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Culture

'The International' opens 59th Berlin Int'l Film Festival

Video by Carla WESTERHEIDE

Latest update : 2009-02-06

The 59th Berlin Film Festival opened Thursday with the topical thriller "The International", starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts - who play crusaders fighting against a corrupt banking conglomerate. The film got a tepid response from critics.

AFP - The 59th Berlin Film Festival opened Thursday with the topical thriller "The International", starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts as crusaders against a corrupt banking conglomerate.
   
The world premiere at a gala screening is kicking off the 11-day event, the first major European film festival of the year which ranks second only to Cannes in size and prestige.
   
But despite spectacular action scenes including a bloody shoot-out in New York's iconic Guggenheim Museum, critics at a press preview screening gave the picture a tepid response, with a smattering of applause and a few boos.
   
Although "The International" was developed six years before the financial crisis erupted late last year, Owen said the plot seems like it was ripped from today's headlines.
   
"The whole film is about this huge, faceless multi-billion-dollar bank who I believe to be corrupt and try to convince people, and try to bring them down," Owen, who plays an Interpol agent in the film, told AFP.
   
"The big questions in the movie are: do banks use our money appropriately? Can you trust them? Are they corrupt? Now the questions have been hugely to the fore in the last six months with what's been going on."
   
"The International", which is not in competition for the festival's coveted Golden Bear top prize, was inspired by the early 1990s collapse of the scandal-plagued Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).
   
It was made by German film-maker Tom Tykwer, who shot to fame with the cult heist movie "Run, Lola, Run" in 1998 and is hoping for a big international hit after the disappointing showing of his murder mystery "Perfume" in 2006.
   
The film jumps from Berlin to Milan, New York and Istanbul to tell the story of a multinational bank that finances coups and feeds wars with weapons to keep individuals, companies and countries "slaves to debt".
   
The bank keeps its predatory lending practices under close wraps and systematically executes whistleblowers, turncoats and investigators who get in its way.
   
Tykwer said the shocking contract murders committed in the film were only dramatisations of the mayhem wrought by a capitalist system which many people, now reeling from the financial crisis, were beginning to call into question.
   
"The situation of course is dramatic and I think everybody's suffering from it," he said of the global economic downturn.
   
"But we should never forget the system that has created the problems is older than any banker who is around us because it developed over more than a century and maybe we should rather confront ourselves with that problem than look just for one or two evil ones," Tykwer told a news conference.
   
In a festival traditionally dominated by gritty political fare, 18 pictures are vying for the Golden Bear, to be awarded February 14 by this year's jury president, Oscar-winning Scottish actress Tilda Swinton.
   
Despite the bitter winter cold, film fans are expecting plenty of Hollywood stardust on Berlin's red carpet.
   
Renee Zellweger is due in town with "My One and Only", a comedy about a glamorous young mother in the 1950s shopping for a rich husband.
   
Tommy Lee Jones appears in a supernatural drama set in Louisiana, "In The Electric Mist", directed by France's Bertrand Tavernier, while Demi Moore will be seen as a woman caring for her ailing father in "Happy Tears".
   
Two decades after they made "Dangerous Liaisons", Michelle Pfeiffer reunites with Stephen Frears ("The Queen") to play a courtesan in "Cheri" based on the 1920 novel by French writer Colette.
   
And Kate Winslet is expected in town Friday to promote "The Reader", a Holocaust drama based on a German novel which has already won her a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination.
   
Last year, Jose Padilha of Brazil won the Golden Bear for "Elite Squad", a controversial look at police brutality in the favelas of Rio.
   
Amid the hard-hitting films will be a few special features to lighten the mood.
   
Steve Martin will bring the sequel to his comedy caper "The Pink Panther" in which he stars as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau.
   
And a year after the Rolling Stones opened the Berlinale with their Martin Scorsese concert film "Shine A Light", U2's The Edge is to appear at the gala premiere of an ode to the electric guitar, "It Might Get Loud".

Date created : 2009-02-05

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