There should be a film festival equivalent of jet lag – let’s call it filmfest-lag, or just fest lag. Many of us were in the same state in the last seven days. Get up, forget the newspapers, run, catch the 10am show, one more show, quick lunch, another show, or squeeze in office hours in between ( for paapi pet-waale), run back for evening shows, stand in queues, do some jugaad, try to catch two more evening films, and if the body and mind survives, go out for dinner with your gang of usual suspects and return back home with a dead body to start the same cycle all over again the next morning. And if you are a film buff, there’s no other way to enjoy a film fest. This was a week in fast forward mode, at least that’s what it felt – the fastest week in this calendar year.
With the main venue being shifted to NCPA, we, the poor suburbanites, had to travel a lot. But the good part was Tata Theater’s 1100 seats. So once you reach there, one thing was for sure – you will get in. INOX started ticketing system to sort things out but it was more of a headache. We will try to cover the fuckups in a different post. The aim was to see four films everyday. But with so much traveling and paapi-pet responsibility, had to miss two days of the fest. Quick reviews/reccos of the films i saw in the last seven days.
After Lucia : A father and a daughter trying to come to terms with a tragedy in which both were involved. They start their life in a new place, both pretending to be strong but get into situations which go out of their control and ends on a very unsettling note – the baggage of guilt. It gets scary when you are not sure about right and wrong but take a drastic step to justify it. Brilliantly written, acted, and directed, the film starts randomly – a man leaves his car in the middle of the road and walks away. And slowly, over the next one hour you connect the dots. The last shot – a man with a deadpan face and…well, that will be spoiler…is going to stay with me for long. Must Watch.
Beasts Of The Southern Wild : Aha, another father-daughter story. There is magic, there is fantasy and there’s harsh truth of life and survival. This one is quite an ambitious debut film which creates a terrific new world which is rarely explored on the big screen. A sense of community, that pull of your own land even when the physical “land” doesn’t exists, or it’s all submerged underwater, still you want to return – this one touches upon many interesting themes, see which one works for you. This is what you call a daring debut! Must Watch.
Throw Of Dice : This 1929 silent film was screened with live orchestra and it was my first time in such a screening. Though it was hard to see one musical instrument on-screen and hear the sound of something else, it was quite a unique experience. While the film was rated “Universal”, i kept on counting the number of smooches – three for sure. Where are we now?
Shahid : The first 40 mins or so of the film made me quite restless. All i saw was montage which looked disjointed, not sure where the story was going, and the background score was repetitive and loud. Maybe there was some problem with the projection too. But once it settles down, it flies and how! The best scenes of the film are without any background music – the court room and family scenes. Raj Kumar Yadav is there in almost every frame of the film and he makes you believe that he is Shahid Azmi. A top notch performance, he holds the film together, and am willing to bet my money on him. The strength of the film is the way Shahid is portrayed – it’s not black and white, sometimes you are with him, and sometimes you are not sure about him, his intention or his work. Welcome back, Mister Mehta!
Like Someone In Love : The film has been getting some cold reviews so far but i still took a chance. Early morning show, and a Japanese old man who is not sure what to do with a hooker. With a slow pace that i was prepared for, i was feeling so sleepy that i could have gone to bed with the old man too. I thought it’s better to walk out and get ready for the next one.
Miss Lovely : WOW! The film has brilliant written all over it and in every department. But it’s not an easy watch because Ashim uses the story/plot as merely a prop here. It’s documentation of a time, of a world that deserves much more attention, and it tries to slowly soak you into it, sometimes to the point of suffocation. Money, nudity, sex and exploitation in those smoke filled dingy rooms – it all looks so real that you can even get the stench. It’s indulgent. It’s cocky. It doesn’t want to follow the convention and ends with a brilliant sequence where blood is not scary. Get into this world if you are interested, otherwise don’t even walk in. Easily one of the best directed films in India in the last few years. Must Watch.
From Tuesday to Tuesday – A rape happens, someone sees it, that someone is into bodybuilding and he tries to sort out the lives around him – all in seven days. Just another film that you can easily skip.
Rust & Bone – Aha, this was disappointing. Or maybe i was expecting too much from it. Two lonely people find comfort in each other but their problems and priorities are different. Few sub-plots here and there which really doesn’t contribute much and it ends up saying or showing almost nothing new. On the other hand, this is what i call “cinema for gender equality” because both the male and female leads are hot and sexy and there is ample nudity – time for some good ol’ eye-gasm.
