Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius, France, Belgium 2011

Just a few weeks ago I wrote elsewhere on this blog that I couldn't think of any film off hand that I'd been as much looking forward to seeing as The Artist! First of all, there's all the hype surrounding this film, not to mention the slew of awards and nominations The Artist has received. Next, and more importantly, there's the film's sujet, revolving as it does around a crucial moment in American film history, and one which continues to preoccupy and fascinate me - Hollywood at the transition from silent film to talkies.

Now, having just seen The Artist at long last, I am happy to report that my expectations were met, although to be honest, I'm not even sure I'm able to say what these expectations were or consisted of ... a lesson in film history? (which it isn't), a love story without sound? (which it isn't, either, strictly speaking), a lamento about all that was lost when the pictures started talking (which it is isn't, either, but that's how I felt when leaving the cinema).

Summed up in one of the most famous lines from Hollywood history, the effect The Artist has on the viewer is best described as "they didn't need words - they had faces!". Norma, you were absolutely right, is what I felt like shouting right into the crowd behind me as I was watching the film.

That's how riveted I was!

True, the film's narrative can be told in one or two sentences and as already mentioned, has hardly anything new to say about the subject of silent film or its transition to sound. However, it's not necessarily the story that counts (most of which have been told already, anyway, and many of them several times over) - more often than not it is a case of how the story is told. And this precisely is what makes The Artist such a pleasure to watch. It's the effortless and well-nigh imperceptible switch of perspectives in the film's opening sequence; it's the expert use of music - and sound! - throughout the film; it's how Hazanavicius uses his knowledge of Hollywood history without ever coming across as patronising; and it's of course the actors, most notably Jean Dujardin, who epitomises a 1920s movie star down to the last detail, including the fact that he's foreign-born (in the film as well as of course, in real life) as were Valentino and Emil Jannings, which also, in the film's very last scene, aptly explains why Dujardin's character disappeared from the screen when silent film went out.

And yes, the film's not entirely free of a certain nostalgia but it never drifts into the maudlin or the sentimental. If anything, it's more an homage to silent film than it is a nostalgic look back, let alone a lamento.

What does come as a real surprise to me, though, is the success The Artist enjoys, not just in the US and in France, but the world over. For a silent movie to be this popular in times like these, obsessed with ever new technical inventions and innovations, is rather unusual, to put it mildly.

But then again, maybe it isn't so unusual, after all. For looking more closely at recent US releases what strikes me is, that quite a few of them are indeed looking back - nostalgically or otherwise (Hugo, War Horse, etc.) - as if yearning for a rather more innocent time when life seemed easier, less riddled by the woes, problems, disasters and social inequalities which now hold us firmly in their grip and which we can't seem to find any appropriate answers for.

Seen this way, the success of The Artist may be less surprising, ending as it does, at the cusp of the Great Depression.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn, US 2011

Told in a nutshell, Drive is the story of a heist-gone-awry. As such, it is not revolutionary, but what makes it so, is the way it is told.

Starring Ryan Gosling, who's well on his way to become the Next-Big-Thing in American Cinema, Drive is very much his film as he's seen in literally every single take. Gosling plays The Driver, a car-mechanic-cum-stuntman-cum-getaway-driver, with remarkable restraint, obviously taking his cue from a string of similar anti-heroes in Hollywood Cinema's - Clint Eastwood, for one - to the effect that it makes the tension that's percolating beneath the façade all the more palpable. Taciturn and with a facial expression which remains unchanged throughout the film, The Driver's façade crumbles from time to time, throwing up his other side - his violent rage, his pent-up anger - although, similar to Eastwood or Hayden, this violent side never turns against the underdog or the disadvantaged; The Driver - whose story we never get to know but can easily imagine by way of Gosling's acting - knows who's to be trusted and yet, like another one of his inspirations - Jake Gittes in Polanski's Chinatown - he gets it fatally wrong in the crucial moment.

And yet, we don't even get to know The Driver's name which is one of the film's many gimmicks - for lack of a better word - as well as one of the film's many references to Hollywood Cinema, in this case Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, in which the heroine's name also is never revealed throughout the entire film. But this is not the only bow to Hitchcock in Refn's film, there are a number of others and you can clearly tell that Nicolas Winding Refn knows his Hollywood history and what's more - loves it! Besides Hitchock, David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino are also quoted - if ever so subtly - Drive betraying the influence these directors have had on Refn.

