The 2007 Berlin Film Festival
By Leslie Weisman, DC Film Society Member
The 57th Berlin International Film Festival, or Berlinale ran from February 8 – 18, screening close to 400 films for some 430,000 moviegoers. While a journalist always tries to make the best choices based on buzz, knowledge, experience, and personal preference, inevitably, there will be the one — OK, OK, the two, three, or ten! — that got away, aside from the hundreds that time constraints simply put out of reach. That said, there was an extraordinary richness, excitement, and variety in the screenings and events I attended, which I hope I’ve been able to capture here.
The first film I saw, Substitute (Fred Poulet, France 2006), is a deceptively simple “day in the life of” a soccer player, the director’s friend Vikash Dhorasoo, in the hours leading up to what will be his few minutes on the field during the 2006 World Cup. Shot on Super 8 in all its unapologetically raw and grainy glory by the player himself and the director — we watch as Poulet explains to him how to hold the camera, and respond with amusement and sympathy to the novice’s first canted attempts at shooting — it’s surprisingly effective at drawing us into Dhorasoo’s emotional landscape. Played out against the almost prison-like parameters of his small hotel room and narrow corridors, we witness, with the discomfiting self-consciousness of voyeurs, Dhorasoo’s painfully private, yet perversely public moments of self-doubt and introspection. The existentialism that subtly pervades the film is prefigured by an inspired cinematic trope: we watch Poulet filming Dhorasoo, as Dhorasoo films himself.
Whether by accident or by design, the search for meaning and identity likewise informed many of the other films at this year’s Berlinale. In Pas douce (Parting Shot; Jeanne Waltz, France/Switzerland 2007), a young night nurse at a Swiss mountain-village hospital whose life seems to be proceeding on a steady downward path (dumped by her boyfriend, fights with her unfeeling father, has mechanical sex with two strangers at a bar, and spends her work nights caring for the dying) decides to take matters — and a rifle — into her own hands. In what appears to be nothing so much as a cosmic sadistic joke, the rifle misfires, and she winds up wounding two teenage boys, one of them seriously. Her hospital being the only one in the village, the boys are taken there.
Tripped out by guilt, and driven by a sense of responsibility and obligation, she returns to it, and — in yet another twist of the irony screw — is assigned to the boys’ care. The final nail in her mental and emotional coffin is driven by her boss, who refuses to allow her to switch shifts with another nurse, despite the fact that she’s worked three consecutive New Year’s Eves and the other nurse is willing to make the trade. Seeing no way out, and realizing that she will have to seek a means other than firearms, she hops on her bike and rides it into the lake — which, it turns out, is about two feet deep. At this point, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry, and may perhaps be forgiven for thinking briefly of Steve Martin, or Henny “I don’t get no respect” Youngman. But as the performances are fully realized, the direction leaves not a wasted minute, and the lensing is Nouvelle Vague evocative... your second inclination is to nod knowingly, and follow through to the surprising conclusion.
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (O ano em que meus pais saram de férias; Cao Hamburger, Brazil 2006), like Substitute, also plays out against the background of the World Cup, this one a quarter-century and a continent away — and with a more serious and significant back story. It is 1970, just a year into Brazil’s Médici military dictatorship which, like its predecessors, imposed authoritarian measures to keep the people under control, and spirited away those who continued to resist to imprisonment, and often torture and execution. On a bright summer’s day, twelve-year-old Mauro is dropped off by his parents to stay with his grandfather, whom he barely knows, in the Bom Retiro district of São Paulo while they ostensibly go on “vacation.” Why they are not taking him — and even where they are going — they do not tell him. And indeed, they dare not.
So pressed are they, his parents do not even stay long enough to make sure Grandpa is there. As it turns out, he’s not, and won’t be returning: Grandpa has just died, and Mauro is left more or less on his own, but nominally under the reluctant eye of Grandpa’s friend and neighbor, Shlomo, and the close-knit Jewish community in which he now finds himself. All the while, he’s counting the days till the World Cup, which his father has promised, perhaps as a way of keeping Mauro’s spirits (and his own) up, to be back in time for. Soccer is a passion in Brazil, running through the film as a thread connecting the different characters, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, or national origin. It is this passion that sustains young Mauro as he comes to terms with his temporary home, and the people who become his surrogate family.
Thus begins another coming-of-age story, but one told with enormous charm and honesty, bolstered by the strength of the director’s own personal testimony. Thanks to the skill and naturalness of the cast, and the director’s ability to transform the nucleus of his own experiences, and those of the community and the country that informed them, into a fictional film that avoids direct discussion or portrayal of the horrors that were playing out just around the corner, we feel their impact as tellingly as had they been shown on screen.
In a press conference after the screening, director Cao Hamburger explained that the film gave him, the son of a German-Jewish father and a Catholic mother, a chance to explore his father’s culture, to which he had had limited exposure as a child; having the film’s international debut in Berlin, where his family once lived, was particularly meaningful. Similarly, Germano Haiut, who plays the elderly Shlomo, told us that although he is Jewish, and had heard Yiddish spoken as a child, he was “illiterate” in the language. Learning it to do the role, much of which is scripted in that language, helped him to “get in touch with his roots” decades later.
The larger purpose of the film, for Hamburger, is to show that despite people’s differences, if we can find a common interest or goal, “we can all live together.” Seeing soccer, a game that “links people,” as a having the potential to bring disparate, and even inimical people together based on a mutual love for the game, Hamburger posited soccer’s potential as a vehicle for resolving conflicts stemming from ethnic or national ill-feelings or misunderstanding.
A few good socks with a soccer ball may be the only thing that could have resolved the conflicts in Julie Delpy’s bilingual, bicultural romantic comedy Deux Jours à Paris (2 Days in Paris, France/Germany 2007). The film stars Delpy, who also wrote the script and the score (and for good measure, produced it), and Adam Goldberg as a French-American couple who visit Delpy’s parents in Paris on their way back home to the States from the “holiday of their dreams” — which turned out to be more of a wake-up call — in Venice. Playing off cultural cliches on both sides of the divide, the film sends them up with equal elan, evoking Hawks, Capra, and Lubitsch with a 21st-century twist.
Delpy told the press after the screening that she likes the way the French can be “rustic, rude, tough,” and thought it would be funny for a “neurotic American” to be dropped in among them. Wanting to do something that was both like and unlike Before Sunset (“my romantic side”), she soon found that the “unlike” predominated, making 2 Days more of an anti-Before Sunset (2004). The production money came quickly; a lot of it was spent on extras. “In Paris, you can walk around [with a camera] and no one cares,” said Delpy (although experience has no doubt taught them there may be a few euros in it). As for the relentless arguing between Delpy and Goldberg that drives the play, arguing is good, “as long as it ends by finding a common ground” or “as long as it ends in sex.” (We won’t ask how this worked out in real life: Delpy said Goldberg — for whom she expressed appreciation and affection — seemed to hate playing the role of a jealous, fragile guy, and resented being directed by a woman.)
Daniel Brühl, a friend of Delpy’s who has become known to U.S. audiences through his work in such films as Good Bye Lenin! (2003), Ladies in Lavender (2004) and Joyeux Noël (2005), said he was happy to take the small role of the “fairy terrorist,” an animal rights activist who targets fast-food restaurants, although having to ad lib his lines (English is his third language) as the cameras rolled was a bit of a challenge. Asked whether the two actors who play her parents in the film are really her parents, Delpy said they are, adding that she wrote the screenplay with them in mind, and that all her life, she’s “dreamed of shooting them”. Although both are professional actors, who brought her into the biz from early childhood — “my father wanted to direct; he kept jumping around, trying to tell me how to do it” — unlike Brühl, they insisted on having every line fully scripted.
The indefatigable Delpy has a few irons in the fire. Her next project, Countess, a “dark, twisted” drama set in the 16th century, her “most ambitious” film to date, radically different from her others, is in pre-production. It will star Delpy, Ethan Hawke, and Radha Mitchell.
The opening-night film was intensely French in subject, spirit, and language: La Môme, also known as La Vie en Rose (Olivier Dahan; France, UK, Czech Republic 2006), the story of iconic French chanteuse Edith Piaf, a woman driven both by her need to sing, for personal as well as financial reasons, and by the self-interest of those who use her, exploiting her gifts and her needs to their own advantage. Neglected by her street-singer mother, little Edith is dropped off by her alcoholic, busker father at his mother’s brothel, whose residents complete her “education,” as it were. With a passion for singing and a singular, captivating voice, the teenaged Edith Giovanna Gassion takes to the streets to earn enough sous to survive, where she is heard and taken in hand by sugar-daddy nightclub owner Louis Leplée (played by the always enjoyable Gérard Depardieu), who gives her the stage name Piaf, or “sparrow.”
While affecting and only occasionally de trop (it’s unlikely that at her first performance on Leplée’s stage, where she sings a simple tune of, and with, little distinction, she’d earn a standing ovation from the sophisticated crowd), the film has one major drawback: it shifts seemingly haphazardly back and forth in time, making it difficult to know at what point in La Môme’s (“The Brat”) life we are, at any given moment. This may be intentional, reflecting Piaf’s own life experience, which was darkened by drug and alcohol abuse and tragic loss.
There is a striking resemblance, at least in the film, both physically and emotionally, and to an extent vocally and biographically, between Piaf, as played by Marion Cotillard — who may be best remembered by American audiences as Tina Lombardi in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement (2004) — and the similarly iconic and ill-starred Judy Garland. Piaf, too, attracted a sizable contingent of loyal, even obsessive fans, and her songs, from the early one of the title, to her last, defiant testament of hard-earned wisdom,“Non, je ne regrette rien,” continue, more than four decades after her death, to grab audiences by the throat.
The character of Edith Piaf seems to have done the same to her portrayer. At the press conference, Cotillard confessed that she knew little about Piaf before beginning her research into the role. Once she began working on it, though, she soon found herself so caught up in Piaf’s life, the biggest problem was getting back into character after breaks in filming; after the shoot, it took a few weeks to “become myself again.” Responding to a question about “missing pieces” in the film, director Olivier Dahan told us that the film was not meant to be an exact biography, but rather an “intimate portrait,” which had received the wholehearted approval of Piaf’s close friend, confidante and biographer Ginou Richer (see, for example,
The French film contingent at this year’s fest was also graced by the latest oeuvres of two titans, one once assistant to the other, a giant of the Nouvelle Vague: André Téchiné’s Les Témoins (The Witnesses, 2007) and old master Jacques Rivette’s Ne touchez pas la hache (Don’t Touch the Axe, 2007). As the two cineastes are separated by eras and experience, so the two films, both dealing with ill-advised, ill-fated love, are separated by centuries and sensibilities: The Witnesses explores relationships in the early days of the AIDS crisis, while Don’t Touch the Axe, based on a novella from Balzac’s “ La Comédie humaine,” sets a proud French general against the wiles of a beautiful, wealthy woman in restoration Paris in a game of emotional chess whose eventual, inevitable “check mate” is a bitter ending (and in one case, end) for both players.
At the press conference for Les Témoins, no doubt reflecting the urgency and sensitivity of the theme, there were as many questions about the lives it portrays as there were about the way it portrays them. Asked to comment on the situation in France for people of Arabic descent (as is his character, Mehdi, a policeman), actor Sami Bouajila replied that it more or less came down to individuals: while many experienced difficulties in assimilating, others were more successful. “We still have a long way to go,” he concluded. To the director: Why did you make the mother (played by Emmanuelle Béart) such a problematic character? Téchiné responded that the character herself was disturbed by her discomfort in being a mother, and that rather than idealizing motherhood, as is often done, he wanted to show it in another, equally true way. Béart added that the key scene for her character, Sarah, was the one in which she goes to her mother to find out if the mother had similar feelings towards her as a baby, and learns things that help her understand and deal with her own.
Asked why the film had such a rapid pace, Téchiné replied with a smile that it probably reflected his own internal tempo: he has a rapid heart rate, and likes to do things quickly. Perhaps more important, he added, is that the story is complicated, and it was critical to keep it moving. Challenged to provide examples of quiet moments, or moments of contemplation in the film, Téchiné came up with several, immediately evoking their grace and beauty. Was it easy for Johan Libereau, who plays the handsome young hedonist Manu, to do the death scenes, and Béart, the nude scenes? Both offered surprising, if telling answers: Libereau replied that the death scenes were actually easier to do than the joyful ones, where he had to act happy — keeping a smile plastered on your face is harder than it looks — while Béart responded that the nude scenes were far easier for her than the dramatic ones, where she felt exposed emotionally.
