Archive for October, 2013

Blue Is The Warmest Color has easily become the most talked about film of the year. With its release in US, the debate is still on. Fatema Kagalwala saw the film, ponders over it, and tries to understand the controversies and criticism surrounding the film. Read on.

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I watched BITWC at MAMI and not without fighting a few battles for it. It included doing a town-to-Andheri trip in rush hour traffic, giving up watching ‘The Past’ after much deliberation, and other such sundry mad-hatter-ness over-enthu cuts are usually prone to. I had bought the hype completely and the third, on–request screening at the MAMI film fest was just way too precious to miss.

I watched the 3-hr long film and then began reading about it all. The criticism of the male gaze, the length of the sex scene, the book vs film, (It is based on Julie Maroh’s graphic novel ‘Blue Angel’), Kechiche’s treatment of the girls and so on. I was quite surprised to read the content of the criticism and notice that the intense film hadn’t moved the nay-sayers enough to be more forgiving. At the same time I was very surprised to see I felt much more for the film than I first realised.

At the outset, it seemed to be yet another coming-of-age European film, delving delicately into the inner life of its tremulous 15 yr old. It turned out to be quite so, except that it wasn’t delicate and it wasn’t a ‘yet another’ film. It was one of the most disturbing, hell-fire-raising films, which days later remains haunting, just like the sleepy eyes of its protagonist Adele.

From the time the film starts we know Adele is special. Just like Juno, in that other defining teenage film of the same name. And she is searching. Just like each one of us is at that age. We don’t know yet what exactly is she searching for, but she is expectant and anticipating. Almost holding a breath, waiting for life to surprise her as she pats her unruly hair in place and casually walks up to her school bus.

Adele’s first romantic encounter isn’t bad. In fact she seems to be enjoying the attentions of this nice guy who really seems to be interested in her. But her first heterosexual encounter leaves her cold. And confused. She wakes up in the middle of the night fantasising about this strange girl with blue hair she passed by on the street the other day and since then hasn’t been able to forget.

Suddenly, she is so restless we crave for her to find that blue-haired girl. She is completely unaware of what she feels though, when she kisses another girl in a fleeting moment of irrepressible passion. By then, we have an inkling of Adele’s journey and wonder if it is going to be easy. By now we know she is an intense person and at that delicate threshold of age where experiences can make or break her.

She meets that blue-haired girl soon enough. It is at a gay bar Adele goes to with her best friend and stays back in, exploring it on her own…almost intuitively, the same way she has decided to explore this new side of her. The girl with blue hair is called Emma and she has been drawn by Adele too. There is something to be said about unexplainable chemistry that all of us at some point have encountered, the same that has now drawn Emma and Adele into its net. It isn’t new for the older Emma, and soon Adele gives herself up to this new-found passion. She gives in because she senses this is the truth she has been seeking. It envelopes her completely and she lets it possess her with a consuming intensity.

As we suspected early on, it isn’t easy for her. The first attack comes from her girl gang back at school and we learn of the irrational, demonic homophobia the world is gripped in. Teenagers, before they turn rebellious, generally are the most prejudiced, most intolerant, most judgemental, operating from a world-view sharp in its blacks and whites. Adele also has a conventional, hetero-normative family, equally prone to the same discomfort with homosexuality her classmates share. It is this that makes Adele introduce Emma as her friend to her family.  But it does not provoke questions in her mind, she is consumed by the passion she feels for Emma. And Emma, for all her arty ambitions, is deeply involved as well, happy to devour Adele and be possessed by her.

They are famished for each other and satiated by each other. The two unprecedented sex scenes in the film, controversial but landmark, define the passion they feel for each other, a passion governed by an unbreakable bond and undeniable chemistry, stuff that made-for-each-others are made of. There have been several disconcerted noises about a straight film-maker making a lesbian film and the male gaze re-imagining a female sexual encounter to its own benefit. As much as my limited understanding of homosexual relationships, desire, love and togetherness goes, they aren’t any different from heterosexual ones. Desire after all, is an equaliser and passion is not partial; that fire consumes all of us equally. Kechiche captures Adele and Emma as raw and animal as possible. They WANT each other and want each other completely. There is something life-affirming in a passion like that and Kechiche and both the girls do complete justice in bringing it to life.

