(photo credit: INGIMAGE / ASAP)
BERLIN – The press conferences and red carpet appearances never stop at the 66th Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival. The cast and crew of Hail, Caesar!, the opening-night film, walked the carpet. While the Coen brothers seemed a bit embarrassed, George and Amal Clooney couldn’t have looked more at ease. Human-rights lawyer Amal Clooney stole the show with a glittery gown and a glamorous look that rivaled any of the actresses. Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin and Tilda Swinton also shone in their black-tie finery.
Even the international jury had megawatt star power, headed by Meryl Streep and featuring Clive Owen, along with several European directors, critics, photographers and actors. Owen, who was often mentioned as a possible new James Bond before Daniel Craig got the job, later said Bond was the best thing that never happened to him. But it’s impossible to see him in a tuxedo and not wonder about what might have been.
The opening-night MC, German comedian and actress Anke Engelke, ribbed Streep affectionately, telling her that there is a German word that means, “No more awards for you,” adding that Streep would now have to learn how to give an award rather than receive one. Streep mouthed, “What the f**k?” and laughed.
Like all serious film festivals but perhaps more than most, the Berlinale has two sides: the glitz and the grit.
Movies about the most serious issues facing humanity co-exist alongside art films about people with first-world problems. The films in the main competition that have been shown so far reflect this eclectic mix. Among them are Hail, Caesar!, the Hollywood farce mixed with witty social commentary; Denis Côté’s Boris Without Beatrice, the story of an arrogant man who is humbled when his wife, a government minister, falls into a severe depression; Gianfranco Rosi’s Fire at Sea, an evocative documentary about the residents of and migrants to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, which is on the front lines of the current crisis; and, perhaps the most eccentric competition choice so far, Jeff Nichols’ brooding sci-fi thriller, Midnight Special. Nichols, who made the film Take Shelter, about a man with apocalyptic visions that no one will listen to starring Michael Shannon, has cast Shannon again, as the father of a boy who shoots beams of light out of his eyes, can telepathically read classified government communications and is worshipped by a cult in which women wear prairie-style 19th century dresses and that is headed by Sam Shepard, the brooding playwright/actor.
Adam Driver, who played Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, plays the National Security Agency expert investigating the mystery. Among those cast members who graced the red carpet were Midnight Special cast members Shannon, Joel Edgerton (who played Tom in The Great Gatsby), and Kristen Dunst.
Many more stars, and star directors, are coming up later this week.