Barry Frydlender, Flood, 2003, color print, 49 3/16“ x 7' 10”.


EPOS, ISRAEL’S ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL of art film and film about art and artists, belongs to a small and exclusive club, of which FIFA, Montreal’s International Festival of Films on Art, is the best-known member. This year, Epos’s third, it clearly made its mark on the Israeli arts scene, hosting forty-nine films from seventeen countries and ten guest artists, drawing some twelve thousand spectators to the Tel Aviv Museum’s new building at the center of Israel’s culture kilometer. The festival’s mandate: to acknowledge the international, to support the periphery, to elevate the local.

As the screened films conversed, a number of questions arose: Is the art/artist firmly resident in one place, one culture, one nation? What is the impact of itinerant artists, forging alliances that span national borders? Are filmmakers and artists negotiating new forms of community? Are filmmakers and audiences interested in “genius,” “outsiders,” “my life/my art,” “buzz”? What Epos proposed was the possibility of entering into a meaningful intercultural meditation on the nature of artmaking. It was clear that the issue of “nation” was not at all as obsolete here as it is in certain artistic or political circles. Nation and community were core concepts, still perceived as relevant to imagination and key to understanding complex cultural structures. And so, Epos exists first of all for us, its audience, who packed the halls, who came to have art experiences different from daily life, to view world arts without an airline ticket, to tell ourselves our own stories, and, as Polish filmmaker Lech Majewski, auteur-in-residence, put it, “to spend time with artists.”

Majewski’s haunting visual style in The Mill and the Cross, his dense, layered cinematic meeting with Bruegel’s masterful painting The Way to Calvary, 1564, held its audience in thrall, and his discussion of the artistic team’s work on the film, three years in the making, was a highlight of the festival’s artists’ talks and workshops. Majewski’s description of the figures in the painting—“they don’t give a flying fuck about you”—could perhaps only be delivered before an open mike in a seminar room filled with young filmmakers. “Bruegel draws you in by ignoring you,” Majewski continued, “just as he hid his hero, Christ, covering him with daily life.” Astonished at discovering seven different junctions of perspective in the Bruegel, each with its own POV, he noted the 147 layers then needed to bring these perspectives together on a computer, and the nine months to complete the editing. It’s an electronic alchemy of the painting’s activities and atrocities, allowing a leap from Mill to Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others, compelling us to acknowledge the shock and awfulness of both looking and looking away. Mill brought a unique Polish intensity to a country that carries its own founders’-generation baggage. Just as Bruegel created a Flemish Calvary, Majewski created a Polish Flanders, borrowing the film’s language from a Polish village whose citizens, ancestors of sixteenth-century immigrants, spoke a fossilized Flamand, now recorded. On what burial mound of Poland, I asked him, does your work on Mill rest? “Ultimately,” he said, “you carry your nation and culture’s inner landscape, so that if you haven’t sold your soul, you bring back the music of your formative years. You are from where you are from; it’s inescapable.”

Left: Lech Majewski, The Mill and the Cross, 2011, still from a color film, 92 minutes. Right: Michal Rovner, Makom II and Makom IV, 2011. Installation view, the Louvre, Paris. Photo: Ardon Bar-Hama.


Art in Israel is not possible without political reflection. The local is violent and abnormal. Every artwork then becomes a model of how to construct meaning, creating art alongside unsolvable problems. Michal Rovner, one of the subjects of Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon’s Out in the World: Four Israeli Artists, gathers stones from the ruins of houses in Jerusalem, Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah, all problemed places. Calling her work Makom (Place), Rovner looks for a way to construct habitat from the stones, to speak of cultures destroyed and disappeared. She and her craftsmen—Arab, Jew, Druze—do the nigh impossible, for she will not cut the stones to have them fit one another. “I wanted the stones and the people who work with the stones to be from different places, to come together.” The ravaged and stunning structures she creates are neither Arab nor Israeli. Makom found its place on the huge public plaza before the pyramid entry to the Louvre in Paris, thus melding the artwork’s geographic specificity, its ties to its home-space, with a conferral of authority abroad.