Having been aware that Refn was awarded the Palme d'Or for Best Director at last year's Cannes Film Festival, my expectations were rather high, although I wisely refrained from reading any reviews. What makes Drive what it is and the reason why it deserves to be included in the cannon of such brilliant heist-gone-wrong classics such as The Killing, Asphalt Jungle or Reservoir Dogs, are its deliberate slow pace, its cast (notably Gosling and Carey Mulligan, but also Albert Brooks) and, of course, the noir-ish cinematography, underscored by the fact that much of the action in Drive takes place at night though, I should add, similar to the cornfield scene in Hitchcock's North By Northwest, the most suspenseful moment in Refn's film takes place in broad daylight.

My only criticism with the film concerns its rather convoluted plot, which turns ever more dense and inscrutable towards the end. But then again, the same could be said of some of the films mentioned above for who can claim to have fully grasped each and every detail of Reservoir Dogs, to say nothing of film noir classics like The Big Sleep ... ?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Berlinale 2012 - Jury/ International Competition

British film maker Mike Leigh will be head of the international jury of the upcoming Berlin Film Festival. He is joined by French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, Iranian film maker Asghar Farhadi, French film maker Francois Ozon, Algerian writer Boualem Sansal, German actress Barbara Sukowa, Dutch photographer and film maker Anton Corbijn, and American actor Jake Gyllanhaal.

Mike Leigh

Barbara Sukowa

Boualem Sansal

Charlotte Gainsbourg

Francois Ozon

Jake Gyllenhaal

Anton Corbijn

Asghar Farhadi

It is, in my opinion, the hottest jury in years with big names throughout - big in the sense of both each jury member's fame and popularity as well as their achievements and the quality of their work.

The first-rate jury is matched by a Competition programme which, though not yet complete, sounds very promising consisting as it does almost solely of world premières, thus giving Cannes a run for its money.

It'll be posted here as soon as it's been announced.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Theo Angelopoulos, 1935 - 2012

Last night, the Greek film director Theo Angelopoulos succumbed to injuries resulting from a car accident which occurred yesterday evening on the outskirts Athenes, where Angelopoulos had been working on location of his new film, The Other Sea.

Angelopoulos was the recipient of many awards, including the Palme d'or and the Golden Lion. Though not very prolific, he was regarded as one of Europe's - if not the world's - most uncompromising film makers.

He was 76 years old.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Oscar Nominations 2012

Best Picture:

The Artist
Thomas Langmann, Producer
The Descendants
Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Scott Rudin, Producer
The Help
Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
Midnight in Paris
Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
The Tree of Life
Nominees to be determined
War Horse
Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

Actress In a Leading Role:

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Actor In a Leading Role:

Demián Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Actor In a Supporting Role:

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Actress In a Supporting Role:

Bérénice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help


The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo, Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

Art Direction:

The Artist, Laurence Bennett (Production Design); Robert Gould (Set Decoration)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2,
Stuart Craig (Production Design); Stephenie McMillan (Set Decoration)
Hugo, Dante Ferretti (Production Design); Francesca Lo Schiavo (Set Decoration)
War Horse, Rick Carter (Production Design); Lee Sandales (Set Decoration)

Costume Design:

Anonymous, Lisy Christl
The Artist, Mark Bridges
Hugo, Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre, Michael O'Connor


The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Alexander Payne
Hugo, Martin Scorsese
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick

Documentary Feature

Hell and Back Again, Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky
Pina, Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
Undefeated, TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

Film Editing:

The Artist, Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Kevin Tent
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

Foreign Language Film:

Belgium, Bullhead, Michael R. Roskam, director
Canada, Monsieur Lazhar, Philippe Falardeau, director
Iran, A Separation, Asghar Farhadi, director
Israel, Footnote, Joseph Cedar, director
Poland, In Darkness, Agnieszka Holland, director

Music (Original Score):

The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
The Artist, Ludovic Bource
Hugo, Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
War Horse, John Williams

Friday, 20 January 2012

Kriegerin (Combat Girls), David Wnendt, Germany 2011

Kriegerin, the first feature length film of Konrad-Wolf Film school graduate David Wnendt, is about a young woman who's an active member of Germany's neo-Nazi movement.

As such, Wnendt's film is very timely for the murders on nine immigrants and a police woman by a neo-Nazi cell are still dominating the news across Germany. As more and more facts about the murderous trio are emerging, both the police and homeland security as well as Germany's secret service have come under fire for their failure to track this cell down earlier. Unbelievably, this group, which called itself National Socialist Underground, went undetected for more than ten years, successfully escaping the radar screen of every official institution set up by the German government in order to protect its citizens - all of them. Needless to say, this threw up a lot of questions as it once more challenged this country's handling of its past and its fascist remnants.

