By Steve Greene | Criticwire February 18, 2014 at 11:16AM
This year's Berlin International Film Festival was a time for heavy hitters. While Golden Bear winner "Black Coal, Thin Ice" came from a relatively unknown Chinese filmmaker, additional prizes went to Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson, pointing to a program largely designed to showcase established auteurs.
To determine some of the more well-received titles from this year's slate, we conducted a survey of our Criticwire Network from members who were at Berlin over the past few weeks. As the festival wound down, we asked respondents to send their picks in a number of categories, from Best Feature (both Narrative and Documentary) to Best Performance (Lead and Supporting) to Best First Feature.
Among the results, one title that appeared most frequently in a number of those areas was "Journey to the West," from director Tsai Ming-liang. His last film, "Stray Dogs," was a festival mainstay for the latter part of 2013, following its Venice debut. The follow-up, a 54-minute chronicle of a Buddhist monk's travels through Marseille, stars Denis Lavant and frequent Tsai Ming-liang collaborator Lee Kang-sheng.
Many critics included a handful of large-scale high-concept films from this year's program. Bong Joon-ho's mystifying "Snowpiercer," anchored by performances from Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, received high marks as a shining example of world cinema science fiction, just in time for news that the director's cut would hit U.S. theaters. Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac, Vol. 1," which has played internationally for months and at a surprise Sundance screening back in January, drew mentions in everything from Best Narrative Feature to Best Ensemble. And, once again, Linklater continues his magical festival run with another venue where his long-gestating "Boyhood" has screened to great acclaim.
The festival's effective bookends, opening night entry "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and Golden Bear winner "Black Coal, Thin Ice," both merited inclusion on a number of lists. First-time Wes Anderson troupe member Ralph Fiennes found himself on nearly half the ballots for the former, while the director-actor pairing of Diao Yinan and Liao Fan brought plenty of attention to their prize-winning noir.
The debut feature that continues to wow critics is Eskil Vogt's "Blind." Telling the story of a woman recently left without her sight, the tonal blend between levity and drama has drawn attention for both Vogt and lead actress Ellen Dorrit Petersen. Another Berlin curiosity that caught the attention of a few writers is Guillaume Nicloux's "The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq": A fictionalized version of the "disappearance" of its titular author back in late 2011, Houellebecq plays himself (and as a result appeared on a trio of Best Lead Performance lists).
For a full list of critic ballots, click through to the next page.