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Gavras was here again in 2002 with the hard-hitting and under-rated  “Amen” which tells the story of papal collusion in the German mass murder of the Jews. The poster for that film, showing a cross and a Swastika intertwined, was even more controversial than the film itself. In short, Costa-Gavras is no stranger to this long-running festival. 

An interesting sidelight on the this Grecian born director’s name: He was actually born in Greece in 1933 under the name of  Konstantinos Gavras, which is a little long for a movie marquee, so he just took the short form of his first name, “Kostas”, and hooked it on to the family name thus yielding the hyphenated aristocratic sounding name under which he is now generally known.  But then, Hollywood has long been known for distort names much further than that, for example, Leo Jacoby to “Lee J. Cobb” or Julius Garfinkle to “John Garfield” -- (or Bernie Schwartz to “Tony Curtis”!)
At prestige festivals such as Berlin, one of the cornerstone’s of the festival’s cachet is the snaring of big names or glamorous stars for the panel which is to decide on which films and which artists will get what at the end of the ten day hippety-do.  Losing two top liners in one day was a bit of a shock for openers but will probably be a forgotten tremor by the time golden and silver bears day rolls around a week hence.  Still, I’ve often wondered what really goes on behind closed festival jury doors and wonder how come nobody has ever thought of making a film about a film festival jury called “Eight Competing Egos” --  or something like that.

The most interesting press conference here on Day Number Six was elfin, white-bearded British director Mike Leigh, here to defend his latest dissertation on the plain people of Britain, “Happy Go Lucky”. This is much lighter fare than his last film, “Vera Drake”, the friendly abortionist  film which was an Oscar nominee, and is basically a comedy revolving about a lovable feisty young lady who works as a school teacher in North London.  The director was accompanied by his two lead actors, Sally Watkins, who made a very strong impression in her role, and Eddie Marsan, the misfit who has the hots for her.  Mr. Leigh is extremely articulate in explaining his intentions and working methods, and is most adept at turning long-winded stupid questions inside-out, upside-down, and then dumping them on the floor.  One wise-ass pressman got up and started insinuating that since Mike has so many people with bad intentions in his films, doesn’t this reflect some deep seated melancholy in the director himself… to which Mr. Leigh replied, in a most academic manner, “Well , first of all I can’t accept the premises of the question you are trying to formulate ...”, and then proceeded to decimate the poor guy verbally.  If you have a case against a Mike Leigh film you better get yourself a pretty good lawyer because Mike Leigh is not one to mess with in public verbal jousting.    tomorrow Madonna presents her directorial debut, “Filth or Wisdom”.


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THE FESTIVALS BLOG by Alex Deleon. Watch for festival coverage from the circuit.

Ambiance and reviews from the hot spots. Welcoming your comments too.

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