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Michelle Pfeiffer lauds younger screen lovers at Berlinale

Michelle Pfeiffer said she has fewer role choices now that she is 50 but the upside is that her on-screen lovers keep getting younger, as she unveiled her new Stephen Frears drama "Cheri" Tuesday at the Berlin Film Festival.

Michelle Pfeiffer lauds younger screen lovers at Berlinale
Photo: DPA

In the film, which drew enthusiastic applause at a press screening, the US actress plays an ageing courtesan who seduces a rival’s callow son, two decades after she starred in Frears’ erotic drama “Dangerous Liaisons.”

She told a press conference full of questions on how she maintains her still-striking beauty that the film industry was not such a bad place for an actress of a certain age.

“They do allow you to get older in Hollywood. Some of us continue to work and this is a good example of it,” said Pfeiffer, who will be 51 in April. “It seems that my leading men just keep getting younger the older I get. But lucky for me, I don’t really mind it,” she purred.

She said she had learned a few tricks about the business in her 30 years of acting.

“When I’m working I take really good care of myself and when I’m not working I stay out of sight,” Pfeiffer said. “And I stopped smoking when I was 30, that helped.”

“Cheri” is based on the 1920 novel by French writer Colette and adapted for the screen by Christopher Hampton, who also wrote “Dangerous Liaisons.” It tells the story of Lea, a still beautiful, independent woman of means thanks to her illustrious career as a concubine to princes and industrialists, who is living in Paris on the eve of World War I.

Her former colleague in the business of seduction – Madame Peloux, played by Oscar-winner Kathy Bates – complains to her that her handsome young son seems content to live a life of debauchery with no direction or purpose. So Lea takes “Cheri,” as she calls the 21-year-old, under her wing – and into her bed.

Asked about the prevalence of May-December romances on screen at the festival with an older woman on top, including “The Reader” starring Kate Winslet as a woman in postwar Germany who takes a teenage lover, Pfeiffer said with a smile: “I think it’s a positive step in the right direction.”

Pfeiffer said she was thrilled when Frears asked to work with her again. “She worked out what fading beauty might be like because she clearly doesn’t know anything about that,” Frears quipped.

The director bristled when a reporter asked whether a tragic romance set in Belle Epoque France was appropriate during a global economic slowdown or at the Berlin festival, which is known for showcasing gritty political cinema.

“Of course in the Depression, people used to go to see Fred Astaire films,” he said, noting that audiences often sought “escapism” in tough times. “I can show you a miserable film if you want.”

Frears said it was not easy to strike the right tone in telling the story of a seemingly superficial affair between two wealthy, frivolous people that turns sour.

“There’s a tragedy going on underneath, that’s why it was so difficult, that was what you had to get right,” he said. “And it goes right back to Colette, that was how she wrote the book.”

“Cheri” is one of 18 contenders for the Berlin festival’s Golden Bear top prize, to be awarded by jury president Tilda Swinton at a gala ceremony Saturday. The event wraps up the next day.

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FOOD&DRINK

Five German drinks to try this summer

There’s nothing quite like a cold drink on a hot summer’s day and the Germans know it well. That’s why they’ve got a variety of tasty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to cool them down in the hottest months. Here are five you should try.

Five German drinks to try this summer

Summertime in Germany can get pretty hot, but thankfully there are plenty of popular drinks which can help you cool down, as well as tickle the tastebuds.

In Germany, fizzy water is wildly popular, so it’s not surprising that Sprudel is a key ingredient in most of the drinks on this list.

Hugo

A Hugo cocktail. Photo: Greta Farnedi/Unsplash

The Hugo is a cocktail made of Prosecco, elderflower syrup, mint leaves, a shot of mineral water and a slice of lime.

This refreshing alcoholic drink was invented by Roland Gruber, a bartender in South Tyrol, the mainly German-speaking region of northern Italy in 2005.

Though the drink wasn’t invented in Germany, it quickly spread across the borders of northern Italy and gained popularity here. Nowadays, you’ll be able to order a Hugo in pretty much any bar in the country.

Radler

A woman holds a pint of Radler. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

One of the best-known and most popular mixed beer drinks is the Radler: a concoction of beer and lemonade, a bit like a British shandy. In some areas of Germany – particularly in the south – the mixture is called Alster.

Usually, the ratio is 60 percent beer and 40 percent lemonade, but there are also some interesting variants. In some regions of Germany, a distinction is made between sweet (with lemonade) and sour (with water) Radler. Some foolhardy drinkers even mix their beer with cola (called a diesel).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German regions producing the most important beer ingredient

Apfelschorle

A woman pours apple spritz into plastic cups. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Soeren Stache

Apfelschorle is an absolute German classic.

The traditional mix of apple juice and fizzy water is a 1:1 ratio, but if you’re making the drink at home you can adjust the measurements to your liking. 

The concept of Saftschorle (fruit spritzer) has moved way beyond the plain old apple in Germany though. On Supermarket shelves, you’ll find major drinks chains offering a wide variety of fizzy fruit beverages, including  Rhabarbe-Schorle (Rhubarb spritz), Schwarze Johannisbeer-Schorle (Black currant spritz) and Holunderschorle (elderberry spritz).

Berliner Weiße mit Schuss

A woman drinks a Berliner Weiße in Berlin.

A woman drinks a Berliner Weiße in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Britta Pedersen

The Berliner Weiße (or Weisse) is an old, German beer, brewed with barley and wheat malt.

As the name suggests, it originates from the German capital, where it was extremely popular in the 19th century and was celebrated as the “Champagne of the North”.

But by the end of the 19th century, sour beer styles, including this one, became increasingly unpopular and they almost died out completely. 

READ ALSO: Five German foods that aren’t what you think they are

So people started mixing the drink with sweet syrup. This gave rise to the trend of drinking Berliner Weissbier with a shot (Schuss) of raspberry or woodruff syrup, which is still widely enjoyed today. Some breweries even ferment fruits such as raspberries or strawberries.

The drink is so well-known in Germany, that there was even a TV series named after it which ran for 10 years 1984 to 1995.

Weinschorle

Water and wine in equal parts and both well chilled – a light summer drink. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | DWI

Another fizzy-water-based German classic is the white wine spritz. 

A wine spritzer is a refreshing drink on warm summer days which has the advantage of not going to your head as quickly as a regular glass of wine. With equal parts fizzy water and wine, the drink has only about 5-6 percent alcohol, compared to glass of pure white wine, which has about 9-14 percent. 

For optimum German-ness when making this drink at home, choose a German white wine such as Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner or Riesling.

Enjoy and drink responsibly!

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