Berlin 2013 Preview feature

We're still brushing the snow off our metaphorical evening wear from the Sundance Film Festival, which feels like it ended only yesterday, and yet tomorrow sees the second stop of The Playlist's 2013 festival roadshow getting underway with the opening night of the Berlin Film Festival. The earliest in the year of the Big Three European festivals (alongside Cannes and Venice), the Berlinale, founded in the German capital in 1951, is traditionally one of the most prestigious events in the movie calendar.

In recent years, the Oscar-obsession of the movie calendar has seen it dip in profile (the early February date means most U.S. prestige films have either been released in much of the world, or are far from completion), but by not having to chase starry world premieres, it's often led to more interesting and eclectic line-ups, with critical favorites like "A Separation" and "Tabu" being uncovered there in recent years. And 2013 sees it getting one of its biggest coups in years, thanks to the international premiere of the new film by one of the most acclaimed directors around. Our coverage, courtesy of our roving reporter Jessica Kiang, will kick off tomorrow, but to get you warmed up, below you'll find our picks for the five most anticipated films of the festival this year. Let us know what you're anticipating in the comments section.

The Grandmaster Tony Leung
“The Grandmaster”
Synopsis: The story of martial-arts master Ip Man, the man who trained Bruce Lee.
What You Need To Know: A notoriously slow and deliberate filmmaker and editor, who tends to write his films as he is shooting them (must be nice), Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-wai is one of the most world-renowned international directors, but not exactly Captain Punctual, with "The Grandmaster" having been in various stages of production for about four years. But it's finally done, already in release in China, and getting its international premiere in Berlin (where the director will also head up the jury). Starring longtime collaborator Tony Leung (“In The Mood For Love”), Song Hye-kyo, Chang Chen and Chinese star Zhang Ziyi ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), the picture is the filmmaker’s first action-oriented movie since 1994’s “Ashes of Time” (which Leung also co-starred in). And the word from the East is strong, with James Marsh of Twitch saying the film is "light on narrative, but oozing Wong's trademark elegance, the film weaves the director's familiar themes of love, loss and the corrosive nature of time around some of the most gorgeous martial arts sequences ever filmed." Hopefully the fifteen minutes cut for its international release won't have a noticeable impact.
When? Opens the festival tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled for our review. Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures have the North American rights, but no deal with a U.S. distributor has been struck yet. Hopefully we won't be waiting too long.

Closed Curtain
"Closed Curtain"
Synopsis: Two strangers both on the run from Iranian authorities -- one who owns a dog deemed "unclean" by Islamic law, the other a woman who took part in an illegal party -- hide out in a secluded villa together.
What You Need To Know: Despite being under house arrest, and saddled with a 20-year ban from filmmaking by the regime, Iranian director Jafar Panahi is proving to be more prolific than directors with all the freedoms in the world. Less than two years after his "This Is Not A Film" (which was on more than one of our writers' top 10s of last year) premiered at Cannes, Panahi's back with a new movie co-directed by Kambozia Partovi, who co-wrote Panahi's "The Circle," and directed "Border Cafe." The film is once again set in the limited confines of a home, features Panahi front and center, and is a direct comment on his situation, but otherwise, not a lot is known about it at present. That said, given the filmmaking skill and colossal bravery on show in "This Is Not A Film," this is pretty much atop our list of stuff to see in Berlin.
When? First screens in Berlin on February 12th. No distribution deal yet for the U.S.