The joy (and pain) of the body, at the Berlin Film Festival

BERLIN – What is your strategy during nose swab antigen testing? Personally, I look up and to the right as the technician inserts a small wand, affecting the air of indifference or pretending like I’ve been knocked down by an initial thought. I know others who do idle chat, and at least one fellow reviewer looked deep into the eyes of the tester. It’s a pandemic: You can do your push-ups where you can.

At the Berlin International Film Festival – announced its first awards on Wednesday but continued to be shown to the public through February 20th – attendees of the press had many opportunities to hone their swab technique. Mandatory checks every 24 hours – even for enhanced software – as part of a limited package that the organizers of the festival, known as the Berlinale, agreed so that it could take place as an actual event.

There have been complaints. But every time someone complains about the new ticketing system or gets frustrated with the Escher-inspired exits, which always seem to involve multiple flights of steep stairs, I think, “Let’s deal with it. ” Or sometimes, less harshly: “Shut it up.”

The cataloging error from the complainants was to compare this low-attendance edition with Before Times Berlinales. The real comparison is with last year’s online version, debuts a stronger selection of movies but doesn’t feel like a festival at all. Think of that lonely experience as an alternative and stairs, complicated seating, and scrubbing become a small price to pay.

And no matter how deep the tester’s probes are, it’s hardly as invasive as the public colonoscopy experienced in Peter Strickland’s book “Flux Gourmet,” one of the early titles. event noise. Undoubtedly the movie that most evokes the idea of ​​the discomfort of having to suppress bloating to get a big festival spot, Strickland’s film is rivaled only by the festival’s opening act “Peter von Kant” by François Ozon for the flamboyant aesthetic that adorns a disposable quirky tale. Ozon’s film is quite interesting in using the trick of overlapping details from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s biography into the gendered remake of Fassbinder’s 1972 classic “The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant”, which never really explained why.

“Peter von Kant” in one location is one of several Berlinale films that bears the mark of being shot during pandemic conditions. “Fire,” the film that earned Claire Denis (incredibly) her first best director award at a major film festival, is another film. Here, Juliette Binoche plays a woman torn between two lovers (or between “Both Sides of the Blade,” as the film’s more evocative international title is). If it doesn’t hit Denis’ highest watermarks, it’s at least remarkable for how it acknowledges the pandemic without making it the subject of the film.

Quentin Dupieux’s delightfully entertaining “Incredible But True” takes an oblique approach that doesn’t address coronavirus restrictions directly but creates unacceptable parallels that are essentially a travel movie time. Witty and not poignant, it’s a stark contrast to Bertrand Bonello’s chaotic “Coma,” which involves staring at the borderline of puzzling nature. It received a very divisive reception, represented by the man beside me leaving in a huff and the man in front of me jumping up and shouting “Hooray!” final.

Two more important Asian titles also come out in times of coronavirus, without being overwhelmed by pandemic paranoia. Hong Sangsoo’s “The Novelist’s Film” is another hidden piece of the Korean director’s life, which earned him – a longtime Berlinale winner – the runner-up Grand Prix. The idea that this makes the festival’s jury president, M. Night Shyamalan, a de facto member of “the Hong Hive” is remarkable for anyone familiar with the oeuvres their respective – thinking it would be useful to attack you when you’re having your nose squirming and want to look away proudly.

The correctly named Japanese gem “Small, Slow But Steady” also features masks, although here we notice the difficulties they cause for lip readers. The wonderfully gripping tale of a deaf female martial artist whose beloved gym is shutting down, Sho Miyake’s influential drama is scaled down in every way except for its emotional impact. Its bittersweet main idea, of a precious place facing an impending end, is written in larger, bolder colors in Carla Simón’s “Alcarràs,” a work won the Golden Bear, the festival’s top prize.

“Alcarràs” follows the windy and sunny fortunes of the Solé family, from the Catalonia region of Spain, during the last harvest of the family peach orchard before it was torn down. It’s a lovable, cheesy, life-filled title with irresistible performances from a cast of all ages, non-professionals. Its success here makes it the third time in a row, after Cannes and Venice, that the highest honor of a major European film festival has gone to a woman with her second film.

But for all its sunshine and sad bravery, “Alcarràs”, for me, is outweighed by a much more competitive winter title. Ulrich Seidl’s “Rimini” is a chillingly provocative drama that doesn’t stomp around and picks up no awards, which is a pity. But its star, Michael Thomas, plays a club singer who gets washed up in an Italian beach town out of season, not specifically being recognized as more or less a crime. My other favorite contest, Natalia López Gallardo’s outstanding official debut, “Robe of Gems,” received the Jury Prize. But on the other hand, as has been the case since the Encounters sidebar launched in 2020, a lot of the more compelling titles ended up there instead of being in the main competition.

In particular, Jöns Jönsson’s “Axiom” is a clever test of the psychology of a compulsive liar. And on top of that – in this installment, this festival and, for me, this year so far – there’s Cyril Schäublin’s totally unique film “Unrest,” which is indistinguishable, unless you have the the genre is marked as “joyful, otherworldly stories of watchmaking and anarchism in 1870s Switzerland.”

“Unrest” was the most transportable movie I saw in Berlin, at least until I transported myself to the city’s planetarium to see Liz Rosenfeld’s “White Sands Crystal Foxes” experiment. The movie itself is a rather frustrating work of overwritten art, but the experience is a bit lacking in transcendence. Lying under the domed 360-degree projection, hovering between the cascading images, I felt pleasantly at ease. Then it dawned on me how strange it was to yearn to go back to the real world, only to be better off escaping it again.

To that end – escapism – this year’s Berlinale’s most multi-cylinder shot is undoubtedly a great flashback, called “No Angels” and comprised of 27 Hollywood comedies about the Time golden, each starring Mae West, Rosalind Russell, or Carole Lombard. Popular films by the actresses, like “My Little Chickadee,” “His Girl Friday” and “My Man Godfrey” were there, but this selection also unearthed lesser-known titles. more but no less interesting. “Four’s a Crowd,” starring Russell with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland as one, as well as “Lady By Choice,” in which Lombard plays a well-acted girl who “adopts” a fake mother. publicity stuntman. Retreating into a world of screw comedy might just be the best way to assuage the discomforts of the real world.

Then again, as the days go by and the stairs seem longer, it’s clear that real-life annoyances are an integral part of what we’ve missed so much in the word version. away last year. At a public screening, a couple started arguing loudly with an opener when she told them they had to leave an empty seat between them. I was upset because of them. And then I remember being very happy because I could get annoyed by other physical humans being physically disturbed in a physical place. I want to tell them “Enjoy it”. But also, “I love you.” The joy (and pain) of the body, at the Berlin Film Festival

Fry Electronics Team

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