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'Chicago' jazzes up somber Berlin film fest

February 07, 2003|From Associated Press

BERLIN — The annual Berlin Film Festival opened Thursday, with the musical "Chicago" bringing a burst of choreographic flair and Hollywood star chemistry to the 10-day event.

The Berlinale, now in its 53rd edition, ranks alongside Venice and Cannes as one of the major European film festivals. More than 300 movies are being screened before the festival closes Feb. 16, with 22 competing for the top Golden Bear award.

"Chicago," which is screening out of competition, probably will contrast with the more somber tone of the festival as a whole, which Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick said reflects the world's troubled political climate.

The screening brought stars Richard Gere, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Renee Zellweger to Berlin, along with director Rob Marshall. "It was the best experience I have had as an actor," said Gere, who plays a sleazy lawyer in the film based on the Broadway musical about murder and jealousy in 1920s Chicago.

The musical, with its jazz-belting female prisoners, already picked up the award for best musical or comedy at last month's Golden Globe awards, where Gere and Zellweger won for best actor and actress, respectively.

Reflecting the promise of a more serious tone, the festival will feature three films examining refugees, including "In this World," by British director Michael Winterbottom, which traces the journey of two Afghan refugees across Iran, Turkey, Italy and France to England.

Documentaries include Oliver Stone's "Comandante," about Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Among U.S. films in competition are "25th Hour" from Spike Lee, "Adaptation" from Spike Jonze, and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," the directorial debut of George Clooney.

The Berlin festival prides itself on being open to a wider audience than its rivals. More than 130,000 tickets were sold to the public in 2002.

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