Nicolas Rapold on the 72nd Berlin International Film Festival

AFTER SUNDANCE CANCELED its physical edition just two weeks before the opening, it was a comfort and a joy that the Berlinale had the chance to take place according to a simplified schedule. When the Golden Bear of the festival went to Carla Simón Alcarras– a beautiful and useful rendition of a Catalan farmhouse fade – I couldn’t help but feel a feeling of ‘just happy to be here’ in the air. The composition of the contest’s jury – which put M. Night Shyamalan and Ryusuke Hamaguchi in the same room – was arguably more exciting than the stubbornness to equal careen Alcarras. But the good films at the 2022 edition were where we found them, and they were legion.

Or Alcarras seems to cut off when a scene gets interesting, The novelist’s film, a contest finalist, happily plays hopscotch in a funny comedy of contingent friendship and creative chance. Hong Sangsoo’s agile black-and-white feature begins with an acerbic writer (Lee Hye-young) visiting an old friend, now a bookstore owner, and daisy-chaining encounters until an actress in leave (Kim Minhee) enters the scene. Kim brings a delightful lightness of touch to her acting character, perhaps unexpectedly connecting with Lee’s obscurely driven writer, who is pursuing her dream of making a short film. From another headlining author, Claire Denis Both sides of the blade (to be released this summer as Fire in the United States) was like the dark side of Let the sun in, sharing a co-writer in autofiction author Christine Angot and taking a more linear approach than some of her past wakes. Cozy couple Vincent Lindon and Juliette Binoche (bringing a jitter to Denis’ cool beats again) are upset when a ghost from her past – Grégoire Colin as an old flame – consumes her completely, her obsession turning from mysterious to plain messy.

Claire Denis, Fire, 2022, 2K video, color, sound, 116 minutes.  Jean and Marie (Vincent Lindon and Juliette Binoche).

Denis won Best Director – amazing, his first prize in a major festival competition, I was told – and I was thrilled when another such award went to the one of the best directors of the festival for the first and second time. by Cyril Schaublin Disorders is the rare historical film to tap into the eerie energies of a buzzing moment when it feels like “everything has changed.” The setting seems comically calm – the watchmaking valley of the Swiss Jura in the 1870s – but it is the ground zero of industrial might and anarchist revolution, catching the attention of cartographer and Russian revolutionary Peter Kropotkin. I saw the film in a nearly empty press room on a quiet Sunday morning, and felt completely transported by Schaüblin’s quirky images of village workers, Kropotkin (at the dawn of a new political phase) , two Border Patrol agents and a jovial factory owner, as they negotiate a small society thriving with multiple time zones, new but immediately popular innovations like the telegraph and photographic postcards, and a measurement mania .

I had a similar reaction to another movie in the Encounters section, Qing dynasty queens, which was destabilizing in the best possible way. Canadian filmmaker Ashley McKenzie, whose feature debut Werewolf (2016) rubs shoulders with a marginal couple addicted to heroin, focuses here on Star (Sarah Walker), a teenager hospitalized after ingesting poison. The dazed affect of the patient is more a state of being than a momentary shock reaction. Wide-eyed, soft-jawed, cherubic, Star reacts to the world at her own pace and from home, often with a twisted sense of humor and neurodiverse outlook. Walker’s dreamy self-narrative and McKenzie’s lucid close-ups and soundscapes foster a deep and enduring sense of Star’s subjectivity (and creativity). Not that the film is entirely star-studded — she bonds with a sweetly mischievous hospital volunteer, An (Ziyin Zheng), who faces his own social exile as a queer immigrant from Shanghai. Assimilating avant-garde influences and incorporating eruptive animations, McKenzie’s bold film gives many other depictions of difference a studied or treasured look.

Ashley McKenzie, Queens of the Qing Dynasty, 2022, DCP, color, sound, 122 minutes.  An and Star (Ziyin Zheng and Sarah Walker).

by Alexander Zolotukhin brother in every inch has its own island quality as it follows two air force cadets, twin brothers, to a small training base in Russia. Initially, it looks like an entry into the nearly century-old genre of Glory-to-the-Motherland movies – burly guys walking around, awesome machines – so much so that I nearly ran away, with the invasion impending Ukrainian Russian. But Zolotukhin finds something strange and tragic in the brothers’ unbalanced connection, and even disrupts the required flight sequences, with the blackout of a twin in the air and a gust that obscures the wild blue there- low. Also in Dating, Small, slow but steady paints a thin, no-frills portrait of a deaf boxer from Tokyo’s Arakawa district. Thwarting just about every other boxing movie, director Sho Miyake eschews The Big Fight prep to tune into the quietly confident beats of Keiko (Yukino Kishii) amid the pandemic decline of her old-school gymnasium. On the lighter side, Quentin Dupieux Incredible but true argues its subject – the secret time-bending abilities of a couple’s newly purchased home – to more laughs than Gourmet FeedPeter Strickland’s final extended hermetic riff, this time about the tribulations of a performance band (apparently inspired by his own Sonic Catering Band) in maddening retreat.

Dry ground burning and After the water were two highlights of the more experimental part of the Forum, just like that of Alain Gomis Rewind and Play. Gomis’ modest study of found footage deconstructs Thelonius Monk’s performance on a French TV show in 1969, when he was called out for tedious covers and deeply uncool jokes. Among other varieties of documentary experience, Mitra Farahani See you Friday, Robinson curates a refreshing and irreverent epistolary exchange between Jean-Luc Godard and Iranian titan Ebrahim Golestan while casually nailing Godard’s own jarring edits and including the work of Godard DP Fabrice Aragno. (Launched with the festival, an exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt domesticated Godard’s 2018 The picture book spreading it across forty screens mostly perched on pro-grade shelves.) And in Mutzenbacher, Ruth Beckermann conducts a dizzying, often damning investigation into sexual mores by arranging an all-male casting for a film based on a 1906 pornographic novel featuring a minor. Tough and efficient, Beckermann seizes the opportunity to bring out the men – their candid personal stories, their sometimes startling reviews of the shocking book and, most unnervingly, their discussions of forbidden fantasies. His film draws a landscape of desire that awkwardly mixes the repulsive with the banal. It won Movie You Least Want to Watch Then Lock Eyes with the movie-loving grandpa next to you, but it also won Best Encounters Movie – well-deserved for a particularly fearless film during an impressive edition.

The 72nd Berlin International Film Festival took place from February 10 to 20.

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