Berlinale Day 3 – Sunday
Les contes de la nuit – Tales of the Night (France)
One of three 3D films in competition this year (though one is not “in” competition), this is the latest animated feature from Michel Ocelot. Two young actors and an older director meet late at night in a theatre to come up with stories. They then act out those stories with the help of some fancy costume machines and the power of our collective imaginations.
The stories vary and are all quite charming. Cities of gold, werewolves, the land of the dead, and so on. The most touching and enjoyable was about a king’s young ward who could never tell a lie. There’s a talking horse involved, and a dastardly princess. They’re all very sweet, some more than others, and remind you of the power of good old fashioned storytelling.
The animation is in silhouette, so much is left up to your imagination. The 3D, unfortunately, adds nothing to it. The vivid colors and beautiful animation don’t need, or benefit from, the added depth. Since there are no mouths to track, dubbing this in every language possible is a no-brainer. Probably a tough sell in the US, but everyone who sees it should find it at least mildly enjoyable.
Heaven’s Story (Japan)
This film is 4 hours and 45 minutes long. Plus a 15 minute intermission. So it took 5 hours out of my day.
I told you I’d see anything from Asia.
From legendary Japanese pink film (think softcore porn…but not) director Zeze Takahisa, this is a sprawling (obviously) story about revenge, guilt, obsession, and so on. It is not a pink film in any way. Explaining the plot is fairly pointless, as there’s so much of it. But, amazingly, it chugs along nicely, never feels long, and is completely unbalanced. The first chapter (the film is broken up into titled parts) is so powerful and wonderful. And it never fully tops it from that point on. Not that you should give up on it, but it is disappointing that it starts out so great only to coast down from there.
The film doesn’t need to be this long. At all. Yet, oddly enough, it would benefit from a second viewing. Not that I anticipate being able to as this won’t venture much out of Japan. Hence why I took the opportunity to see it.
Dernier étage gauche gauche – Top Floor, Left Wing (France, Luxembourg)
A mildly madcap hostage comedy from France. A young man hiding some drugs for a dealer overreacts when the police come to evict the family. He takes the bailiff hostage and is soon completely over his head. His shocked father, and the bailiff, both try to make sense of and peacefully rectify the situation. Of course, things get a bit wacky.
It piles on the social, racial, and political commentary on, which is nice, but probably doesn’t translate as well if you don’t know the goings-on in France that well. Still, it’s a nice, punchy, and perfectly watchable light comedy from a first-time director. I wouldn’t be surprise if it wound up with some kind of limited release in the US, since we so often want something foreign that’s not necessarily very heavy. This fits that bill.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (USA, France)
I unequivocally adore Werner Herzog. His documentary films bring me as close to feeling anything one might call spiritual as you can get. Once I heard this was playing in the competition (but not in competition….yeah….) it was my number one must see for the entire festival. So I was excited to snag a ticket for the big red carpet premiere of it at the Berlinale Palast (only downside was it was at 10:30pm, but no matter).
The film explores a cave containing the earliest known human paintings, up to 32,000 years old. Walls full of beautiful paintings of animals, some extinct, in many different forms. And also the first known painting of a human figure (a woman’s lower half, go figure). The cave was sealed off in a sudden rock slide around 20,000 years ago, freezing everything inside in time. There are bear scratches on the wall, bones of all kinds (none human), and even ash and carbon from torches. Insane! In a way, it’s like looking at an old family album, and it’s an incredible feeling to see something that stretches so very far back into our collective human history.
The film is shot in 3D, which sounds odd at first, but so much of the beauty of the paintings are enhanced by the natural curvature of the cave walls. These people used the walls to the advantage of the drawings, and without 3D that effect would be lost unless you were to see it in person. Which, the film makes it clear, will never happen.
It’s a breathtakingly fascinating film. You wouldn’t think you’d spend so much of a film about cave paintings at the edge of your seat, or with goosebumps, but here we are.