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Kate Winslet is theflavor of the week at Berlinale

There are at least half a dozen daily newpapers that come out every day in Berlin and it is easy to see which personalities are the flavors of the day just by glancing at the pictures that adorn the front pages every day here during the festival.
Yesterday it was all Tom Tykwer, tall pleasant-looking 43 year old director of the festival's opening film "The Internmational", with a bit of backup by the star of his pic, handsome English action hero Clive Owen. Now that former avant-garde German directors such as Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders are nearly ready to start collecting senior citizen benefits, Tykwer, ever since his mind-blowing high-kinesis stylistic tour-de-force "Run Lola Run" (1998) has been regarded as the leading light of the German avant-garde as well as this country's most marketable director for all-star international co-produc tions.
Mr. Tykwer who speaks english flawlessly has no trouble at all directing such English speaking stars as Cate Blanchett (in the crime thriller "Heaven", 2002), Natalie Portman (in he prize winning ten minute short "True", 2004), or Clive Owen and Naomi Watts in the current international bank corruption thriller.
Not only was Tom's smiling visage on every front page this morning but the inside pages were also loaded with interviews with the young man who with this picture seems to have emerged as the main power dealer on the German film scene. The picture, incidentally, is one of the hot tickets of the week with all screenings sold out.

Cut to Day Number Two. If Tykwer was the undisputed flavor of the day on day number One, winsome Kate Winslett's scheduled arrival in Berlin has been ballyhooed in the glossy weeklies for as much as a week prior to the festival opening and her press conference following this morning's press screening of "The Reader" can already be seen as the outstanding press event of the week. While press screenings here vary considerably in their intensity depending on the notoriety of the pesonalities on tap, there is invariably at least one really hot number that the press will line up for an hour prior to press time in order to get a seat in the conference room, or at least a piece of floor in the aisles.

Last year the big one towards the end of the festival was Madonna (for an abominable little film she directed, but, who cares --this was LA MADONNA) and this year, the aisle packer has already happened on day two. Of course, there were other people present at this press event, two of Lady Kate's co-stars in the film, veteran British actor Ralph Fiennes, and 17 year old German actor David Kross (her lover in the picture) as well as director Stephen Daldry and the two writers, David hare, screenplay, and Bernhard Schlink, of the original German book on which the film is based. Daldry, it might be mentioned, is no stranger to Berlin having introduced his big one "The Hours" here in 2002. For those with short memories that was the one in which Nicole Kidman played Viginia Woolf in bulbous nose makeup, and probably more for the bulbous nose than anythinjg else, nabbed an Oscar that year as best actress.

Kate Winslett has been mentioned for Oscars in two of her performances this year, "The Reader" as well as "Revolutionary Road" (opposite Leonardo Dicaprio) and, if not a sure thing against competition like Meryl Streep, is certainly a sentimental favorite as she is getting to be a wee bit overdue. At any rate the 33 year old British actress is at this moment probably at the very peak of her physical beauty and can arguably lay claim to the title of reigning queen of Hollywood on both sides of the Atlantic, lesser busy bodies like Nicole Kidman notwithstanding.

Already yesterday the papers were full of images of her arrival at Tegel airport, and today at the center of the long press table dressed in a conservative grey dress with a somewhat plunging square black velvet collar and her honey blond har set in an almost severe head hugging classic mold, the actress seemed as poised as the Queen of England and even more calm, cool, and collected. Awesomely royal --not just the flavor of the day, but very likely of the entire week yet to come.

Just fior the record, in the film, set back in the postwar Germany of the fifties, Kate plays a lonely middle aged German woman who was once a concentration camp overseer and, because she is illiterate has the teenage boy she has taken in as a lover read to her from storybooks. Pretty interesting stretch of the envelope, one might say, a classic English rose playing a sombre Nazi lady thrashing about with a teenage boy to forget her sorrows, and analphabetic into the bargain. Kate said she had to do a lot of historical research to prepare herself for this highly uncharacterisitc role, whch is maybe a light year away from the all-American housewife she plays in Revolutionary Road". Such looks (quietly breathtaking) and such versatility is definitely something to write ho,ke about.

Germans talking English in this English speaking German story may turn out to be a hard sell to German audiences, but just watching Kate do her thing may turn out to be enough to make local viewers forget which language she's doing it in. German author Bernhardt Schlink was queried about his feelings with respect to seeing his original German dialogue converted into English in the film verion, and, in general, as to what he thought of the oddity of German characters speaking English on screen. His reply, that film is in itself an international language and that English has become the lingua franca of international cinema, elicited an appreciative round of applause at this display of discrete modesty.
Both Tykwer's "The International" and Daldry's "The Reader" are being shown shown here out of competition, but because of the subject matter, and in the case of the former, the recognizable Berlin locations, are seen here as an ideal one-two punch with which to front end the 59th edition of the fest.

Alex, March 6, Berlin
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