Friday, January 16, 2009

Berlin and Beyond 2009 - Opening Night

The Goethe-Institut San Francisco's annual festival of films from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, affectionately titled Berlin and Beyond opened last night for its week long stay at the Castro Theatre. Opening Night at B&B includes a really yummy, though logistically nightmarish, dinner in the balcony lobby of the theater. Though the beverage tables on one side of the room were comparatively accessible, the line/mob for the buffet was awkward. Once there, the stew, noodles and pastries were YUMMY! Considering the obvious popular support of the evening, I hope that Berlin and Beyond (which is now its own non-profit organization) considers renting the adjacent parking lot for a "tent dinner" sometime in the future.

Anyway, after wrestling through the melee' upstairs, the evening did eventually begin with a retrospective of B&B's trailers, and then welcoming remarks from the new president of the Goethe-Institut San Francisco and Berlin and Beyond, Rudolf de Baey. Mr. de Baey had an awkward, though nearly charming delivery, though his referring B&B as the first San Francisco event to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama seemed a bit... odd. Mr. de Baey's quirkiness as a public speaker is palatable only by his enthusiasm for the event. He introduced the near local deadpan legend, Ingrid Eggers, Festival Director. It has taken me a little bit of time to warm up to her DRY humor, but once I hooked in, I've been hooked! Her little smack down of the co-sponsor of the night's screening was a hoot! ("Tonight's co-sponsor is FRAMELINE. Are you here?" [No response.] "Well, we gave you tickets.") After brief remarks about the night's program, Eggers brought actress, Hannelore Elsner, to the stage, who gave an appropriately awkward welcome, along with a thank you message from the film's director. Elsner set exceptionally high expectations for what are reactions to the film would be. This awkward little start would be nearly forgotten after the film.

CHERRY BLOSSOMS (KIRSCHBLÜTEN - HANAMI) (dir. Doris Dörrie, Germany, 2008, 122mins.) Director Doris Dörrie has helmed all parties involved, both in front and behind the camera, to create an exceptional piece of work. The film has an amazing balance of intelligence and compassion in its portrayal of the dynamics of a family facing the aging and loss of the parents. There is not a weak link in the cast, led by Elmar Wepper and Hannelore Elsner. Each actor carries an emotional history that can be read in their eyes and is so honestly played out in scenes, that it is at times heartbreaking. The couple travel to reconnect with their three children, and this leads them to Japan, which will be the setting of a spiritual and emotional catharsis. Aya Irizuki plays a Butoh dancer, who will be the catalyst and guide for Elmar Wepper's journey, with such charm and warmth, she is nearly a fantasy.

The cinematography by Hanno Lentz is so well composed and gorgeous that it alone deserves to be studied for its moments of wit and poetry. Claus Bantzer's excellent score accompanies the film's most transcendent moments, without being overly manipulative or intrusive. His soundtrack could be an ecstatic experience by itself. (It is available on CD in the European markets). Costume design by Sabine Greuning is simple in its execution, but plays an unusually large part in the characters' passages. The film editing by Frank C. Müller and Inez Regnier has a few relatively minute moments of quirky pacing and effects. They are cuts that felt like a stumble, but are easily forgotten as the film progresses.

I was genuinely touched by the end of the film and even its closing credits are handled with exceptional warmth. Though there was a Q&A scheduled, I did not stay, as I wished to leave with my spirits intact...

Maxxxxx says
re CHERRY BLOSSOMS: "I love you!"

No comments: