Berlin Film Festival focuses on English-language movies & Hollywood stars: Matt Damon & George Clooney domestic flops up for Golden Bear
English-language productions dominate the Official Competition line-up at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival, which runs between Feb. 8–18. In all, 22 films are vying for the Golden Bear while four are being screened out of competition.
Most of the English-language fare hails from the United States and the United Kingdom, in addition to several American and British co-productions with other nations. A few key titles are listed below.
Golden Bear contender 'The Good Shepherd': Dedication to U.S. intelligence agencies leads to marital woes
Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather: Part II, 1974; Best Actor for Raging Bull, 1980) made his feature film directorial debut with A Bronx Tale back in 1993. Thirteen years later, he returned behind the camera for the Cold War drama The Good Shepherd, starring Matt Damon as a dedicated agent at the United States' World War II intelligence agency, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), and co-founder of its successor, the CIA. Damon's fellow Hollywood star Angelina Jolie was cast as his beautiful but neglected wife.
Coolly received by U.S. critics following its December 2006 debut – and a costly box office bomb – The Good Shepherd has been all but ignored this awards season. A couple of exceptions have been the works of ASC Award-nominated cinematographer Robert Richardson and Academy Award-nominated art director Jeannine Oppewall, along with set decorators Gretchen Rau and Leslie E. Rollins.
Also in the extensive (and international) The Good Shepherd cast:
Robert De Niro. Alec Baldwin. Tammy Blanchard. Billy Crudup. Martina Gedeck.
Michael Gambon. Gabriel Macht. Lee Pace. Eddie Redmayne. John Turturro.
Best Supporting Actor winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, 1980).
Best Supporting Actor winner Joe Pesci (Goodfellas, 1990).
Veteran Keir Dullea (Bunny Lake Is Missing, 2001: A Space Odyssey).
Golden Bear contender 'The Good German': Murder mystery with a U.S.-Nazi collaboration flavor
Another coolly received box office dud with the word “good” in the title, Steven Soderbergh's post-World War II, black-and-white murder mystery The Good German toplines Matt Damon's Ocean's Eleven co-star George Clooney (Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner for Syriana, 2005) as a Berlin-based American war correspondent who becomes enmeshed with the murder of a U.S. soldier/black-marketeer (Tobey Maguire) and the hunt for a missing Nazi officer (Christian Olivier) the American government wants in connection with its weapons program.
Like The Good Shepherd, The Good German has been all but ignored this awards season – with one exception: Thomas Newman's score, which has been shortlisted for the Academy Awards.
More English-language Golden Bear contenders: Handjob expert Marianne Faithfull & inspirational inmate Nelson Mandela
Below are four more English-language titles in competition at the 2007 Berlinale.
- Sam Garbarski's comedy-drama Irina Palm sounds like the feel-good masturbation movie of the year: 1960s icon Marianne Faithfull plays a widow who, in order to help pay for the operation of her ailing grandson, begins a new career as a handjob expert at a sex shop in London's Soho district. Predrag 'Miki' Manojlovic plays the deceptively hardboiled shop owner while Kevin Bishop is Faithfull's oh-no-mom-you-didn't son.
- Set in Apartheid-era South Africa, Bille August's Goodbye Bafana / The Color of Freedom toplines British actor Joseph Fiennes as a racist security guard and American actor Dennis Haysbert as the late 20th century's most famous political prisoner, Nelson Mandela. Though supposed to be based on “redemptive” real-life events, the veracity of the tale has been questioned in various quarters. Also in the cast: Diane Kruger, Shiloh Henderson, and Tyrone Keogh.
- Based on a novel by (not that) Elizabeth Taylor, François Ozon's early-20th-century-set Angel traces the rise and fall of an outsider who becomes the British elite's literary flavor of the moment. In the cast: Romola Garai as the titular character, Sam Neill, and the filmmaker's muse, veteran Charlotte Rampling (The Night Porter, The Verdict). Angel is the 2007 Berlin Film Festival's Closing Night presentation.
- Inspired by real-life events, Gregory Nava's Bordertown features Antonio Banderas and Jennifer Lopez in a tale of murder and intrigue at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Out of Competition: Iwo Jima & Thermopylae battles
Here are three more English-language Berlin Film Festival entries to be screened out of competition.
- Based on Lynn Varley and Frank Miller's comics and directed by Zack Snyder, 300 depicts the Battle of Thermopylae in the year 480 B.C.E. At that decisive clash, King Leonidas of Sparta and his 300 followers confronted invader King Xerxes' brush-stomping Persian army. Expect 300 to feature extended combat sequences glorifying bravery, honor, sacrifice, sadism, ruptured male skin, all those qualities that make wars so cool. The all-Greek/Persian cast includes Gerard Butler, Lena Headey, David Wenham, Dominic West, Rodrigo Santoro, and Michael Fassbender.
- Clint Eastwood's World War II drama Letters from Iwo Jima has been this awards season's sleeper hit among U.S. critics. It's also one of the few non-English-language movies ever nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. In the cast: Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai, 1993), Kazunari Ninomiya, and Tsuyoshi Ihara.
- Richard Eyre's British drama Notes on a Scandal stars Best Actress Oscar nominee Judi Dench as a lonely lesbian preying on adulterous teacher and Best Supporting Actress nominee Cate Blanchett, who has been having an affair with a 15-year-old high-schooler who, as it happens, had also been preying on her. And yet Blanchett's teacher is the one who comes across as the predator in this superbly acted potboiler. Andrew Simpson is the film's horny Lolito.
Where are the French?: Balzac adaptation & AIDS crisis + Edith Piaf sings again
Since François Ozon has gone the English way, it's up to veterans Jacques Rivette, 79 next March 1, and André Téchiné, 64 next March 13, to keep la langue française up there on the Berlinale's international competition screens.
