Berlinale film festival to award top prizes under Covid shadow

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Berlin (AFP) – The 72nd Berlinale film festival hands out its first awards on Wednesday, including its Golden Bear for Best Picture and a gender-neutral actor gong after a curtailed in-person run under the pandemic.

The 11-day festival, which ranks with Cannes and Venice among Europe’s top film showcases, held a shorter competition this year with strict audience regulations just as coronavirus infections peaked in Germany. .

The Hollywood reporter said that “the competition’s small castings, confined sets and limited shoots provide a glimpse of a new Covid-era cinema”.

There are 18 films from 15 countries vying for this year’s Golden Bear, which will be awarded at a gala ceremony by a jury headed by Indian-American director M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”).

The suitors cover a range of moods from “Both Sides of the Blade,” a tense French love story directed by Claire Denis and starring Juliette Binoche, to “Robe of Gems,” a Mexican crime mystery.

Critics have praised Binoche for her performance in the French film, where she is caught between two men – her longtime husband Jean and her elusive ex François.

“Dazzling Achievement”

The Hollywood Reporter called it a “smart, moody and superbly acted melodrama”, while Britain’s Screen Daily said Binoche and co-star Vincent Lindon, who plays Jean, were “at the top of their game”. .

In “Robe of Gems,” writer and director Natalia Lopez Gallardo explores the trauma inflicted on Mexican families when loved ones go missing.

The Guardian called it “dazzling in accomplishment and confidence…The film everyone’s talking about this year in Berlin”.

Critics also hailed “Before, Now and Then,” a family drama set in rural 1960s Indonesia by Kamila Andini, the first woman from her country to direct a film in competition at the Berlinale.

The Hollywood Reporter said it was a “precisely calibrated” and “emotionally nuanced” film that “both looks and feels stunning”.

Chinese film “Return to Dust” also impressed with its low-key love story between two social outcasts who make the most of an arranged marriage as they build a simple life together in the countryside.

Screen Daily called it “the most moving and accessible work to date from 39-year-old director Li Ruijun”, saying it “packs a quiet emotional punch”, while the film news site American Deadline noted the “wonderfully atmospheric” rendition of dark rural life. China.

“Difficult but captivating”

On a slightly less understated note, Austrian director Ulrich Seidl served up a dark and sexually explicit drama “Rimini,” which tells the story of a run-down pop singer who makes a living performing for pensioners and sleeping single women for money.

Variety called it “challenging but engrossing”, while The Guardian said protagonist Richie Bravo was “so awful he could be brilliant”.

Also exploring questionable sexual escapades, Canadian director Denis Cote’s “That Kind of Summer” follows three women at a summer addiction retreat as they try to come to terms with their demons.

Deadline said it was “entertaining” but “it’s still unclear what (Cote) wants to find out or tell us about these unreformed Lolitas.”

Another top contender is Andreas Dresen’s “Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush,” the true story of a mother’s battle to bring her son back from Guantanamo Bay.

The Spanish film “One Year, One Night” also reconstructs real events, focusing on a young couple who survived the 2015 attack on the Bataclan concert hall in Paris.

Elsewhere, Charlotte Gainsbourg was celebrated for her performance as a single mother in 1980s Paris in Mikhael Hers’ drama ‘Les Passagers de la nuit’.

And Michael Koch’s meditation on death and loss set in the Alps, “A Piece of Sky”, has been hailed by Deadline as “both beautifully done and a thing of beauty in itself”.

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