American cinema once again appeared in all its heterogeneity. While Terms of Endearment by James L. Brooks was dismissed as slick Hollywood fare, John Cassavetes with Love Streams once again stood for the other, the uncompromising and incorruptible side of American filmmaking. The Golden Bear for Love Streams met with a mixed reception, but even if the film did not immediately assert the power of other Cassavetes films, it was still celebrated as “a radical, despairing, eccentric but at times actually comforting work” (Ulrich Greiner in "Die Zeit"), and somehow reflected the substance of an incomparable oeuvre. It was to be Cassavetes’ last film.
Let the music play in the Forum, shake your booties in the Info-Schau
The focus in the Forum this year was on music films: films about music – such as several films about Argentinean tango and its relationship to the political history of Argentina – but also films that were composed musically, such as the Canadian Au Pays de Zom by Gilles Groulx or Sally Potter’s The Gold Diggers. Ulrike Ottinger’s Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse | The Image of Dorian Gray in the Yellow Press and Ula Stöckl’s Der Schlaf der Vernunft were the West German films in the Forum that received the most attention. There was also a Homage devoted to the “Kleines Fernsehspiel” of the ZDF, one of the steadfast supporters and discoverers of young talent in German cinema.
The Info-Schau this year put on several separate programmes: Next to a small “New Austrian Films” showcase there was a “US-Non-Majors” series and a “Mediterranean Panorama” of twenty films. For the first time, films from Israel, Egypt, Spain, Yugoslavia and other countries bordering on the Mediterranean were grouped to constitute a geographical focus, an innovation that for the most part was positively received in the press. The programme of the Info-Schau, divided into several thematic subcategories, was already developing the profile of what would soon come to be called the Panorama.
Reaganomics in the Kinderfilmfest?
The 1984 festival mostly went off without the squabbling of the previous years. The opening film of the Kinderfilmfest, Kidco, did provoke some angry criticism. After actress Liv Ullmann, who was also president of the International Jury this year, opened the Kinderfilmfest, a film was screened that struck many observers as too forcefully propagating an “American way of life for children”. “Offensive” was the judgement of Christel and Hans Strobel in the KinderJugendfilmKorrespondenz. Given its “glorification of capitalist values”, even the amusement of the young audience members was not enough justification for Kidco. The Reagan era had reached the Kinderfilmfest.
1984 marked a high point in the size of the Berlinale programme. 556 films were screened in the Competition, Kinderfilmfest, Info-Schau, the New German Cinema series and in the film market alone. Added to this was the extensive programme of the Forum. But the attempt to give structure to this mass quantity by dividing it into series and special programmes instead elicited the displeasure of the commentators. It was too easy to lose track of what was going on, and the large number of films ended up being more of a drag than a delight. In a cutting review in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the experienced festival observer Karena Niehoff symbolically waved a white flag. Echt tu matsch | Too Much Man! was the name of a film in the Kinderfilmfest this year. That hit the nail on the head.