Monday, January 19, 2009

Berlin and Beyond 2009 - Day 4

The Goethe-Institut San Francisco's annual festival of films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, affectionately titled Berlin and Beyond continues its week long stay at the Castro Theatre until Wednesday, January 21, 2009.

I was a bit of a slacker today as I only attended a single program: the program of short subjects, and even at that, I dozed off a bit... This year, the program features ten short films, two of which were animated. It was introduced by "Tim, the intern", who exhibited as perfected a dry humor as his boss, Ingrid Eggers: "I am an intern, which means I have spent four months in a room watching short subjects," and these are the best of the lot.

BENDE SIRA – ICH BIN DRAN (dir. Ismet Ergün, Germany, 2007, 11 mins.) There couldn't be a better way to start the program than this charming story of a group of boys who "compete" to see who gets to see a movie, as the boys can only afford to have one go. It is set in Istanbul, and is in Turkish, but without subtitles, as the story is so universal in action and emotion, it does not need translation. It was affectionate without crossing that horrid line into "cute"!

Due to reasons apparently beyond my control, and with no fault of the work themselves, I actually dozed off during the next two pieces: THE GIRL WITH THE YELLOW STOCKINGS (dir. Grzegorz Muskala, Germany, 2008, 6 mins.) and DIE BEGEGNUNG (dir. Susan Schimk, Germany, 2008, 7 mins.). I hate it when that happens!

BIG PLANS (GROSSE PLÄNE)(dir. Irmgard Walthert, Switzerland, 2008, 4 mins.) This was the first of the two animated pieces. Though it has an appealing visual style, I have to admit I sort of miss the joke. It is available via quicktime player at the link above, so you can see for yourself and perhaps fill me in...

FELIX (dir. Andreas Utta, Germany, 2008, 20 mins.) Internet dating for the pre-teen crowd? Apparently, and it appears that "dating games" start early! The two young performers, Max Wrobel and Jella Alpert are pretty extraordinary given that they have such a short time to convey their characters surprising depth. She is deaf and he is hearing, and they meet via a chat room where he pretends to be deaf as well, even when they meet. Conflict ensues, of course, but the two actors handle it with such maturity that I was completely absorbed!

SOMMERSONNTAG (dir. Sigi Kamml, Austria, 2008, 10 mins.) An almost cruel and unbearable drama in which a "guard at a huge lift bridge has to make a wrenching decision between sacrifcing his deaf son or a train filled with hundreds of passengers." However, it is extremely effective! The editing is nearly ruthless and in its brief 10 minutes, does more than some full length features aspire to.

DOG FOOD (HUNDEFUTTER (dir. Till Kleinert, Germany, 2007, 15 mins.) This is an exceptionally quirky little film in which a pair of decidedly dislikable characters are introduced, yet director Till Kleinert still manages to provide a punchline. On a dare, a young man breaks into an elderly woman's house and must retrieve a "souvenir", as it were. I can't say that hilarity ensues, as it does get very dark before it bursts open with a good chuckle.

SAMSA – HOMMAGE AN KAFKA (dir. Rene Lange, Germany, 2008, 4 mins.) Quoted from the program: "A nightmarish sequence depicting a cockroach at a type writer." It's an amazing looking animated short, which gave me the creeps!

ILLUSION (dir. Burhan Qurbani, Germany, 2007, 9 mins.) This was a surprisingly engaging drama about a woman who is unable to let go off her job as a "conductor" on Berlin's subway system. Or at least that is how I would describe it. Though none of the characters are that necessarily appealing, the twists and turns of the script kept me quite involved.

ON THE LINE (AUF DER STRECKE) (dir. Reto Caffi, Switzerland, 2007, 30 mins.) This short crosses that quirky little time standard I have, that as you approach thirty minutes, then are you really aiming at something that should be expanded to feature length, or do you edit down to a reasonable short length? In this case, I think Reto Caffi could have ended the film around 10 minutes earlier with a near shocking O'Henry twist. However, he continues on to achieve a more complete resolution, which actually ends with a very ambiguous final shot. I do believe he has a reasonable feature length film here, as the relationship between the store security guard and one of the cashiers could have been further explored, especially considering the "error in judgment" that the guard makes. The editing of the "crisis moment" is exceptionally well done. The performers are unusually appealing, in that they break the mold as far as the American physical aesthetic is concerned. I think that Caffi just needs to make a decision as to the future of his screenplay here, which seems to be pretty bright, as he won a special Oscar from the Student Academy Awards for Foreign Language Film.

Maxxxxx says
re SAMSA – HOMMAGE AN KAFKA: Freaked him out!

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