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Berlinale 2004: The Talent Press
Wednesday, February 11
Originally, eleven young film critics and film journalists have been invited
to attend Berlinale and to participate in the Talent Press initiative.
Six of them were asked to daily review films presented in various sections
of the festival, while the other five ones reported as film journalists
on events mainly taking place at the Talent Campus. On the last day of
the Campus however, the roles were changed: the "critics" were
asked to make interviews, while the "journalists" reviewed films.
We print all texts on this page.
reviews "A Day on a Planet" (Isao Yukisada)
Biénzobas on Frances McDormand
Gorzo on Ken Adam
reviews "I Like to Work" (Francesca Comencini)
Klinger interviews Dana Linssen,
the president of the Berlin FIPRESCI jury
Kovacsics writes on her impressions
of the Talent Campus
"End of the Century" (Jim Fields, Michael Gramaglia)
Gökce on Zbigniew Preisner
Symonds on Andrew Lesnie
reviews "Nightsongs" (Romuald Karmakar)
" A Day On A Planet" (Panorama)
Japan, 2003. 110 mins. Director: Isao Yukisada.
Cast: Rena Tanaka, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Ayumi Ito, Shuji Kashiwabara
If modern youth are spontaneous, absurd, fun-loving, these
are also the adjectives to describe "A Day On A Planet" (Kyo
no dekigoto), the new feature by Japanese director Isao Yukisada.
His last film "GO!" stormed the box office and
the hearts of youngsters not only in his home country, but also in Hong
Kong and South Korea. "A Day On A Planet" in a way is Yukisada’s
continuing attempt in exploring the meaning of being young.
The film is based on a novel by Tomoka Shibasaki. The story,
well, there isn't much story. Post-graduate student Masamichi invites
his friends to his housewarming party. While everyone is getting drunk,
and indulging themselves with Play Station 2, they learn from the news
that on the other side of the country there is a man stuck in between
two buildings, and a stranded whale.
Some might find the film weird, because there isn't a particularly
strong storyline and the events are too trivial to be effective on the
screen, such as their silly fight over a boy's horrible hairstyle and
girls. All we are shown are that these youngsters have a good time in
their own way.
Yukisada has accurately reflected the mood and the
style of a certain group of Japanese youth, and this is the essence of
the film. Young people can sometimes be ridiculous (Maki's obsession with
a new skirt) but still have a dream for the future (Nagazawa's never-commenced
first film). "A Day On A Planet" is enjoyable and unpretentious.
Watching Masamichi and his friend you will have the desire to be young
and not bounded by any rules.
In a serving position: Frances McDormand
The president of this year's International jury can be a
real bitch. Or an efficient rural police officer, and even an over-protective
mother. Actually Frances McDormand seems to be able and willing to play
any kind of character. But what Talent Campus participants discovered
at yesterday's q&a is that her most enchanting role is as herself:
a laid-back and frank woman full of energy.
After stripping her shirt off to proudly put on her new
Campus jacket, the 46-years old actress sat at the edge of the stage and
answered all kinds of questions with histrionic enthusiasm. After 22 years
in film, and although uneasy with "this digital thing", she
is eager to keep up. That's why she's on the jury, because "I want
to keep being in film and I need to know what it is and what it’s
going to be".
She is equally willing to work with new talent, and recently
acted for free in a short film because she trusted the young filmmaker
(and wanted a breath of fresh air after her work in Nancy Meyer's "Something’s
Gotta Give"). What she appreciated on set was the "sense of
discipline and rigor". And although she also liked playing the diva
for once, questioning the need for certain scenes, she is very clear about
her relation with directors: "I'm in a serving position. I don't
need to know if he is good with actors. I need to know whether the director
knows the movie he wants to make."
Ken Adam on Ken Adam
"Film Sets Are Forever": The celebrated set designer
looks at his achievement.
