Monday, February 09, 2009

Berlinale: Pez + Ghosted + Chat

Cast and director of Un Chat, Un Chat, left, plus Berlinale representative, await questions at the Berlinale; photo by Val PhoenixThree auteurs. Three visions of relationships.

The best thing I've seen so far at the Berlinale is Sophie Fillieres' Un chat un chat, a sophisticated comedy starring Chiara Mastroianni (see pic for cast and director). Amazingly, Mastroianni had never before done comedy and was in a panic a week before shoooting, but her performance as Celimene (or Nathalie or Natasha), a writer suffering writer's block that masks a deeper crisis, is note-perfect. The expression on her face when her well-meaning friends offer her books as birthday presents is priceless--no words are needed.

There's so much that's right about this film--intriguing leads, a good set-up (the writer is stalked by a lonely teenager), snappy dialogue and space to let the film breathe. Not much happens but a lot develops, including Nathalie and her pursuer.

Monika Treut's Ghosted sets up a triangle, as artist Sophie travels to Taipei hoping to lay the ghost of her dead lover Ai-Ling to rest. Instead, she meets the mysterious journalist Wei-Ming, who takes a more than professional interest in her. Why is Wei-Ming so intrigued? How did Ai-Ling die? And can Sophie let go? A co-production between Germany and Taiwan, the film travels back and forth between Hamburg and Taipei as Sophie and Wei-Ming try to settle unfinished business.

The post-film Q and A session was amusing. Most directors come over all coy, allowing the Berlinale staff to shower them with praise and field questions. Not for the formidable Treut, who took control of the stage, setting up her own personal chat show, introducing the actors and discussing the problems of finding the money.

At least five funders' names and logos were listed at the start of El Nino Pez, Lucia Puenzo's follow-up to XXY. Adapted by her from her own novel, the film is something of a throw-back--a kitchen sink melodrama of forbidden love, as spoiled rich girl Lala (Ines Efron, who also starred in XXY) and housemaid Aylin plot their escape with the family loot. But the course of true love never runs smooth. Nor is it clear whether this is true love, as Aylin also has entanglements with Lala's father, as well as with others. Is she simply using Lala to better herself? When the father is found dead, the strength of their relationship is tested.

As with XXY, I was a bit disappointed with this film. I wanted to really like it but found it lacking dramatically. Pondering a crucial plot point, I found myself asking: "why are they taking the dog? That makes no sense." A pity as it's beautifully shot and acted. I just didn't quite buy the maid character. If she is untrustworthy, the audience's sympathy is compromised.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments: