Star glamour and a rocking good time
The 1996 Berlinale was a relief. Noone had been really pleased with the previous year. This year there was enough of everything and everyone: stars and newcomers, majestic cinema and personal stories, sparkle and glamour and plenty of material for passionate debate.
Seldom were the media so pleased with the stars that the festival brought to the city and presented in front of the cameras: Emma Thompson, Sally Field, Jodie Foster, Claudia Cardinale, Danny de Vito, Robert Downey Jr., Stephen Frears, Ang Lee, Paul Mazursky and Tim Robbins. John Travolta appeared at the opening ceremony, Julia Roberts sparked commotion wherever she went, and Bruce Willis even performed a concert with his band in the Universal Music Hall.
The critics' favorite fiend: Hollywood
This year Hollywood provided more than just stars, but contributed a lot to the impression of high quality in the Competition. The festival got off to an extremely promising start with Ang Lee’s Jane Austin adaptation Sense and Sensibility based on a script by lead actress Emma Thompson. Impressive also were Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys and Tim Robbins’ Dead Man Walking which were very well received. “Without building up the plot in a typically 'cinematic' way, but rather following the action and the dialogues in an objective manner using mostly static camera positions, achieves a startling degree of intensity,” wrote Han-Dieter Seidel in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” about Dead Man Walking. Here was American cinema that displayed daring and maturity and a capability for self-criticism, something which many European critics had prematurely claimed Hollywood was incapable of.
In view of the permanent criticism of “too much Hollywood” at the Berlinale, it is always surprising that it is precisely those years where there is a strong Hollywood presence which receive the most praise from the critics. Harald Martenstein of the “Tagesspiegel” who had always sharply attacked the Berlinale and especially Moritz de Hadeln, offered conciliatory tones and said that a shift was taking place in terms of content. There were strong films from Korea, Taiwan and Australia and with a Un été à la Goulette | A Summer in La Goulette by Férid Boughedir came lasting images from North Africa. But who knows how this year would have been received had European film not performed strongly next to its “rivals” from Hollywood.
Andrzej Wajda’s Wielki Tydzien | Holy Week, Betrand Blier’s Mon Homme | My Man and above all Bo Widerberg’s haunting liaison dangereuse Lust och fägring stor | All Things Fair were favourites with the critics and audiences. Even Dani Lavy’s chamber play Stille Nacht, despite its flaws, contributed to an altogether strong year for Europe.
Cult-movies-to-be in all sections
It takes a lot to make a good Berlinale and this year it all came together. The Kinderfilmfest, with 14 features and 15 shorts from 19 countries, offered a very diverse programme. It also ran Chris Bould’s My Friend Joe, which became a hit much talked about far beyond the confines of the section.