Friday, January 16, 2009

Jason goes to Berlin and Beyond--opening night

Berlin and Beyond traditionally opens the Bay Area start of the year film festival glut. It's followed immediately by Noir City, then Indiefest, Cinequest, SFIAAFF, and...then maybe I get to rest. Oh yeah, and I'll fit the Niles Film Museum's Mid-Winter Comedy Festival in there, too (sadly, I'll miss their Pre-Code Follies).

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Berlin and Beyond 2009 started last night. First with a little party in the Castro mezzanine. Berlin and Beyond's opening party always features two things--the best food, and the least room. It's crowded, but worth it, and I drank just enough that I had to struggle to stay awake through the film, but was successful in that struggle (with thanks to Foosh caffeinated mints).

And then the film, Cherry Blossoms, by Doris Dörrie (whose The Fisherman and his Wife played at Berlin and Beyond a couple years ago). Again, she focuses on love and marriage, with a German/Japanese twist. Trudi and Rudi are an old married couple. Trudi is sort of a free soul, into Japanese modern dance (called Butoh). Or rather, she was free soul. Rudi is more conservative, and would prefer that nothing ever changes. So when Trudi learns that Rudi has a serious disease, she knows he won't take the news well. She doesn't tell him, but instead convinces her to take a vacation and visit their children in Berlin. They have a son and (lesbian) daughter there, but they don't really get along. So after an awkward visit (where we learn that they have another son in Tokyo, but Rudi never wants to visit there), they head off to the Baltic Sea for a vacation by themselves. But Trudi suddenly dies there. Rudi is left alone and heartbroken, more so when he learns about the secret life Trudi wanted for herself in Tokyo, and how much she sacrificed to be with him and raise their family. So Rudi screws up his courage and goes to Tokyo to see their other son, and as he goes to another world this becomes another movie and he becomes another person. He starts wandering around Tokyo, although he can't read a word. He wanders into strip clubs (awkward), and meets a Butoh dancer and begins a friendship with her. He in a way becomes the adventurous soul that Trudi was, and in her passing her character actually becomes more important and more fully realized and Rudi becomes more like her. There's a powerful sense of loss and loneliness, but it's interesting how in opening up and moving on, Rudi becomes a celebration of Trudi's spirit. A sad movie to be sure, but one with a sense of hope, beauty, and sweetness and one that exhorts the audience to appreciate what they have right now.

And that's how Berlin and Beyond 2009 started.
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