The "tarantula room" in "Dr. No", where
we first hear the voice of evil, was built overnight on the sort of budget
which in later James Bond films couldn't have provided the food for the
villain's pet cat. Production designer Ken Adam came up with the idea
of strangely angled walls and a ceiling with a circular opening, complete
with a grate that would cast an ominous shadow. A witty and extravagant
look was thus created, and Adam went on to design the sets for other,
increasingly expensive Bond films, coming up with ever more sophisticated
Adam was at the Berlinale Talent Campus, discussing his
art with Boris Hars-Tschachotin. He agreed with the critics' claim that
his work on the Bonds might perhaps be that of a true auteur. However,
he is wary of such claims being made about his work with Stanley Kubrick,
although his own choice for the best set he has ever designed is the War
Room in "Dr. Strangelove". His vision didn't serve as a stylish
cover for the absence of a director's style, the way it did in the Bonds;
it served Kubrick's vision ("it fitted into the dramatic intent of
the film"), and Adam served it again in "Barry Lyndon",
before ending this working relationship. As he explained, life is too
short for more than two Kubrick projects.
" I Like to Work" (Panorama)
Like to Work" (Mi piace lavorare). Italy 2003. Director: Francesca
Comencini. Screenplay :Francesca Comencini, Assunta Cestaro and Daniele
Ranieri. Cast: Nicoletta Braschi, Camille Dugay Comencini. 89 mins.
Taking the theme of harassment in the workplace, "Mi
piace lavorare (mobbing)" initially appears to be little more than
an office training film as opposed to an engaging movie. But, much like
the work of Ken Loach, Francesca Comencini has attempted to create an
intimate tale about human interaction using a seemingly innocuous subject
as the springboard.
Anna (Braschi) juggles a busy working life with single motherhood.
When the company she works for is taken over by a multi-national, Anna
finds her job description constantly changing, her new superiors intimidating
and her colleagues becoming increasingly more distant. When her daughter
also starts to feel neglected, Anna's world begins to fall apart.
There is much to like in the film. Lead actress Braschi
plays the desperate and fraught Anna without resorting to histrionics
whilst her young co-star does a sterling job as the loving — but
lonely — daughter, Morgana.
Comencini's chiefly naturalistic approach to the film is
also a plus. At one point, in a sequence which effectively manages to
communicate her oppression and disorientation, the camera follows Anna
around a labyrinth of filing cabinets as she frantically searches for
a missing invoice.
Yet much of the film seems predictable. When Morgana says
to her mother "You will remember the dance recital, won't you?"
you know there's a pretty good chance that she won't. Also at times the
movie is muddled. Is it a general treatise on the modern workplace or
a comment on the perils of being a single parent. It's never really made
clear and causes the film to lose some of its impact
"Mi piace lavorare (mobbing)" is full of wonderful
moments but never truly coheres. It's certainly interesting but its flaws
prevent it from fulfilling its potential.
From the Other Side:
Interview with Dana Linssen, President of the FIPRESCI jury
In Berlin three separate press juries — organized
by FIPRESCI — judge and award prizes in the Competition, Panorama,
and Forum sections of the festival. All three juries have a single president
— this year, Dana Linssen from Holland — who arranges meetings,
keeps a watch on the tabulation of votes, and, as a sort of mentor, attempts
to keep the moods of all nine jury members in high gear throughout the
fest. Dana talks about her role as president, the nature of film festivals,
and how press juries are different from festival juries.
Q: How does the nomination and awards process work?
A: A sub-committee of the jury comes up with a list of nominees and a
juror can only vote if he or she has seen all the films on the list. After
discussions among jurors, the rest is pure mathematics. You have to be
pragmatic about the selection process, and the final choice is always
going to be a bit arbitrary.
Before that, each section splits up and talks about the films. Its surprised
me so far that we all agree on our three favorite competition titles.
But even if we all have a consensus favorite, there are many reasons to
give a prize. In Rotterdam, Raúl Ruiz showed a work-in-progress
that was a homage to Hubert Bals (founder of the Rotterdam Film Festival).
