ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—ganz frisch German language film, starts Thursday, January 29 at the Castro

It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer.  Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history. For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century.  His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery.  Arne Birkenstock’s “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery” (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him taking about the painting that blew it all up.  This fascinating Lola award winning documentary screens Sunday, Feb. 1, at 11 a.m., at the Castro Theater at the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, (Jan 29-Feb 3) which showcases over twenty of the newest and best German language films at the Castro and other select Bay Area venues.  Image: Arne Birkenstock

It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer. Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history. For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century. His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery. Arne Birkenstock’s “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery” (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him talking about the painting that blew it all up. This fascinating Lola award winning documentary screens Sunday, Feb. 1, at 11 a.m., at the Castro Theater at the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, (Jan 29-Feb 3) which showcases over twenty of the newest and best German language films at the Castro and other select Bay Area venues. Image: Arne Birkenstock

One film festival stands above most for consistently awesome programming—the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, which features the best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors and the crème of the crop of international collaborations from directors working beyond these borders.  The focus is German language cinema but it’s the exceptional storytelling, intense drama and highly cinematic nature of the films, and the complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects, that make this festival a stand-out.  The 19th Berlin & Beyond kicks off Thursday evening, January 29th, with a dazzling roster of tributes and special guests onstage and screenings of 20 feature length films and 4 shorts, including a healthy number of premieres.  Festival director Sophoan Sorn, at the helm for his fifth year now, has collaborated with Festival president Sabine Erlenwein to select films that showcase this year’s theme “In Search of Truth”—cinematic journeys that connect us with life-affirming and thought-provoking stories on life, love, loss and memory.

It all begins Thursday evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with a tribute to the legendary Bavarian actress Hannelore Elsner, Germany’s Catherine Deneuve, who has delighted film, television and theater audiences for the past 50 years.  I was introduced to her in 1994, when I was in Köln, and became addicted to the popular tv detective series, Die Kommissarin (The Inspector), where she played the brash and bruised by life Inspector, Lea Sommer, becoming the first female to play the role of a police inspector on German television.   Berlin & Beyond 19 will present Elsner with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Acting, celebrating her extraordinary career.  A special tribute program will lead the Opening Night screening of her latest film To Life! (Auf Das Leben, 2014).  Following the screening, the festival kicks off with an Opening Night Party at Tank18, one of the City’s finest wine bars.  The festival closes at the Castro venue on Sunday with Doris Dörrie’s The Whole Shebang (Alles Inklusive, 2014), with both Elsner and Dörrie in attendance.

German director Uwe Janson’s feature “To Life” (“Auf Das Leben,” 2014) has its US premiere Thursday evening when it opens the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. German actress Hannelore Elsner will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Elsner stars as a Jewish cabaret singer, down on her luck, in an unlikely love story with Max Riemelt, who plays Jonas, a 29-year-old on the run who arrives in Berlin just in time to save Ruth’s life. The film is an adaptation of Stephen Glantz’s “If Stones Could Cry.” Hannelore Elsner closes the festival too, with Doris Dörrie’s “The Whole Shebang” (“Alles Inklusive” 2014), an offbeat modern comedic romance set in Spain where Elsner plays an aging free-spirit recouping from hip surgery who decides to return to the Spanish beach where she spent the Summer of Love, 1967. Image courtesy: Berlin & Beyond

German director Uwe Janson’s feature “To Life” (“Auf Das Leben,” 2014) has its US premiere Thursday evening when it opens the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. German actress Hannelore Elsner will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Elsner stars as a Jewish cabaret singer, down on her luck, in an unlikely love story with Max Riemelt, who plays Jonas, a 29-year-old on the run who arrives in Berlin just in time to save Ruth’s life. The film is an adaptation of Stephen Glantz’s “If Stones Could Cry.” Hannelore Elsner closes the festival too, with Doris Dörrie’s “The Whole Shebang” (“Alles Inklusive” 2014), an offbeat modern comedic romance set in Spain where Elsner plays an aging free-spirit recouping from hip surgery who decides to return to the Spanish beach where she spent the Summer of Love, 1967. Image courtesy: Berlin & Beyond

“I Am the Keeper” (“Der Goalie Bin Ig”), the winner of four 2014 Swiss Film Awards, including Best Film, screens 4 PM Saturday, at the Castro, with director Sabine Boss in attendance.  Set in the late 1980’s, hedonist Ernst (Marcus Signer, 2014 Swiss Film Award Best Actor), whom everyone calls “Goalie,” returns to his small hometown of Schummertal after a year in prison. He wants a new start, this time without drugs. He looks for a job and falls in love with Regula (Sonja Riesen), a waitress who has a stabilizing impact.  But just as this strong-willed and somewhat naïve man seems to have gotten on the right track, his past catches up with him and the claustrophobic atmosphere of this small town closes in to suffocate him.  A dark comedy, rich in nuances, the film is an adaptation of Pedro Lenz’s award-winning 2010 novel of the same name. The film is spoken in Bernese German, the dialect of High Alemannic German spoken in the Swiss plateau (Mittelland) part of the canton of Bern and in some neighboring regions.

