Six past winners of the Golden Bear, the Berlinale’s top prize, Zoomed in at noon, European time, to announce that they had decided to award the 2021 Golden Bear to Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn. In a statement read by Nadav Lapid (Synonyms, 2019), the jury, whose other members are Ildikó Enyedi (On Body and Soul, 2017), Adina Pintilie (Touch Me Not, 2018), Mohammad Rasoulof (There Is No Evil, 2020), Gianfranco Rosi (Fire at Sea, 2016), and Jasmila Žbanić (Grbavica, 2006), explained that Jude’s film “captures on screen the very content and essence, the mind and body, the values and the raw flesh of our present moment in time. Of this very moment of human existence.” Bad Luck Banging is “clever and childish, geometrical and vibrant, imprecise in the best way.”
The piece to read about Bad Luck Banging comes from Bucharest-based critic Flavia Dima. Writing for Films in Frame, she suggests that this may be Jude’s “most daring” work yet, “which is already, in and of itself, an achievement for an auteur that hasn’t shied away from confronting some of the most difficult and uncomfortable subjects of his homeland: from his explorations of the Romanian Holocaust to the enslavement of Roma people, to the political repression of dissidents during the communist era.” The subtitle, Sketches for a Popular Film, “beyond its obvious wink to the fact that the New Romanian Cinema was always regarded as unsellable on its home ground, and to the fact that the actually sellable ones (such as Miami Bici, the film that has ostensibly saved Romanian cinema from an economic collapse last year), is also a way of setting a tone that is open to experimentation, as well as a means to invert the usual paradigms in the representation of female sexuality.”
The grand jury prize, a Silver Bear that essentially designates second place, goes to Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, another film divided into three parts. “Each episode pivots on individuals attempting elaborate reconstructions of romances and friendships, involving everything from various manipulations to outright playacting for the sake of a long-delayed catharsis,” writes Chuck Bowen at Slant.
Maria Speth, whose Madonnas (2010) and Daughters (2014) premiered in the Berlinale’s Forum program, has entered the competition for the first time with a documentary that runs over three and a half hours. Mr. Bachmann and His Class has won the jury prize, a Silver Bear without the “grand.”
Dénes Nagy has won best director for his first fictional feature, Natural Light, which we took a look at on Wednesday, and on Tuesday, we posted a few thoughts on Introduction, for which Hong Sangsoo has won best screenplay. As for the two acting awards, starting this year, the Berlinale is dividing them by best and supporting performances rather than by gender. Maren Eggert, known for her work with Angela Schanelec, wins the first for her turn as Alma, a scientist who agrees to take on a robot lover (Dan Stevens) in Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man.
Encounters and More
When Carlo Chatrian became the Berlinale’s new artistic director last year, he and his team created Encounters, a competitive “platform aiming to foster aesthetically and structurally daring works.” This year’s jury—Florence Almozini, senior programmer at large for Film at Lincoln Center; Cecilia Barrionuevo, artistic director of the Mar del Plata International Film Festival; and Diedrich Diederichsen, a writer who teaches at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna—has named Alice Diop’s documentary We best film in the program.
In the northern outskirts of Paris, Diop boards the RER B, a commuter train that runs down through the city to the suburbs in the south. Here and there, she disembarks “at different suburban intervals—metropolitan Paris is but a structuring absence—to conduct interviews with the denizens of these far-flung townships,” writes Patrick Preziosi at In Review Online. “There’s an ostensible interview structure at work in Nous, but also a refreshing lack of formalities, and Diop’s journey along the RER B is like a slipstream of past, present, and future, with personal and political histories swirling together—in this regard, her form feels beholden to Chantal Akerman’s similarly empirical documentaries.”
A special jury award goes to Lê Bảo for Taste, the story of a Nigerian soccer player (Olegunleko Ezekiel Gbenga) who arrives in Ho Chi Minh City to play professionally. When an injury spoils his plans, he moves into an abandoned bunker with four middle-aged women. “It is a film yanked out of a dream, and it behaves as one,” writes Leonardo Goi at the Film Stage. “Strictly speaking, it isn’t a story that’s being told here, but a mosaic of oneiric images, conjured and arranged around a tale of longing.”
Best director? It’s a tie between Ramon and Silvan Zürcher for The Girl and the Spider, which we wrote about yesterday, and Denis Côté for Social Hygiene, a series of socially distanced confrontations between Antonin (Maxim Gaudette) and five women in his life who find him lacking, each in her own way. “In their verbosity, simplicity of staging, and plein-air settings,” writes Carson Lund at Slant, “these elongated tête-à-têtes suggest community theater, albeit with the snap and vigor of actors in full command of the comic and tragic turns in Côté’s material—a distinction that separates Social Hygiene from the amateur-driven and superficially similar work of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet.” And finally, a special mention goes to Fern Silva’s Rock Bottom Riser, an essay film that the jury finds “encounters—in a virtuoso manner—unexpected and very diverse images for the necessity of a decolonization of science.”
My Uncle Tudor, in which Olga Lucovnicova explores her traumatic past and confronts the man who harmed her, has won the Golden Bear for best short film. Zhang Dalei wins the Silver Bear for his family portrait, Day Is Done, and Nicolas Keppens’s animated Easter Eggs, centering on a toxic friendship, will be a candidate for the European Film Awards.