The carnality of the sex scenes, their raw lust for each other and unbridled nudity puts the question of the gaze in picture. Whose point of view the film is from and whose point of view is Kechiche trying to underscore? This (link) lambasts Kechiche for using lesbian sexuality to satisfy the male voyeurism for girl-on-girl action. This (link) criticises the un-emotionality of the scene and feels the 3rd person pt of view, the staginess and complete lack of the girls’ point of view takes away from their story. For the writer, the male gaze claim is somehow validated by the way the scene is staged. However, I find it difficult to imagine how close-ups would have escaped a similar criticism of exploitation. The staging of the film, one that includes the entwined nude bodies of both locked in lust but views it at a distance, could be seen as a documentary eye as well. Or observant. To my mind, if he had cut close, that would have rang false, and maybe then looked like the male gaze on a trip.

Someone asked me if, being a woman, the un-emotionality of the carnal scenes put me off. But being a woman, the scene wasn’t unemotional to my eyes. The lust was raw but it arose from a deep bond the two felt between themselves. And Kechiche’s portrayal seemed to be capturing that bond from a safe distance, hesitant to step in lest he interfere and become the unnecessary third person. I loved what I saw, the unabashed hunger of a female for another female, somehow affirming the yin and yang of ourselves and how we have enough of both in each one us irrespective of our genders.

What is important about the entire male gaze question is the question of protagonist. In a heterosexual sex scene, the action is almost always filmed from the male point of view, with the female framed as the object of vicarious desire for the film-maker and audience. But with both people involved being women and the camera being distant, I was left asking – who was the desired and who was the one lusting, and how was the audience meant to relate to it all? It was an interesting equation Kechiche threw up and I think he did away with the male gaze with his framing. The 3rd person point of view lens helped me watch and engage with a very intimate film without obstruction, without external baggage. It may not have been the intention, but it was liberating. It is worthy of note that in most other emotional scenes Kechiche goes and stays really close, so close it almost seems like he is desperate to peek into Adele and Emma’s souls…And it is important because that involves us intimately, without us really realising it.

Adele’s growing up from a student to teacher is glossed by. Suddenly, she is playing the dutiful, loving ‘wife’ to Emma and her party of arty friends whom we still don’t know if we can take seriously. I am indifferent to the jump in years because what matters most is the change in their relationship. They have settled into a regular live-in relationship and life has begun to fray the passion. Emma doesn’t seem to be as devoted as before and is it only the stress of a career going nowhere? Why the need to connect with Adele intellectually? Why the need for Adele to have a passion especially in the arts? Why isn’t Adele’s love for teaching, something she does intuitively very well, not enough? These questions are at the edge, because the film meanders aimlessly and stops at a lot of places it needn’t have. But after touching on all those uncomfortable questions lightly, it stops at a random encounter of Adele with a man. And Adele’s downward spiral begins. She is lonely and searching again. This time it hurts to watch.

Which was the most disturbing scene – the break-up or the sex scene? Which more agonising? Interviews (link) of the stars have mentioned the trauma they underwent while filming both. Adele speaks of being very raw from being being hit hard and of Kechiche screaming at Emma to hit her even harder. The scene was filmed for hours and hours on end, that and only that scene repeatedly. That I closed my eyes during the scene is probably evidence enough that Kechiche got what he wanted, a soul-searing portrait of heartbreak complete with tears, snot and blood.

When Adele was out on the streets, helpless and howling like a pup in pain, it was then that actually I began to feel for her character. I wanted Emma to take her back and say all was fine. I wanted their passion to be restored to its previous glory and I wanted Adele to be safe. Because after that we never see the Adele we had been watching till then. And as with all those heart-broken, Adele’s lowest point comes in the restaurant when she desperately begs Emma to take her back. We see Emma settled into a boring, conventional life without any of the spark she shared with Adele and it is not explained to us why chose that. Maybe it is age, maybe wisdom, maybe disillusionment. Heartbreaks can leave unrecognisable scars and change us unfathomably. Although she responds with long-repressed passion to Adele’s sexual overtures she chooses to walk away, finding the comfort of a homely twosome more reassuring than the wildfire of one with Adele.