In his introduction, Ruiz said that Bals always liked films where the
failures were more interesting than the things that were good. Hearing
that inspired me — and frankly, these are the film I am looking
for, films that not only express things about the subject but about cinema
itself. In an ideal world, these two things — the best and the most
challenging — would come together.
Relating to this idea, I think this is what separates a reviewer from
a critic. When you write reviews, you have to give consumers information
and often times you are leaving out passion and intellect. Whereas when
you are writing criticism, you are writing something that is not only
important to audiences but to the film itself.
Q: So giving prizes and film criticism do meet somewhere
along the line…?
A: Yes. And I feel like these juries — press juries —
always have to be as critical as possible. Giving an award is an act of
criticism. It's great that now that members of FIPRESCI juries have the
obligation to write on the winning films for the web site. Now you can
explain why you've done it.
Q: What are some the differences between a regular
festival jury and a press jury?
A: A press jury is always looking for some form of identity. Directors
and film distributors are happier with audience and festival prizes. On
the other hand, when directors win critics prizes, sometimes they feel
like their work has been understood. But distributors rarely put critics
prizes on the posters or press kits for films. Sad to say but there is
still this gap between what critics like and what audiences like.
The Talent Campus: Bringing the World Closer
Talking with some of the talents that have spent these few
days in the campus the most often heard word is: "passion".
The passion for filmmaking all participants are sharing has created a
unique atmosphere, an opportunity to learn and exchange experiences.
"I came with twelve copies of my work and the first
day they were all gone", says Josue Beaucage, a Canadian composer.
The contact with people from all around the world gives some talents the
possibility to enlarge their frontiers and the opportunity to work in
future projects. Some of them have even found a way to begin work. For
these reasons the "Talent Project Market" is a decisive advantage,
an opportunity to meet with professionals. This was true for Philippine
screenwriter Yasmin Katrina Cole who will now have the chance for a co-production
between the Philippines and a European country — a collaboration
which, as she says, goes beyond her own experience and becomes also an
opportunity for her country's industry.
As Tamara O'Brien, an Australian sound designer, says:
"The Talent Campus is bringing the world closer". People from
eighty-four different countries have participated in the campus, making
it the perfect place to learn about filmmaking from around the world.
It has also been a place to learn more about the different jobs in filmmaking.
Though talents have been more interested in the conferences and workshops
which are related to their own work, some of them have also learnt about
fields that are not their own. "I have gone to a screenwriting workshop,
and you know what? I have ideas as well. And it's really good because
I get to know all other aspects of film. This helps me a lot in my work…
I have to know what's going on", says Beaucage.
Even the queues have been an important place for meeting
people, but they are also the focus of talents' complains. "We are
here to make the most out of our time, not to waste it", says Spanish
director Pedro Riutorts. Waiting for a ticket has made talents’
agenda even more difficult.
Continuous activities, chats and meetings to interchange
views and knowledge make The Talent Campus a twenty-four hour filmmaking
experience. It has been a very special atmosphere that most of this year's
talents would like to repeat some time.
"End of The Century" (Panorama)
"End Of The Century — The Story
Of The Ramones". USA, 2003. Directors: Jim Fields, Michael Gramaglia.
Camera: Jim Fields, David Bowles. 110 mins.
The Ramones started out in the late 1970s as a bunch of
guys from the New York underground music scene who were madly in love
with rock'n roll and wanted to form a band, but couldn't really play.
So they said "What the hell!" and started a group that would
become a punk legend.
The cleanness and bright colors of the documentary are inconsistent
with the aesthetic of punk, with its black leather jackets and chaotic
images. Yet "End of the Century" tries (though with uneven success)
to capture the lack of ceremony and pretension that made the Ramones so
different. Starting abruptly with Dee Dee Ramone in mid-interview, the
film maintains a casual, direct tone through recollections of the band
by their neighbors and friends.