“I Am the Keeper” (“Der Goalie Bin Ig”), the winner of four 2014 Swiss Film Awards, including Best Film, screens 4 PM Saturday, at the Castro, with director Sabine Boss in attendance. Set in the late 1980’s, hedonist Ernst (Marcus Signer, 2014 Swiss Film Award Best Actor), whom everyone calls “Goalie,” returns to his small hometown of Schummertal after a year in prison. He wants a new start, this time without drugs. He looks for a job and falls in love with Regula (Sonja Riesen), a waitress who has a stabilizing impact. But just as this strong-willed and somewhat naïve man seems to have gotten on the right track, his past catches up with him and the claustrophobic atmosphere of this small town closes in to suffocate him. A dark comedy, rich in nuances, the film is an adaptation of Pedro Lenz’s award-winning 2010 novel of the same name. The film is spoken in Bernese German, the dialect of High Alemannic German spoken in the Swiss plateau (Mittelland) part of the canton of Bern and in some neighboring regions.

This year, German actor Ronald Zehrfeld will be honored with the first-ever Berlin & Beyond Film Festival Spotlight Award in Acting and three of his latest films will be screened—Inbetween Worlds (Zwischen Welten, 2014), The Kings Surrender (Wir Waren Könige, 2014) and Phoenix (2014).  The Spotlight Award will be presented on Friday, January 30, at the Northern California Premiere of Inbetween Worlds, at the Castro.

Berlin & Beyond continues to bring rare gems to its audiences, including the first-ever international screening of Marcus H. Rosenmüller’s Best Chance (Beste Chance, 2014), and the North American premiere of the four-time Swiss Film Award winner, I Am The Keeper (Der Goalie Bin Ig, 2014) with director Sabine Boss in attendance.   Also lighting up the screen are highly-anticipated works from the festival circuit: Austrian auteur Jessica Hausner’s Cannes selection Amour Fou (2014); Swiss filmmaker Peter Luisi’s Locarno Audience Award winner, Unlikely Heroes (Schweizer Helden, 2014); Oscar-winner Caroline Link’s return to Africa with the father-and-son journey film, Exit Marrakech (2014) as the festival Centerpiece. Samuel Schneider, who plays 17 year-old-Ben will be in attendance.

In addition to the main Castro Theater venue, there are additional screenings on Feb 1-2 at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street), Feb 2 at the Aquarius Theater, Palo Alto, and Feb 3 at the California Theatre, Berkeley.

For more information and tickets, browse the festival’s official website and stay tuned to ARThound for additional coverage.

In German filmmaker Caroline Link’s finely crafted “Exit Marrakech” 17-year-old Ben (Samuel Schneider) travels to Marrakech during the summer holidays in order to spend time with his divorced father Heinrich (Ulrich Tukur), a celebrated director who is staging his latest play there. Ben, who has the suite of attitude issues accompanying his age, is fed-up with his father and strikes out on his own with two members of Heinrich’s local crew only to connect with a young prostitute, Karima (Hafsia Herzi), in a seedy nightclub.  He accompanies her to her remote village in the Atlas Mountains where her conservative family does not take a liking to him.  While Ben is out exploring, Heinrich grows increasingly worried and comes looking for him.  What ensues is a father son road-trip, as much an emotional journey as a captivating declaration of love to the smells, music, colors and moods of Morocco.

In German filmmaker Caroline Link’s finely crafted “Exit Marrakech” 17-year-old Ben (Samuel Schneider) travels to Marrakech during the summer holidays in order to spend time with his divorced father Heinrich (Ulrich Tukur), a celebrated director who is staging his latest play there. Ben, who has the suite of attitude issues accompanying his age, is fed-up with his father and strikes out on his own with two members of Heinrich’s local crew only to connect with a young prostitute, Karima (Hafsia Herzi), in a seedy nightclub. He accompanies her to her remote village in the Atlas Mountains where her conservative family does not take a liking to him. While Ben is out exploring, Heinrich grows increasingly worried and comes looking for him. What ensues is a father son road-trip, as much an emotional journey as a captivating declaration of love to the smells, music, colors and moods of Morocco.

The Line-up for the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival:

CASTRO THEATRE

Thursday, January 29, 2015

6:30 pm Opening Night Film: TO LIFE!

8:30 OPENING PARTY @ Tank18

9:15 pm STEREO

Friday, January 30, 2015

10:00 am RUN BOY RUN

1:30 pm MACONDO

4:00 pm MY SISTERS

6:30 pm INBETWEEN WORLDS

9:15 pm THE KINGS SURRENDER

Saturday, January 31, 2015

11:00 am ALPHABET

1:00 pm THIS LOVELY SHITTY LIFE

4:00 pm I AM THE KEEPER

7:00 pm EXIT MARRAKECH

10:00 pm DARK VALLEY

Sunday, February 1, 2015

11:00 am BELTRACCHI – THE ART OF FORGERY

1:00 pm UNLIKELY HEROES

3:30 pm AMOUR FOU

6:00 pm BEST CHANCE

8:30 pm THE WHOLE SHEBANG

GOETHE-INSTITUT AUDITORIUM, San Francisco

Sunday, February 1, 2015

1:00 pm MISSION SPUTNIK

3:00 pm MIND TRIPS Shorts 2015

5:30 pm VULVA 3.0

Monday, February 2, 2015

6:00 pm CONCRETE LOVE – THE BÖHM FAMILY

8:00 pm MY SISTERS

CALIFORNIA THEATRE, Berkeley 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5:00 pm BELTRACCHI – THE ART OF FORGERY