A question from the moderator to Lorenzo Balducci as to whether his own multinational background was good preparation for playing the character, Steve, elicited the confession that it was somewhat (and understandably!) intimidating to be an Italian actor, playing an American... in a French movie. But for a young actor from Italy to be able to work with such a distinguished group of people, cast and crew, who really care what they do, was a great honor.
At the press conference for Don’t Touch the Axe, most of the questions posed by both audience and moderator were directed to the legendary Jacques Rivette. The moderator recalled Rivette’s earlier films based on Balzacian stories and, calling Axe “the end of a cycle,” asked Rivette to comment on his approach to each of these films and his passion for Balzac. In this one, Rivette responded, he paid perhaps greater attention to the words than in previous films, taking them directly from the book to the extent possible (in fact, the intertitles bridging the scenes are direct quotations).
Picking up on this thought, a reporter asked how Rivette managed to remain true to the book while still creating what is so clearly a “Rivette film.” Smiling, Rivette said that “things just happen”; a film is “alive.” Asked to explain his methodology, the director gave a Gallic shrug and said that this, too, was difficult to articulate: “I enjoy working with these people. You just start working, and the ideas come.” A similar philosophy underlies his casting choices: “You have a good remembrance of working with someone, and of course you want to use them again,” the memory serving as a connecting thread in the next film that facilitates direction; the actors know what you want, and it comes easily.
At one point, a reporter made the mistake of asking Guillaume Depardieu, who plays the lead role of the French general Armand de Montriveau, how his famous father had helped him in his career. Before Depardieu could answer, Rivette leaped to his defense, perhaps taking the question as an insinuation that the young Depardieu had been engaged for the role on the basis of nepotism (which, were it in anyone’s mind, the sustained applause and cheers accompanying his entrance would have immediately dispelled). The role was in fact developed with Guillaume in mind, said Rivette, after an earlier project with both him and Jeanne Balibar (the duchess in Axe) failed to obtain funding. Rivette reiterated several times in the course of the conference, in response to different questions, that for this film, the actors were primary — “I wanted to work with Jeanne and Guillaume, that’s it” — the subject matter, essentially secondary. We’ll take him at his word. Nonetheless, it is a masterful, if unusual and unexpected, conclusion to the Balzac cycle begun by the master filmmaker thirty-six years ago.
An irresistible verbal, if not veritable, segue from Don’t Touch the Axe leads to When a Man Falls in the Forest (Ryan Eslinger, U.S. 2007), “an existentialist drama written by a 23-year-old man” — so producer Mary Aloe’s words on Ryan Eslinger’s script, at the press conference. The film, featuring Sharon Stone and Timothy Hutton, is a bleak meditation on identity, personal responsibility, and the unexpected, unlikely connections that turn accidental encounters into life-defining moments. While the film has not done well in early reviews (“Few will notice ‘When a Man Falls in the Forest,’ so derivative and flaccid are its art-film tropes about loneliness and ennui,” scoffed one critic), the production team, headed by Stone as exec producer, was so passionate in its commitment, it would be ill-advised to ignore the small, $2 million indie film, especially given the open approbation of fest director Dieter Kosslick, who, in the words of indieWIRE, “hailed Eslinger as the discovery of the festival.”
At the press conference, the first question, directed to Stone, may have been somewhat expected, but that didn’t make it any easier to respond to. However, Stone handled it with grace and humor. Do you find it difficult, she was asked, that after all the films you’ve made, people still remember you for Basic Instinct? (Stone’s unfortunate foray into sequel-land with the subsequently Razzied Basic Instinct 2 was happily not on the agenda.) Recalling an earlier screen goddess’s lament that men were disappointed “to go to bed with Gilda and wake up with Rita Hayworth,” Stone observed that “I don’t think waking up with Rita Hayworth would be all that bad a thing” for a man to do.
Asked whether he was personally affected by having to work for long periods in such a sad film, Hutton compared it to a wash cycle: “You don’t let the emotions follow you from scene to scene.” Stone added that doing the film had helped her understand emotions she had not previously understood in herself; instead of depressing, she found the experience “freeing. We live in a sort of Prozac society. To allow these feelings and not feel bad about it was cathartic — feeling bad felt kind of delicious.” Eslinger added that he didn’t see it as a depressing film: “I feel hopeful at the end.” Stone had nothing but praise for Eslinger, comparing him to Martin Scorsese, with whom she loves working: “Ryan has the same kind of grace,” she said, allowing her “to find a space that’s both protected and creative.” Acknowledging the difficulty the film might find in the U.S. (perhaps having read the reviews), Aloe expressed hope that its “existentialist, German sensibility” would help it find success in Germany.
As the session was coming to an end, Stone responded to a final question with words that remained with many, and were quoted in a newpaper article the following day. How do you deal with a role in a film that’s so much about a man’s world, a reporter asked. Perhaps sensing something in the question that was not articulated, Stone responded that there were always going to be such times. “It’s not how you fall, or how hard you fall, or who pushed you down, but how you get up.” Inspiring words that Stone — whose film career is only part of her life, and who is known and respected worldwide for her humanitarian efforts — may have recalled, as she returned to the unkindest, but in the larger picture, inconsequential cuts of some of the critics back home...
Acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, I Served the King of England (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále; Jirí Menzel, Czech Republic-Slovakia 2007), a glorious, quintessentially Czech film that seamlessly melds history (both actual and filmic), irony, slapstick comedy, Playboy-like sexcapades, Broadway choreography, and, yes, dramatic intensity, can be called existential only if the searched-for self is a chameleon. Based on the book by internationally renowned author Bohumil Hrabal, whose “Closely Watched Trains” was the source of director Jirí Menzel’s Oscar-winning film (1966), the story line follows the young Jan Dite, a Czech Candide, on his serendipitous path from deprived wartime childhood, to prison, to millionaire and back again while commenting, sometimes humorously and sometimes acerbically, on the equally inexplicable world (i.e., ours) that frames his adventures.
At the polyglot press conference, introduced in German and translated into English, Czech, Bulgarian, and French, the director and members of the cast and production team fielded a potpourri of questions and challenges, some almost rhetorical, others seemingly out of left field, which in retrospect may have been true to the anarchic spirit of the film. While at times equably responsive, Menzel was just as likely to be exquisitely obscure. Pressed by a pressie to answer a question he “didn’t really answer” the first time around, about why he chose to make a film about this book — what’s so special about it? — Menzel allowed as to how he liked the book, later calling it his favorite of all Hrabal’s books. (The first time, with a straight face, he had said that the fee was good. Menzel has a wonderful, Buster Keaton-like face with subtleties of expression that flit like shadows across it; coincidentally, Menzel confirmed that he was very influenced by Keaton, and called Chaplin and Keaton his “first teachers.”) Asked how he so successfully combined so many filmic styles and genres in a single film, Menzel said that he had specialists and teams whose responsibility it was to see to each of these aspects of the production. Next question?
Menzel was full of praise for his cast, who returned it with obvious affection. The two “Jan”s confessed to experiencing confusion as they sorted out their roles, using an amusing pas de deux to respond to the question of which one, if either, modeled his character on the other. (I think it was a draw.) Menzel said he knew from the first that no one but Julia Jentsch, winner of the festival’s Silver Bear in 2005 for her memorable Sophie Scholl in Marc Rothemund’s film of the same name, would do for the role of Lise. An unregenerate Nazi — the obverse, in effect, of the Scholl role — the otherwise stiff Lise falls passionately in love with the young Jan, but can only achieve orgasm by gazing, enraptured, at a portrait of the Führer strategically placed on the wall directly across from the bed.
In the end, what is central for Menzel is “to bring audiences to Hrabal’s work.” If the DC area gets a gander at this film, which our own Eddie Cockrell says “will be received like royalty by fests, art-house distribs, tube buyers and shiny discmakers the world over,” it just may happen here...
And then there were the films that have already happened here — and by now are old news. Still, there’s something about being ten feet away from their directors and stars, and being able to ask them questions, that makes the films less old news than old friends.
Among the U.S. films screened were two at least nominally “good” ones: The Good German (Steven Soderbergh, 2006) and The Good Shepherd (Robert De Niro, 2006), which came, perhaps inevitably, to be known in festival shorthand as The Good German Shepherd. While full houses (or nearly) were the norm for the Competition films, for these — perhaps not surprisingly for the first, given its stars and subject matter — the line for the press screening of The Good German snaked down and around the long corridor and out the door, a full half-hour before start time. Watching the film, the audience got a good-natured kick out of George Clooney’s mangled German in the scene where he questions the boy by the lake, and got into the spirit of the film’s tribute to, cum sendup of, those classic forties flicks.
Director Steven Soderbergh joined actors Christian Oliver and Cate Blanchett in the press conference, which was similarly SRO, with some who arrived after the initial crush reduced to kneeling in the aisles between the seats. (The session began some 40 minutes late, increasing the anticipation.) Soderbergh expressed admiration for George Clooney, saying he couldn’t imagine what would have happened if the two of them hadn’t met on Out of Sight (1998), the first of their six films together.
Asked how she prepares for Oscar night, Cate Blanchett averred straight-up, to appreciative chuckles, that she has a vodka tonic. Echoing Soderbergh’s admiration for her co-star (who had another commitment and sent his regrets), Blanchett called him astonishing — easy to work with, humorous and dedicated, he knows what Soderbergh is going for, and has “harnessed his star power” to make it work to his, the company’s, and the film’s best advantage.
How do you read those lines from the ‘40s, someone asked. With irony...? Quite the opposite, Soderbergh responded; there was, in fact, a “manifesto” given to the cast reminding them that they were trying to be true to a different way of making films: no irony, no subliminal winking. “If it felt strange, they were doing it right.” Blanchett observed that the references were both modern and historic, reaching a sort of “midway point”; to prepare for her role, she watched Mildred Pierce and Hildegard Neff films.
We had to cheat the way they did in the old days, added Soderbergh, making simple cosmetic changes to turn one street into another one. Broken windows? “We taped black felt over the part you wanted to look broken” to save money, and also to remain true on the set, as well as on the screen, to the wartime and early postwar ethos of making films. Admitting that the film had received a pretty bad reception back home, Soderbergh laughed that instead of “I haven’t seen anything like this, I’m so glad I did,” the reaction was “I haven’t seen anything like this, and I’m glad I haven’t.” In contrast, he said, the “story of the year” is the three great Mexican directors, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñarritú, and Alfonso Cuarón, whose work he praised.
Asked why he thought The Good German had gotten such a disappointing reception in the U.S. and what he was going to do about it, Soderbergh said that while the film’s narrative approach is American, its morality is European, making it a tough sell in the U.S. When it got bad reviews in New York and L.A., that pretty much killed its chances for distribution. He added that he hopes to find more receptive audiences in Europe.
The bilingual requirements were a challenge that Blanchett and Oliver met together. Blanchett speaks barely a word of German, but has an entire scene in which she converses with her husband in it, while Oliver is a native German speaker whom Soderbergh, thinking he was American or Canadian, selected simply on the basis of his previous work. As professionals, Soderbergh was sure the two of them could manage it with coaching, as indeed they (or more to the point, Blanchett, with Oliver’s supportive assistance) did. Oliver expressed amazement at Blanchett’s quick ear and astonishing ability to learn not only the words, but the inflections of her lines, and commented wryly that his joy at being cast in his first American movie, which he took as confirmation of his mastery of the language, was tempered somewhat by the realization that he was being cast not only as a German, but in a German-speaking role!
Soderbergh was particularly pleased with the score, which at first was electronic, something that he, and a friend for whom he played it, immediately recognized would be out of sync with the time period. “The film already had so many obstacles”; this would be yet another. “I’m so glad that Thomas [Newman] got [an Oscar] nomination this year,” Soderbergh added. “He really delivered.”
In an interview with Gala magazine, Cate Blanchett spoke with engaging candor about her life and career and the films in which she would appear during the festival. The article’s title? “Everybody Loves Cate.” True enough: At the press conference for Notes on a Scandal, the cameras went gaga, trying to get the best shots, while the assembled press, which filled the room almost to capacity a half-hour before the session was to begin, gave Blanchett and her co-star, the great Judi Dench, everything but a standing ovation.
For the first question, recalling the old showbiz good-luck wish, “break a leg,” Dench was asked whether she had any charm or totem or habit for the Oscars. “It’s funny you should ask that,” Dench replied, because she was about to have a knee operation — i.e., her leg literally broken — and thus would have to miss the Oscars. She does have a routine that she “sticks to rigorously,” though she didn’t say what it was.
