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. moiFightClub regulars and readers will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews.
So all Bombay-based movie buffs’ saalana urs, karvachauth, maah-e-ramzaan, navratri all rolled into one started today. The process of collection of badges and booklet/bag was very smooth and BookMyShow folks are doing a great job. Also the bag this year looks very aesthetic and sturdy. “Sabziyaan laane ke kaam aa sakta hai” in the long run.
On the screening front, films were on time and ran smoothly except for the morning slots where two films got postponed due to technical issues. But I don’t think many complained as they were replaced by additional-screenings of Sorrentino’s YOUTH.
In a way, YOUTH turned out to be the ‘Murder’ of Day 1. As the legend goes, many small town cinema halls in North India keep a print or ‘Murder’ with them always and whenever a big-film flops on Monday, they put up ‘Murder’ and it gets them the audience.
I managed to catch 3 films today.
Heavenly Nomadic (Original title: SUTAK) by Mirlan Abdykalykov
This Kyrgistani film was my random replacement option for the postponed Lobster (which I caught later in the day), and it wasn’t a bad choice. A tribal nomadic family of a little girl living with her mother and grandparents in the stunning rolling-plains of Kyrgistan, where every one is dealing with the death of the girl’s father in his/her own way made for a (film festival jargon mein kahein toh) ‘meditative’, quaint little film. The myths of nomads, the modernity knocking their ancient hills down, the collision of civilisations so to say – all was weaved in quite effortlessly here.
Realistic performances, great sound design and cinematography, and a script of simple ambitions. Not mind-blowing but nothing to dislike here.
Mountains May Depart (Original title: Shan He Gu Ren) by Jia Zhangke
Jia Zhangke’s last film – A TOUCH OF SIN – was very powerful so the expectations were high from this one. It didn’t leave me disappointed but quite dissatisfied. Divided in 3 parts, spanning 26-years in the lives of its characters (last part is set in 2025!) originating from small-town China, it again looks at the country’s social-political dilemmas (chasing America/Capitalism while trying to retain its own legacy) through Zhangke’s allegorical episodes. The first part involving a love triangle especially looked like a bad Hindi film from the 90s (‘Saajan’ instantly came to mind). The film gets better as it goes on and the third episode is the best, both technically as well as in its ambition.
The film keeps switching POVs and that’s a victory of sorts for the director to keep it all tied together in spite of this device, but it also keeps the viewer unsettled throughout.
The Lobster by Yargos Lanthimos
Simply brilliant! A futuristic dystopian look at relationships but via allegorical devices so twisted that it looks like a Kubrick-directed episode of SNL’s ‘Lowered Expectations’ sketch. Revealing anything of the plot will be an unnecessary hindrance to your experience so go into this one blank and be ready for a bullet through your brain & testicles/ovaries. Deeply funny, insightful, and subversive – and at the same time, a perfectly crafted relationship drama. Last chunk gets a bit drawn out, but all genius has space for (as Fabindia calls them) hand-crafted defects.
And ah, it stars some really big names in relatively minor roles. Unmissable.
– Varun Grover
The Train Leaves At Four (Train Chaar Baje Ki Hai) by Antariksh Jain
(Disclaimer – walked in 3-4 min late)
This slow minimal documentary spends maximum time allowing the protagonists – the villagers going about their daily lives, and is a candid capture of the atmosphere and mundaness in a remote village in Madhya Pradesh. The director seems to have let the family members be and dubbed their voices/conversations later. Many frames & scenes are particularly noteworthy – the two villagers talking about their children escaping the ‘trap’ of farming by studying; the child trying to quench her thirst somewhat inefficiently from the hand-pump while the lazy students are seated in the background in the run down school; the one scene where one of the brothers teaches his toddler the skill that has been passed on from generations to generations in his family – how to ensnare a murga using twigs & stones; the desire to escape someplace better than this village in which nothing happens; the women folk their food gathering activities; and the pre-climax sequence involving the overburdened train at the station. In the absence of a narration this does prove to be a difficult watch but the subject matter is so depressing that one cannot help not being moved by it. As we call it at mFC, this is Need-Some-Patience genre.
Mountains May Depart (Shānhé gùrén) by Zhanke Jia
Directed by Zhanke Jia who made the eccentric but arresting Touch Of Sin earlier, this one is divided into three chapters. Do NOT BE DISAPPOINTED BY the 1st chapter which turns out to be a 70s/80s Hindi film love triangle, but if you stay long enough, the other two chapters have enough drama & life to make up for the 1st one. People move on, relationships change, Life doesn’t have great occurrences but usually indifferent and cold instances/events, Parents & Children who almost never seem to be reciprocating their feelings/thoughts to one another simultaneously, an unusual romantic track – may be in retrospect I’m being too lenient to this film. But do watch it.
The Lobster by Yorgos Lanthimos
Something tells me this is one of the most f***ed up films of MAMI 2015. What a delightfully black humored watch from the director of Dogtooth. More an ‘exploration’ than a destination film, this one boasts of excellent writing, cinematography, performances from everyone. Shuru kaahaan hoti hai, aur kahaan se kahaan jaati hai – is incredible. DO NOT MISS THIS at any cost.
Jia Zhangke: A Guy From Fenyang by Walter Salles
Walter Salles’s essay on the very personal roots of Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke’s cinema – Jia has won worldwide acclaim for his films yet most of them remain banned in China.
This film explores how the insularity & deprivation of Jia’s early years came to influence the social-realism of his cinema. This is a sparse & simply told documentary with a lot of Jia in it & a lot of clips from his old films. Luckily Jia is a warm, charming & humane presence & his personality dictates the tone of the film as well. I was engrossed & fascinated despite not being too familiar with his work. Unexpected pleasure was the sight of Jia singing ‘Awaara hunn’!
From Afar (Desde allá) by Lorenzo Vigas
Debutant director Lorenzo Vigas’ strikes unique right from the first minute of the film. While the narrative is kept relatively simple and minimal, the distinct use of shallow focus to establish the alienated spheres of the characters is what makes it intriguing. Have hardly seen lensing used so uniquely to build scenes through the cumulative elements of each shot. Not once(hope my memory serves me right) does the focus shift from one character to the other, much like the dormant fear of relationships each character shares. Must watch!
Land And Shade (La tierra y la sombra) by César Augusto Acevedo
With all the fest-bait adjectives of long shot, languid pace, leisurely treatment, devoid of colours, this one is of uncompromising vision and an assured debut. The director César Augusto Acevedo channels his inner ghosts to bring out a poignant story of a family dealing with loss – of land and relationship. No wonder it picked up the Camera d’Or at Cannes.
Room by Lenny Abrahamson
A heartwarming tale of a mother-son duo who have been held captive in a “Room”. As you keep wondering where will the film move next, it keeps surprising you, and achieves the closure in a beautiful manner, raising some difficult moral questions along the way. Adapted from Emma Donoghue’s novel, this film belongs to child actor Jacob Tremblay who is absolutely stunning in every scene. This one is a Must Watch.