Intentionally or not, the film pushes us to take sides. It is Adele who strays but it is Adele’s hurt we relate to the most. Infidelity in any relationship is traumatic, but in one as intense as this, can be much more; powerful enough to break spines. Irrespective of who strays, both bear the brunt and Emma must have too but we don’t have an opportunity to know her side. She arrives at ‘infinite tenderness’ for Adele by the end of the film and it is a stirring moment. Because after great passions have worn themselves off and great rages have tired, it is actually only infinite tenderness that remains. We do not see Emma’s reconciliation with the loss, nor her transition from anger to forgiveness. But in the fabric of the film, her journey is not important, only Adele’s is and the film seems to be mute about it from this point on. It hangs like Adele does, between the last vestiges of Emma’s memories and a present that refuses to bear a better tomorrow. Anyways, when does life move until healing liberates us? Stranded, life stagnates or goes round and round in circles, desperate to find that point where it all began and where it all ended. It is called moving on for that reason. Adele is stuck too but one day she will move on.

Kechiche’s universe is not dystopian but it isn’t dreamy either. He just leaves enough space for us to imagine and hope if we are optimistic. For Adele though, it’s an end, final. She has no choice but to move on and there is no more of that we can be a part of either. The film ends with her walking away from Emma’s fashionable, successful art show. Adele has grown up or maybe she hasn’t but knowing what we know of her, she will. Perhaps that is why the French title – “La Vie d’Adèle—Chapitres 1 et 2’ makes more sense.

There is so much sensuality in the film and not all of it is tactile. The camera caressing the forms of nude statues, the indulgent focus on food, the splash of blue everywhere, Emma’s nude paintings of Adele and so on. It makes for a voluptuous fabric, the lust seeping out of the seams and spreading across the entire canvas with a hedonistic glee. This focus on the nudes in art points at an attempt to subtly explore the relationship of sexuality and art, foregrounding Emma’s artistic pursuits heightened by Adele’s presence (she calls Adele ‘my muse, my inspiration’.) Adele isn’t gratified by this; modelling for Emma is just an extension of giving herself to Emma. But for Emma, this space isn’t seamless, there are brackets. If there weren’t, her flagging artistic ambitions wouldn’t be straining their relationship. There is a reason why she is an artist and Adele a teacher in the film.

To hear the story of the original novel the film birthed from, after having watched it, it seemed like a K serial re-envisioned by Ray. I am glad the film did not have any of the sentimentality of revisiting memories through diaries, having to deal with the angst of long-suffering bitter parents of your lover and so on. It dealt with the ‘now’ of Adele, with an honesty and temerity few can muster. Kechiche must be an extremely dark and intensely emotional person to have delved into the soul of love, desire and betrayal as he has. Blue, indeed was the warmest colour at Mumbai Film Festival.

As the festival got over last night, here comes our last post in the daily wrap-up series. Our earlier Mumbai Film Festival posts are here – Day 1, What was Leos Carax smoking, Anup Singh’s QissaDay – 2, 3, 4, and on Before Midnight.

And remember, we had put our bet on Qissa winning the top prize. Here’s the complete list of the winners. It got the second prize.

This one has notes by Kartik Krishnan and Varun Grover.

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What’s Love Got To Do With It – An interesting documentary about arranged marriages, bharatmatrimony.com and matchmakers (ala that Savitri Bai tvc), men and women who had arranged & love marriages, candid wedding preparation & ceremonies, uncles & aunties performing embarrassingly at the party to Shammi Kapoor Rajesh Khanna romantic songs; nitpick – wish they had covered at least one middle/lower middle class couple’s marriage story.

Another House – An Old man suffering from Alzheimers, the now recovered alcoholic younger son, his musician girlfriend, and the selfish career oriented elder brother. Despite the fact that 60-70% of the action was set in an around the house, the film is visually appealing and the performance by the old man is reason enough to watch this one. I was just wondering as my friend said – What if the old man had been trolling his younger son ?

Vic+Flo Saw A Bear – A lesbian couple’s attempts to lead a reformed life. Could have been much better. Ati random tha. Do you think a flashback would have helped ?

Siddharth – a child is abducted. His father – a zip repairwala Rajesh Tailang (effective) attempts to find him and the toll it takes on the housewife (Tanistha Chatterjee) and their family. Well made and produced (did they actually get to shoot at Malviya Nagar Police Stn Int & Ext?) and deftly directed – this one touches upon a pretty relevant subject. Did you figure out who is the old man at the other end of the phone conversation in the end without reading the closing credits ? And that the kid is credited with 3 roles ?

The Rocket – Ahhh. It was raining ‘bachche as protagonist’ wali filmein this time. What a kickass performance by the boy and the girl. Thoda communism, thoda competition, thoda filmy climax but mazedaar film. Hats off for Uncle Purple and the grandma too. Though as a friend observed later that this Laos-Australian film is similar to the New Zealand film – Whale Rider. Kisi ne dekhi?

