Berlin Festival Diary: Day Six

Chéri... plus Michelle Pfeiffer talks younger men.

by Darren Amner and Adam Micklethwaite

Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend in Chéri

Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend in Chéri

Adam writes... We began the day at 6am with high hopes for the latest entrant to this year’s Berlinale Competition section, Stephen Frears’ Chéri, which was the only film we had both highlighted in our most anticipated films at the start of the festival. Unfortunately, for me at least, this film didn’t really measure up to expectations and counts as a bit of a disappointment overall.

With Frears helming a talented cast, which includes Michele Pffeifer, Kathy Bates and upcoming British actor, Rupert Friend, this tale of a tragic love affair between an ageing Parisian courtesan and her young lover, based on a novel by French novelist Collete, sounded very promising indeed. I was naively hoping for something along the lines of Anna Karenina, but unfortunately neither the unconvincing central love story nor the characters themselves left me with any sensations which would be comparable to the love affair in the Tolstoy’s masterpiece.

Not that such a comparison is ever likely to be very favourable, but I still felt the film, for all that it was polished and well-executed, lacked real emotional impact or drama. Although Bates and Pffeifer were both excellent as the ageing courtesans, the narration was intrusive and unnecessary (particularly in the film’s final scene) and the other characters (in particular, the main protagonist) very hard to engage with or feel any empathy towards. Likewise, the film’s ending left me somewhat cold and I couldn’t say Chéri added anything new or intriguing to the genre.

Darren writes...Today was the first time I can truly say I felt more relaxed being at the festival, for one, my diary was not as full as it has been as of late, which meant I had a little bit more time to play with. My first point of call was to see Stephen Frears Chéri, which I enjoyed and was a nice departure for a couple of hours. After the screening I headed to the press conference where Director Stephen Frears, stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend, writer Christopher Hampton and a handful of producers including Bill Kenwright were in attendance.

As with most of the press conferences I have attended so far the questions asked by some of the audience were mad, such as: "Define good acting" - but among the trash were some interesting tidbits. Michelle Pfeiffer was the centre of attention and pretty much carried the conversation throughout, on the subject of being the older woman in a relationship with a younger man she said: "I think it's a positive step in the right direction" and, "My leading men keep getting younger, the older I get".

Stephen Frears was also on top form displaying a dry sense of humour, when one person asked him about the comparison between Chéri and Dangerous Liaisons he quipped: "it's not at all similar - John Malkovich isn't in it!". But the funniest outcome of the whole press conference had to be when a journalist asked Rupert Friend, who plays Chéri, what he thought about the final outcome for his character, he was forced to admit that he didn't actually know the ending as he hadn´t seen the film yet! I felt for the guy a little as this is his first proper starring role.

As the afternoon progressed and the weather turned sour I made a dash to the press office for shelter and to do some work for the coming days. Tonight I'm going to see It Might Get Loud, a documentary on the electric guitar from the point of view of three rock legends The Edge, Jimmy Page and Jack White, the film is directed by An Inconvenient Truth's Davis Guggenheim.

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