Photographer Barry Frydlender shoots from out his window. A group of children wait to enter an army museum. The downtrodden Tel Aviv neighborhood is near the sea. It’s raining. The atmosphere is dark. Flood. Frydlender’s images are made over time: “It’s not one instant; it’s many instants put together,” he explains. There are lots of vantage points, hidden points of view, no one center. You actually have to read the image. His Flood is based on four hundred images that took two months to photograph, six months to edit. “During this time,” he says, “I introduce the meaning into the image. I always leave some marks to show the artifice that only the computer enables.” In 1988 Frydlender joined a group of photographers on a guided tour of the occupied territories. He photographed the photographers taking their shots. After that there were a few years in which he didn’t photograph at all. “My days: I wake, I walk, I sit with friends, I swim—a way to deal with the tension. There is not another city that has so many missiles targeting it as Tel Aviv.”

Finally, there is Wisława Szymborska, Poland’s Nobel Laureate in Literature (1996) addressing film and art and artists in her acceptance speech:

Great films can be made of the lives of scientists and artists, but poets offer far less promising material. Their work is hopelessly unphotogenic. Someone sits at a table or lies on a sofa while staring motionless at a wall or ceiling. Once in a while this person writes down seven lines, only to cross out one of them fifteen minutes later, and then another hour passes during which nothing happens. Who could stand to watch this kind of thing?

Film seems to belong to us. Art, in its filmed evocations, assures us that parts of us will not collapse, that, as the title of Katarzyna Kolenda-Zaleska’s 2010 documentary on Szymborska declares, Life is bearable at times.

Annabelle Winograd

Epos 3 ran February 1–4, 2012 in Tel Aviv.

Past Lives

02.27.12

Héléna Klotz, L’Âge atomique (The Atomic Age), 2011, still from a color film, 67 minutes.


THE BERLINALE’S final week jerked to a close, with most of the Saturday afternoon screenings half-empty due to a citywide transit strike, only to be madly replenished on Sunday’s Audience Day, whose ticketing system favors the general public rather than festival badges. Half-felt tips, bets, and assertions were traded among friends and industry insiders, but no single endorsement resounded. Consensus affirmed that, while not terrible, this year’s festival featured a less-than-spectacular program. There was a discernible lack of gut-punching “Mmph!” moments, a fact that gradually gave even the most seasoned festivalgoer a sense of anxiety. (“Is it just that I’m somehow missing all the good films?”) In this context, few could take the awards very seriously; anyway, the Berlinale’s strongest moments were either out of competition or confined to the Panorama and Forum sections.

One such moment was L’Âge atomique (The Atomic Age), a beautiful vision of platonic love between two teenage outcasts in a dystopic Paris nightscape. The film’s lush sound track of witch house leads me to think that the underlying aesthetic ambition was a cinematicization of that musical genre; director Héléna Klotz seems to have grasped the fundamental romanticism of the sound and matched it with her two New New Romantics, who swim in the bile of present-tense uncertainty.

Another strong point was Matthias Glasner’s Gnade (Mercy). The film’s premise recalls Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman (2008) transposed onto the freezing, sunless winter of Hammerfest, Norway, which claims to be the northernmost city on the planet. What makes this psychological drama work is the way suspense is subtly, delicately knitted into the story, in which a young mother runs over a sixteen-year-old girl and gets away with it . . . Or does she? Billy Bob Thornton could learn a lot from Gnade’s script. His second feature, Jayne Mansfield’s Car, a hilarious probing of the 1960s via the culture clash between an old American Southern family and their British marital relatives, manages to fizzle out so flatly that the film would most certainly win Anticlimax of the Year, if such an award were offered.

This was a particularly weak edition for documentary film. One of the few exceptions was Werner Herzog, chair of last year’s jury, who returned for a special screening of his new series of Death Row portraits. Consisting largely of simple one-on-one interviews with prisoners awaiting their final injection, these films reveal that guilt and innocence are far from the black-and-white categories that the American justice system insists on. If there’s anything to complain about, it’s that the made-for-TV formatting lends some of the interviews a claustrophobic brevity; one yearns for more of the director’s interjections, which always succeed in mesmerizing the viewer in his feature-length documentaries.

