The 63rd Annual Berlinale, Germany’s frosty answer to the Cannes Film Festival, kicks off February 16, screening more than 400 films from around the world, with 19 of those competing for the coveted Golden Bear award. Here’s a look at some of the can’t-miss entries headed to Berlin.
A week after its release in the U.S., Steven Soderbergh brings his “last” film to Berlin — he’s threatening retirement after this and his HBO film “Behind the Candelabra.” If this is it, he’s going out on a high note, with a taut and twisty adult thriller rooted in America’s dependence on the pharmaceutical industry for mental health issues.
THE NECESSARY DEATH OF CHARLIE COUNTRYMAN
Frederik Bond’s bizarre dystopian romance starring Shia LaBeouf and Evan Rachel Wood received some fairly lousy reviews out of Sundance, so it isn’t likely to earn any statues here, but what critics are saying about the odd, over-the-top content of the film makes it fascinating and hard to miss.
YI DAI ZONG SHI (THE GRANDMASTER)
While it’s not a part of the competition, Wong Kar-wai’s attention-grabbing martial arts masterpiece has been selected as the festival’s opening night film. The historical epic about the origins of kung fu, featuring fight choreography by Yuen Woo-ping (“the Matrix,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) offers plenty for both action and art-house audiences.
NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON
Based on Pascal Mercier’s high-minded 2004 novel, Oscar-winner Billie August’s film finds Jeremy Irons as a Swiss professor abandoning his post to investigate the life of a deceased Portuguese doctor. With Melanie Laurent, Jack Huston and Charlotte Rampling along for this journey, this could prove to be some good sophisticated fun, even if it’s not part of the Berlinale competition.
Also screening out of competition, this title is likely the most anticipated, as director George Sluizer has finally “completed” his 1993 film, left unfinished when star River Phoenix died of a drug overdose 10 days before shooting was to be completed. The missing segments are filled in with Sluizer’s voiceover, and the director insists, “It’s a finished film.” While that remains to be seen, it’s at least a chance to finally see the last work of Phoenix.