The lineup for the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival is in place, with Benoit Jacquot’s period drama “Farewell My Queen” kicking off proceedings on February 9 at the festival’s HQ, the Berlinale Palast. Starring Diane Kruger as Marie Antoinette and Lea Seydoux as the French queen’s reader, the adaptation of Chantal Thomas’ prize-winning novel, playing in competition, is set at Versailles during the opening days of the French Revolution.
This year’s competition program features 18 world premieres out of a total of 22 titles. Among the leading films in contention are Billy Bob Thornton’s 60s-set family drama “Jayne Mansfield’s Car,” starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon and John Hurt; Paolo and Vittorio Taviani’s “Caesar Must Die," a drama about Italian convicts putting on a Shakespeare production that marks the venerated Italian brothers’ first cinematic outing since 2007; “Bel Ami," the adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s novel featuring Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman and Christina Ricci; and Chinese director Wang Quan’an’s historical epic “White Deer Plain.” Also competing for the 2012 Berlinale Bear awards are Brillante Mendoza with his Isabelle Huppert-starrer “Captive,” Nikolaj Arcel with “A Royal Affair” and Tsui Hark with 3-D epic “The Flying Swords Of Dragon Gate.”
Festival Director Dieter Kosslick singled out “radical change and departure” as an overriding theme among this year’s competition titles. “They shift perspectives, presenting history and stories from the point of view of those involved,” he noted.
Among the 53 features unspooling in the festival’s popular arthouse hothouse "Panorama" section are Hou Hsiao-hsien’s “10+10," a compendium of short films from Taiwanese filmmakers; Polish director Malgoska Szumowska’s “Elles,” a drama probing gender relations with Juliette Binoche in the lead, which first played in Toronto; the fantastic-sounding “Iron Sky,” a Finnish sci-fi spoof in which Nazis who’ve been hiding out on the dark side of the moon decide to invade earth; and the Serbian boxoffice hit “Parada,” a comedy about gangsters providing security for the country’s first gay-pride parade.
Angelina Jolie will present her directorial debut, “In the Land Of Blood And Honey,” out of competition in the Berlinale Special program, which focuses on “film portraits of outstanding personalities, extraordinary formats and restored masterpieces”. Or, as in the case of Jolie’s debut, the catch-all section for big names presenting recent projects. Also included are Steven Soderberg’s “Haywire;” Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close;” Werner Herzog’s documentary film series “Death Row;” Alison Klayman’s portrait of the famed Chinese dissident, “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” fresh from the Sundance Film Festival; Kevin Macdonald’s “Marley,” about the reggae superstar (picked up this week by Magnolia); and Barnaby Southcombe’s “I, Anna,” featuring Gabriel Byrne, Hayley Atwell and the director’s mother, Charlotte Rampling.
There’s a special focus on the Arab Spring movement this year, which is the theme of Sean McAllister’s opening-night documentary “The Reluctant Revolutionary.”
“It makes for a strong, political start in Panorama Dokumente,” says the section’s long-serving programmer Wieland Speck. “I couldn’t believe my luck when I watched it, because it presents images from the burning revolution in Yemen that are unlike anything we’ve seen on television.”
This year’s Forum program, for works at the more avant-garde end of the spectrum, offers up an equally diverse menu of international titles, including three films from Japan dealing with the 2011 tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power station: “No Man’s Zone,” “Friends after 3.11” and “Nuclear Nation.” American independents also feature strongly, with David Zellner’s Sundance entry “Kid-Thing” training its lens on a neglected little girl’s fantasy life; Brian Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s “Francine,” following a shy woman (played by Melissa Leo) with an overwhelming affinity for animals; and So Yong Kim’s “For Ellen,” depicting the efforts of Paul Dano’s selfish rock musician character to forge a relationship with his young daughter.
There are 12 world premieres in the festival’s youth-skewed Generations section, led by opener Rebecca Thomas’ “Electrick Children,” about a young Mormon woman (Julia Garner) who breaks away from her strict religious community and plunges into Las Vegas’ glitzy nightlife; British director Simon Aboud’s “Comes A Bright Day,” which features “Submarine" star Craig Roberts as a teenager caught up in a diamond heist; “Two Little Boys” from New Zealand director Robert Sarkies, starring “Flight Of The Conchords”’s Bret McKenzie; as well as titles from Greece, Israel, Mexico, Korea, Chile, Japan, Indonesia and Bolivia.
The Berlin International Film Festival runs February 9-19, with the Golden and Silver Bear awards announced by jury chief Mike Leigh and jurors Charlotte Gainsbourg, Asghar Farhadi, Anton Corbijn, Jake Gyllenhaal, Francois Ozon and Barbara Sukowa on the final day.