Tue. Mar 31st, 2020

Feminist controversy at the Berlin Festival for repeating Jeremy Irons as president of the jury

Of the few things that Dieter Kosslick had managed to sell to the press as a feat that distinguished the Berlinale from other category A festivals, the most important was the issue of parity. Last year the share of female filmmakers in competition reached 41.1 percent. Carlo Chatrian, who replaces Kosslick in this 70th edition, has reduced that figure to 33.3. It is not that the former director of the Locarno Festival, who has had to reshape the wreck, orienting the program of the contest to a celebration of the most radical cinephile authorship, is misogyny suspect, but the election of Jeremy Irons as president of the jury only reaffirmed those who already wanted to put him on the blacklist. When the news was heard, the media quickly resorted to the newspaper archive to get the colors out of Irons with his statements about abortion (“it’s a sin”), gender violence, unconditional support for Roman Polanski and criticism of gay marriages. Yesterday, the first thing the “Inseparable” protagonist, very “British”, did was redeem himself before the press began attacking him live.

Apologies accepted?

The question time had not even opened at the press conference of the international jury when he released a cataract of apologies and rectifications in the most classic “where I say, I say Diego.” That he wanted to make it clear that he supported #metoo, that he was against any abuse and sexual harassment both in the workplace and in the domestic sphere, that he applauded gay marriage, and that women have the right to abort, of course. Thus settled the controversy, hoping that there were films to competition that dealt with these issues. That is, habemus Golden Bear that washes the image of Irons before the world of entertainment. While it is clear that Chatrian has taken a 180-degree turn to the official section, which brings together essentials from author cinema such as Tsai Ming-Liang, Abel Ferrara, Philippe Garrel, Kelly Reichardt or Hong Sang-soo, and corners at Hollywood stars, the truth is that one of the great pending subjects of the Berlinale, the inaugural film, is once again suspended in this new term. In order not to leave Irons alone in matters of parity, Sigourney Weaver, who plays the agent of the author of “The Catcher in the Rye” in the mediocre “My Salinger Year,” stressed how important the female “ratio” had been in the filming team.

The writer Joanna Rakoff, author of the best-seller on which the film is based and also its executive producer, explained that the film “deals with the experiences of women, which is not so common these days.” It is obvious that the sales pitch that he sent at the start of the Berlinale had a strong feminist sign. Philippe Falardeau, the artifice of this female “coming of age,” was interested in Salinger being just a ghost. As, in fact, it was in real life: the hidden writer, obsessed with anonymity, who appears here as an earthly angel, who reminds him of the protagonist, an aspiring writer who is a secretary (Margaret Qualley, the daughter of Andie MacDowell), do not forget your vocation. In a way, the film has a structure very similar to that of “The Devil Wears Prada” if we substitute, of course, the fierce frivolity of Meryl Streep as Anna Wintour with the cariacontecido severity of Sigourney Weaver as a literary agent allergic to computers .

It will be because we are not in the fashion world but in the wounded, but the film takes itself very seriously. What we lose in cartoon we gain in topic. Joanna has to undergo the same tests as Anne Hathaway in «Vogue», only that Weaver’s looks are less auto-parodic, and situations, much more tedious. One of Joanna’s functions is to read the huge amount of letters J.D. Salinger of his fans. Since Mark Chapman, the murderer of John Lennon, appeared with a copy of “The Catcher in the Rye”, we must check that there is no other of the same species, potentially dangerous. We are in 1995, and they are still legion.

It is curious that the film prefers to miss the opportunity for us to understand what is in Salinger’s little prolific work to penetrate so deeply and transversely in different generations from different eras. The story uses it as a “macguffin”, and the most annoying thing is that these letters generate another type of ghost character, which the script represents in successive and irritating appearances of a boy who becomes Joanna’s Cricket Pepito. These reveries, culminating in a blushing dance scene, show that the production has very little to say about the creative imagination of the budding artist, much less the writer who made himself an inaccessible legend. It may be that Salinger’s supposedly sullen character, which has generated so much gossip and so much speculative literature, has influenced the bad luck he has had in his film appearances. If someone remembers “The rebel in the rye”, he will know what I am talking about. “My Salinger Year” will do nothing to reveal the mysteries of its popular success beyond portraying it from an off-field champion.

Being one of the most critical filmmakers with the cannibal expansion of neoliberal capitalism in China, it is still curious to notice a nostalgia when Jia Zhang-ke listens to the protagonists of his new documentary, «Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue », speaking of collective solidarity encouraged by the communist regime in rural regions such as the one that saw him born, in Shanxi province. Opening the Berlinale Special section, the film, which means the return to the contest that launched it internationally from the Forum, is a collection of interviews with people from Fenyang, his hometown, separated by the reading of poems and aphorisms of writers in the area . As in «24 City», but without playing with the fine line that separates documentary and fiction, Zhang-ke delights listening to the stories of his interviewees, which span several generations, and films them without succumbing to the melodrama even though, Sometimes, his life flirts with him. There is no other claim than knowing how to listen with the camera and leave testimony of an era that, alas, might be better, at least for a Jia who, who would say it, prefers Mao rather than Keynes


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