The 59th Berlinale’s competition line-up was undistinguished; as can quickly be seen from Screen International critics’ jury (click here to see full grid), no single film won over the crowd and there were very few ‘excellent’ marks awarded.
In fact, unusually for Berlin, some titles even drew boos at their Palast press screenings.
With his contract renewed until 2013, festival director Dieter Kosslick will be hoping for a better 60th celebration in 2010. Titles which were reportedly available to him this year but were surprisingly passed over for selection included the Sundance winner Push: Based On A Novel By Sapphire and Rotterdam’s Morphia, while, puzzlingly, native son Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Five Minutes Of Heaven did not manage a post-Sundance showing.
Berlin’s tendency to select films that make a political statement has seen the festival veer wildly in terms of quality recently, and it would be a good move to stabilise itself artistically.
Commercially, major buyers failed to swoop on many of the titles in a chilly economic climate; although swathes of rights were available, top competition titles left the festival in pretty much the same shape they went in.
The high hopes surrounding premieres from auteurs such as Francois Ozon, Sally Potter and Lukas Moodysson were dashed - in some cases, trashed. And other buzz titles, such as Katalin Varga, failed to make a big impression.
Some of the competition’s earlier, more solid titles - Little Soldier, About Elly, In The Electric Mist - might possibly have been more warmly received had they come at the end of this low-key festival. And one of the most enthusiastically received titles, Claude Chabrol’s Bellamy, played out of the action in a Berlinale special homage.
Drawing on critics from the US to Europe, Screen’s jury chart gave its highest marks to Rachid Bouchareb’s London River, with star Sotigui Kouyate winning the Berlinale’s best actor award for his role as a man looking for his son in the aftermath of London’s July 7 terrorist bombings.
The Golden Bear winner, The Milk Of Sorrow, convinced Tilda Swinton’s jury but was less successful with Screen’s, drawing an average of 2.8.