I missed out on Iron Sky, the sci-fi Nazi-UFO B movie that elicited one of the few mass murmurs of interest during the festival. But I saw the real thing (Nazis, not UFOs) in Blut Muss Fliessen (Blood Must Flow), a documentary by Peter Ohlendorf consisting of secret footage shot by an undercover investigative journalist at neo-Nazi skinhead concerts in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, and Hungary over the past six years. The slightly hysterical Q&A following the screening was almost as fascinating as the material, and again reminded me of Germany’s ongoing struggle to come to terms with the horrors of its past. Similarly, Green Laser, John Greyson’s imaginative, short protest doc about struggles against oppression in the Gaza Strip, was greeted by dead silence from its audience of mostly middle-aged and older Germans, for whom any endorsement of the Palestinian cause implies a latent anti-Semitism. Showing Green Laser before Dagmar Schultz’s Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years was either a major programming blunder or an ingenious act of provocation, depending on your position.

Travis Jeppesen

The 62nd Berlin International Film Festival ran February 9–19.

Morose Code

02.24.12

Joshua Marston, The Forgiveness of Blood, 2010, color film in HD, 109 minutes.


DIRECTOR JOSHUA MARSTON is nothing if not bold. Resistant to the usual foray into the provincial corners of Americana typical of so many independent filmmakers, he prefers grappling with foreign cultures. Though one might question the wisdom of this preference, Marston (who lived abroad and was a correspondent for ABC during the first Gulf War) has fared well, garnering critical acclaim and awards for his first feature, Maria Full of Grace (2004), about Colombian drug mules, and Best Screenplay—cowritten with Andamion Murataj—at the Berlin Film Festival for his new film. Set in Albania, The Forgiveness of Blood (2010) examines the paradox of a culture that bears the signs of encroaching capitalism while adhering to outdated methods of social interaction. Young people play video games and use cell phones, shadowed by archaic codes of conduct that endanger their very lives.

The story focuses on the effects of one such code on the children of a typical family of a small village. The patriarch, refused passageway on a road by a neighboring farmer, returns with his brother to murder the farmer. (The war between the Hatfields and the McCoys of a bygone era of American history comes to mind.) While the brother goes to jail for having done the actual killing, the father, alleging innocence, goes into hiding, making clandestine visits to his family. According to the Kanun, the Albanian code dating back to the fifteenth century that rules such conflicts, the injured family assumes the right to take revenge by killing a male member of the perpetrator’s family. In this case, the oldest son, Nik (Tristan Halilaj), as the likely target, must live under “voluntary” house arrest—at the expense of his education, his social life, and his newfound love interest—until such time as the feud is resolved by mediation or otherwise. The former proves difficult when a potential mediator asks for more money than the family can afford. It doesn’t help that Nik’s sister Rudina’s (Sindi Lacej) efforts to peddle her bread are thwarted and she is forced to sell the family horse for much less than it is worth.

Bored and disgusted with the absurdity of the system and his father’s complicit acceptance of it, Nik wonders whether the man should serve jail time rather than put his family through such an ordeal. But when his father is arrested and then released, the danger only increases. Desperate, Nik confronts the rival family, seeking peace, but is willing to die rather than live under these conditions. Impressed by his courage, the grandfather of that family tells him he must leave the village to avoid being killed. Against his mother’s wishes, but with his father’s blessing, he does just that. Rather than imply this is the best solution, however, Marston’s final shot is not of Nik walking off to a better life, but of Rudina, no less a victim of the backward culture, doomed to confront a dismal future.

Although Albanian films have dealt with blood feuds, their accent, according to Marston, is on the killings and the action around them. Marston is less interested in the inherent melodrama of the subject and the violence associated with it than with the young people whose lives are effectively ruined. In fact, the entire phenomenon would appear to be even more outlandish for recent generations since, according to press notes, “only one such blood feud was recorded during the forty-year reign of the communist regime,” while in the vacuum created by the collapse of communism, the Kanun code reemerged as an unsanctioned alternative to a convoluted legal system. Thus, for young people, the reappearance of such a code might well lack the enduring glue of an unchallenged tradition. Then there is the Kanun itself, which, unlike the Ten Commandments, for example, is hardly a text memorized and cited by everyone, but largely an oral tradition, subject to arbitrary interpretation and random misuse.

Compatible with the accent Marston has chosen, his film has a leisurely, almost uneventful pace—not unlike that of Maria Full of Grace—seemingly at odds with the tension and action-oriented potential of the material. This subdued dramatizing imposes an unsettling ordinariness on a horrific state of affairs, which nicely mirrors the unquestioning manner in which the elders accept the code. In general, it is easy to underestimate what Marston does: His actors are affecting and credible without being showy, and his camerawork is direct without being intrusive. That this restrained visual and narrative style works is a sure sign of a confidence that has served him well and should continue to do so.

