Mumbai Film Festival – Our annual movie ritual is on. And like every year, we are going to cover the Festival like nobody else does it. Team moiFightClub will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews. We are also involved with the fest this year – helping wherever you can to make it better.
Two Days, One Night
The promise was Dardenne Bros and Marion Cotillard, and I didn’t read or listen to any reviews for this one. And I wasn’t disappointed. Sandra is a worker in a solar factory and has been laid off due to her depression, and now has to convince a majority of her 16 co-workers to vote for her while foregoing their bonus. With a complex combination of grit, determination, desperation and self-pity Sandra does her job, going door-to-door, supported by her husband. Even though a little manipulative, the film does put the limelight back onto the age-old human values question, that the very central premise is exploring. The choices we make, why and the system we live in that influences us to do what we do. It’s a portrait of the dog-eat-dog world we live in but probably giving us hope that just maybe we all aren’t dogs after all.
Gett – The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
Never have I seen a mix of complex relationship drama, black comedy, goofiness and an almost scathing social critique in one package! Gett – The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem hinges on one line that one of the characters say ‘Your honour – See her, Hear her’. For me, that not only told the story of Viviane but all womanhood, who she represented in the film, the second sex who are never deemed important enough. The film has no bluster or fanfare, no theatrics or nothing manipulative, it’s a simple court-room story (I won’t say ‘drama’!) of Viviane who has been struggling since five years to get divorce from her orthodox husband for whom she has no love left. The film takes us through every trial she has faced in those five years and with that through the ups and the downs of human relationships, marital dynamics, religious beliefs, gender inequalities and deep-rooted patriarchy of the world we live in. Extremely well-written, well-acted and well-directed, it shows us once again a good film does not require great technical pyrotechnics. A soul and a heart is enough. What adds glory to Gett though is it has a sharp mind that questions too.
Bikas Mishra is one of those few rare critics in India that I’ve personally admired for a long time for the nature of his film criticism and style of writing. I was pleasantly surprised to see the same elements that inform his criticism (and the ones I much admire) inform his style of film-making as well – a unique objectivity, a certain comprehensiveness, a distance from the subject hence doing away all kind of manipulative acts or drama. Chauranga, an otherwise explosive subject which in other hands would have petered into righteous chest-thumping or dark, social uprightness, is an almost contemplative account of the caste atrocities that have plagued India since time immemorial. And then, there are the subtly woven issues of sexual repression amongst adolescents and the elderly, among men and women alike, without telling much, without probing much, just touching and then letting our minds take over. The world cinema sensibilities are apparent, the grammar isn’t local and it serves the film from raising it from the ordinary to a refreshing debut.
A Most Wanted Man
An espionage thriller that left me cold as most espionage thrillers do. Suspense for the sake of it, drama for the sake of it and a thriller for the sake of it, it’s a tightly-woven film, keeping us engaged and on our toes, a typical Hollywood B grade product that left me seriously wondering, that Hoffman apart, what was it doing at MAMI?
Nymphomaniac – Volume 1
A sex tale that is not a sex tale, an almost scientific approach to sex that has a million connections and layers beyond itself, the film has me by the throat and waiting for Volume – 2. Explicit and so explicit, with an almost clinical precision that it takes all the hype around sex away from it, liberating it from taboo-ed shackles yet exploring its myriad shades and what it does to the human soul. More on this after Volume – 2!
When I was ten years old, my grandfather lost his memory. For ten years, I had been the cynosure of his eyes; for the next seven months, I was unknown to him. In Coming Home — shot beautifully against the backdrop of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in China — a political prisoner returns home after many years and finds his wife no longer recognises him. In his helplessness, in his desperation to wake his wife out of her waking slumber; in his touching attempts to protect her and bring her small joys; in his discovery of disturbing past events, I rediscovered those seven months of my life. Every day was an attempt to bring back a person who had left us, every day was a denial that he was further away. And then, of course, those familiar shattering moments when his memory would flicker back for a brief moment.
Hope is the greatest saviour and the greatest deception. The loss of memory follows a predictable pattern. You know what will happen in the movie, but when you watch it you will not care. You will be mesmerised by it — by the powerful performances, often acted out through the women’s eyes; by the exquisite detailing of Chinese middle-class life during the 60s and 70s; by the sameness of desperation in their lives and ours.
And yes, you will have your heart broken. Just as you’d known you would.
In June 2008, a group of pro-abortion activists called “Women on Waves” unfurled a banner with a call for safe abortion from the Statue of the Virgin in Quito in staunchly anti-abortionist Equador. This radical approach to spreading an essential message (thousands of women die every year due to botched, illegal abortions) has been a mainstay of Women on Waves, who have, over the past decade, adopted increasingly creative methods to offer help to pregnant women in distress. Due thanks, of course, to modern drugs such as Misoprostol, and the elusive nature of the internet that has allowed them to launch Women on Web, making it even easier for women living in “anti-abortion” countries to seek help.
Poignantly captured in the movie is a major anomaly in anti-abortion laws — if laws are meant to protect people and act in their best interests, there’s something certainly awry in refusing women autonomy over their bodies. If there’s one thing that cannot be said enough, it is this — criminalising women’s choice to protect their bodies is in itself an act of violence against them. This might not be the film for those weaned on “exciting” documentaries; however, the lack of style is well made-up for by stark reality of the stories within. This is a powerful documentary about the indomitable spirit of Women on Waves; their incredible efforts, through hook and by crook, to offer life-saving advice and training in over 20 countries; their victories big and small; and, most of all, about the power of conviction — especially in an idea whose time has come.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
This Black & White Noir film apparently set in ‘Bad City’ (was it?) begins with a malleable morals-wala hero picking up a cat. I do not want to talk about the story of the film any more. Highly Recommended. Do not miss it.
Spoilers ahead – And we see – the father, girlfriend, villain, ‘whore’, supporting character in what we discover is a creepy thriller with outstanding music & sound design, and few vampire moments – a romance at the heart of the film.