wed 30/07/2014

Berlinale 2013: Don Jon's Addiction, Charlie Countryman, Vic+Flo, Gloria | Film reviews, news & interviews

Berlinale 2013: Don Jon's Addiction, Charlie Countryman, Vic+Flo, Gloria

Scarlett Johansson takes on porn, Shia Leboeuf gets lost, and glorious Paulina García

More clever than tasteless: Scarlett Johansson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Don Jon's Addiction'© Ian Lagarde

Great fun on day three in Berlin: Scarlett Johansson co-stars in a porn movie. Well, a movie about a young man’s love of porn sites, in which she flashes her famous curves - and starts sleeping with Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). But Jon, a swanky, body-building Roman Catholic, is soon dumped; Johansson’s Barbara Sugarman sees no future in being jilted by a laptop and tissues.

Don John’s Addiction might on the surface seem a deeply tasteless excuse to cash in on raw sex and Johansson’s nakedness (kept, in fact, to a suggestive minimum), yet it’s much cleverer and wittier than it sounds. To say it’s about redemption will seem high-minded but when Esther (Julianne Moore) arrives patiently to teach Jon about mutuality, the film doesn’t become farcical; Moore, in particular, is compelling for every second she has on screen.

Similarly fast-paced and much flashier is Swede Fredrik Bond’s debut feature, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. The eponymous lead, Shia LaBeouf, has lost his mother, who instructed him to go to Bucharest to recover. Or was it Budapest? The joke of the film might be that a drifting Yank has just goofily mistaken capitals. In Bucharest - one of the stars here - he falls for cello-playing siren Gabi (Evan Rachel Wood), and is snarled up in an incoherent plot featuring Mads Mikkelsen and Til Schweiger competing for Most Psychotic Criminal Award. Charlie gets seriously bashed about throughout and the whole thing has an air of headlong cartoon - high-octane entertainment, if a little gaudy.

At the opposite art extreme is Denis Côté’s French-language Vic+Flo Saw a Bear, from Montreal. Ex-con Victoria (Pierette Robitalle) is joined in a forest shack by lover Florence (Romane Bohringer), but for reasons undisclosed they’re spooked by Jackie (Marie Brassard, a brilliant actress known for many years’ collaboration with Robert Lepage). Marc-André Grondin’s gentle parole officer Guillaume keeps Vic from straying back on to whatever bad road she once took, but not the two lovers from a path in the woods, where Jackie takes spectacular revenge. This has to do with a bear. Many people who walked out at my screening, presumably from sheer boredom, will have missed that and therefore the crux of this unsettling film. It’s worth sticking with.

No one left Gloria, from Chile, starring Paulina García as a divorcée hitting 60 in Santiago. Gloria has an affair with an ex-navy man Rodolfo (Sergio Hernández), and wonderful use is made - because Rodolfo’s a flake - of a paintball gun. Big applause came, too, for the film’s fabulous soundtrack and García is a clear favourite for Best Actress Silver Bear.

Read more reports on theartsdesk from the Berlinale

Paulina García is a clear favourite for Best Actress Silver Bear

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