Magazine article The Spectator

Berlin Blues

Magazine article The Spectator

Berlin Blues

Article excerpt

Phillip Bergson felt hungry and thirsty at the end of the Berlin International Film Festival

Not quite reduced to begging, film critics, journalists and camp followers took to the streets straight after the prize-giving ceremony of the 47th Berlin International Film Festival. The closing party - a traditional event at any festival (Cannes throws two) - had been cancelled on financial grounds. Professional guests had already had to pay 50 deutschmarks for their accreditation passes, underlining the fact that Europe's new metropole - and biggest building-site - is, indeed, strapped for cash.

This did not, however, encourage the organisers to slim down the scale of this massive showcase of mainstream and art movies. Throughout the 12-day marathon, 16 or more cinemas across the city were filled with audiences of every persuasion. Organised with legendary Teutonic efficiency, if less famed for its flexibility, the Berlinale struggles by on a budget of some DMl million, so cutting the pretzels and beer seemed strange.

Presiding over the 11-strong international jury was France's ex-minister of culture, Jack Lang, who is assumed to have leaked the names of the prize winners to Le Monde, to the fury of the locals. David Hare fled home before the finale, anyway, but, as Britain's juror, he had brought a valuable world premiere to the festival: his own film adaptation of The Designated Mourner. This preserves the remarkable performance of Berlin-born Hollywood director Mike Nicholas in the recent National Theatre production of Wallace Shawn's wry parable on the death of culture. …

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