Tony Pipolo

The Forgiveness of Blood opens in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and in Los Angeles at Landmark Sunshine Cinema on Friday, February 24.

Group Think

02.22.12

Left: Elizabeth LeCompte and Ken Kobland, Flaubert Dreams of Travel but the Illness of His Mother Prevents It, 1986, still from a color video, 20 minutes. Right: Ken Kobland, The Toy Sun, 2011, still from a color video, 32 minutes.


A CONCISE RETROSPECTIVE of film and video works by Ken Kobland, one of the least known and most accomplished American experimental moviemakers, has been scheduled as a postscript to Anthology Film Archives’ inclusive, fascinating series of movies made by and about the Wooster Group (as well as movies that simply feature past and present members, among them Willem Dafoe, Spalding Gray, Kate Valk, and Ron Vawter). As a longtime media collaborator with the Woosters, Kobland codirected with Elizabeth LeCompte many of the pieces in this series, but his talent and skills as a film and video maker also stand on their own.

The three programs in the series, titled simply “Ken Kobland” (February 24–26), reflect the evolution of Kobland’s moviemaking from his early, lyrical, minimalist, 16-mm films, Frame (1975) and Vestibule (1978), to his most recent digital work, the dense, despairing The Toy Sun (2011). Kobland’s concerns have been remarkably consistent: the connection of memory to place; the layering and fragmentation of imagery; the mixing of actual interior and exterior places with theatrical backdrops and flats representing the same; the frequent use of oblique (“Dutch”) angles; the tension between image and sound and more problematically between image and language. T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets (1943) is a touchstone, with the opening of “Burnt Norton” (“Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future, / And time future contained in time past. / If all time is eternally present / All time is unredeemable. [. . .]”) quoted and pondered in movies separated by decades: The Communists Are Comfortable (1984–88) and the aforementioned The Toy Sun, and others in between. A recording of “The Internationale” occurs with similar frequency. Marx and Eliot, that’s a hellish pair.

At least three movies should not be missed. In The Toy Sun (February 25 at 8 PM, on a program with the radiant travel diary Ideas of Order in Cinque Terre [2005]), Kobland turns a digital editing system into a philosophizing machine while paying homage to Gordon Matta-Clark. The Communists Are Comfortable and Flaubert Dreams of Travel but the Illness of His Mother Prevents It (1986) are, at the least, among the strongest, most moving experimental movies of the last two decades of the twentieth century, and the passage of time has if anything rendered them more potent.

The Communists Are Comfortable (March 1 at 7 PM, playing in a Wooster Group series although solely directed by Kobland) springs from the filmmaker’s early childhood memories of living in the Parkchester section of the Bronx, surrounded by communists and fellow travelers. The film combines clips of Hollywood melodrama and terrifying fragments of World War II newsreels with scripted sequences written by Jim Strahs and actual detail. (The repeated shot of a hand moving over a radiator grate while out the window one sees what must have been the limits of a child’s vision says everything about the complicity of touch and sight in activating memory.) American avant-garde film has had an uneasy relationship with acting, but here the Wooster Group performers, particularly Vawter and Gray, are stunning; their quiet discontent, not to mention their impeccable timing, are at one with the delicate, sensory fabric of the piece.

Flaubert Dreams of Travel (February 22 at 9 PM, on a program of three short films made for use in Wooster Group theater pieces) evokes an altered state of consciousness in ways that are both ecstatic and despairing. It’s simply the best LSD movie ever. The premise seems to be that the members of the Wooster Group are hanging out in some cheap motel room and have ingested some powerful hallucinatory substance, perhaps in preparation for a rehearsal of their theater piece Frank Dell’s The Temptation of Saint Antony (1988). The room vibrates, the walls threatening to dissolve. You hear what seems to be a barely audible radio/TV combo tuning in to all the frequencies of your life. Everything you believed in falls apart. Sexual difference is a macabre joke; communism has failed, and so has modernism. The movie is a twenty-odd-minute elegy for the twentieth century. Godard has done no better. I want the sound track played at my funeral.

Amy Taubin

The retrospective “Ken Kobland” runs February 24–26 at Anthology Film Archives in New York. Some films noted above will screen as part of other programs at Anthology, including Flaubert Dreams of Travel but the Illness of His Mother Prevents It (February 22 at 9 PM) and The Communists Are Comfortable (March 1 at 7 PM).

