The 62nd Berlin International Film Festival has announced 10 more world premieres scheduled to be screened at the event, which starts Feb. 9. Among them is "Jane Mansfield's Car," a 1960s drama directed by Billy Bob Thornton and starring Robert Duvall, Kevin Bacon and John Hurt.
The other films announced Monday that are to be screening in competition are:
Alain Gomis' "Aujourd 'hui" from France/Senegal
Christian Petzoid's "Barbara" from Germany
Paolo and Vittorio Taviana's "Cesare deve morire (Caesar Must Die)" from Italy
Matthias Glasner's "Gnad" from Germany/Norway
Ursula Meier's "l'enfant d'en haut" from Switzerland/France
Spiros Stathoulopoulos' "Meteora" from Germany/Greece
Miguel Gomes' "Tabu" from Portugal/Germany/Brazil/France
Benedek Fliegauf's "Csak a szel" from Hungary/Germany/France
Hans-Christian Schmid's "Was bleibt" from Germany
On the first weekend of the festival, Thornton may run into his ex, Angelina Jolie, who will be presenting her directorial debut, "In the Land of Blood and Honey," out of competition.
Last year at the Berlin Film Festival, a little-known movie called "Snabba Cash" became an overnight sensation and a symbol of Hollywood's Scandinavian invasion. Harvey Weinstein bought the Swedish-language movie (about a twentysomething cab driver who leads a secret life as a coke-runner) for U.S. release; Zac Efron and Warner Bros. bought the movie's remake rights; and director Daniel Espinosa leveraged all that buzz into a gig directing a Ryan Reynolds-Denzel Washington movie.
This year, a Norwegian movie called "Headhunters" is headed down the same "Snabba" path -- even though it's not even finished.
Like that film, Morten Tyldum's thriller is about a double life: It concerns Roger Brown, a corporate headhunter who moonlights as an art thief to finance an extravagant lifestyle. Things get hairy, however, when he begins plotting a heist with a new Dutch accomplice.
When some early footage screened for industry players at the festival several days ago -- the film won't be done for a few months -- it drew a lot of attention from American movie quarters.
The film was picked up, sight unseen, by Magnolia, which will release it stateside this year. Several studios are hotly pursuing remake rights. (Incidentally, the movie's not to be confused with another Norwegian genre film that created a stir in the fall, the "Blair Witch"-like monster movie "The Troll Hunter.")
The buzz also prompted Tyldum to get signed by a powerbroker Hollywood management company, while starting a feeding frenzy among the town's major talent agencies, a frenzy somewhat reminiscent of the buzz over Noomi Rapace when her "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" began to hit.
"Headhunters" shares some other similarities with the "Tattoo" phenomenon: The Norwegian movie comes from the same production company that made the Swedish-language film and its two sequels. And it's based on the work of a bestselling Scandinavian novelist -- in this case, the Norwegian Jo Nesbo. (You can see an interview with Nesbo talking about his novel below.)
In fact, it's not a stretch to ask whether Nesbo will follow in the footsteps of "Tattoo" author Stieg Larsson. Like Larsson and his Millennium trilogy, Nesbo has written a popular series with a mystery-solving central character (the Harry Hole detective series, about a loose-cannon cop with some unconventional crime-solving tricks). And wouldn't you know it -- Hollywood is developing an English-language version of a Harry Hole book via a movie called "Snowman."
Nesbo may have even more resonance because, unlike the unfortunate instance of the late Larsson (who, like Nesbo, also began as a journalist), he's available to promote his books. Nesbo has written eight Hole novels so far, and they've sold 1.5 million copies in Norway. And the country only has, like, 5 million people.
All this comes as David Fincher readies his studio version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and the "Snabba" effect continues. Never underestimate the Scandinavians.
Roman Polanski's new film, "The Ghost Writer," had its premiere on Friday as part of the first full day of the Berlin Film Festival -- and provoked a mixed response.
Co-written by Polanski and novelist Robert Harris, the film tells the story of a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) who enlists a writer (Ewan McGregor) to ghost write his memoir. As the former PM, living in exile in the United States, fights charges that he assisted the CIA in illegal torture, the writer discovers information about his new employer that plunges him headlong into a world of Polanski-esque paranoia and deception.
Writing for indieWire, Brian Brooks noted "mixed reactions" to "The Ghost Writer," saying that "unfortunately, it seemed the film only received a tepid response after its initial screening." As more reviews have begun to appear online, the critical reaction to Polanski's latest was perhaps best summed up by David Hudson. Writing for the website the Auteurs, he said that " 'The Ghost Writer' won't be toppling governments or, most likely, any best-of-2010 lists, but it's a fine minor entertainment."
Polanski, still under house arrest in Switzerland while awaiting possible extradition to Los Angeles, was not in attendance at the festival. The director's absence was noted during the news conference for the film, with producer Robert Benmussa quoted as saying that "not having Roman at the center of this podium seems very strange for us all."
UPDATE -- 9:34 AM, SATURDAY: The film drew a stronger reaction at a screening for Los Angeles reviewers and tastemakers Friday night. Most in attendance were piqued or even heartened by the effort, which proved to be a taut thriller and an effective mood piece. We'll see what the critics say....--S.Z.
-- Mark Olsen
Photo: Roman Polanski. Credit: Roberto Pfeil / Associated Press
Terrence Malick is still editing, tweaking, adjusting and otherwise fiddling with his latest movie, the Sean Penn-Brad Pitt tour de but-what-the-heck-is-it-actually-about "Tree of Life." But apparently the meticulous auteur already has an eye outside the editing room and on the set of his next film. So much for those 20-year hiatuses.
According to the company selling said project at the Berlin Film Festival, Malick will in the fall begin shooting an untitled picture, described by said company simply as a "romantic drama" and a "powerful and moving love story" (elaborate detail by Malickian standards, actually). As he did for "Tree," Malick has lined up a top-tier cast; this one includes Christian Bale and Javier Bardem (and also features Bond Girl Olga Kurylenko and Holmes girl Rachel McAdams), it was revealed today.
Film Nation, the startup sales and financing company from former Weinstein Company executive Glen Basner, is financing and selling the project, while Bill Pohlad, whose River Road is behind "Tree of Life," is among the producers.
Given Malick's famously slow work pace -- he went silent between "Days of Heaven in 1978 and "The Thin Red Line" in 1998 and has been editing and reediting "Tree of Life" for some time -- the new romance should probably hit sometime in 2019. But maybe the best news about the fall start date for the new film is that it means that "Tree of Life" -- a movie about a Midwestern boy's journey, according to a thousand read tea leaves -- is actually close to completion. That is, until the director goes back to prune more branches.