The Grandmaster opens Berlin Film Festival

Martial arts drama heads up the action.

by Jennie Kermode

The 63rd Berlin Film Festival kicked off yesterday with a screening of Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster, which stars Tony Leung as Ip Man, the kung fu expert who trained Bruce Lee. Melding historical events of the last century with the trappings of a traditional morality tale, the film was introduced by its director as an atempt to look beneath the skin of martial arts. It leads a strong line-up set to unfold over the next two weeks.

Competition films this year include Gus Van Sant's tale of big business and environmentalism, Promised Land, Steven Soderbergh's disquieting pharmacological adventure Side Effects and George Sluizer's romantic drama Dark Blood, which features the last ever performance by River Phoenix. There's also excitement about the latest work from Jafar Panahi, Closed Curtain, which - like This Is Not A Film - has been made in defiance of a ban imposed by the Iranian authorities.

This edition of the festival has a special section devoted to culinary cinema, with treats from around the world including the latest collection of Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno shorts, while a strong indigenous cinema strand includes Ten Canoes, On The Ice and Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner.

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