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From Tokyo to Texas, Berlin festival films dissect family life

Actors Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, director Lars Von Trier, actors Mia Goth, Stacy Martin and Shia LaBeouf (L-R) pose on the fi
Actors Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, director Lars Von Trier, actors Mia Goth, Stacy Martin and Shia LaBeouf (L-R) pose on the fi

By Stephen Brown

BERLIN (Reuters) - Portrayals of the difficulties of family life in Tokyo around World War Two and in Texas in the 21st century lend a domestic tone to the Berlin Film Festival's competition this year.

The uncut "Nymphomaniac" by Denmark's Lars von Trier and George Clooney's topical "The Monuments Men", about art looted by the Nazis, will probably grab more attention - for different reasons - but both are being screened out of competition.

The line-up for the Golden Bear and other prizes is short on current Hollywood "A-listers" but rich in global variety. The 23 films in competition come from 20 countries, including multiple entries from places as far apart as China and Argentina.

Twenty of those 23 will compete for the "Golden Bear" which will be presented on February 15, while 18 are world premieres.

Alain Resnais, director of classics such as "Hiroshima mon amour" of 1959 and "Last Year at Marienbad" in 1961, will enter the competition with a film version of Alan Ayckbourn's play "Life of Riley" about a man with a terminal illness.

Veteran Japanese director Yoji Yamada, whose career has been just as long and includes his "Samurai" trilogy, is back with "The Little House", which portrays family life in Tokyo before and during the war.

Fast forward six decades to "Slacker" director Richard Linklater's "Boyhood". Set in his native Texas, it was shot over 12 years following a boy played by Ellar Samon and his divorced parents, portrayed by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette.

DRUGS AND SERIAL KILLERS

Vincent Cassell's hardman image gets fairy-tale treatment under French director Christophe Gans in "Beauty and the Beast", with Lea Seydoux in the other title role.

Forest Whitaker and Harvey Keitel square up as an ex-convict converted to Islam and a sheriff bent on revenge in "Two Men in Town", directed in English by French-Algerian Rachid Bouchareb.

Swedish export Stellan Skarsgard stars in the Norwegian action comedy "In Order of Disappearance" by Hans Petter Moland. Their last collaboration, "A Somewhat Gentle Man", was nominated for the Golden Bear in 2010. This time Skarsgard portrays a man who works clearing snow but gets caught up with the drug mafia.

Peru's Claudia Llosa, whose wrenching "Milk of Sorrow" won the Golden Bear in 2009 and was nominated for an Oscar, returns with "Aloft". Starring Jennifer Connelly and Cillian Murphy, it tells the tale of a mother separated from her sick daughter.

Young Argentine director Benjamin Naishtat makes his feature debut with "History of Fear", while compatriot Celina Murga, who studied under Martin Scorsese and made her name with "Ana and the Others", portrays adolescent discovery in "Third Shore".

Yinan Diao from China presents the thriller "Black Coal, Thin Ice" about a policeman hunting a serial killer.

The Berlin jury includes Tony Leung, star of Wong Kar Wai arthouse classics like "In the Mood for Love" as well as of Hong Kong action movies by the likes of John Woo.

"Bond" producer Barbara Broccoli and "Django Unchained" star Christoph Waltz will also sit on the jury.

(Editing by Michael Roddy and Gareth Jones)

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