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The Playlist

Berlin Review: 'The Dark Valley' Starring Sam Riley Is A Dour, Unoriginal German-Language Western

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 10, 2014 4:06 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The Dark Valley
A stranger rides into an isolated hardscrabble town, embarks on a personal quest for bloody revenge and along the way becomes the townspeople's champion: so far, so every Western ever made. But the big twist here is that everyone's speaking German, even Sam Riley who plays the film's hero, and the mountains that hem in the small community are distinctly Alpine. Welcome to "The Dark Valley" from director Andreas Prochaska, playing this week at the Berlin Film Festival, which in transposing to rural Austria a story that might usually play out in Tombstone or some logging town in Colorado, may be pretty much the first attempt at a "schnitzel Western" that we've seen.

Berlin Review: 'The Two Faces Of January' With Viggo Mortensen, Oscar Isaac And Kirsten Dunst

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 10, 2014 12:05 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The Two Faces Of January
On paper, there are any number of reasons to be excited for "The Two Faces of January," which screens during the Berlin Film Festival this week. The three leads, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac are all actors we admire, the director may be a first-timer in this role, but Hossein Amini is the high-profile screenwriter of "Drive" and "Snow White and the Hunstman" and, beyond that, it's based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, whose books have previously yielded such films as "The Talented Mr Ripley," "Strangers on a Train," and the underseen "Ripley's Game."

Watch: Full 40-Minute ‘Nymphomaniac’ Press Conference From The Berlin Film Festival

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • February 9, 2014 1:53 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Nymphomaniac press conference
Yes, Shia LaBeouf stole the show, aping from or homaging a 1995 press conference appearance by maverick footballer Eric Cantona today at the Berlin Film Festival. But aside from that prankster move – some say veering towards Joaquin Phoenix-like performance art – the press conference went off like it normally might have.

Berlin Review: Lars von Trier's Director's Cut Of 'Nymphomaniac Part 1'

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 9, 2014 1:17 PM
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  • 32 Comments
Lars von Trier is going to Hell. The devil, after all, has all the best tunes, and on the evidence of "Nymphomaniac Part 1," which has its world premiere in its unexpurgated, director-preferred 145-minute version at the Berlin Film Festival, von Trier is a maestro at his zenith, conducting what may very well be his magnum opus. It is a symphony, or perhaps a thrusting, punk-inflected heavy metal power grind of rude, funny, sexy, sad, gross, pretentious, meta and brilliant, and sometimes all of these things at the same time. But out of what should be discordant, salacious, self-indulgent and ugly, von Trier, through sheer storytelling and filmmaking chutzpah, has crafted something witty and clever and thrilling, that absorbed our attention like a sponge and displayed, beneath all that brio, a kind of wisdom we haven't seen before from the filmmaker.

Berlin Review: 'Yves Saint Laurent' An Inert, Precious Biopic Dressed In Fancy Clothes

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 9, 2014 11:13 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Yves Saint Laurent
Suffering from the same handsome-but-uninspired treatment that sinks so many Hollywood biopics, the French-language "Yves Saint Laurent" from director Jalil Lespert, which traces the life of the pioneering fashion designer through its most turbulent decades, had its premiere recently at the Berlin Film Festival. Like any film about fashion, there is always the challenge of how it will strike a balance between the gloss and glamor of the surface and delivering something that reveals more than just who-went-where-wearing-what.

Shia LaBeouf Borrows Enigmatic Footballer Quote For 'Nymphomaniac' Press Conference & Then Walks Out

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • February 9, 2014 10:21 AM
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  • 28 Comments
A strange afternoon in Berlin today. Lars Von Trier’s “Nymphomaniac Part 1” (the long version that hasn’t been seen until now) screened this morning at the Berlin Film Festival, and the press conference that followed had a few head-scratching moments. First off, Lars Von Trier himself showed up wearing a Cannes “Persona Non Grata” T-shirt (an overt reference to his banning from the French festival the year “Melancholia” played), but kept his vow to no longer speak to press by not appearing in the press conference.

Berlin Review: '71' Starring Jack O’Connell An Outstanding, Bloody, Meditation On The Personal Cost Of Conflict

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 7, 2014 5:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
'71 Jack O'Connell
While the odds of seeing two truly extraordinary, brutal but brilliant British films in as many weeks are fairly long, the chances of both films starring the same relative unknown, in two similarly impressive yet fundamentally different performances, must be exponentially smaller. But we should buy a lottery ticket, because in the wake of David Mackenzie’s tremendous “Starred Up” (review here), a new film from debut feature director Yann Demange has had its world premiere here at the Berlin Film Festival. And it also places at its moral, physical and psychological center a role for Jack O’Connell, the rising star who knocked us sideways in the former film, and did it all over again here.

Wes Anderson Talks Romanticizing Bygone Eras, Nostalgia & The Imaginary World Of ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • February 7, 2014 12:20 PM
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  • 1 Comment
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Berlin: Unless you’re in the genres of fantasy or sci-fi, one can argue no one makes grounded, but idiosyncratic fairy tale-like worlds quite like Wes Anderson. The director’s latest, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” is set in the imaginary country of Zubrowka, an alpine Eastern European nation, and centers on a spa town whose main highlight is the legendary concierge, M. Gustave H, who works at the Grand Budapest Hotel.

Watch: Wes Anderson, Ralph Fiennes & Cast Of ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ In 50 Minute Berlinale Press Conference

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • February 6, 2014 4:33 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Grand Budapest Hotel
Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest” is now out there in the world, and it’s a grand, funny, ambitious and even a little melancholy look back to a day and age that no longer exists. Director Wes Anderson, along with cast members Ralph Fiennes, Ed Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, Saorise Ronan, Tony and Revlori attended the press conference this morning at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival and thanks to the wonders of technology, you can check it out right at home.

Berlin Review: Wes Anderson's 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' Starring Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray, Jude Law & More

  • By Jessica Kiang
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  • February 6, 2014 3:00 PM
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  • 8 Comments
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Love. There are points during “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which celebrates its World Premiere as the opening film of 64th Berlinale tonight, at which it simply floods off the screen. It sounds too lofty perhaps, but how else can you describe the level of minute care that seems to have gone into every single frame, every costume, every tear in every strip of wallpaper? If nothing else (and there is quite a lot else) the film is at times perhaps the apotheosis of Wes Anderson’s aesthetic: a glorious, mischievous sequence of pictorialist plays taking place in a world so perfectly contained it might as well be in a snowglobe.

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