Rivette is represented by The Duchess of Langeais / Ne touchez pas la hache (lit., “Don't Touch the Axe”), an adaptation of Honoré de Balzac's love story La Duchesse de Langeais, with Guillaume Depardieu, Jeanne Balibar, and veterans Michel Piccoli (Contempt) and Bulle Ogier (That Obscure Object of Desire). Jacques de Baroncelli directed Edwige Feuillère and Pierre-Richard Willm in the 1942 film version of the tale.
Téchiné is offering The Witnesses / Les témoins, a drama about the AIDS explosion of the 1980s. In the cast: Johan Libéreau, Emmanuelle Béart, Michel Blanc, Sami Bouajila, Julie Depardieu, and filmmaker Xavier Beauvois.
There's also Olivier Dahan's La Vie en Rose / La Môme, the festival's Opening Night film, starring Marion Cotillard as singing legend Edith Piaf. Also in the cast: Gérard Depardieu, Sylvie Testud, Jean-Pierre Martins, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Pascal Greggory.
German-language entries 'The Counterfeiters' & 'Yella'
Below are a few international entries in the Berlinale's Official Competition line-up, including the only two German-language films vying for the Golden Bear, The Counterfeiters and Yella.
- Stefan Ruzowitzky's World War II-set Austrian-German The Counterfeiters / Die Fälscher depicts what the Berlinale's press release describes as “the biggest counterfeiting operation ever pulled off”: how the Nazis forged millions of British pounds – and tried to do the same with the U.S. dollar – at a counterfeiting plant that relied on the labor of Sachsenhausen concentration camp prisoners. Karl Markovics, August Diehl, Devid Striesow, and Marie Bäumer star.
- Christian Petzold's Yella revolves around a woman who, in an attempt to escape from a wretched marriage, leaves the eastern province of Brandenburg to begin a new life in western Germany. The problem is that the past is unwilling to let her go. Nina Hoss, Hinnerk Schönemann, and The Counterfeiters' Devid Striesow star.
- Set in the early 1970s, Cao Hamburger's The Year My Parents Went on Vacation / O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias tells the story of a boy (Michel Joelsas) left with a relative in São Paulo's Jewish quarter after his parents “go away on vacation” during Brazil's bloody military dictatorship. The Brazilian-Argentinean co-production also features Paulo Autran, Germano Haiut, Daniela Piepczyk, and Caio Blat. Last year, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation won the Audience Award at the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival.
- In Saverio Costanzo's In Memory of Myself / In memoria di me, a young priest-in-the-making (Christo Jivkov) is overcome by some mighty serious doubts before his ordination. Also in the cast: Filippo Timi and André Hennicke.
- Park Chan-wook's I'm a Cyborg But That's OK / Saibogujiman kwenchana has as its center a young psychiatric patient who thinks she's an enamored cyborg. In the cast: Korean pop superstar Rain and Lim Soo-jung.
- Joseph Cedar's Beaufort follows the men of the last Israeli battalion to leave southern Lebanon. In the cast: Alon Abutbul, Eli Eltonyo, and Yossi & Jagger actor Ohad Knoller.
Below is the full list of the 2007 Berlin Film Festival's Official Competition & Out of Competition line-up.
Berlin Film Festival 2007: Official Competition
Angel, dir.: François Ozon, France / Belgium / U.K. (Closing Film).
Beaufort, dir.: Joseph Cedar, Israel.
Bordertown, dir.: Gregory Nava, U.S.
Desert Dream / Hyazgar, dir.: Zhang Lu, South Korea / France.
The Counterfeiters / Die Fälscher, dir.: Stefan Ruzowitzky, Germany / Austria.
The Other / El Otro, dir.: Ariel Rotter, Argentina / France / Germany.
Goodbye Bafana, dir.: Bille August, Germany / France / Belgium / U.K. / Italy.
Hallam Foe, dir.: David Mackenzie, U.K.
In Memory of Myself / In memoria di me, dir.: Saverio Costanzo, Italy.
Irina Palm, dir.: Sam Garbarski, Belgium / Germany / Luxembourg / U.K. / France.
La Vie en Rose / La Môme, dir.: Olivier Dahan, France / U.K. / Czech Republic (Opening Film).
The Witnesses / Les témoins, dir.: André Téchiné, France.
Don't Touch the Axe / Ne touchez pas la hache, dir.: Jacques Rivette, France / Italy.
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation / O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias, dir.: Cao Hamburger, Brazil / Argentina.
I Served the King of England / Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále, dir.: Jiri Menzel, Czech Republic / Slovakia.
Lost in Beijing / Ping guo, dir.: Li Yu, China.
I'm a Cyborg But That's OK / Saibogujiman kwenchana, dir.: Park Chan-wook, South Korea.
The Good German, dir.: Steven Soderbergh, U.S.
The Good Shepherd, dir.: Robert De Niro, U.S.
Tuya's Marriage / Tu ya de hun shi, dir.: Wang Quan'an, China.
When a Man Falls in the Forest, dir.: Ryan Eslinger, Canada / U.S.
Yella, dir.: Christian Petzold, Germany.
Out of Competition
300, dir.: Zack Snyder, U.S.
Letters from Iwo Jima, dir.: Clint Eastwood, U.S.
Notes on a Scandal, dir.: Richard Eyre, U.K.
The Walker, dir.: Paul Schrader, U.S. / U.K.
Berlin Film Festival website.
Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie The Good Shepherd image: Universal Pictures.
August Diehl The Counterfeiters image: Universum Film.
Marianne Faithfull Irina Palm image: Strand Releasing.
“Berlin Film Festival: Nazi & Cold War Flops + Sex Worker Marianne Faithfull & Jacques Rivette Returns” last updated in September 2018.