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By the close of the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival on Saturday, Wong Kar-wai’s lush, historical, star-studded martial arts love story The Grandmaster got a shot at critical re-evaluation. After 10 days of generally strong films with nothing spectacular to Skype home about, festival-goers started looking back nostalgically at the opening night’s Chinese fireworks. In retrospect, it was clear that the Hong Kong art film, shown out of Competition, set a deceptively larger-than-life tone for a festival whose main themes turned out to be character studies of mature women and troubled teens.
Wong’s jury seemed to be thinking a lot like the critics when they awarded the Golden Bear to the finely wrought Romanian film Child’s Pose – which significantly also won the Fipresci critics’ prize. Directed by Calin Peter Netzer, it features actress Luminita Gheorghiu as a glamorous, 60-year-old domineering mother who pulls strings to save her grown son, accused of running over a child.
Berlin 2013: ‘Child’s Pose’ Wins Berlin Golden Bear
Child’s Pose well represented a competition full of powerful actresses and complexly motivated, intriguing female roles, as directors and screenwriters discovered the value of maturity and seemed anxious to explore the aging female face and psyche. Paulina Garcia, who stole the show as a 58-year-old woman who starts over in the much admired Chilean film Gloria, received a well-deserved best actress nod.
She won out over some tough competition: Juliette Binoche as a mad artist in Bruno Dumont’s disturbing Camille Claudel 1915, Catherine Deneuve as a former beauty queen in a late-life crisis in On My Way, Rayna Campbell as the guilt-ridden South African mother in Layla Fourie, and top German actress Nina Hoss on her way to the Klondike gold rush in Thomas Arslan’s Gold.
Berlin 2013: Actress Performances Lead Buzz At Fest’s Midpoint
Along with these well-traveled older ladies, teenagers in trouble ran amok in Competition. They were to be found in the very much-admired picture from Kazakhstan, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, about a lonely and confused film student; and Guillaume Nicloux’s classy remake of Diderot’s The Nun, featuring a rebellious 16-year-old abbess. One might add many strong non-Comp films to the list, including Georgia’s In Bloom, Israel’s disturbing Youth and Greece’s The Daughter.
Berlin 2013: THR’s Actors Roundtable (Photos)
In handing David Gordon Green the best director laurels for Before Midnight was quite popular with critics, unlike Gus Van Sant’s social-environmental drama Promised Land.
If the filmmakers were hoping for a better Euro response than the cool reception they got at Sundance for the Shia LaBeouf outing The Croods was appreciated for what it is: a sweet Stone Age comedy for the younger set.
Berlin 2013: ‘The Croods’ Makes World Debut With Eye Towards Possible Franchise
For once, outspoken social and political films took a backseat, though they resurfaced under the new guise of docudramas. Both the Jury Grand Prix as well as best actor kudos went to the small Bosnian film An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, Danis Tanovic’s starkly compelling case study of poverty and racism. Closed Curtain was another Competition film that blurred the line between fact, fiction and testimonial, turning Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s real-life situation under house arrest into poetic allegory and winning the best screenplay award. And the Audience Award for best Panorama documentary went to The Act of Killing, which features Indonesian death squad killers re-enacting their crimes onscreen.
David Rooney, Stephen Dalton and Jordan Mintzer contributed to this report.
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