To be sure, a casual visitor to Germany is not very likely to come across any neo-Nazis - they're too small in numbers, largely operating in Germany's thinly populated and economically deprived east. Similarly, unlike in other European countries, the extreme right is not represented in the German parliament. But this is precisely why many German politicians shrugged the neo-Nazi movement off as marginal and never imagined this problem to be as dramatic as it turned out to be. This misjudgement by Germany's politicians turned out to be fatal. For all although 10, 000 neo-Nazis may seem like a - relatively - small number in relation to a population of 82 million, they're of course still 10, 000 too many. Adding insult to injury is the fact that Germany's homeland security is believed to have turned a blind eye, if not to the actual murders but to the time when this neo-Nazi group was yet in its infancy. The point is, if official institutions such as the police or homeland security had been more alert the murders could probably have been prevented - so some believe. However, as the investigation is still ongoing, it remains to be seen to what extent the police, homeland security and the secret service are, in fact, to blame.

Poster for the US release of Kriegerin

So much for the background and debate surrounding the release of Kriegerin. Little did David Wnendt know, of course, when setting out to make a film about women in Germany's neo-Nazi movement, that its release would come on the heels of the revelation regarding the murders of this so-called National Socialist Underground. Had Wnendt known, I'm sure he would have made a different film. Don't get me wrong - Kriegerin is an excellent film with a topic that's long overdue as it's been more or less fully absent from German mainstream cinema. Wnendt deserves credit for the fact alone that he addresses a topic which is as unpopular in Germany as it sits uneasy with the German public who'd like nothing more than to sweep the neo-Nazi issue along with the shadow of its Nazi past - still looming large - under the carpet. But not because they're in denial about it, but rather out of a desire for normality, for being able to pretend that Germany was a country like any other. This may explain why so few German film makers have tackled this issue over the past two decades - even though the German media was full of stories regarding the rising neo-Nazi movement particularly in the east. When some years back, the British film director Shame Maedows, made a film about the neo-Nazi movement as it was in the early 1980s in the UK (This Is England, Shane Meadows, UK 2006), I remember thinking that it would stand Germany's film makers in good stead to follow Meadows' example and come up with something similar.

But no such luck.

Alina Levshin, who (brilliantly!) plays the lead in Kriegerin is a German actress of Ukranian descent. Considering that an estimated 25% of Germany's population are of non-German descent, actors and film workers with an immigrant background are under-represented in the German media, film included.

Wnendt's film, as commendable as it is, does not offer any solutions, nor are his attempts at explaining why so many, especially in Germany's east, seek refuge in neo-Nazi ideology conclusive. Those he suggests are insufficient inasmuch as Marisa (Alina Levshin), the main character of Kriegerin, is drawn into the neo-Nazi maelstrom for lack of any viable alternative and because of her grandfather who, it is suggested, was a Nazi and passed his poisonous thoughts on to his granddaughter. However, it is my conviction that the day-to-day reality is at least as much to blame since, albeit subtle, racism has long found its way into the mainstream. Just consider the popularity Thilo Sarrazin's book has enjoyed in Germany upon its release, subsequently alienating Germany's immigrant communities by also provoking outcries from the left-wing media. Furthermore, look at the - relative - absence of news anchors with an immigrant background from German television, or the increasingly tiresome debate in the German - as well as international - media whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear a headscarf, and so on. All this, I would argue, is used by neo-Nazis as a justification for their thinking, their acts, believing, as they do, that they, finally, do exactly what the public at large would want to do but hasn't got the guts to. No, Kriegerin ain't the adequate response to the ever more horrific revelations that are emerging by and by of the neo-Nazi cell. But as the extent of the neo-Nazi movement was unknown even to David Wnendt, who allegedly did quite a bit of research prior to writing the script, that also could not have been his intention.

That leaves me hoping, that Germany's film makers will rise to the occasion, wake up to their responsibility - they are, after all, largely using government funding for their films! - and not only make films that tackle this issue in their future films but also ensure that film workers and actors with an immigrant background will receive more opportunities to make their voices heard and, most of all, a much larger presence in German films.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Carnage, Roman Polanski, France, Germany, Spain, Poland 2011

A first-rate, award winning play, a highly talented, seasoned director, and a stellar cast - there's little room for anything to go wrong, is there? And nothing did. Practically. Based on Yasmin Reza's play, God of Carnage, Roman Polanski's latest offering is a sort-of updated version of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. Which, to be clear, is not to imply that Reza borrowed from Albee's iconic play. If anything, she took her cue from it, got inspired by it, in order to create something that is entirely her own but which, similar to Albee, also comes very much to live through Reza's relentless, razor-sharp, observations of the debilitatingly political correct times we live in.

