Berlin fest lineup bears watching

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The official lineup for the 57th annual Berlin International Film Festival is taking shape, with a raft of new titles — including Paul Schrader's "The Walker," Clint Eastwood's "Letters From Iwo Jima" and Gregory Nava's "Bordertown" — selected for this year's event.

Because Schrader is serving as president of the Berlinale jury this year, "The Walker," described as a pseudo sequel to his 1980 film "American Gigolo," will screen out of competition. The film, which features Kristin Scott Thomas and Lauren Bacall, will have its world premiere at Berlin.

"Letters" also will screen out of competition, having already opened in North America and Japan.

Eastwood's Japanese-language epic will not be the only film in Berlin that looks to World War II for inspiration. "The Counterfeiter," Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky's story of the Nazi effort to forge millions of British pounds in a bid to prop up Hitler's failing regime, also has been chosen for competition.

French directors Jacques Rivette and Andre Techine both return to Berlin with their latest.

Rivette, last seen in competition in Berlin with 1989's "The Gang of Four," will bring the period epic "Don't Touch the Axe" to this year's festival. The film, which stars Jeanne Balibar and Guillaume Depardieu, is an adaptation of Balzac's novella "The Duchess de Langeais."

Techine, whose "Changing Times" (2005) screened in competition in Berlin, returns with "The Witness," which looks at the emergence of AIDS in the early 1980s. It's one of several Berlin competition titles with strong political overtones. Another, "Bordertown," which will have its world premiere in Berlin, is set among immigrant laborers on the Mexican-U.S. border.

Previously announced competition films, including the Robert De Niro CIA drama "The Good Shepherd," Steven Soderbergh's Berlin-set "The Good German" and Bille August's "Goodbye Bafana."

Other films chosen for competition at the 2007 Berlinale include "I Served the King of England," from Czech director Jiri Menzel, whose "Larks on a String" won the Berlinale Golden Bear in 1990. His new film looks at two decades of European history through the eyes of a waiter at an old-world hotel in Prague.

Saverio Costanzo, whose debut film "Private" (2004) won the Golden Leopard in Locarno, heads to Berlin with his sophomore effort "In Memory of Myself."

The final competition titles for Berlin are expected to be announced in the coming days. The festival kicks off Feb. 8 with the world premiere of Oliver Dahan's Edith Piaf biopic "La Vie en Rose."
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