The obvious and the misterious: Berlinale, day 4

16Feb11

It’s difficult to balance a 40h work week with watching as many Berlinale movies as possible. So I didn’t get to write up anything yesterday on my latest movies. So here go some thoughts on Mondays movies, Japanese crime film Byakuyakou (Into The White Night) and the Russian sci-fi story Mishen (Target). Later today, I’ll try to write up yesterday’s movies (Escuchando al Juez Garzón and Dernier Étage Gauche Gauche).

Into The White Night

This movie, directed by Yoshihiro Fukagawa, is one of my favourite Berlinale movies so far as it combines all that I love about Japanese cinema: an intriguing story and sufficient time to develop the story and the main characters with all their facets and deep black holes. Into the White Night tells the story of the assassination of a pawn shop owner and its investigation over a period of 20 years.  After the initial suspect commits suicide, the official investigation is dropped. But Inspector Sasagaki continues on his own, a brilliant police man with an eye for detail, too brilliant to climb up the latter, asking too many uncomfortable questions. In many ways, he seems to be a Hercule Poirot following the leads of his one big case.

The main female character Yukiho, the daughter of the suspect, is a misterious character, frightening beautiful, and so determined in her actions. Every man would fall for her. Amazing the acting of her as a kid.

Also the other building blocks are just perfect: the jazzy, reduced soundtrack, the wonderful cinematography, and the attention to detail: I love those 80s style police cars, the green public phones. Writing about it, I could to see it again…

Oh, and maybe most importantly: I love a non-conventional ending.

I was glad to see Into the White Night after Mishen that left me a bit unsatisfied.

Mishen

Mishen comes in the tradition of Russian science fiction. Not in space, but, what is basically the same, in a time where Russia is an ecological democracy (maybe as far away as Mars). Admittedly, the movie has some fascinating shots of landscapes, great sets and gadgets (the cars, television in 2020, the view of Moscow). Also, the political realities the film uses as a background are refreshing, everyone speaks Chinese as a second language for example. A fact that American movies playing in the future haven’t been realising.

But the story is too simple to satisfy. The conflicts that arise amongst the characters are too conventional. It is the neverending search for freedom, youth and happiness brings together a group of people in their journey to a modern Fountain of Youth (a fascinating piece of set the director Alexander Zeldovich found here). But of course, happiness and youth won’t make you really happy and will turn into destruction. Hm.

It would have been nice to see some innovation here as well.

More later!

Photo credit: Conrad @coneyislander

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