Ilo Ilo – Asfghar Farhadi jaisi film minus ‘thrill/mystery’ with some humor and social commentary, set in Singapore. Again, with a performance by the kid which will easily put anyone to shame, and some memorable sequences. MUST MUST WATCH.

Kartik Krishnan

Bekas : A modern-day, masala version of Turtles Can Fly. The most fun, light-hearted, uplifting film I saw at MFF this year. Two orphaned Kurdistan kids who want to go to America to meet Superman start on a donkey (with a BMW logo on its head) and face many adventures on the way. Irreverent, full of solid one-liners, super-smart filmy kids, and Iraqi folk music in BGM – this one is a must watch. Out #ykw already.

The Missing Picture : One of the most unusual, inventive documentaries i have seen ever. Very close to a literary graphic novel with its excellent poetic prose as narration over clay toys. With a monk-like calm, the narrator (director of the film), tells the story of how the oppressive Pol Pot regime went about making the leftist utopia in Cambodia. Solid, candid, detached kambal pitaayi of many leftist ideals through this very personal family story of the director. Reminded me of Art Spiegelman’s terrific novel ‘Maus’.

Son of Cain : This had an interesting premise – a father employs a chess player as a psychologist to help counsel his psycho, chess-lover son. But what followed was a passenger train derailing into a stampede caused by a cake-throwing match. Acting that screamed b-grade, plot twists that will make Abbas-Mustan’s white clothes red with shame, and characters (a pony-tailed ex-chess player who makes kids stand on a thin bar on one leg, to teach concentration) so whatthefuckfunny – it did end up being a so bad it’s good zone.

Varun Grover

And do VOTE for your favourite film. We have got two polls here. One is for the international films and the other one is for Indian films. You can vote for 2 films in both the polls.
If we have missed any film that should be included in the polls, do post in the comments.

This is bit old news. But since people are still discovering Kangana Ranaut’s latest interviews, am posting it here. I saw her interview with Anupama Chopra, and then the one with Rajeev Masand. In both the interviews, she comes across as smart, candid, funny, and articulate. Honest confessions on life, films, career choices, Bollywood, National Awards, and more. Rare qualities in a bollywood star.

Watch it if you haven’t.

Dear Kangana, whatever you are drinking, please distribute it to your fellow actors too.

Anupama Chopra’s interview

Rajeev Masand’s interview

Kartik Krishnan has got his internet back. So here’s one more round-up of Day 2,3 and 4. Our previous warp-up posts are here and here.

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A Touch of Sin – Starts off as Dombivali Fast/Falling Down, switches onto a multiple protagonist story film – with each protagonist encountering death in one way or another in his/her journey. First story is God Bless America set in a small hamlet in China, the second one ends in a crime which looks shockingly ‘normal’ & commonplace, third one is a journey of a woman working in a spa, and the last one is ‘coming of age’ story of a teenager struggling to make ends meet by working in factories. A little long and may be slightly meandering but this one quite surprised me. Super fun.

Jadoo – Somewhat OTT but funny desi comedy set in UK, this one should be watched among other things, to see that Ibu Hatela urf Harish Patel still got it, though he may have put on some weight. Was laughing at quite a few places. Formulaic, food porn, feel good family coming together at crisis masala cliche very well utilized by the director and yet there is a soul somewhere in place. Nice.

Locke – I know we are mentioning this film again but ‘t’s worth it. Tom Hardy. Driving a car. One night in London. Travelling from one end of town to another. All the time on phone. The premise sounds like a thriller but it is a superlatively shot human drama about a man trying to face his demons. Doesn’t get repetitive despite being a single ‘setup’ film. Wish we could see a hindi film like this but which actor is confident and daring enough to pull off something like this ? I wish subtitles were there because the Brit accent sometimes flew over my head. Now I want to see the writer-director’s Humming bird.

Salinger – A solid docu on the life and works of JD Salinger – Catcher in the Rye wala. Always felt the book was overrated but I want to read more stuff by him. He had 4-5 novel manuscripts ready/work in progress and yet he didn’t publish them untill he died. His eccentric relationship with fame & adulation, and the fact that in three cases of assassination (including the guy who killed John Lenon) the accused used his book to defend himself. Insightful.