7:00 pm BEST CHANCE

9:15 pm INBETWEEN WORLDS

Details: The 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival runs Thursday, Jan 29-Sunday, Feb 1 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (near Market), San Francisco; Sunday; Sunday, Feb 1-2 at the Goethe-Institut, 530 Bush Street, San Francisco; Monday, Feb 2 at Aquarius Theatre, 430 Emerson St., Palo Alto and Tuesday, Feb. 3 at the (Landmark) California Theatre, 2113 Kittredge St., between Oxford and Shattuck, Berkley.

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January 29, 2015 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

film review: Séraphine–Yolande Moreau shines as she scrubs, paints, chants

Yolande Moreau as Séraphine

Yolande Moreau as Séraphine, Music Box Films

I’ve been waiting to see Séraphine, the French film about naïve painter Séraphine Louis aka Séraphine de Senlis that swept France, gathering 7 Cesars for best film, best screenplay, best cinematography, best sound, best costumes, best décor, and best actress for Yolande Moreau.  It was worth it.  I left the theatre both nourished and disturbed by this film and got in my car and found myself chanting to the top of my lungs, self-soothing in the very fashion of the film’s heroine, Séraphine.  We are all a little crazy and some of us have access to resources that lighten the load and allow us to excel and be celebrated while others among us stagger and buckle in obscurity.  The film asks us to consider the rare circumstances that must come into play for artistic genius to flourish.

Belgium-born Moreau delivers the performance of a lifetime embodying a woman whose creative light will not be dimmed by her status, environment, lack of recognition, formal education or war.  Whether we see Séraphine’s cup as half-empty or half full, or both is left for us to decide.  The film is set in the small village of Senlis, France, northeast of Paris, and begins in 1914, when war in France is eminent.  The film starts slowly, introducing us to Séraphine through her long and drudging daily routine as a maid.  Middle-aged and ragged from wear, she is both ordinary and extraordinary all at once and that is what makes Yolande Moreau’s performance so captivating.  The film also focuses on German

Yolande Moreau as Séraphine with Ulrich Tukur as German art dealer Williams Uhde

Yolande Moreau as Séraphine with Ulrich Tukur as German art dealer Williams Uhde, Music Box Films

 critic and collector William Uhde  (Ulrich Tukur) who worked with several prominent artists early in their careers including Picasso and Henry “Le Douanier” Rousseau.  Uhde, who resides in Paris, has rented a room for the summer in Senlis with his sophisticate female sister.

Uhde and Séraphine have very limited interaction until he stumbles upon her artwork at a dinner party hosted by his gadfly landlady who mocks Séraphine’s small floral work stashed in the corner.  In a single glance, Uhde responds to the raw power of this piece, buys it on the spot, and leaves the party.  Hence begins his important and complex relationship with Séraphine whose art nurtures his sole and inspires him to organize a show for her in Paris “when the time is right.”  Uhde gives Séraphine the all-important push and respect that she needs to take herself seriously as an artist.  As Séraphine labors by day scrubbing floors in the villa and washing bedding down by the river, Uhde demands more and more of her attention.  She works through the nights passionately painting on whatever materials she can scrounge—typically small and warped pieces of wood– with paints she mixes herself from pilfered materials like candle wax and blood or plants she collects in the countryside.  There is something tender in their interaction—she admires his lovely handwriting and expresses empathy for his depressive state, while he attempts to nurture her talent.  His attention inspires her and her unique tableaus of sprawling botanicals pour forth, pulsing with life force and seeming to dance before the eye.

Yolande Moreau as Séraphine

Yolande Moreau as Séraphine, Music Box Films

Uhde’s dream of introducing her work to the Parisian art world is waylaid by the start of WWI and he has to flee back to Germany with his sister.  He leaves Séraphine with some cash and the two don’t meet again until many years have passed.   At this point, Séraphine is down on her luck and battling inner demons but has been painting steadily sustained by her belief that she is being guided by her guardian angel and that her act of painting is a holy ordained act

Uhde sees the tremendous growth in her work and the two fall into agrrement that he will support her while she devotes herself to her art.  Séraphine gradually achieves some recognition commensurate with her talent and the money starts to flow but she spends capriciously.  Unequipped for her newfound success, she begins a devastating emotional decline that ulitmately leaves her instituionized.   

Director Martin Provost keeps a tight focus on the complex relationship between Séraphine and Uhde who live and suffer through each other.  Moreau steals the show.  Her weathered face is astonishingly evocative and at times seems lit from within.  Tukur is also great as the troubled art dealer, ever in search of great art, living to collect.

Séraphine, at Bay Area theatres,  directed by Martin Provost.  In French with English subtitles. (Not rated, 125 minutes)

August 16, 2009 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment