Frears’ ‘Chéri’ to premiere at Berlin

Posted by · 4:07 am · January 16th, 2009

New works from Costa-Gavras, Bertrand Tavernier and Andrzej Wajda are among the 14 titles that have just been added to the Competition programme at next month’s Berlinale, meaning 25 of the 26 slots have been confirmed.

The most high-profile inclusion, however, is Stephen Frears’ period romance “Chéri,” which was at one point mooted as a 2008 release with an eye on awards season, before getting bumped. It’s a film I’ve been excited about for some time, not least because it’s something of a “Dangerous Liaisons” redux, reuniting the director, writer (Christopher Hampton) and star (Michelle Pfeiffer) of that 1988 Oscar-winner, again within the context of a French-set costume drama.

An adaptation of Colette’s novella about an affair between a young man and a decades-older woman in 1920’s Paris, it strikes me as an ideal proposition for both director and star. A new Frears film is always worth noting, but I find his work rather more interesting  when he’s visiting themes of taboo and desire (the aforementioned “Liaisons,” “Prick Up Your Ears,” “The Grifters”).

Meanwhile, Pfeiffer — still, I think, arguably the greatest of her generation — hasn’t had a project equal to her gifts in over 15 years. Could this be one to keep an eye on for next year’s awards derby? It’s ridiculously early to be thinking about such things, but don’t forget that one of the big winners at last year’s Berlinale was a certain Ms. Sally Hawkins. However oddly positioned, it’s always a festival worth paying attention to.

Among the other intriguing titles set to bow at the fest, which will be opened by Tom Tykwer’s “The International,” is “Rage,” the latest from avant-garde UK auteur Sally Potter, with an eclectic cast including Jude Law, Judi Dench and Steve Buscemi. Another impressive ensemble (Robin Wright Penn, Alan Arkin and Julianne Moore, to name but three) features in Rebecca Miller’s “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” while Lukas Moodysson’s “Mammoth,” starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Michelle Williams, has long been one of my most eagerly anticipated films of 2009.

For a complete list of the Competition entries so far, check out the press releases here and here.

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10 responses so far

  • 1 1-16-2009 at 5:17 am

    Faceit said...

    I doubt this is awardworthy. If was really a contender they could release it in the fall of last year.

  • 2 1-16-2009 at 6:30 am

    D. said...

    Yes, Faceit, because what makes a film award worthy, if not the release date.

    I’ve always enjoyed Pfeiffer’s ability to bring dimension to thinly written characters — she was recently excellent in Stardust as a typical wicked witch, and was one of the more enjoyable moments of the frivolous Hairspray, playing an entirely one-dimensional character. As much as I loved Batman Returns, Selina Kyle wasn’t really fleshed out as much as she could’ve been had Burton toned down the less interesting Penguin storyline; still, Pfeiffer performed brilliantly, lending credibility to the ‘mousy-office-assistant-gone-bananas’.

    Of course, she performed beautifully with layered, complex characters many times, and Chéri looks as it could be one of them, but it’s with caricatured, simple ones that she proves herself to be a great actress.

  • 3 1-16-2009 at 6:37 am

    han said...

    best actress contenders out of berlin:

    2009: michelle pfeiffer
    2008: sally hawkins
    2007: marion cotillard

  • 4 1-16-2009 at 6:59 am

    Anthony said...

    IMO, Mammoth is far-and-away the most intriguing title at Berlin.

    Though, The Messenger interests me as well.

  • 5 1-16-2009 at 7:03 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Don’t forget Catalina Sandino Moreno back in 2004, Han. Tied with Charlize Theron, and kept the buzz going for a whole year.

    Faceit: We’ll know when people see the film, I guess, but I wouldn’t read too much into the release date issue.

    It wasn’t a panicky last-minute change — they decided to keep it as a 2009 release way back in June, after briefly toying with the idea of an ’08 release. I guess Miramax wanted to keep their focus on “Doubt” and “Happy-Go-Lucky.”

  • 6 1-16-2009 at 8:52 am

    Faceit said...

    All those movies were indies (foreign)trying to gain buzz so they could get a distributor.
    But we will see.

  • 7 2-09-2009 at 11:09 am

    Jason said...

    guy… i agree with you completely! this movie looks spectacular. i also think that michelle pfeiffer is one of the greatest actresses of her generation & stephen frears is an interesting and very daring director (dangerous liaisons, the grifters, dirty pretty things). mix in christopher hampton & dariusz konji & you have my most anticipated movie of 2009 so far.