However, my one issue with Polanski's film is that it ends rather abruptly ... Since I'm unfamiliar with the original play, I'm unable to say, of course, if this is how Reza intended it. Don't get me wrong - I'm usually all for open endings and for films that tell their story succinctly. Nevertheless, here goes one film which I'd have wished to be a little longer and to have some sort of a closure rather than just stopping smack in the middle, depriving the audience of the last act (e.g the brawl which is about to take place ... or so it seems). But, you may argue, that is exactly why it ends where it does.

Carnage, opening scene

One of the best things about Reza's play is her achievement to well-nigh unnoticeably shift the spectator's sympathies and empathies from one character to another - and back again. Identification is thus tricky if not impossible, for every character is in almost equal parts as likeable as they are dislikeable. I also take my hat off to each and every one of Polanski's cast, for they manage to own up to the play, keeping our sympathies in murky waters, and just when you thought you found the one person in this bizarre, yet very real, bunch of neurotics that offers identification, he - or she - does or says something which renders them completely dislikeable.

Carnage premiered to rave reviews at last year's Venice film fest. All the more astounding that it is strangely and inexplicably absent from the list of Golden Globes nominations and other similar such awards ... if nothing else, at least Jodie Foster as well as Kate Winslet should have received a best acting nod. They, even more so than than John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz, are especially outstanding in their very own definition and creation of women-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown. Yet they didn't ... can it be that America's 30-year grudge held against Polanski should have something to do with it ...? I hope not! It's time for bygones to be let bygones!

Something else that deserves pointing out are the wardrobe and the set design for Polanski managed to bring two dinosaurs on board who are at least as seasoned and top-notch as he himself along with his cast, are: costume designer Milena Canonero and set designer Dean Tavoularis. Canonero, who, for instance, worked with Kubrick on Barry Lyndon, is a woman of impeccable, flawless, taste. Like every talented costume designer - though there are so few - she's an expert in highlighting character traits through costume, which is precisely what she does in Carnage (e.g. black power suits for Waltz's cynical attorney and Winslet's investment broker and softer colours for Foster's would-be writer and Reilly's peddler of household goods).

Dean Tavoularis' set for Carnage looks like straight out of a Woody Allen film, his films usually being set in the exact same New York, upper middle-class surroundings, which form the background of Carnage. Tavoularis' achievement to make Foster's and Reilly's apartment look like your quintessential Brooklyn Heights digs is all the more remarkable as Carnage was, of course, shot entirely on a sound stage outside Paris as to this day Polanski is still unable to enter the US without risking to be arrested upon arrival.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Golden Globes 2012 - Full List Of All Winners

TV Series, Drama

American Horror Story
Boardwalk Empire
Game of Thrones

Actor In A TV Series, Drama

Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
Kelsey Grammar, Boss
Jeremy Irons, The Borgias
Damian Lewis, Homeland

Actress In A TV Series, Drama

Claire Danes, Homeland
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Madeleine Stowe, Revenge
Callie Thorne, Necessary Roughness

TV Series, Comedy

New Girl
Modern Family

Actor In A TV Series, Comedy

Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
David Duchovny, Californication
Johnny Galecki, The Big Bang Theory
Thomas Jane, Hung
Matt LeBlanc, Episodes

Actress In A TV Series, Comedy

Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
Laura Dern, Enlightened
Zooey Deschanel, New Girl
Laura Linney, The Big C

Best Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV
Cinema Verite
Downton Abbey
The Hour
Mildred Pierce
Too Big to Fail

Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for TV

Hugh Bonneville, Downton Abbey
Idris Elba, Luther
William Hurt, Too Big to Fail
Bill Nighy, Page Eight
Dominic West, The Hour

Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or a Motion Picture Made for TV
Romola Garai, The Hour
Diane Lane, Cinema Verite
Elizabeth McGovern, Downton Abbey
Emily Watson, Appropriate Adult
Kate Winslet, Mildred Pierce

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV

Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Paul Giamatti, Too Big to Fail
Guy Pearce, Mildred Pierce
Tim Robbins, Cinema Verite
Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV

Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire
Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Sofía Vergara, Modern Family
Evan Rachel Wood, Mildred Pierce

Motion Picture, Drama

The Descendants
The Help
The Ides Of March

Actor In A Motion Picture, Drama

George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender, Shame
Ryan Gosling, The Ides Of March
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Actress In A Motion Picture, Drama

Viola Davis, The Help
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton, We Need To Talk About Kevin
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