Questioned about her character, Blanchett replied that while Sheba seems to have everything, “in this day and age, to be a mother and a wife is not considered enough by the world, and so I think she’s always felt ‘less than’... While she’s not immediately as isolated as Barbara Covett [Blanchett's character], I think the film reveals that at last, she is. Part of that loneliness is what brings the women together.”
Is there a moral, or a message, to the film? Dench was asked. She contemplated that for a moment, then offered: “Don’t look out for people who are particularly lonely. Don’t ask them out to tea, I suppose,” which broke up the room. As to her Oscar-nominated performance, Dench opined that the bad thing about seeing yourself on film is that “you say: why did I push that button? Why did I do it that way? My bathroom,” she continued, to appreciative chuckles, “has seen some of the best performances I’ve ever given.” Asked what challenges the role of Barbara Covett presented her, Dench said that “every single thing I’ve ever done presented a challenge. It’s never easy.”
The script, said author Patrick Marber, was written expressly with Dench and Blanchett in mind, and “it all organically fell into place,” said Blanchett, after she saw the script on his table during a visit to his home. The novel is all told from Barbara’s point of view, but Marber wanted to explore the character of Sheba in more depth, so he shifted perspectives to accomplish this. Asked whether “all ways of getting love are OK,” Blanchett was clearly not of that mind, saying that “if Sheba hadn’t decided to embark on a relationship with a student, which was disastrous and diabolical, she would have found some other way to self-destruct.” For his part, Marber sees both characters as “innocent in some way,” facilitating their downfall, while Blanchett suggested that both characters are “adolescent, still in the dorm at boarding school.”
Asked about the Oscars, Blanchett thought Dench might be the better one to make a prediction: “You’re the one with the gambling problem, Judy, you answer,” she teased. Will Dame Judy be looking for more of these “darker roles”? Dench would say only that she likes to alternate: “What I look for is that the next thing I do is absolutely different from the last thing I do... something that is a challenge each time,” although “everything I’ve ever done is a challenge; it’s never easy.”
Also on the podium was the young Andrew Simpson (Steven) who, he told us, had just turned 18. What do your parents think of the role you played? he was asked. “My dad was probably happier than my mom,” he confessed (“your mom doesn’t like to think of you like that”), but they were both thankful for the opportunity he had to work with people “at the top of their craft” like Blanchett and Dench. The two were people he lionized, but by the end of the shoot, he continued with gratitude and amazement as they regarded him fondly, “were just Cate and Judy.”
In the closing minutes, Marber was asked why he had changed the ending of the book on which the film was based (written by Zoë Heller) for the film. The film felt rather inconclusive, he said, adding that he changed the beginning and the middle as well. He and the writer have become good friends, and she agreed that this was the right ending for the film.
And a perfect ending for the press conference. But now, let’s circle around and get back to the Goods. When The Good Shepherd was screened for the press, members made a beeline for the Hyatt before the credits rolled and soon packed the press room to capacity. Robert De Niro, Matt Damon and Martina Gedeck took the platform and responded to sometimes pointed questions, while making it a point to warmly praise each other’s work. Damon said having “an actor’s actor as a director” was “a great backstop, a great safety net,” and that he knew from the start that it was going to be a good experience when he heard Gedeck’s voice. For her part, Gedeck called it one of her most joyful acting experiences, and expressed particular appreciation for being “allowed to act” by De Niro, who clearly respected their abilities, while being a “micro-manager” with superb attention to detail.
De Niro, in turn, praised Berlin as a city with “lots of energy” and the Berlinale as “the best of all festivals,” adding: “I’m just trying to butter you guys up.” He later elaborated on his feelings about the city, saying he had visited Berlin as a boy and was fascinated with the Cold War, and wanted the film’s portrayal of that world to be “as real as I could make it.” Asked whether the film was a direct criticism of the CIA, De Niro denied it. “I just filmed the script,” which was written 12 years ago by Eric Roth. “Maybe I should do a sequel,” he added, noting that after the Wall’s fall, he had always asked himself “when the other shoe was going to drop.” And he has concluded that it has, with nuclear proliferation, Al Qaeda, and other threats to stability.
De Niro did get considerable input from “people who know this world,” although not to a point of obsession: “I have a life,” he said wryly. Asked whether there might be a similarity between the CIA and the Mafia, De Niro said there was, in that both are “secret societies.” As to why he had played the role of the general himself, De Niro responded that he hadn’t planned on it, but a friend suggested that he do it.
As the conference came to a close, a questioner asked Gedeck to compare filming in Germany with filming in the U.S. One very fundamental difference came to mind: Filming in the U.S. is “more relaxed.” And with no sacrifice to quality, with a director like De Niro!
And speaking of directors, quality, and packed press rooms... the screening of Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima, and his appearance on the podium afterwards, met every qualification.
The questions came rapidly; the first went to Eastwood, who was quiet, unassuming, and earnest. How could you shoot this film, he was asked, without letting your own values and beliefs interfere? His answer was instructive: As an actor, you’re used to putting yourself in other people’s shoes. He read Kuribayashi’s memoirs, and his experience became very real. “You keep your perspective by putting yourself in the place of other people,” and imagine how they would react. And what experience did he personally have with Japanese films? As a boy growing up in LA, he would go to a cinema that screened only Japanese films, and became a huge fan of Akira Kurosawa. Later, he had the opportunity to spend time with Kurosawa when they were both being honored at Cannes.
How did he come to cast the actors? Saw them on tape, thanks to his casting people in Japan. Why did he decide to do two films based on the second world war? Eastwood replied that he had read both books (the other being James Bradley’s “Flags of our Fathers”); the Bradley seemed like a detective story, and the story of the Bond Drive reminded him of his own experiences when he was growing up during those years. “Like Sir Edmund Hilary, you just climb the mountain because it’s there. It was a challenge to do a film in another language and another culture, and I learned a lot from it. I always like challenges to learn something.” How do you decide what’s interesting enough to make a film? “Simple human emotion: you do it based on whether you like it or not.” The same principle applied, he added, when he was an actor.
The next question went to Ken Watanabe. “We understand that the story is not taught in Japanese schools. Do you think this will change that?” Noncommittal, Watanabe agreed that this was very true, “but it was a great opportunity to learn something.”
Back to Eastwood: Do you think it’s a good idea to run the two films back-to-back? A friend actually recommended that he combine the two stories into one movie, Eastwood replied, shifting from one storyline to the other, but the imposing length put an end to that idea. Why so little color, not only in Letters, but in Flags? It’s just a choice, he said, noting that in both Million Dollar Baby and Mystic River, he had also used the E&R process, which desaturates the colors and brings out depth, while giving the illusion of early film. And it seems harder to do a war in color, he said, adding that he grew up with black and white movies, and likes them.
Enough softballs. Now, a challenge: Some critics say you’ve done the worst war propaganda since Tokyo Rose. What would you say to that? “I’d say they’re idiots. Most of the Americans I’ve talked to who’ve been back to Iwo Jima have been supportive. When vets told me they enjoyed the picture, that was enough for me.” And the war in Iraq: did U.S. involvement there over the last four years have an impact? Not at all; he would have done the films regardless. While there are certainly contemporary references, stories about the futility of war are always current.
How did he manage to direct the actors in a language he didn’t speak or understand? “You learn something from every film. When the time comes that you think you know it all, that’s the time to quit,” he began. “You can tell when an actor’s emotionally on key. We had interpreters to help, and the Japanese culture has always been fascinating to me. This was a story of boys at war — people being sent off to war, the emotions of mothers who lose their sons, wives who lose their husbands. The emotions are the same, no matter who’s involved.”
How do you feel about the word “heroism”? Heroism is “something that just happens to them.” Some never go to war; they’re “just petrified.” Part of the project was to show that people didn’t feel that they were heroes; “they just did what was expected of them.” Eastwood recalled growing up in the 1940s, where wartime propaganda cast Americans as the good guys, and “everyone else” as the bad guys. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose...
As we could say about the Berlinale itself, but in the most positive sense; especially when it comes to the Talent Campus, which this year changed its locale but remained true to its role as vibrant, vital Berlinale adjunct, which in the words of Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick, “stands at the very heart of the festival’s spirit.”
Before we come to that, though, another film dealing with war and the “enemy,” this one even more controversial, warrants special mention: Crossing the Line (Daniel Gordon, Nick Bennett; Great Britain 2007). The film explores the lives of four U.S. soldiers who in 1961-62, while serving as border guards at the demilitarized zone in South Korea, deserted their posts and defected to the North. The focus is on one, James Joseph Dresnok, who agreed to be interviewed on film.
The audience was brought up short before the movie even began, as writer Daniel Gordon and cameraman Nick Bennett were introduced and came onstage to the usual applause. “It’s just like North Korea here,” said Gordon, half-joking. “They tell you to applaud, and you applaud.”
We learn from the film that the aforementioned Dresnok is, to put it bluntly, as happy as a clam in Pyongyang and “wouldn’t trade it for nothin’,” noting that President Clinton once called Panmunjom, the site of his service and hence, of his desertion, “the scariest place on Earth.” Dresnok’s early life held little promise — abandoned by his neglectful, alcoholic mother and disinterested father, who dropped him off at an orphanage which he describes as “a living hell,” he felt the Army held out hope for a better life: three squares, a warm bed, and a chance to make something out of himself. He enlisted on his 17th birthday.
The first soldier to see him when he crossed the line, interviewed for the film, says he wanted to bayonet “the American bastard... the Americans killed my parents.” At first he was barely tolerated, but within a few years, as three more American deserters joined him, Pyongyang realized their propaganda potential, and was soon using them in films and other media. By 1974, they had been transformed from hated aggressors to national heroes, and were featured in a film directed by dictator Kim Il-sung’s son, Kim Jong-il (who succeeded him as president). The four defectors eventually fell out, with one of them, Charles Jenkins, becoming a particular pariah even with his Korean hosts after publishing his autobiography in Japanese (Dresnok calls him a lying SOB).
No matter what one may think of Dresnok, by virtue of his unique position he offers what may be valuable insights into a country that for most is seen as a terrifying no-man’s land — as hated, perhaps, as we Americans are to many North Koreans, who nonetheless make use of things they find useful or beneficial, and consider English essential for scientific and economic growth. In an irony that will resound with immigrant parents and first-generation children everywhere, the defectors’ children have Korean papers, but consider themselves American. For his part, Dresnok, the high-school dropout, tells his children that “knowledge is power... [don’t] be an illiterate old man like me.”
This is the third film on North Korea by Bonner and Gordon (after The Game of Your Lives, 2002 and A State of Mind, 2004) who came onstage to take questions. Whom did you believe? they were asked. They declined to answer, saying instead that each viewer has to make up his or her own mind: “Audiences walk out with so many questions and not so many answers.” How free were you? There were always two guides/guards, although “it’s astonishing the level of trust we’re given.” The two guides in fact became their advocates; the fact that their films don’t deal with “political issues” enables them to have “remarkable access”; in fact, we were told, they’ve never been refused it. In a tale that sounds more like an object lesson than an actual occurrence, they once asked to go out for a drink unchaperoned, were told “sure, go ahead, no problem,” and promptly got lost, in the dark and bitter cold night. “We decided to go with the guides after that.”
Which turned out to be excellent advice for those of us visiting the Berlinale Talent Campus, which in its fifth year was bigger and better than ever, with skilled and celebrated guides from every corner of the world. Be you cinephile, or incipient (or even current) cineaste, the Campus’s charms were, as always, so seductive that a once-in-a-lifetime session could trump a one-time-only screening — and in the informal, collegiate atmosphere, you never knew when you might bump into one of your mentors at the restaurant across the street. Among the guides were Walter Salles (Foreign Land, Central Station, The Motorcycle Diaries, etc.), Gael García Bernal (Babel, The Science of Sleep, The Motorcycle Diaries, Y Tu Mamá También, etc.), Wim Wenders (Don’t Come Knocking, Buena Vista Social Club, Faraway So Close, Wings of Desire, etc.) and others. Even Baltimore’s own John Waters, famous (or notorious; take your pick) for such erudite fare as Pink Flamingos, Polyester, Hairspray, and his latest, screened at the fest, This Filthy World, was there. Four full days offering the chance to learn about, and from, the masters in a relaxed environment. Who could resist?
