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This week at the Kino: Spiders, cows and golden bears

It's another busy week for releases in newly re-opened cinemas. This time around, there's a shared animal theme.

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Jay Maidment Marvel / Disney

Marvel returns to the big screen this week with Black Widow (Disney+).

This week’s film column is animal-themed, with the releases of the Golden Bear winner Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, Marvel’s Black Widow, another arachnid-friendly title in the shape of Berlinale oddity The Girl And The Spider, Kelly Reichardt’s digitally released First Cow and Sean Durkin’s The Nest… which is what birds call their homes.

Just go with me on this protracted journey, won’t you?

The only one that doesn’t fit this week’s ham-fisted theme is The Little Things, a neo-noir crime thriller starring Denzel Washington, Rami Malek and Jared Leto. Thankfully, it’s an unoriginal throwback which brings nothing new or exciting to a genre that has greatly evolved since the 1990s, and doesn’t deserve to disturb our animal fun.

The gilded ursid is first. Romanian director Radu Jude’s Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn bagged the Berlinale’s top prize this year, and it’s a deserved win. It’s a trenchant – if messy – satire revolving around the leaking of a teacher’s sex tape, and stands as one of the most outrageously entertaining and provocative Golden Bear winners in recent memory. We had the pleasure of meeting Radu Jude prior to the Berlinale Summer Special, and asked him about his “sociological sex film”, the importance of montage, and how extra layers of satire decried from filming under Covid. You can read the interview here.

Onto the arachnids with one of the Summer’s tentpole blockbuster releases, Marvel’s Black Widow, and Berlinale alumnus The Girl And The Spider. The first is an entertaining yet somehow stale adventure that suffers from its narrative’s placement in the MCU timeline; the second is Swiss directing duo Ramon Zürcher and Silvan Zürcher’s window into the comings and goings of lonely souls, who constantly stare at each other to a lunatic degree as they stumble across each other in the corridors of a shared flat.

It’s a beautifully filmed claustrophobic gem that will either strike you as deceptively profound or exasperatingly hollow. The Berlinale’s Encounters jury bestowed upon it the Best Director award, so you know where they stand; love it or loath it, it’s the kind of unusual work that makes the Berlinale’s curation so special.

Regarding the birds, the eternally delayed The Nest is now out. It’s Sean Durkin’s first feature since his brilliant 2011 debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and stars both Jude Law and Carrie Coon on fine form.

And finally, out with the suspense, as we’ve saved the strongest for last. The best film of the week goes to the bovid, with Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow being an absolute must-see. Having screened at last year’s Berlinale in Competition, it finally gets an online release on MUBI and should be your top viewing priority.

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Herr Bachmann Und Seine Klasse, screening at Arsenal as part of their Über das Lenen programme. 

Regarding upcoming events, our main recommendation is to head to Arsenal in the coming days for their Über das Lenen programme. It’s a school and education-themed series that explores new and old educational grounds through documentary and feature films, and takes place in parallel with the Education Shock exhibition at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. You won’t regret booking tickets: whether it’s Passe Ton BAC D’abord (9th), Maurice Pialat’s 1978 chronicle set in the northern French provinces which sees young students preparing their university-entry exams, Gus Van Saint’s Palme d’Or-winning Elephant (11th), Frederick Wiseman’s At Berkley, a deep dive into the spaces and structures of an elite US university (12th), Claire Simon’s terrific Premières Solitudes, or a preview screening of Maria Speth’s Berlinale standout Herr Bachmann Und Seine Klasse (14th – out in cinemas mid-September), it’s a fantastically curated line-up that’s well worth discovering.

Also on our radar is Creepy Crypt’s screening of Possessor on Saturday evening (Rollberg, at 22:30), as well as the German premiere of Dominik Moll’s new film, Seules Les Bêtes, followed by a conversation with the director, taking place at Babylon on Wednesday 14th (starting at 19:30). On the same evening is Delphi Lux’s screening of Glück for their monthly Queerfilmnacht (21:00). The lesbian romance screened in Panorama at this year’s Berlinale and while it didn’t do much for us, we invite you to give it a try so you can tell us how wrong we are when our review is published on July 22.

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Bruce LaBruce’s Saint-Narcisse gets a preview screening at Freiluftkino Kreuberg (Monday 12th – 21:30).

On the outdoor front, tomorrow brings several alluring options. Looking back, we have ARTE Sommerkino Schloss Charlottenburg’s screening of Luc Besson’s Léon (The Professional) at 21:30 and Sommerkino am Kulturforum are showing Stanley Kubrick’s final and unfairly maligned Eyes Wide Shut at 21:45. However solid those options are, our pick is to look forward and head to Hofkino.berlin for 21:30 to catch the preview screening of Quo Vadis, Aida?, Jasmila Žbanić’s Oscar-nominated retelling of the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre.

It follows a Bosnian UN translator who is torn between duty and family as a genocide becomes increasingly inevitable, and it’s without a doubt one of this year’s most vital and compassionate pieces of filmmaking. It comes out in cinemas on August 5 – rush to catch it early, and keep an eye out for our upcoming review and interview with Jasmila Žbanić. 

Freiluftkino Hasenheide are screening Chloé Zhao’s Oscar-winning Nomadland on Saturday 10 (21:45), as well as our favourite film of 2019, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, on Sunday 11 (21:45). We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again – if you haven’t seen Céline Sciamma’s emotionally refined and intimate evocation of deep human connection, what are you doing with your life? Get on it. S’il vous plaît. Merci.

Lastly, don’t overlook these two events on Monday 12th: Freiluftkino Kreuzberg’s preview screening of Canadian provocateur Bruce LaBruce’s Saint-Narcisse (21:30) and Mobile Kino’s GRRL HAUS evening (21:45). Saint-Narcisse is set in Quebec in the early 1970s and sees Félix-Antoine Duval play a pair of identical twins who were separated at birth and who…can you guess it from the title?… begin a sexual relationship when they’re reunited. Love thyself, indeed… As for GRRL HAUS, the evening celebrating all Berlin talent is back, with a wide variety of short films made by women, non-binary, genderqueer and trans people. It takes place at Alte Münze at 21:45 and is both a joy and the chance to champion local and underrepresented creative voices.

There we have it. Happy screenings, check out last week’s column for our reviews and interviews for films still out now, and see you next week.