Best Movies Of The 64th Berlin International Film Festival

March 14, 2014

The 64th Berlin International Film Festival, or Berlinale, was held in Germany in February 2014. Here is a look at the prizewinning films of the fest, which closed on Sunday, February 16th.

1. Black Coal, Thin Ice (Bai Ri Ban Huo)

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Chinese director Diao Yinan’s third film is a mystery starring Liao Fan as Zhang, a disgraced ex-police officer. Zhang is a security guard in a factory where several murders have occurred. He discovers that all the victims have a connection to female who works at the local dry cleaners – the same woman Zhang himself is falling for.

With a down-on-his-luck detective and a femme fatale as main characters, “Black Coal, Thin Ice” hearkens back to classic film noir with a modern Chinese twist. The film was awarded the Golden Bear for Best Film at the festival, and Liao Fan received the Silver Bear for Best Actor.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Wes Anderson’s new feature, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, has a glittering cast headed by Ralph Fiennes as the manager of the Grand Budapest, a luxury hotel that hosts a series of eccentric guests.

When an elderly guest (Tilda Swinton) dies and leaves a valuable painting to the manager, it sets off a dizzying plot as Fiennes must fend off suspicious authorities and angry relatives of the old lady. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is Anderson’s first movie to screen at the Berlin festival since 2005’s “The Life Aquatic”, and took the Jury Grand Prix this year.

3. Boyhood

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Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” is an amazing accomplishment, a fiction feature film over a decade in the making. In a series of linked vignettes, Linklater tells the story of Mason (Ellar Coltrane), who observes his world and family (his parents are played by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) as he grows from boyhood to adolescence in Texas.

The twist is that Linklater filmed the movie a section at a time over nearly twelve years, so that we see the characters growing and aging as the actors do. For his unique achievement, Linklater received the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival.

4. The Little House (Chiisai Ouchi)

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After his elderly aunt dies, her nephew reads her memoir of her younger years during the time when Japan was at war in the 1930s and 1940s.

Taki looks back on her time as a maid to a bourgeois couple, and her struggles between duty and sympathy as she came to realize her mistress was carrying on a love affair with an associate of her husband. This story of everyday life in Imperial Japan earned a Best Actress Silver Bear for lead actress Haru Kuroki.

5. Blind Massage (Tui Na)

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“Blind Massage” tells the stories of a group of Chinese men and women, all blind, who work together in a massage shop. We learn details of each of their lives, from their family problems to their romances.

The cast is an ensemble of blind, partially sighted and sighted actors, and the film is shot in a way to convey the importance of sounds and textures to its blind characters. This latter achievement won “Blind Massage” the Silver Bear for Outstanding Contribution for Cinematography at the Berlinale.

6. Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg)

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“Stations of the Cross” is a coming of age story of a 14-year-old girl struggling to reconcile her everyday life in the world of school and friends with her strict traditionalist Catholic home life.

Maria lives her life painfully aware of God’s stern gaze upon her and the risk of sinfulness in everyday activities like talking to boys, and she fears that God will demand a great sacrifice from her to heal her sickly brother. One of the only native German films to win a major prize at the Berlin festival, the film received the Silver Bear for Best Script.

7. Life of Riley (Aimer, Boire et Chanter)

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Legendary French New Wave director Alain Resnais is still going strong at 91, and his newest film “Life of Riley” marks the third of his adaptations from British playwright Alan Ayckbourn. In it, a group of older couples finds that one of their circle has terminal cancer, and the news affects each of them in their relationships with each other.

“Life of Riley” won the Alfred Bauer Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival this year, an award given for “opening new perspectives on cinematic art.”

8. Gueros

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The Mexican film “Gueros” won the award for Best First Feature for its director, Alonso Ruiz Palacios. Strongly influenced by the French New Wave style, “Gueros” is a road movie filmed in black and white. Tomas, an unruly teen, has been sent by his exasperated mother to stay with his older brother in Mexico City.

There he, his brother, and his brother’s friend Santos rediscover the music of a famous musician; when they find out that the musician is near death, they decide to take a road trip to see him and pay their respects.

9. The Way He Looks (Hoje eu quero voltar sozinho)

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Another coming of age story, the Brazilian film “The Way He Looks” features a teenage boy, Leo, whose best female friend is jealous of the friendship he forms with Gabriel, the new boy in town. “The Way He Looks” is a teen romance filled with shy advances and uncertain feelings, with a queer twist.

At the Berlinale, “The Way He Looks” took the Teddy Prize for Best Feature Film, a prize awarded for the best LGBT film at the fest.

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