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Barbara (#110 of 4)

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Phoenix, Tokyo Tribe, & Hill of Freedom

Christian Petzold and Nina Hoss collaborate on yet another fine quasi-thriller with Phoenix, about a concentration camp survivor, Nelly (Hoss), who undergoes facial reconstruction surgery for a wound and emerges unrecognized by Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), the husband who gave her up to the Gestapo. Well, not entirely unrecognized: He thinks she looks just enough like his presumably dead wife that she could pose as Nelly in order to receive her hefty inheritance. The performative scenes that result from Johnny’s coaching elicit yet another spellbinding performance from Hoss, who always makes Nelly look as if she wants desperately for Johnny to see that it’s her while also dreading what will happen if he figures the truth out. Further, the film uses this setup to make a keen, occasionally funny comment on the male gaze, as Johnny knows every small detail of his wife’s body and movements, yet cannot put together the whole image of Nelly now that it no longer exactly matches up to his idealized memories.

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2012

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Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2012
Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2012

From Calum Marsh’s introduction to Slant Magazine’s Top 25 Films of 2012: “Two thousand and twelve was, if nothing else, a banner year for uncommonly productive provocation. Audiences were galled by Rick Alverson’s divisive deconstruction of hipsterdom, The Comedy, beguiled by the taciturn charms of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, and, um, probed by the penetrating cultural criticism of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis. Masters of cinema both old and new even found time, between saucy bouts of male stripping and fellating chicken parts, to butt heads with every conceivable status quo, grappling admirably with hot-button issues as wide-ranging as colonialism (Tabu), U.S.-endorsed torture (Zero Dark Thirty, maybe or maybe not endorsing it itself), and the very nature of cinema (Jafar Panahi, who didn’t make a ’film’ at all).” Click here to read the feature and see if your favorite films of the year made our list. And see below for a list of the films that just missed making it onto our list, followed by our contributors’ individual ballots.

New York Film Festival 2012: Barbara

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New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Barbara</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Barbara</em>

For those who’ve seen German filmmaker Christian Petzold’s previous films (most recently, Jerichow and the first film in the Dreileben trilogy, Beats Being Dead), the style he employs in his latest film, Barbara, will be familiar: cool, precise, omniscient in its gaze. And yet it’s quite possible that he has never quite put that style to such appropriate and cumulatively devastating use.

The director’s close-to-the-vest approach fits in the context of a narrative that takes place in 1980 East Germany, a time marked by paranoia thanks to the prominence of the Stasi, East Germany’s notoriously corrupt secret police. In an environment marked by fear and distrust, it’s no wonder that Barbara (Nina Hoss) maintains a reserved, distrustful profile among her co-workers at the small pediatric hospital in which she works (previously a more well-known doctor in Berlin, she’s been banished to this small-town hospital as punishment for applying for an exit visa from the GDR). It doesn’t help that, outside her day job, she’s spied on and periodically hassled by one Stasi officer, Schütz (Rainer Bock).

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012: The Joke, The Silence of the Sea, Beyond the Hill, Room 514, Barbara, Holy Motors, & More

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Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012: <em>The Joke</em>, <em>The Silence of the Sea</em>, <em>Beyond the Hill</em>, <em>Room 514</em>, <em>Barbara</em>, <em>Holy Motors</em>, & More
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012: <em>The Joke</em>, <em>The Silence of the Sea</em>, <em>Beyond the Hill</em>, <em>Room 514</em>, <em>Barbara</em>, <em>Holy Motors</em>, & More

The global economic maelstrom found a way to creep its way into the 47th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival—but only for a moment. The first few days saw slower ticket sales than usual: In past years, all of the (non-industry/press) tickets for next-day screenings would be gone by 10 in the morning, while this year it was still possible to find tickets for less hotly anticipated titles the day of. And on the third day of the festival I saw Claude Miller’s The Best Way to Walk in a theater with at least 20 empty seats—which is almost unheard of for this festival. However, since July 5 and 6 are national holidays in the Czech Republic, there was a swell in attendance and the festival became its usual teeming not-a-seat-left-empty place. And so, as always, the city hosted nine days of cine-paradise.