The enigmatic Joey Ramone, the singer/screamer of the band,
is the film's central figure. Detailing his conflicts with the other band
members, "End of the Century" slowly builds up the history of
the band. The film recounts the birth of punk rock, the gradual rise of
the Ramones' popularity, their major label recording deal (they were the
first punk band to have one), and their decision to retire after more
than 20 years of existence. Dee Dee's background is, unfortunately, not
thoroughly explored, although he was the one who introduced the ironic
use of Nazi images and attributes, which made the band so controversial.
Fields and Gramaglia end the film with a sentimental scene
showing Dee Dee walking away from the band's Rock'n Roll Hall of Fame
party, a glitzy image that contradicts the spirit of their performances
at CBGB's. A black screen follows this shot, and then a text saying that
Dee Dee died of a drug overdose two months later.
Though visually flat and failing to capture the spirit of
punk, "End Of The Century" is worth seeing for its rare performance
footage and valuable interviews with family members, friends and fans.
"I like being paid a million dollars but I wouldn't
leave aside my art for that." says the acclaimed film composer, Zbigniew
Preisner about the prospect of working for Hollywood. Preisner, who is
widely known for his work with Krzysztof Kieslowski, was among the guests
of Talent Campus. In his talk with Peter Cowie, he portrayed his own working
style and his understanding of film music as one that depends on "a
Preisner believes that film music should follow the rhythm
of the picture. He thinks that what should be lying at the heart of any
relationship between director and composer is absolute trust. This was
the case between Kieslowski and himself. The first time they met Kieslowski
asked Preisner "to write good music for him" and after their
first collaboration, he did not need to ask again. "We never talked
about the position of the music in the film" says Preisner, "we
always talked about the function."
Preisner has also worked with directors outside Poland,
among whom were Louis Malle, Agnieszka Holland and Hans Petter Moland.
He also emphasized that he strongly disapproved of the way
film music is treated today, especially in Hollywood: For Preisner, film
music is dead when it is used just for its own sake; it becomes totally
disconnected with the film itself. "Money isn't everything. What
about art, dreams, language? The things we want to tell the audience..."
. His advise for young composers? "Believe in what you are doing
and go ahead!"
Pixel and Grain: Cinematography of "Lord of the Rings",
presented by ARRI Munich
During Andrew Lesnie's discussion of his cinematography
for "The Lord of the Rings" he is asked, "Do you think
it's a problem that both you and Peter Jackson like to push the envelope?
Do you think there is the possibility of going over the edge?" Lesnie's
answer was simple and to the point: "No." His two-hour-plus
almost-monologue on his various approaches towards cinematography conveys
a very clear view of how he wants to translate a film's story into a series
of concrete images and impressions of light. And more than that, how to
work against monetary forces and ensure that his vision, and the director's
vision, reaches the screen intact. Lesnie sees his job as a cinematographer
as one where he visually realizes the subtext of a scene, a subtext that
is discovered and developed through a response to the story and the actors
— as he surmises, "my body of work is one big voyage of discovery."
Nightsongs (Die Nacht singt ihre Lieder).
Germany 2004. Director: Romuald Karmakar. Cast: Frank Giering, Anne Ratte-Polle,
Manfred Zapatka. 95 min.
Passions flared at the press conference after the screening
of "Nightsongs". Romuald Karmakar, vexed with the ironic questions
of journalists "understanding nothing about cinema," at last
threw out to the audience: "Everyone discovers what he wants in the
It seems to be a typical melodramatic love story: a young
couple with a strained relationship which seems about to end. He is an
unsuccessful writer sending his work off to publishers with manic constancy
and receiving nothing but refusals. She is a young woman tired of her
boring life enclosed in a flat. Who goes from one disco to another on
the search for something to console herself.
The film is weakened by a poor script. Long pauses, repeating
dialogue, and the hesitations of indecisive characters even provoked laughter
from the audience. As someone said at the press conference, "the
Fassbinder movies were also ridiculed!" Well, perhaps it takes time
to understand genius.