Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Day 6 - Berlin Intl. Film Festival

By Jonathan Jackson
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Berlin International Film Festival - Day 6

2/12/08

One of my favorite moments here happened at the beginning of Day 6. Everyday you must arrive in the morning to secure your tickets for the following day's screenings, or you risk not being able to see your first choices. I usually arrive just after opening, which is early enough to ensure my desired tickets, but I happenend to be awake early, so I was there before opening and witnessed the percision and symmetry of the opening procedure. In the best German tradition of ritual, the ticket sellers went to another room after setting up their 40 or so booths in front of us. Then marching music began to play, maybe that was just in my head though, and the ticket sellers all filed out in a single row to their chairs. Naturally applause from those of us in line followed suite. Once everyone was seated, they lit up their green open lights in succession and were open for business. Only in Germany. 

On to the cinema of the day. The most entertaining film of the festival so far, and probably the best competition film thus far, was Mike Leigh's decidedly upbeat "Happy-Go Lucky." At times gut-busting funny, I would bet money that this sweet and well acted charmer will be a break out hit with audiences world-wide. The film will also launch the career of its star Sally Hawkins, who along with Tilda Swinton is in the running for the Best Actress prize of the Berlinale. 

A pleasureable experience, for a time, was found in Hong Sangsoo's latest "Night and Day." However, it challenged even this fan's patience as the film's 145 minute runnning time made the pleasures, humor and revelations of the film's first half diminish.

My most excruciating festival viewing experience ever came next with the new Errol Morris film "Standard Operating Procedure." "S.O.P." was the first documentary to ever screen in competition here, which is not surprising considering the festival's penchant for programming political cinema. However I do wonder if they have seen Alex Gibney's "Taxi to the Dark Side" yet. "Taxi..." covers the same issues of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal with just as much percision, but ends up casting a much wider net in the terror scandal, which "S.O.P." only emplied. The reason "S.O.P." was such excruciating viewing for me was not because it was a bad film, it has some fascinating explorations of the meaning of an image and America would be a better country if we all came to terms with the reality of what happenned at Abu Ghraib, but it basically recreated the torture scenes of Abu Ghraib in real time. Feeling like you are actually their is not an experience I was looking for.

Day 7 will bring Madonna and her film directing debut to the festival, so be sure to check back to see what antics this will bring to the Berlinale! 

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