French drama opens Berlin festival

9th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - The 57th Berlin Film Festival opened on Thursday with a portrait of Edith Piaf's turbulent life before its shifts tone with a romantic thriller starring Cate Blanchett and George Clooney.

BERLIN, Feb 8, 2007 (AFP) - The 57th Berlin Film Festival opened on Thursday with a portrait of Edith Piaf's turbulent life before its shifts tone with a romantic thriller starring Cate Blanchett and George Clooney.

 "La Vie en Rose", named after one of Piaf's best-loved songs, drew only polite applause despite an array of French big name actors, including Gerard Depardieu.

It is one of four French films having their world premieres at the festival and vying with big Hollywood productions like the Clooney vehicle "The Good German" and Robert De Niro's latest turn as a director "The Good Shepherd" for top honours.

Altogether 373 films will screen at the festival, which is one of Europe's top three and has a reputation for mixing glamour with gritty fare.

Matt Damon, who stars with Angelina Jolie in De Niro's film about the early days of the CIA, will over the next 10 days share the red carpet with Blanchett, Lauren Bacall, Sharon Stone, Emmanuelle Beart, Judi Dench, Willem Dafoe and Clint Eastwood.

The cowboy-actor-turned-director is unveiling one of several films at the Berlinale that draws on World War II, "Letters from Iwo Jima", which tells the story of a major battle from the view point of Japanese soldiers.

But on Thursday, the limelight belonged to up-and-coming French actres Marion Cotillard, last seen alongside Russell Crowe in "A Good Year", who plays her heart out as Piaf.

Cotillard's good looks all but disappear as she transforms herself into the beloved French diva who started out singing on street corners and died at 48 in 1963 after a battle with morphine addiction.

She told reporters the hardest part of the role was lip-synching convincingly to original recordings.

"Doing the playbacks took more work than anything else. You don't want the audience to walk out because it is badly done."

Friday will see the European premiere of "The Good German" in which Clooney plays a journalist who gets into trouble when he runs into an old flame, played by a vampy Blanchett, among the rubble and intrigue of post-war Berlin in 1945.

The black-and-white movie by "Ocean's Eleven" director Steven Soderbergh draws on "Casablanca" and "The Third Man" for inspiration but has left critics divided.

The festival will also on Friday host the world premiere of prize-winning Korean director Park Chan-Wook's "I'm a Cyborg but That's OK", an offbeat love story set in a mental hospital.

Another Asian competition entry, Li Yu's "Lost in Beijing" has been cut by Chinese censors in the run-up to the film's world premiere here next week.

Nanfun Shi, a Hong Kong Chinese producer sitting on the Berlinale jury, said the episode highlighted the pressures faced by all Chinese filmmakers and proved that for them "artistic freedom is not possible."

After a bumper year for German films in 2006, the festival is screening two local competition entries with critics betting on Christian Petzold's "Yella" about a young woman who escapes from a dreary life in east Germany.

Also in competition is "Irina Palm" in which sixties pop star Marianne Faithfull plays a sex club worker and "In Memoria di me" (In Memory of Myself), an Italian production about a young man who withdraws to a monastery.

"Les Temoins" (The Witnesses), a drama about the start of the AIDS epidemic by Andre Techine has impressed critics, but not so an English-language production by fellow French director Francois Ozon of "Swimming Pool" fame.

The competition jury is headed by US filmmaker Paul Schrader, who wrote the script for "Taxi Driver", and includes Mexican heartthrob Gael Garcia Bernal.

Schrader said he last served on a Berlinale jury in 1987 and recalled: "That was the last Cold War jury. We yelled and called each other. It was grand fun but I don't expect that this time round."

The prizes will be awarded on February 17, the penultimate day of the festival. "Bonnie and Clyde" director Arthur Penn will be honoured with a special award.

Copyright AFP

Subject, French news, Berlin film festival, Entertainment

0 Comments To This Article