Christopher Shea's Berlin Diary, part two


Vic+Flo ont vu un ours


Just out of female prison for sentences we never learn the details of, Vic and Flo move into Vic's quadraplegic uncle's remote Quebec home, more for the bed, board and isolation than out of any sense of filial piety. Soon enough their past comes back to haunt them, in the cute but sadistic form of Jackie, a sociopath from back in prison, who Flo made the mistake of crossing some time long ago. The movie's got a lot of violence, and a pretty bleak outlook that, at the end of it all, feels a bit unearned. But screenwriter/ director Denis Côté's abrupt and adept genre switches make for an unusual and entertaining ride. The movie starts on a wry note-- with Jackie telling a kid to improve his trumpet-playing if he wants to hack it in the busking world-- and ends somewhere far, far creepier. Definitely worth a viewing.

Je ne suis pas mort


A freaky Friday for the art house set, Je ne suis pas mort follows a prestigious Parisian professor who dies suddenly and enters the body of one of his poor but precocious Algerian students. The body-switching's a bit of a literalized letdown, given the subtle, creepy ways Mehdi Ben Attia draws parallels between the professor and his student in the movie's early scenes (a slowly oozing bloody nose on both men, for example). The film's got comely actors and pleasant Parisian settings, but it feels by its end like Attia could have done something more subtle and more satisfying.

Night Train to Lisbon


Based on the 2004 novel about an aging teacher who finds a train ticket to Lisbon in a book and follows the bread crumbs to Portugal to find the author, Lissabon has good and bad sides. Here, for your convenience, a list:

The good:

●        Lisbon looks lovely under director Bille August's gauzy filter.

●        So does Jeremy Irons.

●        Some young pretties, such as Mélanie Laurent and Jack Huston, show up.

●        The multilnational cast speak English with odd, fake Portugese accents.

●        Backward time-jumping plot means jazzy costumes from the 1970s.

●        Inadvertently hilarious scene where protagonist (Irons) locks love interest in his car for hours (watch for it).

The bad::

●        Outrageous sentimentality.

●        Schizophrenic desire to make you cry and then laugh like you're watching Love, Actually.

●        It is not Brideshead: Revisited.


Pozitia Copilului


Word on the street is that this year's ultra-triumph is Pozitia Copilului, a Romanian movie about a mother trying to buy her son out of jailtime. This reviewer didn't make it to the press premiere, but heard that the host introduced Copilului as the odds-on favorite for the Golden Bear (a claim which, we should note, was surely made without any consultation with the jury). The film received a great audience reaction after the screening, too.


The great disappointment for the Berlinale's host country, meanwhile, is Gold, one of two German entries in the competition that left audiences hugely disappointed. One moviegoer recommended the film-- which chronicles German explorers' search for gold in 19th-century Canada-- as a good choice for a German-learner, "because there isn't much you have to understand."


Perplexing film motifs

A perplexing film motif that I've seen in too many places to count: The professional theater production with high school level sets. In this year's Je Ne suis pas mort, the lead character's wife is an actress. When we finally see her perform, it looks like she's doing Waiting for Godot on a set designed by a 15-year-old in his basement.

On Subtitles

An otherwise perfectly artful movie, Baek-Ya -- about two young men who meet on the internet for sex, but end up going on a sordid adventure instead-- featured some of the worst subtitles I've seen on screen.

Some were just clunky. When one character asks another what airline he works for, the other responds, "the German one." You know, the German one. We didn't want to deal with a lawsuit, so the German one. Other dialogue was far stranger. As the two men sat on a stoop in a moment of apparently peaceful repose, one ripped through the silence with an inexplicable "fuck you."

The whole thing felt a little dada, like someone had made one movie, and someone else had dubbed over it with jungle noises.

What do you do in a case like this? Chalk it up to bad subtitling, or blame the script?


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