Let's make this clear right at the start - this is not another Marvel Studios movie. Logan is a stand-alone, outstanding, one-of-a-kind X-Men movie made for adults. It's violent as all hell, emotional and captivating, gritty and grounded, and exciting to experience. Director James Mangold really hit a home run with this one, bucking the trend and going with his gut to deliver a superb "Wolverine Western". I had to see Logan twice at the Berlin Film Festival before writing this review, to confirm how awesome it is. I haven't enjoyed watching an X-Men movie this much in such a long time, and I'd say this is easily one of the best X-Men movies. It's not really an X-Men movie, but it actually is - there's so much mutant mythology hidden within.
Nothing like watching artists work. Final Portrait is a film directed by Stanley Tucci (of Blind Date, The Impostors, Big Night previously) starring actor Geoffrey Rush playing the famed Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. If you don't know who Giacometti is, it's better to get acquainted with him and his incredible sculpture work before getting into this film. Final Portrait tells the story of, literally, his final portrait as an artist - a painting he did of an American novelist who was visiting Paris, where his studio was, in the 1960s. The film has a small, intimate feel to it exploring the pained life and quirky antics of a great artist, which is becoming increasingly common these days (e.g. Inside Llewyn Davis, Maudie, Mr. Turner, Love & Mercy).
Imagine if Quentin Tarantino was Chinese and made an animated crime drama. That's kind of what Have a Nice Day feels like, in a way. Have a Nice Day (originally titled Hao ji le in Chinese) is a film from director Jian Liu that just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in the main competition line-up. The animation style is closer to "Archer" or A Scanner Darkly, and the film is sort of a Coen Brothers-esque story about a bunch of people in a small Chinese town who get mixed up chasing a bag of money. There are a few minor political themes, but it's fairly light entertainment, with some fun moments and colorful characters. Oddly enough, this film is better than half of what I saw in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, even if isn't that smart.
"We cross and re-cross our old paths like figure-skaters." That's a line from Cloud Atlas, but I kept thinking back to that film (and that storyline in it) while watching this one. Return to Montauk is the latest drama from German director Volker Schlöndorff, set primarily in New York following a few German characters around the city. It's a very tender, heartfelt film about the great regrets and lost loves in our lives, and how we attempt to get over what happened in the past (or, perhaps, not get over our past regrets). Maybe it's because I connected to it in a very personal way, but Return to Montauk kept me captivated and awake and intrigued from start to finish. Even if I didn't feel emotionally drained by the end I was certainly enthralled.
Vegetarian vengeance! I don't even know how to begin to describe how much I loved this film. Spoor, also known as Pokot originally, is a film from Poland about an elderly former teacher who lives in a small town. She loves her two adorable dogs, but one day they go missing, and thus begins this thrilling story of animal lover vengeance. The cinematography in this film is STUNNING, some of the best since The Revenant, and I really mean that. Along with an incredibly unique score from Antoni Lazarkiewicz, and exceptional lead performance by Agnieszka Mandat-Grabka, this won't be a film you forget. And that isn't even the half of it - there's so much I loved, and even if I can't describe it all perfectly, I hope my enthusiasm is apparent.
This is the first great discovery of the 2017 Berlin Film Festival - it's an excellent film that deserves to break out. Tiger Girl is a low key indie comedy, directed by Jakob Lass, about two women who becomes friends and start taking out the patriarchal trash. It's essentially a "girls fight back" movie and it's so badass and so much fun. Ella Rumpf plays the woman known as "Tiger", a drifter who doesn't take crap from anyone, especially guys; and Maria-Victoria Dragus plays her friend she nicknames "Vanilla", a young woman who fails her entrance exam to the police academy. She's not tough enough, but through this friendship she learns how to kick ass and fight back. It close to being a dark comedy, but either way it's worth seeking out.
The boys are back in town. After 20 years, writer/director Danny Boyle has reunited the four crazy kids from Trainspotting for the sequel - titled T2: Trainspotting. This film isn't so much of a reboot or remake or another wild story of drug trips, as it is a much more somber, sober follow-up looking at how much life has changed since they were young and full of life and didn't give a shit about anything. This film plays heavily on nostalgia, which makes sense considering the first film is so iconic, and yet still has so much to say about life and where it takes us and the dreams we stop chasing. It's a somewhat sad look at how much real life sucks and getting old sucks and things just aren't the same anymore. Where are drugs when we need them?
From the very snowy streets of Park City, to the freezing streets of Berlin. Kicking off this week is the 67th Berlin Film Festival, better known as Berlinale. This is my 4th year in a row covering the Berlin Film Festival, this time as a local resident of Berlin, but it's still just as exciting. Taking place only two weeks after Sundance, this picks up where that left off and continues the enthusiasm and excitement for new cinema by offering a fine selection of European films. This year's biggest world premiere is perhaps James Mangold's Logan, at the very end of the festival, though there are plenty of other films showing over the next 10 days. I may not be recovered from Sundance yet, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited to jump into another fest.
"Only in filmmaking do you have time limitation in certain stages of production, while you would never restrain a painter, or a musician, or a novelist from taking the time he needs…" At Berlinale in February, I had the honor of meeting and interviewing the very talented French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve. I first became a big fan of Mia Hansen-Løve after catching her film Father of My Children at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, and I've followed her career closely ever since. I most recently loved her film Eden, we featured it recently on our 19 Best Movies You Didn't See list. Her latest film, Things to Come (also called L'avenir), stars Isabelle Huppert as a woman dealing with major changes in her life. After following her for so long it was a major moment in my own career to sit down and talk with her about making great films.
As an avid photographer myself, I truly love coming across a documentary that expands my mind about the artistic qualities and emotional power of excellent photography. Along with The Salt of the Earth (about legendary photographer Sebastião Salgado), the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is the latest to leave me floored. This utterly inspiring and eye-opening doc examines the (entire) life of Robert Mapplethorpe, a controversial gay photographer whose work was banned from museums in the 90s because it was deemed too obscene. Boy were they wrong. Hearing him talk about his life and then seeing the photos he produced - I couldn't help repeating in my mind, "this guy is a true master of photography." Seriously.
What a year so far. I had an amazing time at Berlinale this year. Not because all of the films were amazing, but because I met incredible people in Germany. I even met a very nice guy who works in film distribution while riding the train from Berlin down to Prague on my way out, and we talked for hours about films and distribution in the Czech Republic (where he works). Over the last week, I've encountered and talked with so many wonderful people - discussing films and the world. This is what festivals are all about, bringing people together, encouraging discussion. And yes - there are films to see. Plenty of them. I saw a grand total of 16 feature films at the Berlin Film Festival this year - here's my final recap with thoughts on each one below.
As another film festival comes to an end, it's time to celebrate and commemorate with the announcement of the awards. The 66th Berlin Film Festival just ended (my own recap is coming soon), and the winners were announced at the Closing Ceremony, including the winner of the coveted Golden Bear for Best Film. That top prize was given to a film called Fire at Sea, a documentary from filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi about migrants crossing the Mediterranean and the refugee crisis affecting Europe and the Middle East. A very political choice, considering how important the issue is right now, but not unexpected. French filmmaker Mia Hansen-Løve won a Silver Bear for Best Director for the film Things to Come. See all winners below.