Through Berlin, Paris, Belfast and New Mexico, today’s Berlinale selection leads us through war, homelessness, redemption and love. Perhaps the best is Yann Demange’s ’71, which following Starred Up features another muscular performance from Jack O’Connell as the new recruit Gary Hook in the British Army on patrol in Northern Ireland. At times reminiscent of a video game as the handheld camera heads through houses and down alleyways, Demange’s thrilling escape through the streets of Belfast on both sides of the Peace Line offers insight into the Troubles from all sides, and reveals the lost innocence of a soldier becoming a father.
Despite its luminous images of Berlin’s buses, trains, streets and shopping malls, Edward Berger’s Jack is a surprisingly harrowing affair as two boys comb the city for their single mother gone AWOL. It’s the emotional story of a boy old beyond his years as he furiously tries to keep the family on track, and like Ursula Meier’s Sister or the Dardenne brothers’ The Kid With A Bike it’s a torment to behold as Jack and his younger brother Manuel sleep rough, refusing to lose faith in their feckless, if loving, mother.
Rachid Bouchareb’s remake of José Giovanni’s Deux Hommes Dans La Vie, with Forest Whitaker and Harvey Keitel as the cop and ex-con at each other’s throats, runs at a different pace to his previous Maghreb-themed thrillers Days Of Glory and Outside The Law. Alongside Just Like A Woman, it marks the director’s move to filmmaking in the Hollywood mould, but Two Men In Town is too slow and conventional to bring the plight of a released prisoner trying to make it straight to an emotional climax.
Jalil Lespert’s Yves Saint Laurent on the other hand is the unexpectedly touching tale of the Algerian-born couturier and his life-long partner Pierre Bergé. With tender performances from both Pierre Niney and Guillaume Gallienne, Yves Saint Laurent is a stunning, modish biopic of the shy fashionista, but surprisingly unsexy – languishing instead in the drugs, manic depression and infidelity which threaten their relationship. Hesitating between one man’s story and the other, Yves Saint Laurent‘s true meaning is hidden beneath ruffles and buttons. But it’s a beautiful confection all the same.