Autumn Blood – this Australian thriller’s plot may seem like a B Grade rape-revenge film but I was very quickly hooked in from the opening sequence. In the 90 plus minutes of it’s duration, it has BARELY 5 MINUTES of dialogue (reminded me of Amit Kumar’s terrific Bypass). The excellent sound design and BGM is used in addition to visual storytelling and what a feat this is to pull it off. Hats off!

The Keeper of Lost Causes – Scandinavia, Police procedural, old boy, mood piece, creepy and intense, investigative thriller. Everything perfect except may be the slightly filmy end.

short-term-12-posterShort Term 12 – THE FILM OF MFF for me. Hands down. In the same ballpark as The Class. Nothing to nit pick. Nothing to write. WATCH IT NOW. Shed a tear or two in few scenes. What a depiction of a love relationship! And the teenagers are so good.

Heli – family getting caught up in extra judicial military forces ka atyachar. Quite liked it. I don’t know if this happens in Mexico, but it surely does in Kashmir & Dantewada.

For Those In Peril – this redemption tale set in the gloomy scotland (wish there were subtitles) lost me somewhere in the middle. And the bizzare ending just left me confounded. Koi samjha do kya hua.

Tonnerre – another doomed relationship film. Lovely. The lead is so good and ‘paavam’ (bechara). Was pleasantly surprised by the ending.

My Dog Killer – what an opening sequence. A tough guy training his dog, called by his dad for help. Stark, minimal, gritty, family social drama, this film left me wondering all the time where the hell this is going to go. And the dark ending nailed it for me. Don’t go by the title of the film!

A Long and Happy Life – a farmowner’s struggles to balance the shifting equations between his farmer community and the city council. Must start watching more Russian films after this one.

Kaphal (Wild Berries) – a sweet little funny children’s film set in the plush garwal, what a cinematic delight this one was. The kids(normally irritating in most hindi films) were so lovable, they carried the film on their shoulders. Ably supported by Subrat Dutta (Talaash), Pubali Sanyal (did she play Boti’s wife in Maqbool?) and cilemasnob‘s favorite under utilised Sunita Rajwar – who has a monologue and she rocks! Another movie which made me cry a couple of times. The audience loved it. Take a bow Batul Mukhtiar!

Good Morning Karachi – Slumdog Millionare meets Madhur Bhandarkar in Karachi. Was really disappointed. So were the fans of Khamosh Paani. Heard an editor friend laughing throughout at the unintentional hilarity at times.

Katiyabaaz – a very intresting film. Mazedaar. Somewhere between a documentary and a Dibakar Bannerjee-ish at times feature, this one digs into the power supply problems, a local hero (Loha Singh is the new Sagairaj!), the unpopular IAS Ritu Maheshwari – MD of Kanpur Electricity Board, the dwingling kaarkhanas of the industrial city, Indian ocean’s music and the superb background score. Lovely. Hats off to the full team. More power to apni Alice & apna Varun 🙂

Killer Toon – a web comic designer’s comic sketches potrayl of deaths, are carried out with precision of a serial killer. How? Why? Who? Is the designer responsible? What are the cops going to do about it? Who is that kid on the road? This excellent premise laden film begins with a arresting opening sequence and the horror-thriller tone is set. The repeated flashbacks and seamless transition to & from animation to reality itself is worth seeing this film – the chills down your spine while watching this one in a dark theater notwithstanding.

And an entire film can be made out the funeral business wala. What a character and what a performance by the actor (albeit in a role spanning less than half of the film). Would love to see that alternate film.

The Past – Asghar Farhadi’s superlative follow up ‘sequel’ of sorts to his brilliant A Seperation. This dysfunctional family drama is set in a almost Ramin Bahrani’s version of Paris, with characters bickering, coming to terms, confessing. It doesn’t get more ‘real’ than this and yet the situations are so dramatic. The lead from Seperation & Prophet nail it in this one, and the wife deserves all the accolades. Long takes, minimalist camerawork, terrific performances from the cast – Farhadi’s signature everywhere. I have been informed marriage-separation is the director’s favorite genre. He seems at home in this film with an objective eye on every one. The train sequence with the father son choked me up. And I loved Fohad – the little kid. MUST MUST WATCH.

You still haven’t seen Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight? Well, here’s the first thing to do. Click here to go to Mumbai Film Festival site and book your seat at Liberty Cinema for its screening on 23rd Oct at 5:30 pm slot.

And now come back to this post. Shubhodeep Pal watched the film and went meditative on Jesse and Celine’s two decade long love story – wonder, ponder, and all that jazz. Read on.

(I just have one question – they are not a couple in real life? Hawke and Delpy never fell for each other? Unbelievable, this cinema shit!)

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In one of the many memorable scenes in Before Midnight, Celine watches the setting sun descend into the distant hills, and counts down to the moment when dusk will envelop Jesse and her. “Still there” she breathes. “Still there”. Until the inevitable moment when, of course, it’s no longer there.

But is it the sun that she’s referring to, or their love – spanning two decades – that her longing, slightly sad eyes see sailing into the dark? After all, doesn’t love too follow a similar arc to the sun? It is not a far cry to suggest that, in love too, there is a period of expectation akin to dawn, then the happy realisation of love that reaches a zenith, followed by a gradual disintegration until dusk arrives, and, finally, a darkness that marks the passing of love.

However, just as they expect the sun to, many people expect dead love to conquer the darkness in a dawn that’s imminent. Sadly, love is less predictable and more beguiling than the cycle of the sun. Indeed, love is often more like the stages of our lives than we’d like to admit, and, often, it mirrors our emotional state at that stage. Our best shot is perhaps to extend the middle period – from zenith to dusk – and try to make love oscillate between these two points. Or, at least, delay the inevitable.

In Before Midnight, Jesse and Celine occupy this middle period. The heady lightness of discovering love, followed by the more sombre loss of paradise, are now past. They are together, but saddled with age, children and responsibility. More importantly, in their story, they are separated from their first moment of love by two decades. Has their love actually survived that long, Celine frequently asks. Will it endure much longer? Or will competing interests tear them apart?

In another romantic classic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Joel, one of the two protagonists, wonders: “What a loss to spend that much time with someone, only to find out that she’s a stranger”. Celine and Jesse find themselves in this spot too. Can they truly say they understand each other perfectly because of their love? Their differences, after all, are prodigious:

Celine is a strong-headed woman of the arts from post-feminist Paris and no pushover for men. Jesse is American and, despite being a moderately celebrated writer, by his own admission, lacks the cultured sophistication of Celine. Indeed, it is sometimes difficult to see Jesse’s virtues as anything other than an unremitting adoration for Celine and winning wit.

At this moment in their lives, more than anything else, they find themselves in need of re-affirming the love that binds them together. Celine and Jesse are living with their two children in Paris – but Jesse’s son from his previous marriage must spend most of his time with his mother. Jesse would prefer to be closer to him; Celine cannot think of moving to America on a whim, especially when she’s just secured a new job. Will these forces, tugging the two in opposite directions, tear them apart?

When the first feelings of love are a distant memory, what remains? Is it still love, or just a memory of love? Moreover, how does love cohabit a space in which our human frailties are eventually revealed from under the glare of the initial moments of love? In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind, this thought finds succinct expression in a dialogue between the protagonists Joel and Clementine:

“Joel: I can’t see anything that I don’t like about you.

Clementine: But you will! But you will. You know, you will think of things. And I’ll get bored with you and feel trapped because that’s what happens with me.”

Similar concerns drive one of the major underlying currents of Before Midnight. In one scene, Celine asks Jesse whether, seeing as she is now, as a woman older by twenty years, would Jesse have still come up to talk to her. Jesse tries to give a reasoned answer, instead of the expected romantic one and that irks Celine. Does love survive on expected answers, instead of the truth?

The writer Alain de Botton, in his fine book, Essays in Love, writes: “To be loved by someone is to realize how much they share the same needs that lie at the heart of our own attraction to them. Albert Camus suggested that we fall in love with people because, from the outside, they look so whole, physically whole and emotionally ‘together’ – when subjectively we feel dispersed and confused. We would not love if there were no lack within us, but we are offended by the discovery of a similar lack in the other. Expecting to find the answer, we find only the duplicate of our own problem.”

In Before Midnight, both Jesse’s and Celine’s insecurities find expression in articulate, intelligent dialogues that play one’s insecurities off the other. Perhaps the finest set of dialogues written in recent memory belongs to the hotel set piece when Celine and Jesse’s differences clash violently and spill all over each other’s sore spots. And they react as all humans do – by hurting the other in order to find a balm for one’s own wounds. The genius of this movie lies in how we can easily see – like we have often seen in our lives and in our homes — how both Jesse’s and Celine’s arguments appear sound until the other returns with a counter-argument.

Each successive argument, however, shows an increasing pain and a withering appetite to hurt. Is this the mark of true love: The unwillingness to keep on hurting the other, even in a fierce argument? Jesse tries to make peace repeatedly but fails. Celine will have none of it. But when she says “I don’t love you” to Jesse, does she really mean it or is she trying to justify to herself the reason for her vituperation of Jesse (which is undermined by her obvious affection for him)? Elsewhere in his book, de Botton writes: “We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked-how can they be as wonderful as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us?” More than anything, this middle stage of love – as we might as well call it – is a time for the recalibration of the love of Jesse and Celine, especially as they prepare to look beyond themselves into matters that will affect the lives of not just their own selves, but also the family as a whole.

Before Midnight illuminates both the comforting and disconcerting aspects of love and how it ages. Undoubtedly, love can be transcendental and offer the purest of joys to those under its spell. Equally true is that the mist of love can unravel just as quickly as it appeared. In such circumstances, it is an abiding respect for each other that offers the best anchor for saving that love. More importantly, it is an appreciation for the mundane aspects of love that might provide the most enduring memories – remember how Robin Williams, in Good Will Hunting, says how he remembers his dead wife the most at night, during which her farts while sleeping are missing.

Susan Sontag argued in her seminal essay “Against Interpretation”, that the new critical approach to aesthetics undermines the spiritual, transcendental importance of art, which, is, instead, being replaced by the emphasis on the intellect. Can we perhaps extend a similar argument to the interpretation of love? Are we witnessing a transformational age in which love becomes a means to an end, soon to be discarded for more “substantial” things such as a meeting of minds that is based on logic and compatibility? The illogic of love can barely withstand the logic of our personal wants.

 ~

before-midnight

As a movie, Before Midnight is an oddity. In an industry that pleasures itself by commissioning inferior sequels that can endlessly cash-in the goodwill earned by the first movie, Before Midnight offers arguably more than the previous two films in the series combined. Apart from its deep meditation on love, it also has much warmth and wit to offer – on asides as various as parenting; sex in the age of virtual reality; the difference in psychologies of men and women, and the interpretation of literature. Even the funniest gags are littered with meaning — a particularly amusing one has Celine acting a bimbo.

The only irksome facet of this movie – which is quite deeply feminist at heart – is how it often shifts the audience’s “sympathy” to Jesse’s predicament and portrays Celine as unrelentingly insensitive to his plaints. This does not appear unnatural as it is presented in the movie, but was a slight cause of concern to me. Why did I feel more sorry for Jesse? Is it just how the characters are, or was Celine’s constant rebuffing of Jesse a bit too exaggerated? That said the movie excels beyond your highest expectations.

But do the two characters find a resolution? In a masterstroke, the movie refuses to tell us. And, given how faithfully it mirrors the oscillations of love in most of our lives, that is how it should be. For, what is life but an endless search for answers, only to find that each answer leads to more questions? The moments of peace that must be snatched are those during which we know that right now, for a few minutes or seconds, everything is okay.

 – Shubhodeep Pal

Kamal Swaroop’s Rangbhoomi will have its premiere at this year’s Rome Film Festival. The film is in competition in the CinemaXXI section of the fest. The first trailer of the film is just out.

Official synopsis

RangbhoomiRangabhoomi follows the filmmaker as he attempts to trace the contours of Dada Saheb Phalke’s life in Varanasi after he withdrew. Disillusioned from the world of cinema, he decided to take up theatre. While in Varanasi, Phalke wrote a semi-autobiographical play titled “Rangabhoomi” which from the core of this cinematic exploration. Set in the visually thrilling landscapes of the old town of Varanasi, the film intertwines the personal engagement of Kamal Swarrop with the story of Phalke with Phalke’s journey and the play, deploying a vibrant palette of sounds, sights and characters in surrealist juxtaposition.

Our Day 1 report of the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival is here. And this post has reports of Day 2, 3, 4.

The-Great-Beauty

All Is Lost – Robert Redford has no name in the film. He is called “Our Man”. And we hardly know much about our man. He is stuck at the sea and struggling to survive. A one-man show, the film begins with a voice-over, and then has no dialogues except one “Help”. Not your usual fare, needs patience, and at 77, Redford shows he can still be the tour de force. The sea and survival never rarely looked so real and scary. This isn’t your pocorn-ish Life Of Pi.

Locke – Tom Hardy is our man here. He is stuck at the driving seat. A experimental affair in which he loses his wife, family, job in just 2 hours as he faces a personal crisis. Everything happens on the phone. Good fun.