In the opening discussion with distinguished film historian Peter Cowie, Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles, entering the stage with a black backpack slung across a black-and-white checked shirt (“the colors of my football team”), took on the central issues of this year’s Talent Campus: privacy, films, and politics. A political film, proposed Salles, is one about character, that is changed by the social and political events surrounding it. Hollywood rarely does political films; it focuses more often on class. Politics, he continued, has to do with “the need to show what hasn’t been seen before and say what hasn’t been said before.” Salles then showed clips from several films that helped form his own film aesthetic. First was Sergei Eisenstein’s The General Line (1929), which moved him deeply when he saw it as a boy, by its striking use of montage to depict “the people’s susceptibility to the false promises of rain delivered by religious leaders.” Next was a scene from Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966) in which mangled bodies, many those of small children, are extracted from the rubble of bombed-out buildings. “It could have been taken today,” he said. “Iraq.”
Next came Roberto Rossellini’s Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City; 1945), where Anna Magnani runs to the train bearing her lover to what she knows will be his doom, and she is shot in the back while her little boy, calling “Mama!” runs after her. The next was a clip from a Cuban film that hovers between fiction and documentary, showing an older woman watching TV and learning, to her great distress, that the government has frozen all personal accounts, meaning that she will not be able to visit her desperately ill daughter. Following that was a clip from a Brazilian Cinema Novo film, which Salles told us was about “the loss of identity in capitalist society.” Last came the great scene from Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940), in which Adenoid Hynkel takes the globe from the stand and alternately bounces and balances it on various body parts before it bursts in his face. Salles called Chaplin “the only true genius in cinema: he wrote it, acted in it, edited it, and even did the music!” (With a little help from Wagner, I was tempted to add. But the basic point was well made.)
The Cinema Novo period, said Salles, wanted not only to show society, but to change it, and was inspired in part by Eisenstein and Rossellini. These influences also combined to inspire Salles, whose father was a diplomat who took his family from country to country and city to city, as his diplomatic postings demanded. Perhaps as a result of these wanderings, Salles said, he always wondered who he was. His passion, perhaps stemming from these experiences, was for documentary filmmaking; “I never thought I could be a fiction filmmaker.”
Some 800,000 Brazilians left their homeland in the late 1980s and early 1990s, so Salles decided to make a film about the phenomenon: Foreign Land (Terra Estrangeira, 1996), which is about “where we’re from, and the father who abandoned us.” Using the tropes of cinema, he made it in black and white, signifying hope and despair. The film also portrays tensions between blacks and whites in Brazil, taking the color question to a more literal level. Going deeper into issues of homeland and identity, the second part of the trilogy, Central Station (1998), said Salles, shows that “No matter how much you travel, you have to come back to your roots.”
Being conscious of his roots is also fundamental for 27-year-old Mexican phenom Gael García Bernal, whose subject was “On Border Crossing.” In an introductory conversation with Peter Cowie, Bernal ran through his bio: Beginning as a child actor with his thespian parents, Bernal went to London to study in 1999 after a student strike at his school in Mexico that “lasted almost two years. I’d saved enough money for a plane ticket, so I went to London.” There he got jobs in bars and restaurants, “got bored, “ and, knowing London’s “great reputation” for drama schools, thought he’d apply to one. He did — and was immediately accepted into the prestigious Central School of Speech and Drama (Wikipedia calls it “the largest specialist centre for training and study in drama, theatre and the performance arts in Europe”), where he soon “realized it was serious,” and, for perhaps the first time, really buckled down to study. He graduated just six years ago. (You could hear a chorus of groans in the audience, as we enviously/admiringly contemplated his curriculum vitae since his graduation.)
Asked about The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de motocicleta, Walter Salles 2004), which Cowie called “a great odyssey, a real road movie,” Bernal said it should be seen as three levels of a journey: visual, seen through our eyes; spiritual, and anthropological. Much of it was unscripted; a strong base of context promoted a sense of security among the non-professional cast, and they were able to improvise. “We told people to imagine the region in the 1950s, and it became their own personal architecture.”
A clip from Amores perros (Alejandro González Iñarritú, 2000) was screened, showing a dogfighting scene, which reminded Bernal that the actors were bitten by the dogs during the shoot. “They [the dogs] were way better treated than the humans,” he declared. “Better paid, too!” Recalling the financial constraints that limited the number of takes they could do of each scene to two, Bernal ironically compared it to Babel (Alejandro González Iñarritú, 2006), where he “remembered doing 46 takes of a door opening!” Bernal said he enjoys doing many takes, because it only starts to work with the sixth or seventh take.
Moving on to a clip from Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001: “We were all very young in that one”), Bernal called Cuarón “an incredible director,” who with Guillermo del Toro served as mentors to Bernal, who called them the “half man, half god” of Mexican directors. Noting that this year’s Oscars included 12 nominations of Mexican films, actors, or filmmakers — “which has to be a record” — Cowie asked whether this level of recognition might “help lessen the racism” against Mexicans in the U.S. “The Oscars are like the DEA — they certify,” responded Bernal, adding wryly, as a caveat, that “Alfonso’s film [Children of Men] is more English than The Queen.”
If he were to be asked why film is important, said Bernal, he would tell the story of the girl in City of God (Fernando Meirelles 2002) who, when asked if she wanted to dedicate herself to cinema, said she didn’t know, but that watching films enabled her to “understand other people’s reality. They’re not much different from me.” Without cinema, Bernal added, it would be difficult to understand other people’s reality. Securing borders isn’t the answer: “The 9/11 terrorists came over the Canadian border.” You can see the U.S. from the Mexican border, he observed, but “you can’t see Mexico from the U.S. border. So Mexicans are on the outside looking in.”
Do you feel more a citizen of Mexico, a member of the audience asked, or a citizen of the world? “I feel responsible to be critical of Mexico,” Bernal responded, always questioning what goes on there, “and I will always live there.” Does politics drive you to make a film? “Politics are very important, but the story always comes first.” And it must not only deal with a character, but must also be “a spiritual journey that will transcend the film,” and help people on their own spiritual journeys. Asked where he feels “most at home,” Bernal smiled and blushed: “It’s not in the shape of a place, it’s in the shape of a human being.”
To which character are you closest? “I have the most shared history with Julio” [Y tu mamá también], but “I always wanted to do that journey” in Motorcycle Diaries, and “resonate against the character of Ernesto” in the film. “Is it possible?” he asked rhetorically. “Six years ago, I was finishing university, and I’m still on the journey of discovery. Keep on doing it,” he told the assembled talents. “It will happen.”
