)
Queen of the Desert
Even if Werner Herzog’s latest effort was not the most critically acclaimed film at the festival—neither was Fifty Shades of Grey—it’s bound to fascinate a wider audience with its grand historical sweep and central performance from Nicole Kidman as British adventurer Gertrude Bell. (Transmission)
At the European Film Market in Berlin, Palace Films picked up the Italian movie Latin Lover, directed by Cristina Comencini and starring Toni Bertorelli, Virna Lisi and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi. It's set for release in Italy on March 19.
European-based Australian filmmaker Brodie Higgs should be given a prize for tenacity in making his adventurousness German-Australian movie Elixir, which posits the lofty premise of having the famous surrealist painters alive and young today and working in Berlin’s youth-oriented art world. It’s the kind of film that needs more exposure away from the confines of the Berlinale’s German Cinema section to which it was assigned. Currently, Higgs is reaching out to private financiers for his next film to be shot in Paris.