10. Big-screen TVs outside the restrooms played promos for avant-garde videos.
9. Auditorium ceilings have little white lights that look like stars.
8. There were no more technical glitches than any other year, but this year they were because everything was so new, while last year's were because it was all so old.
7. Disappearing subtitles during a showing of the Brazilian film The Year My Parents Went on Vacation gave audience members a chance to brush up on their Portuguese.
6. New gray tiling is tasteful and won't show the dirt too quickly.
5. Festival sponsor Orange gave out nifty black blankets embroidered in orange to the audience at the opening, which came in handy when it got chilly.
4. The new seats are really comfortable, which made it easier to doze if a movie turned out to be a snooze.
3. Most of the 200 movies were so good, no one needed to nap.
2. No more fighting your way through the crowds heading for the appliance and "brand-name" sales at Binyanei Ha' Uma, the cinematheque's temporary home this past year.
. . . and the # 1 reason:
1. The new cinematheque was actually ready on time for the festival's opening, marking the first time in the history of the state of Israel that a renovation was completed on schedule!
Tips for Israeli producer/director teams after a screening:
Designate one person to thank everyone. Audiences are polite and don't like to walk out when the cast and crew of a movie are on stage, but it's agonizing to listen to the producer and then a director (and sometimes two directors) thank everyone over and over again. Take a cue from director Avi Nesher, who gave a one-sentence speech when he was given his Achievement Award on opening night.
King of Comedy
Opening night this year, with a host of Israeli award winners and a dearth of foreign guests, was decidedly low-key. But the audience suddenly woke up when Dieter Kosslick, the head of the Berlin Film Festival, came up onstage to declare the festival officially open. Showing a flair for stand-up comedy, he quipped that he was so impressed by the outdoor opening he was thinking of trying it on his home turf, although, as he said, "but in Berlin at the end of January, well, maybe not." Hugging Lia van Leer, he talked about their long friendship. He joked that they should share a room while attending festivals in Europe, explaining that "This would save both our festivals a lot of money." From there, he somehow segued into the fact that he is the author of a 200-page book on bagels. A modest proposal: Herr Kosslick should host the US Oscars next year. The ceremony would be a lot livelier if he did.
So, What About the Movies?
As I write this, the festival has not yet ended (it runs till tomorrow night), but I have managed to see some memorable films. Joint Venture, a film directed by two young Frenchmen but set in Israel, is a wonderful comedy for people who don't mind a little silliness. It's the story of a mixed group of Israelis and tourists, including a French economist turned mental patient who thinks he can talk to God, a Tel Aviv drifter, a wide-eyed New Age follower, a Russian prostitute and an ultra-Orthodox man delivering a streimel to his rebbe, and how they all end up on a weird road trip. It's much funnier than it sounds from this description and it seems likely it will be a hit both here and abroad.
I had hopes for Persepolis, an animated version of Marjane Satrapi's graphic novels about growing up in Iran around the time of the Khomeini Revolution, since I had read the first volume and liked it. But although I enjoyed the first third of the film, once the heroine left Iran for Europe, it dragged. The legendary French actresses Catherine Deneuve and Danielle Darrieux provided some of the voices.
After seeing the Israeli movie, The Debt, I have to say that I would be very happy if I never see another movie about Mossad agents. If their depictions on film are accurate, they're not the most interesting people in the world.