Left: The Wooster Group, House/Lights, 1999. Performance view. Kate Valk. Photo: Paula Court. Right: The Wooster Group, Rumstick Road, 1977. Performance view. Spalding Gray. Photo: Elizabeth LeCompte.


NEW YORK’S WOOSTER GROUP is renowned for the incorporation of film and video in its theatrical productions. In To You, the Birdie! (Phèdre) (2002), for example, video mediates live action, as monitors placed in front of the actors’ lower halves show their movements both delayed and sped up. In the 2003 version of Brace Up!, on the other hand, one character appears entirely on video: translator Paul Schmidt, who had died since his appearance in the original production in 1991. The company’s 2007 Hamlet set its actors the task of re-creating a 1964 filmed staging, directed by John Gielgud and starring Richard Burton, projected behind them. Film is also used as an element of collage or commentary: House/Lights (1998) is a mash-up of Gertrude Stein’s Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights and the 1964 B movie Olga’s House of Shame, scenes of which are screened onstage.

Numerous productions since the Wooster Group’s founding in 1975, however, have included videos produced by and featuring the company. These are now on view in Anthology Film Archives’ retrospective “The Wooster Group in Film and Video,” along with stand-alone video works not destined for the theater and, finally, straight documentation of productions. The series, organized by Wooster Group archivist Clay Hapaz, spans the company’s career thus far: The very first program (which will be screened again on February 23) features clips from its inaugural production, Sakonnet Point (1975)—as well as from the three following plays that comprise Three Places in Rhode Island (1977–79)—and a current work-in-progress documentary about the group.

The videos vary in quality—that is, both content and condition. The earliest works, which have never been revived, will be of greatest appeal to Wooster devotees, but the clips of Three Places are so short, and the video and audio at times so degraded, as to be basically unintelligible to those not familiar with the original productions. The Road to Immortality is more edifying, featuring excerpts from three controversial productions: Route 1 & 9 (1981), in which Our Town meets Pigmeat Markham, with an infamous blackface routine that cost the group funding from the New York State Council on the Arts; L.S.D. ( . . . Just the High Points . . . ) (1984), which mixes The Crucible with quotes from Timothy Leary, although the presence of the Arthur Miller text was diminished after a cease-and-desist letter from the playwright; and Frank Dell’s The Temptation of St. Antony (1988), a reimagining of Flaubert’s poem from the point of view of Lenny Bruce and the Channel J soft-porn TV station.

Anthology is also screening complete recordings of a number of productions, including Brace Up!, To You, the Birdie! (Phèdre), House/Lights, and North Atlantic (1984), as well as two early dance pieces, Hula (1981) and For the Good Times (1982). Most of the videos present a static view of the entire stage, but the filming of House/Lights is more considered, featuring close-ups and shots from different angles. The Emperor Jones (1993) was entirely reconceived for video in 1999, but the purposely rough green-screen effects distract from the legendary lead performance by Kate Valk, a founding member of the company.

Other evenings showcase the short films featured in Wooster Group productions as well as two full-length works included in 1990s Whitney Biennials that, according to the Anthology program, have been “rarely seen since.” All of these were made with filmmaker Ken Kobland, whose retro aesthetic contrasts with the contemporary, technophilic approach of the group’s theater. (Immediately following the Wooster Group series, Anthology will be screening additional films by Kobland over three evenings.)

Altogether, Anthology’s series presents an impressive overview of the Wooster Group’s oeuvre, but it is necessarily handicapped: This is clearly not the best way to watch live theater. At a time when museums are turning away from film and video documentation in favor of reperformance, more art-centric audiences might wonder why the Wooster Group doesn’t just do the same. The answer, of course, is that a full theatrical production requires extensive rehearsal time and is much more expensive to mount than, say, the simple performer-and-ponytail setup of Marina Abramović and Ulay’s Relation in Time, 1977. Yet, while the Wooster Group has frequently revived productions, it has never restaged works from the late 1970s and early ’80s. On February 20 at Anthology, company director Elizabeth LeCompte and Kobland will present their efforts to reconstruct Rumstick Road (1977) through Super 8 and video footage, photographs, and audio. The production is intimately tied to the late Spalding Gray, another founding member. Perhaps LeCompte views Gray as irreplaceable, but the preference for film over performance comes across as more conservative than the group’s reputation would suggest. Or might the archival project be a first step toward a revival? That might be the biggest treat to come out of Anthology’s series.

