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A Touch of Flash in Mannheim

If Clara was one musical highpoint in Mannheim this year, another was certainly Carlos Saura's latest revue-film Fados, which like his earlier Flamenco and Tango, explores urban melodies, presenting- with some luminous photography by Eduardo Serra-the place of fado in the life of Lisbon, looking for its African and Brazilian roots and providing 90 sensuous minutes filled with infinite affection and regret.The film received its German premiere, out of competition, and like Iberia seems to be completely unknown in Great Britain and unreleased in many territories.

The Spanish accent was definitely pronounced with no fewer than three entries in competition from Spain - the charming Un poco de chocolate (by Aitzol Aramaio) teamed young German star Daniel Brühl, impressively speaking his own lines in fluent Spanish, with Argentinian veteran Hector Alterio, in an original family story with much incidental humour,Alterio was also to be seen tackling the affronts of aging in Amaner de Un Sueno, an apparently personal story by Freddy Mas Franqueza, with a startling coda set in Berlin; and an all-too-topical tale of immigrants smuggling their way into Spain, by crossing the 14 Kilometros that separate Europe from Africa, in the feature debut of the documentarist Gerardo Olivares.

The trials of the family are also at the heart of the hugely enjoyable French entry, Les Murs Porteurs, where the seemingly-ageless Miou-Miou has to handle the vagaries of her Polish mother succumbing to Alzheimer's and the philanderings of her media-celebrity brother(played by the excellent Charles Berling). Set in the Jewish quarter of Paris, this lovely film was sensibly programmed on the of Kristallnacht, the 70th anniversary of which- on 9th November, 2008- was marked in Mannheim's modern Synagogue, where another standing-room only audience heard a dignified speech by the Lord Mayor, Dr Peter Kurz, who was having a particularly busy 'day of rest', as later he was obliged to deliver an eloquent discourse on the importance of film during the first Film Culture Prize ceremony, presented during a truly festive- and very delicious- banquet in the rapidly transformed Stadthaus Kino 1, with flowe-bedecked tables and gleaming candelabra, conjuring up an ambiance to rival any gala dinner held at Cannes.

A healthy mix of paying and invited guests enjoyed an excellent jazz cabaret from local music students, while four popular German actresses cited the laudations to the award-winners for their love and practical support of cinema in Germany: the Berlin-based distributor Neue Visionen, the producer Peter Rommel (I presume no relation),three TV programmes and commissioning departments, and the educational project Vision Kino.Both their efforts to encourage quality film-making and film-viewing and the culinary delights of what might become a fixture in the festival programme of Mannheim are to be applauded with gusto.And in another echo of Cannes a young man was apparently arrested after flashing more than a smile late at night at a presumably unimpressed lady passer-by in the Quadrat.I did say it was warm enough to promenade sans but sans everything was going a little too far for Badem-Württemberg!

Phillip Bergson


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