Bear in Mind: The Berlin Film Festival 2009

A very adult Rupert Grint, some insightful comments from Dustin Lance Black, and Julie Delpy's blood-soaked lesbian countess drama make for a colorful Berlin Film Festival.

BY Lawrence Ferber

February 26 2009 1:00 AM ET

Berlin has long held a
reputation of being a little freaky, but the 2009 Berlin Film
Festival was downright experimental. The finalists and winners
of the festival's
Teddy
Awards

, for works with LGBT content and/or creators, were primarily
experimental in style, with
Raging Sun, Raging Sky,

Mexican director Julián Hernández's plotless,
three-hour-plus wide-screen poem snagging the Best Feature
prize. More mainstream, accessible fare peppered the festival's
substantial queer-interest lineup, including
Pedro,

MTV's Pedro Zamora biopic scripted by
Milk

's Dustin Lance Black, while big stars like Kate Winslet, Keanu
Reeves, and queer icon Tilda Swinton, who headed up the
festival's main jury, added nonstop Hollywood excitement.

One of the most highly
anticipated premieres was that of
An Englishman in New York,

in which actor John Hurt -- who played Quentin Crisp in 1975's
The Naked Civil Servant

-- reprised his role as the beloved/loathed, famously pithy
icon.
Englishman

follows the witticism-spewing, aging British dandy as he leaves
England to achieve fame in New York City; forges friendships
with a gay magazine editor and a lonely artist; makes bitter
enemies with the very community he once stood for by declaring
"AIDS is just a fad"; and finds a kindred spirit in
performer Penny Arcade (played by Cynthia Nixon).

At the film's press
conference, Hurt, along with director Richard Laxton, discussed
the differences between
Englishman

and
Civil Servant,

both of which were produced for British TV (Jonathan Nossiter's
1990 documentary on Crisp,
Resident Alien,

also screened).

"The context of the
first film was a man against the world," Laxton said, "and
the second film is about the man and his relationship with
himself." The film paints a sometimes pitiful picture of
Crisp, who despite having accrued substantial savings lived in
a tiny, filthy studio apartment, resigned to remain unloved.
Nonetheless, Hurt assured listeners, "Quentin certainly
didn't suffer from loneliness, and he wouldn't consider himself
lonely. But even if he was lonely, he didn't suffer from it. It
was something he took on board as part of life. I admire
him."

Hurt was later awarded
a special acting Teddy for his performance. "I don't think
I've been more excited about receiving any award than this
one," he gushed during the televised ceremony, at which
Warhol muse Joe Dallesandro -- subject of the new documentary
Little Joe,

coproduced by his stepdaughter and rich with incredible
archival footage - was also honored. Wieland Speck, programmer
of the fest's Panorama section and a Teddy cofounder, praised
Dallesandro for changing "perceptions of maleness on film
forever." And Dallesandro praised Germany for the way it
changed his perception of himself during his Warhol days.
"Europe made me feel like an actor," he shared.

Tags: Film

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