Berlinale 2021 and Harold Lloyd: My Films of the Week #23

As a lifelong cinephile, I have always consumed a copious amount of films. In this new feature, I keep track of the films I watch during the week. (Also, Click here to buy my book of thoughts on film, Eye of the Beholder, on Amazon!)

 

Girl Shy
dir. Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor
1924, USA

One of the most noteworthy Harold Lloyd vehicles. Here, he interprets a young man, passing himself as a pickup artist but who actually is cripplingly afraid of girls. It is, of course, a romance and aside from the charming plotline, it is most noteworthy for its lengthy and exciting final sequence that finds the protagonist on a race against time to halt the wedding of her beloved via several different vehicles.

 

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
dir. Radu Jude
2021, Croatia/Czech Republic/Luxembourg/Romania

Golden Bear winner at the 2021 Berlinale. Radu Jude further establishes himself as the enfant terrible of the Romanian New Wave with his latest work about a school teacher whose career and reputation is threatened after her amateur porn tape with her husband is uploaded to the internet. The film is split into three parts, the second of which puzzlingly destructuring Romanian society in a dictionary-like form. It is ultimately unconvincing despite its darkly comic take on a modern theme and its trendy feminist vibes. What is most rewarding, in the end, is that it is among the first major arthouse movies integrating pandemic-era elements – including the masks – in its narrative. This along with the Sign of Leo-like walk through pandemic-times Bucharest streets makes it a priceless document of the times in which it was filmed.

 

Petite Maman
dir. Céline Sciamma
2021, France

After the death of her grandmother, a little girl mysteriously becomes able to travel through time to play with her mother as a child. The time travel element is tastefully underplayed and this is a rather charmingly subdued exploration of the unique bond between a mother and a daughter. However, though it barely exceeds the one-hour mark, it feels severely watered down. In this sense, the performances suffer; the two little girls behave strange and surrealistic as if sinister children in some type of horror film.

 

Introduction
dir. Hong Sang-soo
2021, South Korea

Hong Sang-soo has a distinctive, subdued style that often plays with narrative structure. However, his language is a required taste. This film seems to revolve around the theme of bonds that are created between people in both a negative and positive sense, via its multi-character storyline. But it’s hard to even evaluate a film that is ultimately flat and almost lifeless.

 

Mr. Bachmann and His Class
dir. Maria Speth
2021, Germany

My favorite Berlinale 2021 film, at least of the ones I watched. An over-four-hour-long fly-on-the-wall documentary about a genial teacher’s final year before retirement and his class mostly made up of immigrants. It’s hard to overstate the significance of a film like this, released after about a year of struggles in the education system due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as after a year of hostilities between cultures. Watching this will help you feel positive about the future and remind you that there is good and kindness in this world, as well as hope for the future, as long as educators like Herr Bachmann exist.

 

I’m Your Man
dir. Maria Schrader
2021, Germany

Totally underwhelming romantic comedy about an academic who agrees to spend a few weeks with a humanoid that has been built as her perfect partner. Rather than making any original statement on a narrative that already feels overdone in 2021, or even raising interesting questions about the rise of AI technologies in the modern world, the most interesting thing about this unfunny movie is how much Dan Stevens as the humanoid recalls Stan Laurel, complete with that dead eyes look. (Or is it just me?)

 

Summer Blur
dir. Han Shuai
2020, China

Another winner, for me, from the program of the 2021 Berlinale. This one revolves around a young girl, who has been parked at her aunt’s house by her neglectful mother. At first, she seems inexplicably cold but as the film progresses, we realize that she may just embody the spirit of the modern woman, who won’t stand for being bullied by the patriarchal system at large. In fact, more than other films of recent years, Summer Blur is truly effective and less academic in representing the meaning of “patriarchy” and how it insinuates itself in society from its youngest members, and how important love and care is to subvert its ways.

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