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Meryl Streep wins heart and minds on Valentines Day in Berlin

With the Fest at Midpoint Two American Iron Ladies have dominated the scene thus far, Angelina Jolie and Meryl Streep. For the first four days it was all about Angela, her hard hitting Bosnian genocide film, and her hectic personal life.
On Valentines Day, Feb. 14, which comes exactly in the middle of the festival, it was Meryl Streep Day, who arrived to pick up a Berlin Bear Lifetime award and held forth before an enthralled overflow press conference audience. Jolie, 36, and now at the peak of her celebrity, is probably the more metallic of the two, whereas Streep, now a mellow 62, came off as far more human and far less ironclad in spite of her mesmerizing Iron Lady portrayal.

The press conferences held by both American stars were of the kind where even jaded media reps were willingto wait outisde for over an hour just to get a seat inside the room as scores of others milled about outside the guarded pressroom doors trying to catch glimpses of the proceedings on two hallway TV sets.
The Jolie meeting focusingon her directorial debut "Land of Blood and Honey" was charged with an air of tension as the actress turned director fielded what might have been challenging questions deftly turning aside potentially ominous innuendos. Upon arrival that night on th Red Carpet at the Gala of the film clad in a floor length gold lame gown she was accompanied by equally famous consort Brad Pitt who kept discretely to the side with only a few little waves to his own admirers, then accompanied la Jolie on the carpet stride as she too gingerly flittered upraised fingers to the shivering fans at the ropes. Brad's hair was almost as long as Angela's gown but he did keep a relatively low profile since it was. after all, Her night. Their stately procession along the carpet seemed intended to convery an impression of true royalty condescending to allow the peasants a close-up look at their godlike idols.

An interesting sidelight is the presence here of former Jolie husband --from her wild and woolly early days --Billy-Bob Thornton, who has a film in competition with the intriguing title of "Jayne Mansfield's Car". Inevitably queried by the press as to his current realtionship with Angelina and whether he had run into her and Brad here, Billy-Bob stated that they were now just very good friends -- Pitt included, but that they had not yet crossed swords -- er, paths, at the festival.

I had already seen "The Iron Lady" back in the states, but decided to re-see it here just to double check -- and now saw it in a completely different light with its undeniable European relevance in Berlin. Whereas the German papers had been full of Jolie the first four days -- (one had a two page spread saying" Jolie is Honey for the Berlin Bears" -- not to mentiion gold for the Gossip mongers) -- suddenly it was all about The Iron Lady, memories of Margaret Thatcher and Meryl Streep's amazing performance in this and other films in her fantastic career. Ms. Streep answered even the most banal questions thoughtfully and displayed a very keen intelligence moderated by a subtle sense of modesty. "After all , I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, so sometimes it is hard for me to believe that all this attention has come my way --and it is a special honor to be recognized in a foreign country at a major film festival sucgh as this -- like a dream coming true...". As for her personal opiniions on the actual Iron Lady, Streep, known for her liberal politics, said that she had the usual negative view of Thatcher going in, but that you cannot get into the role of a character if you make judgements beforehand. In fact, said the actress, I found that I actually had many points in common with Thatcher. You always try to find something of yourself in a character.
Director Llyoyd pointed put that this was not intended to be a documentary on Thatcher's career but rather a film about a once very strong lady, now grown old and in the early stages of dementia, looking back on her life. That aspect of the film was comletely subjective as imagined by herself and her co-screen writer. One thing that has been sharply criticized is the constant intercutting between historical sequences and ongoing present dementia sequences. On a second viewing I found this not very distracting and, in fact, quite informative about the Falkland Islands war from the British point of view, among other things. But it did take a second viewing to pick up all the historical pieces including a flash-dance with president Ronald Reagan. One thing that is not in dispute is Streep's amazing interpretation of an old woman on the verge of losing it, but still a commanding presence.

Yes, it was a great makeup job, but also one of the great thespian talents of our age at work. A Russian journalist presented Ms. Streep, to her great delight, with a set of traditional Russian embedded dolls, all with various images of herself on each one. Personally. I found the Meryl Streep press conference to be the highlight of the festival so far. A pure pleasure to see a truly great actress letting her hair down in a very warm personal way.
Streep was accompanied on the podium by English actor Jim Broadbent, who plays her ghostly husband in the film, along with director Phylidda Lloyd who had many cogent things to say regarding the conception and making of the film and the relationship to the original "Iron Lady", Margaret Thatcher, who is still alive and was so dubbed by the Russians during the Cold war.
Alex Deleon... Valentine's day in Berlin

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