Berlin Diary: Day Four

A high time at High Life, enraged by Rage, plus Coyote, Absolute Evil and Mammoth.

by Darren Amner and Adam Micklethwaite

High Life Talent at Berlin post-screening

High Life Talent at Berlin post-screening

Darren writes... Last night was a little frantic as we headed to the late-night World Premiere of Canadian film-maker Gary Yates new film, High Life, which had packed in quite the crowd. A movie I chose as one of my top five choices to see at the festival, set in the early Eighties, it's the story of a gang of drug-addicted petty criminals who plan a heist. The screening was at 10.30pm which meant we would be back at the hotel quite late (turns out it was 1.30am to be precise).

The film was greatly received by the majority of the audience and most of the film's appeal was down to its black comedy, great ensemble cast and funky soundtrack. I must admit to being a bit of a celebrity whore so when I spotted the director amongst the crowd I had to mention it to Adam. I had an inkling that there may be a Q&A afterwards, hence the director's attendance, which I was right about. But imagine my excitement when, once inside, I clocked the fact that we were sitting three rows in front of the film's stars Timothy Olyphant, Rossif Sutherland and Stephen Eric McIntyre. I have been a big fan of Olyphant since I saw him in the Doug Liman movie Go where he played a charming drug dealer and with him being an addict in High Life - I'm starting to see a pattern emerging here with his film choices!

Rossif Sutherland
Paul Walker - no... wait! Rossif Sutherland, my mistake!
All the members of the cast joined the director onstage afterwards for a brief but informative chat, which I'll upload when I get a chance to listen to it again. As we were exiting the screening actor Rossif Sutherland was accosted by hungry autograph hunters, which he seemed a little daunted by. One overly keen German fan handed him a photo to sign, responding with a wry smile Sutherland said "Paul Walker is a handsome guy but sadly that's not me". Boy, did I laugh!

Although we were both suffering with sleep deprivation a 10am call lead us to both see Absolute Evil, which I have now re-named Absolutely Awful - I'll let Adam talk more about this film later in the diary. To erase the bad memory of that schlock I went to a screening of Sólo Quiero Caminar (Just Walking), starring Diego Luna, that lured me with its whizz bang trailer on a big screen outside the Sony Center here. It's the story of a spectacular robbery carried out by four women driven by a desire to exact revenge. I found it to be an interesting take on the gangster genre which contained wince inducing violence and strong performances by Ariadna Gil as Aurora and Luna as Gabriel.

My last film today was Rage, a story about an accident, a murder and a crisis within the fashion industry set in New York. A packed theatre and marquee names like Jude Law, Eddie Izzard and Steve Buscemi initially looked promising but an hour in, its lack of panache or storyline lead to my first ever walkout from a screening. Rage was filmed in the most derivative way, in which 14 characters are interviewed direct to camera, it was a bold attempt at innovative storytelling that fell flat on its face.

So a slightly sour end to an overall fantastic first few days here in Berlin, but with a week to go there's plenty still to look forward to.

Adam writes... After our heroic late finale with High Life last night, we've made our worst decision of the festival so far by choosing to attend an early morning screening of Uli Lommel's abysmal film, Absolute Evil. What's left of the plot when you remove the gaping holes is pretty threadbare but, for those who still want to know it revolves around the lasting consequences of a murder commited 15 years ago by a street gang, focussing upon the girl whose father was shot. Whatever you may think of this synopsis don't expect minor details like 'plot' or 'character' to be a central concern.

I'm not normally given to slating films because I believe that a reviewer's job is to offer incite and opinion, rather than prejudice, but I'm afraid this film was irredeemably bad and I would've walked out and left them to it were it not for my reviewing commitments. Woeful acting, terrible scripting, cliched music and possibly the worst prouction values I have ever seen. The whole thing came across like a really bad episode of Police, Camera, Action crossed with Days of Our Lives. The most amazing part is that the film had somehow made it to the Panorama section at this Berlinale, which just goes to show that therre really is no accounting for taste.

Anyway, rant over, I think I've said my piece. This afternoon has at least been far more enjoyable, as I've made my first trip to a screening at the gorgeous Berlinale Palast, which is the showcase venue for this year's festival. I went to see Mammoth, the new by film by acclaimed Swedish director Lukas Moodysson, which deals with the the difficulties facing Third World parents who want a better life for their children. Centring around a wealthy New York family and their Filipino nanny and located in New York, Thailand and the Philippines, the film is an ambitous effort to tackle the issue from both sides of the economic fence. Although it took a while to find it's feet, I did enjoy the film for the most part though I felt that, considering it's weighty subject mattter, it somehow lacked impact and left less of an impression on me than I would've expected.

Along the same thematic lines, my final screening of the day was a documentary (my first of the festival) by Spanish filmmaker Chema Rodriguez. Coyote is a daring and adventurous piece of cinema, following the exploits of a human traffiker (a coyote), who is ferrying three Guatemalan hopefuls to the Mexcico-US border in an attempt to get them into merica illegally. Not afraid of the controversial topic of immigration, this film also dealt with the theme of mothers wanting a better life for the children and the lengths they were prepared to go. By turns touching, funny and frank this was a great documentary which I thoroughly recommend.

It's been a long day, so time for us to head back to the hotel and get some much-needed shut eye. Guten abend for now...

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