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Berlinale. 16 More for the Competition

The Auteurs Daily


In 2008, the Forum honored Koji Wakamatsu with a four-film retrospective that included the international premiere of United Red Army, a highlight not only of that year's edition of the Berlinale but also of the year as a whole. Today the festival has announced that Koji Wakamatsu's Caterpillar will see its world premiere in Berlin next month as one of 16 new titles in the Competition lineup. Add the previously announced seven and the opening and closing films and that brings the total so far to 25. Organizers are planning on 26, so there's likely one surprise left.

Caterpillar - and that image comes directly from the site, of course - is based on a story Edogawa Rampo wrote in 1929; back in 2005, AN Devers wrote in Tin House: "In 'The Caterpillar,' a lieutenant comes back from war as a quadruple amputee. Not only can he barely move, but he has also lost his ability to speak. His wife, at first loving and caring, is soon enraged by his new deficiencies and the impoverished, lonely life his heroic war efforts have given them. She is particularly repulsed by his growing appetite for food and is unwilling to comprehend that eating is one of the few sensory experiences he has left. She begins to torment him, first verbally, then physically. After several years of abuse and neglect, the lieutenant is barely recognizable. His wife sees him only as 'a thing' - she imagines a bloated caterpillar, 'slowly creeping along the dead branch of a gaunt tree on a dark night.' In this story and others, Rampo continually turns the motifs and symbols of Japanese culture inside out: in his world the caterpillar isn't representative of life or regeneration but is instead a horrific symbol of death and decay."

Benoît Delépine and Gustave de Kervern (Aaltra) are bringing Mammuth, featuring Gérard Depardieu, Yolande Moreau and Isabelle Adjani. A world premiere. For those who speak French, here's a six-minute video: "Intervention de Gustave Kervern (éméché) pour le film Mammuth."

This latest round also features two films from Denmark, both of them world premieres: Thomas Vinterberg's Submarino, described by the Danish Film Institute as a "story about two estranged brothers, marked by a childhood of gloom," and Pernille Fischer Christensen's En Familie, about a couple whose plans are disrupted by illness.

From Norway comes Hans Petter Moland's A Somewhat Gentle Man. You'll find a synopsis at the Norwegian Film Institute, but essentially, when Ulrik (Stellan Skarsgård) is released from prison, he must decide whether to return to his family or seek revenge against those who turned him in.

Florin Serban's If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle, a Romanian-Swedish production, has a log line: "Five days before his release from juvenile prison, a teenager decides to break free."

I wrote a bit about Oskar Roehler's Jud Süß - Film ohne Gewissen back in August. With Tobias Moretti as Ferdinand Marian and Moritz Bleibtreu as Joseph Goebbels.

Alexei Popogrebsky's How I Ended This Summer: "Sergei, a seasoned meteorologist, and Pavel, a recent college graduate, are spending months in complete isolation on an Arctic research base. Pavel receives an important radio message, but can't find the courage to tell Sergei until fear, lies and suspicions start poisoning the atmosphere..."

Quite a batch from the US this year: the world premiere of Noah Baumbach's Greenberg, with Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig, Rhys Ifans and Jennifer Jason Leigh (trailer); and the international premieres of Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman's Howl, which opens Sundance tomorrow and features James Franco as Allen Ginsburg; Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me, an adaptation of the Jim Thompson novel with Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson (also at Sundance); Nicole Holofcener's Please Give, with Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt and Rebecca Hall (Out of Competition); Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are Alright, with Julianne Moore, Annette Benning and Mark Ruffalo (also Out of Competition).

Natalia Smirnoff, who's served as assistant director to Lucrecia Martel, makes her directorial debut with Rompecabezas (Puzzle), a French-Argentine production. Another feature debut: Shahada by Burhan Qurbani, born in 1980 to Afghan political refugees and raised in Berlin.

Zhang Yimou's A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, a remake of Joel and Ethan Coen's Blood Simple that's done well at the box office in China, though less so with Chinese critics, will see its international premiere.

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I’m most intrigued by Natalia Smirnoff’s film.

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