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.
Our Day 1 Wrap is here.
Things looked way more organised today as no screenings got cancelled and in spite of the weekend, the crowd management was quite smooth. Quick tip for people watching movies at PVR Juhu – head over to Dakshianayan next to ISCKON temple (5-mins walking) for a quick bite or lunch if you are hungry. Very reasonably priced and the best South Indian food on the western line.
Caught three films today too. (While getting nostalgic about the days we would catch 5 films daily. Sher buddha ho gaya ab.)
DHEEPAN by Jacques Audiard
Audiard’s Palm d’Or winner is a continuation of his theme of looking at the French underbelly and the lives of migrant communities there and it’s as brilliant as we have come to expect from him. This time the focus is on Sri Lankan Tamils through the life of a defeated LTTE soldier and it’s easy to understand why it won him the top award at Cannes. The refugee crisis Europe is in the middle of right now finds an intimate reflection in the struggle of Dheepan, played with a breathtaking intensity by ABC, whose own life has many parallels with the fictional story. He moved to France from Sri Lanka 24-years ago, on an illegal passport, escaping from the life of a child-soldier for LTTE. Today he is a known Tamil writer in France but his sincerity in portraying the role probably comes from a line he said while replying to an audience question – “For a refugee, the closure never comes.”
THE IMMORTALS by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Shivendra Singh’s documentary feels more like a walk in a brilliantly curated museum of Indian Cinema History, complete with a very romantic audio-guide. It does give us a look at some rare pictures, equipment, stories, and relics from an era that seems to exist in a time thousand years ago, and not just 100. It’s shot like a dream with every frame looking like a master photographer’s creation but the missing names of interviewees, the poetic but rambling narration, and the abrupt narrative stop it from becoming a great film. It’s puzzling that the Director chose this route as he had some great material at hand. But then, every passionate lover has his/her own way of courting the muse. This one happens to be a bit too personal.
THITHI by Ram Reddy
A hundred-year old man (Century Gowda) dies in a village and his family and villagers prepare for the grand feast (Thithi) to celebrate the life of the grand old fucker. Very few Indian films portray village with as much irreverence, quirkiness and in shades of grey (instead of the standard glorification or demonization) as Thithi manages to and that is probably because of Raam Reddy’s writer and Casting Director Eregowda who hails from the same village.
The film is populated with “more than 100” characters, all non-actors casted locally and they bring so much novelty and weight to this occasionally uneven (the last chunk felt like going in too-many-directions) but very ambitious script. A must watch, not just for the humor but also for the philosophical undertones pulled off quite effortlessly.
– Varun Grover
CHAUTHI KOOT by Gurvinder Singh
Gurvinder Singh picks a potent premise – the everyday fears & paranoia of 1980s Punjab & yet delivers a film that feels mostly ineffectual. Singh eschews drama for mood & atmosphere but never quite seems to be in control of his craft enough to deliver the horror that the material intends. What doesn’t help is that the film is full of opaque characters who lack psychological depth – Tommy the dog (who is a crucial part of the narrative) feels like the best realized character. Slow, D.E.L.I.B.E.R.A.T.E.L.Y paced – the kind of film you can snooze through a couple of times without missing much. Underwhelming.
The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers by Ben Rivers
Since I’m not into vipasana & don’t plan to do the Iron Man triathlon anytime soon, I compensate by watching the occasional extreme art-house film as a feat of endurance. The reviews for TSTATEIAATTEANB (phew!) promised a tough, challenging watch and that’s exactly what the film delivers.
This visually striking film doesn’t have much of a narrative, instead it plays as a parable on control & the loss of it (or that’s what I think it’s about). It follows a French filmmaker trying to make a film in the majestic yet inhospitable Atlas mountains of Morocco (reminded me of Herzog & Fitzcarraldo) who is kidnapped & subsequently has graphic, painful misfortunes visited upon him. The film’s language is part surreal art project, part improvised documentary and is always destabilizing audience expectations.
Difficult to say that I liked it, though it does have some moments of amazing cinematic power. More appropriate to say that I’m proud I lasted the whole course. Many others in the hall didn’t – haven’t seen these many walk outs during a screening since Love Story 2050.
PLACEBO by Abhay Kumar
Rarely a film hits you so hard, and that too at the right spot. An investigation of lives at the medical school which has one of the toughest admission process, Placebo is a brave, brave documentary film.
The film creates such a stark mood, and at times, it’s so funny and disturbing. The editing must have been crazy as Abhay shot the film over a period of 2 years. Special mention for the sound design and background score.
Placebo shook me completely. It’s easily one of the best documentaries i have seen coming out of India in the recent times.
There is one more (last) screening on 3rd November at 6.30 pm (PVR ECX Screen 4) Please DO NOT miss it.
TAXI by Jafar Panahi
Film is Taxi, and its driver and director are the same person – Jafar Panahi. As he roams around on the streets of Iran pretending to be a taxi driver, people get in/out of his taxi, and the film captures the changing society and it’s morality. Peter Bradshaw aptly described it as Anti-Travis Bickle.
For most part of the film, everything happens inside the taxi. And yet, it’s funny and poignant in equal measure. It’s great fun as passengers of different nature/social status get in and make their point. But it’s sad when you think about the extreme that Panahi has to go to make a film. It’s heartbreaking. Don’t miss the text end plates of the film. This one is a Must Watch.
DHEEPAN by Jacques Audiard
Audiard’s Dheepan reminded me so much of his earlier film, A Prophet. As a ex-LTTE soldier moves to France and tries to start a new life, we realise that it’s never going to be easy for him. Forgetting the turbulent past, making sense of the confusing present, and fear of the unknown future – he and his two unknown companions, who pretend to be his family, battle it everyday.
In the last half hour, the film takes a dramatic turn which is quite different from the tone of rest of the film. But it still remains a powerful film which has empathy for its characters. It completely belongs to his lead actor Antonythasan Jesuthasan who is there in almost every frame, and has a great screen presence.
Jesuthasan was at MAMI to present the film and for the post-screening Q and A. Interestingly, the film mirrors his journey as he was also a member of the LTTE, and later settled in France as a refugee. When i asked him if his life has changed for any better after the film got critical acclaim, bagged the Cannes top award, and he is being invited all over. He said earlier he wouldn’t buy the metro train tickets in France. Now people recognize him and he is forced to buy that 2 Euro train tickets. So that has changed for him – expense of extra 2 euros. And he is still a refugee in France. The difference between life and cinema. Do watch it.