Leading ladies rule Berlin awards buzz

Along with the two frontrunners for the Golden Bear for best picture, most films in this year’s competition section centre around strong women characters

Leading ladies rule Berlin awards buzz
AP
HIGH HOPES: Actress Juliette Binoche jumps during the photo call for the film Camille Claudel 1915, Chilean actress Paulina Garcia poses during a photocall, Romanian actress Luminita Gheorghiu (inset with director Calin Peter Netzer) pose at the 63rd edition of the Berlinale
If older women can’t find work in Hollywood, they might want to come to Berlin, where this year’s film festival has been studded with performances by seasoned actresses, that have put them and their movies in the running for top prizes.

The 11-day cinema event, centred around the main competition of 19 films but showcasing hundreds more, winds up with an evening awards ceremony on Saturday. Jude Law, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Matt Damon have hit the red carpet, and Nicolas Cage and Catherine Deneuve are still to come, while after a string of critical flops at the start of the festival the reception has picked up.

The two frontrunners for the coveted Golden Bear for best picture, which can help bring a low-budget movie to an international audience, centre around strong women in their 50sand 60s who overshadow the men around them.

Gloria, arguably the biggest hit at the 63rd Berlin film festival, stars Paulina Garcia as the eponymous Gloria, a 58-year-old divorcee living alone in Santiago where she is determined to enjoy life to the full.

She goes out dancing on singles nights, drinks, smokes, has affairs, stays in touch with her children and works full time.

Director Sebastian Lelio said his inspiration for the character was his mother and her generation, rarely tackled in cinema which tends to be obsessed with youth.

“We all face crossroads in our lives where we can retreat into ourselves or we can hit the dance floor,” he said.

The Chilean cast agreed that sex scenes between Gloria and her 60-something boyfriend Rodolfo may prove shocking to some, but should not be. “I don’t think people should be shocked,” said Sergio Hernandez, who plays the charming but weak foil to Gloria’s indomitable spirit. “It’s always been there...Adults making love as they never have before, perhaps, better than they ever have before.”

Another favourite for best film and best actress is Child’sPose, about a wealthy 60-year-old Romanian mother whose obsessive love for her son sees her try to buy his freedom when he accidentally knocks down and kills a boy.

Jay Weissberg, critic for the Variety trade publication, called the performance of Romanian veteran Luminita Gheorghiu as Cornelia a “tour-de-force”. There was also a warm critical reception for French star Juliette Binoche in a film about the tragic story of sculptress Camille Claudel, who spent the last 29 years of her life wrongly confined by her family to a mental asylum.

Compatriot Deneuve’s On My Way, in which she plays a grandmother who sets off on a road trip across France, screened later on Friday. Child’s Pose also picks up on another theme running through the festival — Eastern European directors looking at the post-Communist world for their inspiration, and arguing that the ills of old have been taken over by fresh injustices and abuse. Russian film A Long and Happy Life, for example, follows an idealistic young farmer who refuses to sell his land to a wealthy developer, with dramatic consequences.

And Bosnian drama An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, about a man struggling to get enough money for his partner’s life-saving operation, packs the added emotional punch of having the real-life subjects in the main roles.

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