Interestingly, the Wooster Group has recently embraced video as a way to attract new viewers online. In 2010, realizing that its audiences were declining, the company began posting short videos on its website—these include clips from its archive as well as footage of the group rehearsing, performing, and even commenting directly to the camera. This kind of YouTube-ready backstage confessional might seem irrelevant to what true fans want from the Wooster Group, but it could be the final stage in the demystification of the theater company.

Nikki Columbus

“The Wooster Group in Film and Video” runs through Thursday, February 23, at Anthology Film Archives in New York. “The Wooster Group at Large,” a program of experimental films and videos featuring members of the company, runs February 24–March 1.

Left: Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On, 2012, still from a color video in HD, 101 minutes. Right: Ann-Kristin Reyels, Formentera, 2012,* still from a color film, 93 minutes.


IN RETROSPECT, 2011 was a great year for cinema. That year’s Berlinale memorably served as a barometer for bold statements, which ranged from Béla Tarr’s stark essay on finitude, The Turin Horse, to the sweeping AIDS documentary We Were Here. The prospects for 2012 are rather more humble, if the current edition of the Berlinale (or at least what I’d seen by its halfway mark) is any indication.

One of the more pervasive trends is a shift away from the macro (large, worldly issues) and toward the micro (personal, domestic crises). Is this to be the year of the Relationship Movie? Two films that both happen to star Thure Lindhardt—Formentera and Keep the Lights On—epitomize this direction. The former, directed by Ann-Kristin Reyels, analyzes a young professional couple from Berlin vacationing among aging hippies on the eponymous Spanish island. He wants to run away from it all and relocate there with their young child; she feels content with their life back home and fathoms that his desire to flee is grounded in his secret unhappiness with their marriage. In Ira Sachs’s Keep the Lights On, Lindhardt plays a gay documentary filmmaker attached to a young lawyer whose struggles with addiction threaten to implode their relationship. The plot is fairly rote and at times hovers dangerously close to cliché—though I suppose it serves a political purpose, showing, in the raging topical arena surrounding gay marriage, that queer couples can be just as miserable as their hetero counterparts.

Of course, with a program as vast as the Berlinale’s, which features several hundred films in ten sections, there are always surprises. Finding them is often a matter of luck. So far, the Zellner Brothers’ Kid Thing tops my list of fortunate accidents; its prepubescent, white trash antiheroine sorts through the refuse of the American heartland and contributes her own bit of pitiless violence to the pile. When Annie (Sydney Aguirre) discovers a woman trapped in a hole in the ground in a remote forest, she runs away, believing it to be the devil. Eventually she must grapple with whether it is in her moral fiber to help another person. The film is, in many ways, disgusting and difficult to watch; its few characters (cripples, drunks, sadists: human derelicts) and their crude, pointless activities are all as unsympathetic as the protagonist herself. At the same time, the film’s stylistic cunning makes it hard to look the other way: Conjure a world populated with living Duane Hanson sculptures and photographed by Jeff Wall. Kid Thing could very well be the scariest slice of Americana Ugliana since Harmony Korine’s Gummo (1997).

Among those making their feature debuts this year is Zainichi Korean director Yong-hi Yang. Her previous documentaries explored her estrangement from her brothers, who as teenagers were sent by their parents to study in North Korea and were never able to return to Japan. Kazoku no kuni (Our Homeland) uses this fascinating autobiographical material to animate the story of a son who is permitted to come home after twenty-five years to seek medical treatment for a brain tumor. The film owes its success to an ensemble of powerhouse performances, headed by Iura Arata as the traumatized son.

Other worthwhile endeavors include flashy festival opener Les Adieux à la reine (Farewell, My Queen), director Benoît Jacquot’s chronicle of the last days of Versailles from the perspective of Marie Antoinette’s reader; timely documentaries on Marina Abramović and Ai Weiwei; and a handful of cinematic installations included in two of the four Forum Expanded exhibitions I managed to attend, “Kritik und Klinik” and “Gutschow-Haus.” We’ll see what the remaining days hold in store.

Travis Jeppesen

The 62nd Berlin International Film Festival runs February 9–19.