Qissa – Strange, fascinating and ghostly tale. A detailed post here on this gender-bending and genre-bending film. One of the most exciting films at the fest. Must Watch.

Liar’s Dice –   Set in difficult weather and tough terrain, Kamala (Geentajali Thapa) is looking for her missing husband. From moutains to plains, from Delhi to a single-bed room in a shady hotel, her companion is a selfish and untrustworthy stranger Nawazuddin (Siddiqui). A stark, grim and almost unsentimental portrayal of urban migration. Has a charming kid too. Looking forward to Geethu Mohandas’s next.

Before Midnight – Linklater ends the third installment in the best possible way. A rare achievement where the third one is better than the second, and the second one was better that the first installment. He burns down every notion of ideal love and relationship that he sets in the first two parts. Linklater, Hawke, Delpy – it’s hard to believe that they actually “wrote” this film, and they were “acting’ the parts. You mean Hawke and Delpy are not a couple yet? That has to be the biggest cinematic lie ever told. Must Watch.

The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) – Easily the best film of the fest. Smart, charming and entertaining. Of vacuous people amidst art, culture, history, and beauty of Rome. Decadence was never so poetic, caustic, beautiful and surreal at the same time. Or as friend described it “debauched shot of caviar existentialism”. Once you are out of the theatre, can bet that you are going to quote the lines non-stop. And if you could not figure out why the tourist dies in the opening scene, go here. MUST MUST WATCH.

Fandry – It’s Beasts Of The Maharashtrian Wild. The pains of growing up, of dreaming about the girl from upper caste, trying to get fair skin, and buy a pair of jeans. About a family of pig catchers who are considered untouchable in the village, and of adolescent days. The harsh reality might seem like poverty porn, but a line from The Great Beauty came to my mind – you can’t talk about poverty, you have to live it. A daring film where the entire film seems to be set-up for the powerful last 20 minutes.

Mood Indigo Gondry in top form with his insane ideas and visual madness on screen. The amount of creativity he has packed in one film, most don’t achieve in their entire filmography. My favourite game is what-prop-do-you-want-from-Mood-Indigo? Scientists should seriously pursue this one. I am booking the crawling alarm clock. Must Watch.

Mamay UmengPure vegetative porn. The 84 year old man wakes up, eats, walks, stares and sleeps. Only exciting thing in his life is skinny dipping. Long shots without any camera movement. There’s so much thehraav in every shot, i get lost in such vegetative porn films and get philosophical. That’s why i went for it even when i knew what exactly i was getting into.

The Immigrant – Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix – two great actors and just a boring dead film. Avoid.

The Past – Farhadi is still going strong after bagging the Oscar for The Separation. It’s not  a clear knock out like his last one, but still a strong film with all the usual Farhadi elements. A relationship drama which becomes a thriller, and as you get lost in the maze trying to find out the real culprit, he slowly peels his story, one layer at a time. Terrific opening credit and haunting closing shot. It’s worth the price. Must Watch.

Sulemani Keeda – Of versova, by versova, for versova. The bonafide Versova indie that doesn’t look like bhindi-indies. Honest, charming and funny, it’s best when it sticks to Versova tales, the romantic track is neatly done but am generally bored of boy-meets-girl-blah-blah-blah. Liquor in plastic glass, flat owner’s son asking for rent, kabootarkhana, no money for screenwriters, another Kapoor struggling for break – it gets some of the small details so bang on. So Versova-ities, do watch this one. Well acted and directed, a good CV for debutant Amit Masurkar to pitch a bigger film. More about the film here.

Blue Is The Warmest Colour – The explicit sex scenes in the film were so long that you could fall asleep while watching. And the moaning sounds were so loud, you could go deaf. Strangely, these sex scenes were the only scenes which seemed out of the place in this terrific coming of age tale of intimate first love, heart break and loneliness. And that impossible task of getting over it. To get all those emotions right without any background score, quite an achievement. Long takes, all conversations in close ups, and director in no hurry to wrap up things, this is uncompromising individualistic stamp of filmmaking which doesn’t mind going to the extreme. I guess that’s the reason why Spielberg and the jury members decided to hand Cannes Palm d’Or to it. Here’s the video where he explains. Adèle Exarchopoulos is a complete show stealer and owns the film. Remember, orgasm precedes essence. And sex and snot before Sartare. Must Watch.

– cilema snob

(ps – Kartik Krishnan managed to catch many more movies than us.  But his internet is down, or so he claims. So please pray for his internet connection. We will get more posts)