The Mumbai Film Festival weekend is over and we have been able to cover lot of movies in the first three days. If you are attending the last four days, and looking for reccos and reviews, here’s what our day-wise post – Day 1 wrap is here, and for Day 2, click here.
An Insignificant Man
Arvind Kejriwal turned out to be not quite what we imagined but this documentary shows you the promising man he once was. An idealist who revolutionised the youth of the country and took a nation of 1 billion by storm. This film tracks the journey of AAP from the inception of the Anti Corruption Moment till the first victory of Kejriwal over the smug Sheila Dixit. It’s the behind the scenes of a movement that gave millions of us hope, at least at the time, and Vinay and Khushboo (who apparently had 400 hours of footage) have showed us this struggle in 100 crisp minutes. Extremely engaging, full of scattered humor, and unbiased. Highly recommended, even if you hate the politics of the man. Plays again on Wednesday. Don’t miss it. It’s ‘Weiner’ level good.
European and South American filmmakers have been very mindful of their history and how it has shaped their present society. Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation is a beautifully structured drama set in a post Ceausescu Romania, where a doctor is trying to get his daughter through a public exam, for a better future in the UK, in the wake of unfortunate events. Fiery, complex and yet oddly optimist, Graduation finds Mungiu channeling his disillusionment with the decay prevalent in the Romanian society. Adrian Titieni plays Dr. Roman Aldea with a quiet restraint, that is so rare amongst actors. The weariness on Aldea’s face is a sight to behold. The scenes b/w Aldea and his daughter are so heart wrenching, and it his here you realize the emotional vulnerability of this person..maano abhi toot ke bikhar jayega. There is a revolution brewing up in Romanian households between a generation, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and its children. And Mungiu is not done with it
The Red Turtle
A tsunami sized tidal wave lashes the island where the story is set, sweeping with it bamboo stems, plants, crabs, fishes, and anything else you can think of. Once the tsunami ends and things start to resume a state of calm, there is one particular close up shot of a broken bamboo stem, jutting out from a rock. A single droplet of water slides through it and drops from its edge. That one scene was enough for me to realize the greatness of this film, because this here is a film that does not need words to tell its fantastical tale. All it needs to do is show. Like we are innocent children, our hands being held by our parents as they show us the world we live in, little by little. Eventually, we ourselves learn to put things in words, but not for the first time.
The Red Turtle is a story about life and its simple milestones, a story about a man who gets stranded in an island after a ship wreck. It’s about how all the simple beings exist together. It’s about deciding to stay, and deciding to go away as well. And it’s got the most soothing score I’ve come across in a long long time. Whoever you are, whatever stage of life you’re in, there probably is something for you in this film. For me, it was the ability to feel love for cinema again. That’s what this film had for me. Pure love. I don’t think any other film could have done that.
Much has been written about this film, so I won’t say much other than the fact that this film feels like the love child of Pablo Larrain and Paolo Sorrentino. To call it a biographical account of the poet Pablo Neruda would be akin to calling Narcos a political satire or comedy or something else similarly unrelated and inaccurate. What is the film? I don’t know. But as someone who constantly has conversations in my head, as someone who imagines possible scenarios happening close by, close enough for me to imagine but far enough for me to not be a part of it, this film was right up my alley.
What is the film about? Pablo Neruda being hunted by his government. A policeman being fascinated, consumed. A poet and communist who is known for his deep and hard hitting verses being shown as a man with sheer spine and wit. The film uses an extremely interesting structure wherein, suppose a conversation spans three sentences, then each sentence is set in a different room but edited together as one conversation. It makes for an extremely interesting and surreal experience. The film constantly thrusts in front of us the notion that reality can be absolute, or it can even be in our own head. Reality can be what we want it to be. With genius writing and an unimaginably brilliant performance by Gael Garcia Bernal (in a “supporting” role of the policeman chasing Neruda), this film is one that’s befitting the kind of poet Neruda himself was, filled with layers and rhymes in every frame, every scene. Intellectually, this is one fine film. If you ask me whether I could connect to it on a deeper level, the answer is no. You’ll not be disappointed, that’s for sure.
My Life As A Courgette
Claude Barrras’ My Life as a Courgette is an exquisite stop motion animation story of a lonely nine years old boy, Courgette who lands up at an orphanage after accidentally killing his alcoholic mother. He meets other orphaned misfits who all have similar or worse past and finds comfort in their company.
