While many of our colleagues number it among their favorite destinations in the calendar, the Berlin International Film Festival has sometimes struggled to compete against principal rivals Cannes and Venice, at least in terms of how high-profile its big movies have been. It's been the discovery point of some wonderful films, of course—"A Separation," "Tabu" and "Gloria" are among those that premiered there in recent years. But its place on the calendar, in February, doesn't quite fit with the awards-season-obsession of Hollywood, and so its line-up is often less star-studded than its rivals, with its biggest premieres often coming from movies that screened in the U.S. months earlier.
But things have been looking up: this year, they scored a coup with the first screening outside Asia of Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grandmaster," and the festival have just announced another for next year's fest: the 2014 Berlinale will open on February 6th with the world premiere of Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
After Anderson made his Cannes debut with "Moonrise Kingdom" in 2012, many had assumed that he'd be returning there with his latest, but with the film already completed, and Fox Searchlight setting a March release in the U.S, that looked to be ruled out, and Berlin became a more obvious option (not least because the film was mostly shot there). And indeed, that's the case, with Anderson returning to the festival at which both "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" played at competition.
With Anderson firmly back on form with his last couple of pictures, we'd be excited for 'Grand Budapest' even without a cast led by Ralph Fiennes (who replaced Johnny Depp in the film), as lascivious concierge Gustav H, and also including F. Murray Abraham, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Lea Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Owen Wilson and new discovery Tony Revolori. Our Berlin-based correspondent Jessica Kiang will be at the festival again this year, so keep an eye out for our verdict on the film on February 6th. In the meantime, it's a good excuse to have another look at our trailer breakdown. "The Grand Budapest Hotel" opens on March 7th.