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Berlinale 2007: It's a Wrap

The Berlin International Film Festival has long reflected the character of its bohemian host city. Think avant-garde filmmaking in the Forum section; gay-themed pictures in Panorama; and the political polemic popular among competition directors, including this time, the Holocaust film, The Counterfeiters.This year’s festival (February 8th-18th, 2007), however, went one step further, taking fest-goers back in time to a bygone era of cinema and the city’s golden age.

The opening film La Vie En Rose, a bio-pic on French chanteuse, Edith Piaf, set the tone. The moody, period piece, and Piaf’s raw, somber voice, cast a spell over Berlin from day one, carrying people on a wave of nostalgia, back into the arms and charms of the early twentieth century.

Enter Max Raabe, a retro crooner singing big band tunes from the ‘30s and ‘40s, and the current star of the Berlin show scene. At the Admirals Palast, a recently restored theater on a fabled Berlin thoroughfare, Raabe entertained the Berlinale glitterati at a gala for Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s epic series, Berlin Alexander Platz, which has now been restored.

Guests buzzed about in the decadent bars, in this stylish building replete with fabulous, original detailing, enhanced with the low-lit glow of funky lighting and minimalist, furnishings, the combination of which underscores Berlin’s scintillating appeal today.Steven Soderbergh’s black-and-white WW11 drama The Good German continued the historical theme, with his competition title playing out in wartime Berlin, and starring a Dietrich-esque Cate Blanchett, surviving the city in sorrow, style and sin. It was the perfect Berlin entry, if by no means a perfect film.Audiences slipped further back in time with the retrospective City Girls: Images of women in silent films, named after the Louise Brooks’ classic. Inside, the ultra-modern Cinemaxx multiplex, classy images from early filmmaking flickered across the screen. And audiences lost themselves in the sophisticated sounds of the live score, and the experience of film as it was first performed.For the select few, old Berlin came courtesy of the elegant hiding hole, the Kaisersaal, from the legendary Grand Hotel, Esplanade (1908) where the Berlinale elite now enjoy nightly dinners. The jewel in the crown of festival home, Potsdamer Platz, this elegant building is all but hidden in an otherwise futuristic fanfare of modern architecture, covering the former site of the Berlin Wall.

Marquee names a la J Lo made the rounds in Berlin this year. (Her competition film Bordertown tackles the tragic, real-life crisis of over 4,000 women now missing in the Mexican border town of Juarez.) Clint Eastwood, Cate Blanchett, Robert De Niro and other A-listers came and went. But this time it was as if they were the ghosts of the future in a festival clearly re-living the past.

 

Liza Foreman

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