It’s deep, dark, moving tale of parentless children’s longing for love and yet you will find yourself laughing throughout. The bully in the orphanage turns out to be the voice of the film, expresses “they have no one left to love” and how lonely it can be for orphans in a world obsessed only with biological children. In the most heartbreaking moment of the film, we stare into the empty eyes of these children gaping at a mother caressing her child. Celine Sciamma’s words create moments that require no words to hit you hard. The film’s minimalistic sound, characters, music, visual adds to the void in each character’s life.
Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune is a heart-rending, moving tale of a couple that falls apart when one of them unwillingly agrees to the other’s want of housing together with a bunch of people. How does a person react when his voice is lost in the noise of the constant madness. On the surface, The Commune seems to be a story about common human emotions of love, betrayal, loneliness, but it is largely a reactive commentary on the perception of humans as social beings. Vinterberg’s genius and maturity treats a 14 years old child as the most absorbing adult and makes her part of an extremely excruciating moment that made my stomach churn. Trine Dyrholm’s phenomenal performance will make sure that no one will leave the theatre without tears.
The Red Turtle
Fans of Michael Dudok DeWitt’s Oscar winning Father and Daughter will not be disappointed by the director’s first feature. The Red Turtle, about a man stranded on an island, is a film of astounding beauty, more than worthy of bearing the Studio Ghibli logo in the beginning. The art style of the film is particularly striking, ligne claire style characters roam through through beach and forest, harsh against watercolour environment, often animated with a smattering of CGI. The film’s characters do not utter a word of dialogue throughout, letting the faultless animation speak for them. A family of crabs click-clacking along on the sand provides a wonderful contrast to the human character frolicking around the island. A harrowing tsunami sequence is followed by a shot of broken branches dripping with water as if the forest itself were tearing up. A man tries to lift the corpse of a dead animal and its head limps backward, sickeningly real. What Dudok DeWitt seems to have learned from Ghibli are the quieter, smaller moments that made Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away so powerful. Couple that with an astounding sound design and a great score by Laurent Marez del Mar, we have a film that is always great and often transcendent.
Sonia Braga gives what I consider the best performance of the year in Kleber Filho’s Aquaris, a character study of Clara, a 60+ widowed journalist who refuses to vacate her apartment at the insistence of a real estate company. Filho’s stylish filmmaking fires on all cylinders, keeping you on your toes throughout the meandering narrative. However it is Braga’s sensual, commanding performance that really makes this film sing.
I, Daniel Blake
Ken Loach’s new film depicts how well meaning socialist public policy has been turned into a frustrating labyrinth of paperwork designed to grind a man down for the simple sin of poverty. In a series of events that recall Franz Kafka’s short story Before the Law, Daniel Blake, played magnificently by comedian Dave Johns, travels from pillar to post to traverse a system that has been designed to break him. Johns carries a fierce anger and a comedian’s incredulity, infusing his character with an inescapable charm. A single mother of two trying to make ends meet and Blake’s neighbour who dabbles in the grey market fill out the cast, the former especially bringing out the human cost of the Tory government’s anti-poor policy. While the plot is quite predictable, the filmmaking is pitch perfect, and the acting impeccable all around, ensuring that every moment hits you in the gut. It is an angry film and a necessary film for post-Brexit Britain. It is difficult to not be incensed by this film. It is difficult to resist the urge to kick a Tory in the balls.
Had a bad day as missed watching NERUDA thanks to MAMI Play writers’ panel discussion running a good 30-40 minutes late. Hiraman ki kasam, will NEVER say yes to a festival session again. But still managed to catch two good films, healing my anger.
A doc that was 8 years in making and managed to capture a rare moment in the history of cinema – the last of film-based projector run traveling cinema enterprises in rural Maharashtra & three passionate people behind them. In one word – MAGICAL. Shot with such great intimacy by Amit Madheshiya & put together in a free-flowing narrative switching between hope and pessimism, this is a film that should open every worthy film festival in the world. Looping back to the times of Lumiere Brothers, these cinemas travel to grand settings of ritual-driven village melas and unravel cinema to its barebones – a magic show driven by titillation, stories, and scale. A must watch, if possible on the big screen.
Graduation (Dir: Cristian Mungiu)
A Mungiu film that feels a lot like Farhadi meets Haneke. Solid, assured, intriguing, & deep at every beat. (Winner of Best Director at Cannes 2016.) A girl about to write a crucial but easy school finals gets sexually assaulted a day before the exams and sends her family, esp. the father (who has pinned high-hopes on daughter clearing the exam and getting out of fucked-up Romania to Britain for college) into a spiral of desperation and some epiphanies. The film opens at least 7 various threads and refuses to resolve even one of them but still feels complete, in fact perfect. That’s how masters play!