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Berlinale Wrap-Up

Jürgen's Berlinale Journal 2008, Days 10 & 11


Berlinale Wrap-Up

Lake Tahoe

Updated July 20, 2009
Even as the media are gearing up for the Academy Awards, the controversial Berlinale win of Elite Squad continues to make waves. Commenters on this and other blogs are debating the film's merits, there's talk of conspiracy, and director Padilha shoots back at critics, but I stand by my original review: even if Tropa de Elite's politics weren't questionable at best, the film's narrative is muddled and uninvolving. The movie's action supposedly leads up to the Pope's 1997 visit to Rio de Janeiro, but much like Godot, il Papa never actually shows up. I'm not much of a business prognosticator, but I suspect that Harvey Weinstein will be disappointed if he's hoping for a City of God-like success in the U.S.

A little-seen alternative to Tropa de Elite, screening in the Panorama program, charmed me on Friday night: Another Love Story (Maré, nossa historia de amor), directed by Lúcia Murat, retells Romeo and Juliet as baile-funk-infused musical set in Rio. The heroes here are fresh-faced kids caught in the crossfire between drug dealers and corrupt police, and a kind NGO worker takes the role of Shakespeare's Friar Lawrence. When Tropa De Elite's BOPE squad shows up, they are a source of fear and danger. Without whitewashing the situation in the favelas, Another Love Story plays like a colorful, sexy combination of West Side Story and City of God with a dash of Black Orpheus.

I saw six more films before the festival came to an end: Michel Gondry's celebration of lo-fi cinema Be Kind Rewind, opening this week (Marcy reviewed), the laughable Beautiful, scripted by Kim Ki-Duk, and the fine New German Film documentary Gegenschuss - Aufbruch der Filmmacher, in which Dominik Wessely traces the rise and fall of Filmverlag der Autoren, the collective that distributed milestone films by Wim Wenders, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog, and others.

The final day of the Berlinale is reserved for repeats screened for the general public, but I greedily snatched a few more tickets from their eager hands to catch up with three films I'd missed during the mad rush of the festival proper. Lake Tahoe, Fernando Eimcke's follow-up to Duck Season, is a wry comedy told in steady shots that seem, at first, to be more interested in location (nowhere near Lake Tahoe) than in the characters that traverse them on foot, car, or bicycle. Slowly, something like a story develops as Juan (Deigo Catano) tries to repair a car he wrecked offscreen. For a while, Lake Tahoe feels like watching somebody play a particularly frustrating 2-D adventure game (imagine Day of the Tentacle programmed by Jim Jarmusch). A little too late, an undercurrent of grief is revealed.

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