Shameless – A film on incest which sounds like another one on the same topic – Shame. And as Varun mentioned in his post, this was like prequel of Shame. If Shame was minimalistic in his approach with European sensibility and mostly about character sketches, Shameless was completely amreekan in its approach. If you have seen Shame, don’t bother.
The Wall – I knew what i was getting into – a women goes to a jungles and leads a lonely life surrounded by a dog, a cow and a cat. She writes her diary everyday and we get to hear her thoughts on daily life, death, company – philosophy through voice-over. That’s it. Yes, that’s it. Looking at the scenario here, i do wonder if the biggest achievement for these films is that they get made! We love to call it “meditative” genre and sometimes you feel like trying that. The film can also be described as vegetation porn – you either watch so much green onscreen to soothe you eyes or you turn vegetative watching all that for 2 hours. For me it was the former.
Kauwboy – A kid, his father, a jackdaw and a tragedy. Simple things, simple joys of childhood and an effort to simplify life – aha, if only it was all that simple. The director handles the kid and his story with so much empathy that you wonder if it was all written or he just handed the bird to the kid and started following him. Beautiful.
The Hunt – A teacher is accused of molestation by a kindergarten kid. We all know the truth but the kid doesn’t know or understand anything. So? The film started a debate on Twitter because few people thought it’s a simple story of prosecution. I felt that’s NOT the film, it’s about kids psychology, how it works and how the family can change things accordingly – it’s blood scary. Must Watch.
Paanch Adhyay – Film reviewer Pratim D Gupta makes his debut with this bengali film. Though the film has some nice moments and Pratim tries to play around with the structure as well, the film doesn’t really gel well. The second female lead has a squeaky voice which makes things worse and the love story with her feels weak and unconvincing. The songs create a good mood but too much use of the same tunes in background makes it look forced and jarring.
Electrcik Children : A Mormon teenager gets pregnant and thinks its because of a song she heard on a tape. And so begins the search for the singer who has sung the song. The premise actually sounds much more interesting than the film. This is more of a journey film rather than a destination one. And the journey seems short and fast because of the liberal dose of funny moments and dialogues.
Beyond The Hills : Another disappointment. But this one is again brilliantly directed. It slowly builds up a scary scenario as two teenage girls tries to find some comfort in their lives which is all about poverty, loneliness and strict rules of a Monastery. Problem is it takes too long to makes its point and keeps on moving in loop. This one needs patience. On a lighter note, it felt like Gossip Girls set in a monastery. Gir1 wants sex. Girl2 wants Jesus. Rest of the girls are having fun trying to figure out the drama.
Ship Of Theseus : Another desi, another true blue indie, and another WOW! Anand Gandhi’s debut feature is ambitious, assured, and tackles some heavy philosophy on life, death and moral dilemmas but without being pretentious. The first story feels weak compared to other two. It slowly unravels the three stories one by one but never bores you. Also, it’s remarkable that how without any known actor in its cast, it manages to pull it off so smoothly. The background music is unlike other desi stuff and is subtle and haunting. The “humane” factor at its core stays with you for long. Easily one of the best desi debut films. Must Watch.
Pune 52 : Was eagerly looking forward to it because of its trailer. But first things first – trailer is NOT the film. Liked it in bits and parts but as a whole it felt like two films trying to fit into one. It’s more about a married man who is detective rather than a detective who also has wife. Girish Kulkarni and Sonali Kulkarni holds it together though some of the sequences are suddenly so abrupt and out of the blue. The makers are still working on the film.
Holy Motors – Popular opinion at the fest was that bizarre is the keyword here. But if you scratch the surface and connect the dots, it’s not that bizarre. The treatment makes it look so weird but it’s more of a symbolic representation of themes and thoughts which has been put together like a mixed media art installation. Or just google and read a bit, it will all make sense. It’s great fun till it lasted but don’t think it’s going to stay with me for long. This is cinema of audacity. Must Watch.
(PS – Wanted to start the fest with Sarah Polly’s Stories We Tell. Since that could not happen, i thought at least the header should have some bit of it.)
And what all you saw? Please do let us know your reviews/reccos in the comment section.