Thursday, January 22, 2009

Berlin and Beyond 2009 - Closing Night

The Goethe-Institut San Francisco's annual festival of films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, affectionately titled Berlin and Beyond came to a close tonight at the Castro Theatre with a lighthearted little film and reception afterward.

Executive director, Rudolf de Baey gave another of what could become his typically trademark, quirky introductions. I am not clear as to what his opening anecdote about how warm it was on Saturday in San Francisco and the 300 (I could have sworn he said they were nude) people in Dolores Park was about. Then he led the audience into opening their cell phones and programing a calendar reminder for next year's Berlin and Beyond on January 14, 2010. I think this quirkiness would bug me more, if not for his unbridled enthusiasm! He then introduced the ever soberly delightful Artistic Director, Ingrid Eggers. She proceeded into the traditional list of acknowledgments and thank yous before announcing the Audience Award Winner: EVET (JUST SAY YES), which I did not see. argh. The runners ups were, #2 THE WAVE (its Student Screening obviously pushed the film, which is its intended audience, I guess..) and #3 LA PALOMA (another I missed!) Personally, of what I saw, CLOUD 9, was my favorite! Eggers then introduced tonight's film and the guest, actor Jan Henrik Stahlberg, who was exceptionally brief and invited us to stay for the Q&A afterward.

MELODIES OF SPRING (MĂ„RZMELODIE) (dir. Martin Walz, Germany, 2008, 89 mins.) Well, Rudolf de Baey's quirky little introduction of the night was surprisingly appropriate for this quirkly little film. It is a musical (something that Ingrid Eggers joked that Germany really doesn't produce), but not really in that MAMA MIA sense, but more appropriately for the culture, in the style of Dennis Potter (THE SINGING DETECTIVE). Snippets of pop music are abruptly cut into the dialogue as the ensemble of characters struggle their way through their relationships and work. The cast is almost universally appealing, which may be its best and worst aspect. There are no real villains in the piece. Though that keeps it from falling into melodrama, it also makes the relatively short 89 minutes seem longer, as the lack of over whelming conflict lends the piece a very episodic structure. I would hesitate on editing out a subplot, though, as it is the encompassing whole of the ensemble's work which is engaging and sort of enchanting. Also, of the various plots and characters, it would be difficult to decide which of their stories to expand. There is a fragility in the characters that complements the short stories they are a part of, and it is a credit to writer and director Martin Walz that he has been able to weave them together. Now, as I am thinking about it, the film does compare to LOVE, ACTUALLY in dramatic structure. (It would be a lengthy, and perhaps inappropriate, analysis here to detail why LOVE, ACTUALLY was able to support its 140 minute length and MELODIES OF SPRING does not support nearly half that.) However, I don't want to sound too dismissive! MELODIES OF SPRING is an enjoyable movie and a nice, light way to end a festival that included some heavy subject matter.

I did not stay for the Q&A after the film (I have no questions!), but scampered upstairs for the reception, which was so much more navigational than opening night and featured a fabulous German potato salad that I must learn to replicate, and a tray of chocolates from at least four different companies, that sent me out into the rain on a high!

Maxxxxx says
re MELODIES OF SPRING: "Dooby doobye dooo-ooo!"

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