It certainly has happened for the Talent Campus’s resident éminence grise Wim Wenders, who sat down with fellow directors Tata Amaral (Brazil) and Ning Ying (China) and British urbanist/architecture critic Deyan Sudjic to discuss “Metrobranding: The Creation and Production of City Images.” To get the ball rolling, the moderator noted that the value of real estate in the Notting Hill area of London increased by 1000 percent after the popular film (Notting Hill, Roger Michell 1999) took off. Going back to film classics, one of the panelists observed that the entire On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954) district has been completely urbanized, with no more docks, much less dockworkers.
Wenders commented that when he made Paris, Texas (1984), he bet author Sam Shepard that the town would soon have an Eiffel Tower (“I lost”). Ten years later, they built one — “and put a Texas hat on it.” (“If I’d put my money on the Moulin Rouge, I’d have won,” he later commented ruefully.) Comparing Berlin before and after the fall of the Wall, as seen from two of his films, Wenders screened clips from Wings of Desire (1987) and Faraway, So Close! (1993). In 1994, he was asked to do a promotional documentary on the city of Lisbon, Portugal for a European event (Lisbon Story, 1994) and did a fiction film about a foreigner coming to the city, played by his sound engineer. Another of his films “put Cuba on the map for the U.S.”
Wenders related two “failed efforts” at city branding. One was shot in 1990, predicting the way the world would look in 2000 (Until the End of the World, 1991) that was “really off the mark. Never make a film,” he told the talents, “that takes place in the near future. Reality will overtake you, and everyone will laugh at you.” The second was a film on the city of Peking (Beijing) shot in 1990 Berlin, allegedly showing Peking in the future and featuring folks holding cell phones the size of salad plates and a monument and statue to the “Unknown Hero of Tiananmen Square.” From these, he’s learned a valuable lesson: “Don’t brand it! Don’t show it until you’ve been there.” He’s been invited to shoot in Peking, he told us later, and hopes “they haven’t seen my film of 1990.” Responded Nina Ying: “I’m sure they haven’t. You wouldn’t have been invited if they had.”
Ning Ying has certainly been there, and told us how very much aware of change in her country she has become. It happens so fast that in 10 years, an entire neighborhood can change; places you know are quickly demolished, places you knew so well are gone. In making her Beijing Trilogy (For Fun, 1992; On the Beat, 1995; I Love Beijing, 2000), she said, she worked for a long time on location, using cab drivers to “embrace the city.” She then screened a clip showing a traffic jam that probably will never be replicated in DC (although, as Wenders taught us, it’s probably never wise to predict), with a bus bisecting lines of traffic going in several directions, resulting in a massive blockage with absolutely no way out for anyone. Wenders commented that he likes to watch ants “negotiating space,” and that this clip reminded him of ant hills.
Deyan Sudjic agreed with an earlier observation Wenders had made about the “loss of innocence,” at the same time noting that Metrobranding is not new; Hollywood has been doing it for decades, with Hollywood itself a prime example. Wenders cautioned that “I don’t think any of us are trying to strengthen the corporate image of the city; we’re filmmakers, not sponsors.”
The conversation turned to the city in which it was taking place. “My favorite film on Berlin is Rossellini’s Germany Year Zero (1948),” said Wenders. “No German could have shot that movie; he saw things no German could have seen.” Wenders mourned the loss of individuality of contemporary cities: “The holes are getting filled up”; now that they’re gone, you realize they were part of the city’s character. “Pushkin Square looks like Las Vegas,” he lamented, adding that when he sees a movie that could have taken place anywhere, “I get very bored. I want to see a film that shows the people of the city, the accents, not feel that it could have been shot anywhere.”
There’d be no danger of that with the films of John Waters, whose hometown of Baltimore is almost a constant character (which he affectionately calls “Trashtown, USA, the Sleaziest City on Earth, the Hairdo Capital of the World”), and who came to the Campus to give us the lowdown (pun very much intended) on “The Radical Way to Success.” In a nonstop, rollicking, yet invariably instructive monologue, Waters advised the audience of aspiring filmmakers to always have a backup source of income — he wrote books — because “what if they say no to your film? Almost nobody ever says, ‘Here!’”, with hand outstretched in illustration. “If you have rich relatives, be nice to them. Who’s ever going to give you money? Poor people?”
And another thing: “Always use sex and violence. My father paid for Pink Flamingos . He never saw it. We used to rent out churches” to shoot films “because the police would never raid a church. [In other places] sometimes they’d take away the whole audience.” He counseled the rapt crowd to “be careful about getting music rights”; without them, you can have a rude awakening when your carefully chosen score is yanked out from under you.
Waters expressed great regret that the famous Senator Theatre in Baltimore, where he’s done a lot of his previews, may be going out of business, and happily recalled giving out coupons for dinners-for-two to the Little Tavern — “the worst restaurant in Baltimore.” Surprisingly — or perhaps, not so surprisingly — his films do the best business in rich neighborhoods. “If you’re poor, irony is meaningless. They think you’re making fun of the genre, which you are, basically.”
No matter how outré and over-the-top his films are, to the point where one might think he never met a line he wouldn’t cross, Waters cautioned the audience of aspiring cineastes to make sure their flicks don’t get an NC-17 rating. “An NC-17 film will never be a hit because you can’t sell it anywhere. The MPAA will never release an NC-17 film.” Waters noted that he never won a court case over Pink Flamingos, “because it IS obscene. I mean, show that in court at 10 AM...?”
Waters regaled the audience with anecdotes of freaked-out families whose initial pleasure at having him film in their communities soon turned sour after they realized what he was doing. His next TV role will be as the “Groom Reaper” in “Till Death Do Us Part,” his next film project, which has been green-lit, a children’s movie that already has stars attached. (That’s all he’ll say, citing “bad luck” that will ensue if he talks about it prematurely.)
“You have to come up with something new they haven’t seen before,” he counseled, “make people leave the house,” because “there’s so much they can get at home for free.” Above all, “Learn the business. Read the trade papers. Send your stuff! A ‘no’ is free.”
I’d wager the talents said “yes” to this session — as did I, and to Berlinale 2007. Auf Wiedersehen, till next year!