Edith Piaf film brings curtain up on Berlin festival

8th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - The 57th Berlin Film Festival opens on a French note on Thursday with the world premiere of "La Vie en Rose" which tells the story of Edith Piaf's rise from seedy poverty to glory.

BERLIN, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - The 57th Berlin Film Festival opens on a French note on Thursday with the world premiere of "La Vie en Rose" which tells the story of Edith Piaf's rise from seedy poverty to glory.

It is one of four movies from France challenging atmospheric Asian fare and big-budget Hollywood productions, including George Clooney's "The Good German" and Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd", for the Golden Bear prize for top film.

Piaf, who was born in the street and raised in a brothel, had a life of drama and heartbreak but for critics the question is whether the film will be a fine portrait or a caricature of the French icon.

Up-and-coming actress Marion Cotillard plays the diminutive singer, Gerard Depardieu her love-struck manager and Roman Polanski's wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, the prostitute who took her under her wing.

The 22 competition entries in the 373-film festival also include the much-anticipated new feature by veteran French director Jacques Rivette and an AIDS drama by Andre Techine.

De Niro presents a slow-moving, earnest film about the founding of the CIA in "The Good Shepherd" while Clint Eastwood, who has made a smooth transition from "Dirty Harry" to Oscar-winning director, is showing "Letters from Iwo Jima" out of competition.

It recounts the World War II battle for a Japanese island from the locals' point of view and is one of a host of war stories screening at the Berlinale.

Steven Soderbergh tries his hand at film noir in "The Good German" and shows Clooney and a vampy Cate Blanchett lost in intrigue worthy of Orson Welles in bombed-out Berlin in 1945.

The film has earned mixed reviews from US critics but ahead of its European premiere here on Friday the big disappointment has been that Clooney, who has charmed the public and the press in Berlin in recent years, is not coming.

"He sends his love and said he will be back next year," festival director Dieter Kosslick quipped.

The red carpet parade will include Blanchett, who is also presenting "Letters on a Scandal", as well as Lauren Bacall, Isabella Rossellini, Joseph Fiennes, Matt Damon, Emmanuelle Beart and Hong Kong heartthrob Tony Leung.

He plays the lead in Li Yu's competition entry "Lost in Beijing", a love story set in a massage parlour which hints at the frustrations of the city's residents and has been reportedly cut by Chinese censors in the run-up to the festival.

The organisers said that although some doubt had surrounded the screening, "Lost in Beijing" was on track for its world premiere here on February 16.

Asia's other strong entries are "Desert Dream" by Zhang Lu, which shows how the lives of a farmer, a refugee and a soldier intersect on the Chinese-Mongolian border, and Korean director Park Chan-Wook's love story bout an unstable girl titled "I'm a Cyborg but That's OK".

Scott Roxborough, the German correspondent for the Hollywood Reporter magazine said the festival was "going back to its traditional strengths" with its focus on French and Asian arthouse movies.

From Britain comes "Irina Palm" which shows singer Marianne Faithfull, a star of the sixties, as a widow forced to work in a sex club and, from Italy, "In Memoria di me" (In Memory of Myself), about a young man who seeks refuge from life in a Jesuit monastery.

The Berlinale, which vies with Venice for the title of Europe's second biggest cinema festival after Cannes, has a reputation for gritty fare and has become a showcase for the moody new wave of German cinema.

Last year, the top acting prizes went to local stars and this year there are two German films in competition.

Christian Petzold's promising "Yella" stars Nina Hoss as a young woman who leaves behind a bleak existence in eastern Germany but struggles to have faith in her new life and relationships in a western city.

Insiders predict it could prove a sleeper in a country where the east-west divide is still raw and homegrown cinema last year recovered to take 25 percent of box office sales.

The Berlinale jury is headed by Paul Schrader, who is showing his thriller "The Walker" out of competition. It includes one of its stars, Willem Dafoe, and Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal.

The prizes will be awarded on February 17, the penultimate day of the festival.

Cotillard, who was last seen in Ridley Scott's "A Good Year", is being tipped as an early favourite for the Silver Bear for best actress for her turn as Piaf.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, Film festival, Edith Piaf 

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