Motion Picture, Comedy

The Artist
Midnight In Paris
My Week With Marilyn

Actor In A Motion Picture, Comedy

Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Owen Wilson, Midnight In Paris
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 50/50
Ryan Gosling, Crazy, Stupid, Love

Actress In A Motion Picture, Comedy

Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Jodie Foster, Carnage
Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
Charlize Theron, Young Adult
Kate Winslet, Carnage

Supporting Actor In A Motion Picture

Albert Brooks, Drive
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method

Supporting Actress In A Motion Picture

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Octavia Spencer, The Help
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Best Director

Martin Scorcese, Hugo
George Clooney, The Ides of March
Michel Hazanvicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Woody Allen, Midnight In Paris

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The Artist, Michael Hazanavicius, France, Belgium 2011

There are few films I've awaited with similar anticipation: not only does The Artist go completely against the grain - it is, after all, a silent movie - it also promises to be visually stunning. Moreover, it revolves around a subject which is very dear to me: Hollywood history. Told in a nutshell, The Artist is about the advent of the talkies which subsequently led to the demise of some actors while it led to the rise of others.

Being about Hollywood history and the infancy of the studio era, The Artist also emulates the narrative of classic Hollywood films and consequently has a love story at its centre: that of an actress whose career takes off with the arrival of the talking while that of her love interest, a formerly famous actor, starts to decline. I can only guess, of course, but something tells me that Hazanavicius took his cue from the real-life love-affair of Greta Garbo's and John Gilbert whose career went downhill while Garbo's - having managed to make a smooth transition into sound - continued to rise.

With my expectations being sky-high, it remains to be seen if The Artist manages to live up to them.

Opening dates for The Artist across Europe:

Israel: January 12, 2012
Germany: January 26, 2012
Turkey: January 27, 2010
Portugal: February 2, 2012
Denmark: February 9, 2012
Sweden: February 10, 2012
Russia: February 16, 2012
Norway: February 24, 2012

The Artist was released in the UK on December 30, 2011 and - on a limited release - in the US on November 23, 2011.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Meryl Streep To Receive Honorary Golden Bear At The Berlin Film Festival

The Berlin Film Festival announced that it will bestow an honorary Golden Bear to Meryl Streep. Streep is to receive the award on February 14 at the Berlinale Palace.

Her latest film, The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd, UK 2011), is slated to screen out of competition at this year's film-fest.

Additionally, the following five Meryl Streep films will be shown at select Berlinale theatres across Berlin to commemorate her honorary Golden Bear:

Kramer vs. Kramer (Robert Benton, USA 1979) is the film that put her on the map and the one for which she received her first (of two) Academy Awards. Though only starring in a supporting role, Streep gives a strong performance as the troubled Joanna, a wife and mother who decides to desert her husband and son. Deemed maudlin and mainstream at the time, watching the film today the decision taken by Streep's character seems actually revolutionary. It certainly is a part that's unthinkable to come out of mainstream Hollywood such as it is today.

Sophie's Choice (Alan J. Pakula, USA 1982) was one of the first big Hollywood films to address the topic of the Holocaust. It followed Streep's breakthrough in the US mini series, Holocaust, which is credited with raising the awareness of the mass murder of Jews during WWII, not only in the US but internationally. It wasn't until Holocaust was shown on television across West-Germany that films dealing with the Holocaust slowly started to emerge in that country.

Out Of Africa (Sydney Pollack, USA 1985). It was Streep's biggest hit to date and a huge success in West-Germany. It is also one her most memorable performances, earning her her fifth Academy Award nomination, though in the end Streep lost out to Geraldine Page. On the downside, Out Of Africa is partly responsible for the fact that following her, albeit captivating, performance of the ill-fated Danish writer Karen Blixen, Streep was frequently typecast in tragic roles, belying her extraordinary comic talent and wit.

The Bridges Of Madison County (Clint Eastwood, USA 1995) was the culmination of Streep's parts as the woman struck by tragedy. Though it undoubtedly is once again a very commendable performance by her, had it been up to me, I would have selected Death Becomes Her (Robert Zemeckis, USA 1992), a much underrated film and one which brilliantly showcases Streep's unique talent for camp.

A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, USA 2005), aptly shows Streep's other talent as a singer, though again, to show that particular talent of hers I would have rather selected Silkwood (Mike Nichols, USA 1983), which has, in its end credits, a beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace, sung a capella by Streep. A Prairie Home Companion was Altman's last film. It had its world premiere at that year's Berlin Film Festival, with Streep in attendance.

Lastly, the Berlinale will screen Streep's latest, The Iron Lady (Phyllida Lloyd, UK 2011) which, it is my firm belief, will at long last earn her her third Academy Award: