Berlin Film Festival 2010: Dave Calhoun reports
Missing directors. Wild rumours. Provocative apes. And Martin Scorsese. Dave Calhoun reports from the 60th Berlin Film Festival
That’s half the point of Banksy’s playful documentary, which, from a teasing angle, presents the rise of street art from the late ’90s alongside its creeping commercialisation, a development in which Banksy admits he’s complicit. The film’s subject – or fall guy – is Thierry Guetta, a hipster Frenchman in Los Angeles who ditched his day job selling secondhand clothes to film street artists at night, starting with his cousin, Invader and moving on to Shepard Fairey and finally the holy grail… Banksy! Only, as Banksy tells it, Guetta was a keen cameraman but a rubbish filmmaker and his edit of his footage was a disaster, so Banksy took over. At the same time, Guetta, egged on by our host, became an artist himself, selling dreadful Warhol and Banksy rip-offs to the zombified herds of LA, causing Banksy to groan that he’s created a monster.
Too good to be true? Perhaps. But if, as some have suggested, Guetta the artist is just another Banksy creation, that doesn’t make the film a fake. Either way, it’s an energetic, provocative and very funny tour through the world of street art and raises endless questions about authenticity, fame and creativity.
Banksy, of course, didn’t show his face at Berlin. I’d like to think he was keeping Roman Polanski company in Switzerland, while the Polish director’s Robert Harris adaptation ‘The Ghost’ had its world premiere in his absence. The film is a literal version of Harris’s pulpy book (funny that; it’s scripted by Harris) but has a little more of a black-comic edge in its telling of a former British PM and Blair-a-like (Pierce Brosnan) facing trial for war crimes while trying to meet the deadline for his memoirs by working with an eager but green ghost writer (Ewan McGregor). The plot is ridiculous but honestly so. This, and Polanski’s tight direction, keeps you on board for a fast and topical ride, and the parallels with Polanski’s own situation – the remote exile, the impending trial, the media circus – make for amusing viewing.
Festivals breed rumours, and one going round Berlin was that Lars von Trier is working on a remake of ‘Taxi Driver’ with Scorsese. Nonsense, most likely, but Von Trier was indeed in town to sell a new script, ‘Melancholia’, while Scorsese was presenting ‘Shutter Island’, a 1950s-set, asylum-bound mystery with a B-movie bent. It’s a sometimes brilliant, sometimes tiresome shaggy-dog story which sees Scorsese reaching into his Hitchcock toolbag and daring to experiment, both with story and his audience’s patience.
France’s impressive culture minister, Frédéric Mitterand (nephew of François) was in town for a screening of Eric Rohmer’s ‘Pauline at the Beach’ (1982) to celebrate the life of the director who died last month. Mitterand gave a lucid 15-minute introduction to the film; hard to imagine a British politician doing the same. The film followed ‘The Art of Sharing Movies’, an inspiring short documentary about the veteran French critic Michel Ciment, with contributions from the likes of Ethan Coen, Wim Wenders and Bertrand Tavernier.
It would take a critic with Ciment’s clout to get the small but beautiful ‘The Wolf’s Mouth’ by Pietro Marcello into cinemas in this country. Which is a shame as this experimental doc is a gem: a poetic portrait of both Genoa, past and present, and a former convict who has been in a loving relationship with a transsexual since a stretch in jail in the 1980s. The film’s use of archive in projecting one extraordinary life on to the life of a whole city recalls Terence Davies’s ‘Of Time and the City’.
Another eccentric doc was ‘Nénette’ from Nicolas Philibert (‘Etre et Avoir’), a 70-minute portrait of a 40-year-old orang-utan who lives in Paris’s Jardin des Plantes. We see Nénette and her family through the glass – but we only hear various visitors and interviewees who visit and discuss her. The more Nénette stares at us, the more we see ourselves, although the film’s main message is that any appreciation of Nénette and her family is presumptive or even egotistical on our part. Only she knows what she’s thinking. We can only guess. And the guesswork might say more about us than them. Which, come to think of it, might apply to critics too.
Read Geoff Andrew's Berlin report here
Author: Dave Calhoun
Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.
The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards
Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow
Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.
The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.
Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'
'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.
Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.
The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'
The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.
Read our interview with Michael Haneke
The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.
Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'
Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.
Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us
Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.
Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set
The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.
Read our interview with Tim burton
Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.
Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'
Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.
Read 'Film guilty pleasures'
What will Disney do to 'Star Wars'?
Read about the new 'Star Wars' trilogy
Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.
Read 'When teen stars turn serious'
From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.
Read '50 years of James Bond'
The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.
Read the interview
Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.
Read 'Hilarious horror films'
The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.
Read the interview
We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.
Read about this Autumn's best horror movies
Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.
Read 'On the set of Skyfall'
Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?
The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.
'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’