2013 will go down as the year I finally found my way to the Berlinale. With a selection of over 400 movies and tickets selling out in mere minutes, a personal program for the festival has to be planned some time in advance and the movies picked carefully. None of the films I watched won either a golden or a silver bear but for me it's not about the furry award - rather about the pleasure of experiencing unconventional cinema free from an exclusively entertainment-oriented agenda. See you definitely again next year, Berlin.

Nugu-ui Ttal-do Anin Haewon (Nobody's Daughter Haewon)      2013
by Hong Sangsoo, South Korea, 90'
"Is she tired of life or love? Why else is Haewon falling asleep in a restaurant? Haewon, a student, feels abandoned. Her mother is about to emigrate to Canada and Haewon has decided to end her affair with one of her professors because he is so unsupportive. Not only do Haewon’s fellow students get wind of the affair, but her married paramour refuses to accept that their relationship is over." A very simple and charming movie with somehow awkward acting characters.

Upstream Color                                                                     2013
by Shane Carruth, USA, 96'
"(...) A man is breeding maggots in compost. He forces a young woman to eat them. In a trice, the woman, Kris, falls into an apathetic state, as if drugged. Her torturer disappears, and a pig breeder arrives on the scene. The man, who is also a composer, undertakes a bizarre surgical transfer between Kris and a pig. Kris, who no longer knows who she is, succumbs to a crisis which comes to a head." Interesting ideas and beautifully shot scenes but on the long run it starts to feel obnoxious and ends up being unwatchable. Once you've seen the trailer just imagine 90 minutes more of dizzily changing sequences of an erratic and enigmatic narrative. It's not that I didn't "get" the movie, it was all just too tiring (for the eyes and the mind).

La Religieuse (The Nun)                                                          2013
by Guillaume Nicloux, France/Germany/Belgium, 100'
"Suzanne Simonin describes her life of suffering in letters. As a young woman she is sent to a convent against her will. Since her parents cannot afford the dowry required for a marriage befitting her rank they decide she must instead become a nun. Although a kind and understanding Mother Superior helps her to learn the convent’s daily routine, Suzanne’s desire for freedom remains unabated. When the Mother Superior dies, Suzanne finds herself faced with reprisals, humiliation and harassment at the hands of the new Abbess and the other Sisters. For many years, Suzanne is subjected to bigotry and religious fanaticism." A captivating cast of talented actresses. Except maybe for Isabelle Huppert who went a bit overboard in the role of the lesbian nun... I should check out the 1966 version with Anna Karina.

Interior. Leather Bar.                                                            2013
by Travis Mathews and James Franco, USA, 60'
"When William Friedkin’s film Cruising was screened in competition at the Berlinale in 1980 it unleashed a wave of controversy – and not just at the festival. Gay activists accused the film, in which Al Pacino plays an undercover cop investigating a case in New York’s gay S&M and leather scene, of stirring up homophobic stereotypes. Moreover, forty minutes of allegedly overly explicit scenes were deleted in order to secure a less restricted rating for the film’s release. Oscar-nominated actor James Franco and Travis Mathews have made it their mission to restage this missing and by now legendary forty minutes." And here I thought I would get to see those re-imagined 40 minutes of explicit sex scenes and get instead a passable behind-the-camera/making-of kind of documentary. Good intentions behind the project but one cannot sell this as a finished product.

Dark Blood                                                                             2012
by George Sluizer, Netherlands, 86'
"When Dark Blood’s leading actor River Phoenix died suddenly ten days before the end of the shoot in 1993, the film’s insurance company became the owner of the unfinished material. Years later, director George Sluizer managed to save his footage from being destroyed. In January 2012 he decided to finish the film by reading aloud off-screen the missing scenes from the screenplay." I did enjoy the story and the commendable acting but this movie would not have stood out if it had been finished back then.

Frances Ha                                                                            2012
by Noah Baumbach, USA, 86'
"Frances is 27 and lives with her best friend Sophie in New York. She is busy reinventing her career as a dancer. Again. And again. Although it’s been a while since she graduated, a fully functioning professional life still seems like a distant dream. Even though her jobsearch ends in one disappointment after another, she’s fairly content with her life with Sophie even though they're a bit like an old married couple. But then Sophie without warning moves into her dream flat in Tribeca with another girlfriend and Frances suddenly finds herself out on the street. Now she not only has to find a new place to live but also a new place in the world, since only very few of her lofty ambitions look likely to come to fruition. A tentative romance fails as a result of conflicting ideas about what a relationship should be. Frances’ life is far removed from that of her dreams but her love of life remains indefatigable and she is happy to drift from one odd abode to the next. Filmed in black-and-white, Frances Ha is a humorous urban fairytale about growing up after you’re grown up." I love Greta Gerwig. Undateable.

PS: The Oscars are lame.

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