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The 72nd Berlin International Film Festival will take place from February 10 to 17, 2022 under the motto "It all (re)starts here".
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Scarlet Jo and Natalie Po, a fetching but misplaced pair in The Other Boleyn Girl

The final class production of the fest, "The Other Boleyn Girl", (Non competition) an opulent costume drama set at the court of the most famous of all British Kings, Henry VIII, (who reigned from 1509 - 1547) has echoes reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood when the likes of eminently upper crust Englishmen such as George Sanders played sneering Nazi officers, and flamboyant Australians like Errol Flynn portrayed gunslingers in Dodge City --and never mind the displaced accents!  In this glossy British production two quintessential Hollywood starlets, Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, play the titular Boleyn sisters, Anne and Mary respectively, without the least trace of anything but L.A. elocution, while serial beheader Henry Tudor is encamped by Aussie heart throb Eric Bana.  The only authentic (and therefore believable) English person in the leading cast is Kristin Scott-Thomas -- (fresh from a French movie a few days ago) -- but her limited appearances only serve to offset the blatant non-Englishness of the others. 

For the historical record, Anne Boleyn (Portman) was an utterly unscrupulous scheming courtesan, who aced her younger sister Mary (Johansson) out of the picture as Henry's main mistress, conned the king into divorcing his queen -- to do which he had to break with Rome and establish the independent Church of England -- eventually acceded to the throne herself, and finally got herself shortened by a head when her extravagant conniving got out of hand and went haywire. Nominally one would think that Johansson would be the center of the story since she gives birth to a girl who will later become Queen Elizabeth I, but this is really Portman´s picture and she turns in a powerful portrayal, whereas Scarlett Jo is, for the most part, accessory decoration.  Much of the picture plays out as a series of duets featuring the two young ladies, focusing on their mutual affection and severe sibling rivalry, however, while Scarlett is the more eye-filling, Natalie is by far the stronger actress. 

Eric Bana is not really bad as the randy tyrant but simply too squeaky clean (especially if one is familiar with the famous Holbein portrait), and handsome to be convincing as a tyrannical butcher like Henry Tudor.  This quaint and colorful tale of sisterly rivalry for the affections of a monstrous monarch may pick up some Oscars (especially for costumes and the lavish production design), but I seriously doubt that it will make the wickets click at the multiplexes. What this undeniably handsome first feature by British TV helmer Justin Chadwick (39) really would need to put it over commercially would be somebody like a Mel Gibson as Henry the Headhunter and, maybe, a Harvey Keitel in the background as one of the elder Boleyn scoundrels.  I mean, if you're trying to cash in on an Americanization of English history, you might as well go all the way, right? As it is, the picture is another feather in the cap of 26 year old Portman's filmography and a Scarlett Jo performance that will probably be forgotten until this voluptuous young beauty realizes her true destiny and matures into the next Lana Turner. (Not much of an actress, but what an eyeful!) 

Following the morning press screening in the Big Hall both American actresses and director Chadwick held court at another heavily crowded press conference because, although she´s not really a big star yet, Scarlett Jo, for her looks alone, is already a major media magnet. Scarlett, with her bright yellow hair, heart-shaped face, perfect nose, almond eyes, full sensuous lips, and porcelain complexion, looked incredibly radiant as usual, clad in a modest flowery print dress, as she responded to uninteresting questions in a laid back California manner, whereas Portman was a bit more on point in her delivery and discussion of the making of the pic. A relaxed Eric Bana, with the remains of a beard still in place (or was it just heavy five o'clock shadow?) acknowledged, with an unmistakable Australian twang, that it was not exactly "hard work" bedding these two young lovelies down in the film (although, it must be said that the bed-in scenes on the screen are extremely discrete).

In terms of feminine pulchritude of staggered ages, it has been a banner week in Berlin what with the fresh young beauty of Scarlett and Natalie following in the wake of the somewhat riper beauty of Penelope Cruz, 33, and the fully Mature good looks of Madonna, 49, and still going strong with a little help from her blessed Kabala water. 

Tomorrow: German Prime Minister Angela Merkel attends the screening of Wajda's, WW II epic "Katyn". Buñuel revisited, and some other interesting one shots. And, oh yes, comments on the main prizes

by Alex Deleon, Berlin, Feb. 16, 2008 

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Berlin 2019: The dailies from the Berlin Film Festival brought to you by our team of festival ambassadors. Vanessa McMahon, Alex Deleon, Laurie Gordon, Lindsay Bellinger and Bruno Chatelin...
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