3D opens new vistas for art cinema at Berlin fest

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Art-house cinema breaks into the next dimension at the Berlin film festival Sunday with hotly awaited 3D premieres from European veterans seeking to reclaim the format from Hollywood blockbusters.

German Oscar-nominees Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog will unveil new pictures that push the limits of 3D cinema, which until now had been a money-spinning vehicle for mass-market features such as "Avatar" and "Toy Story 3".

France's Michel Ocelot will present "Tales of the Night", a fairy tale in 3D based on his silhouette animation television special. The film is in the running for the festival's Golden Bear top prize, to be awarded Saturday.

Wenders' "Pina", which features the work of the late German choreographer Pina Bausch, had been years in the planning.

He said he had long struggled with how to bring Bausch's trademark fluid movement and soaring grace to life on screen and found the answer when he watched a groundbreaking U2 concert film in 3D at Cannes in 2007.

"But soon it became obvious that the technology wasn't far enough along," the "Buena Vista Social Club" director told film industry trade paper The Hollywood Reporter.

"Even when you look at the gorgeous 'Avatar', if you look at the original, real-life footage -- not the stuff done (on a) computer -- you realise it is less elegant, clunky. But for our film we had to capture natural movement. And that only became possible in 2009."

The film was conceived as a collaboration with Bausch but her sudden death that year almost led Wenders to abandon the project.

It was the dancers from her Tanztheater Wuppertal, where she worked for more than 35 years, who convinced him to press on.

Meanwhile Herzog's documentary "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" shines a light on what are believed to be the world's oldest cave paintings, in southern France.

The 400 haunting murals in the Chauvet Pont d'Arc cave in the Ardeche valley were only discovered in 1994 and are believed to be more than 30,000 years old.

The cave is closed to the public to protect the precious drawings and Herzog was chosen as the sole film-maker to present them to the world.

A specially built hand-held camera captured the paintings in relief, revealing how ancient artists used the grotto's own contours to add nuance to their work.

Critics and film buffs have eagerly awaited this batch of 3D cinema as an aesthetic breakthrough, although industry insiders say the films may have trouble reaching audiences at first.

Screen Digest analyst Charlotte Jones warned that European 3D features could find themselves battling for space against Hollywood's offerings, as only 12.5 percent of the 38,400 European cinema screens are 3D-ready.

"Indie (independent) 3D films are going to be more marginalised here, as there's not enough screens," Jones told Variety magazine.

"Plus audiences are becoming a lot more sceptical of the format, so competition is up."

The Berlin film festival runs until February 20.

© 2011 AFP

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