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Duds outweigh discoveries at Berlin film festival
Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:59am EST
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By Mike Collett-White
BERLIN (Reuters) - Duds stuck in the memory more than discoveries at the Berlin film festival, where critics were underwhelmed by the quality of the main competition line up.
As the 11-day annual showcase of international cinema draws to a close with the awards ceremony on Saturday, there are four or five out of 19 entries seen as contenders for best picture.
They are led by "London River," French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb's tale of an odd couple united in their search for two children missing after the 2005 suicide bomb attacks in London which killed 52 people.
Britain's Brenda Blethyn and Sotigui Kouyate of Mali gave compelling performances, and the picture's subject matter could boost its chances in the eyes of the jury.
Not everyone liked it, however, and there was no clear favorite for the coveted Golden Bear award in 2009.
"With no single stand out masterpiece, handicapping the Berlinale Golden Bear winner ... is proving a difficult task," Scott Roxborough wrote in The Hollywood Reporter.
"Whatever the choice, be certain it will be praised and damned in equal measure by critics here."
Broadly popular was "About Elly," about middle-class Iranians whose trip to the Caspian Sea turns to tragedy as they seek to uphold social customs by layering lie upon lie.
"The Messenger," starring Woody Harrelson as an army officer assigned to inform next of kin about soldiers killed in combat, won warm praise, while Renee Zellweger in the witty 1950s comedy "My One And Only," a late entry, is also in the running.
For other big Hollywood names the reviews were not so kind.
"Mammoth," directed by Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson and starring Gael Garcia Bernal, tackles the pros and cons of this year's hot-topic issue globalization, but its aggregate score in a poll of critics fell short of "poor."
Faring little better was minimalist fashion spoof "Rage," in which not even Jude Law playing a cross-dressing model called Minx could save director Sally Potter from a critical mauling.
And "Happy Tears" had a far-from-happy reception, despite Demi Moore and Parker Posey playing the lead roles.
As usual, the geographical spread of competition films in Berlin and hundreds of other pictures screening in peripheral sections was impressive. Continued...
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