Archive for October, 2017

What The Movies Taught Me – Part II

Posted: October 30, 2017 by moifightclub in cinema
Tags: ,
The lure of a simpler narrative

Why we’re all hoping, we’ll wake up one day in a better story
What the movies taught me – II


Let me begin with a bit of context, while movies remain a source of entertainment, for most of us, I find them to be a remarkably accurate mirror of the human condition. So let’s take a long, good look at ourselves. This is the second piece in the What the movies taught me series. You can read the first post here.


The Dark Tower Copyright MRC, Columbia Pictures

I recently watched The Dark Tower, a science fiction film based on Stephen King’s novel series. While the movie seemed a not-too-out-of-the-ordinary usual action fare, what surprised me was the familiar twinge of jealousy and regret at not being the protagonist. Hoping one day I too would be called forth to a greater quest of world-saving proportions. A feeling that’s pretty commonplace when you walk out of hero-quest movies as I like to call them. An ordinary, everyday human is displaced from his ordinary life and is told he has a higher order purpose, that he and he alone is uniquely gifted to fulfil. And in the balance of which hangs the fate of the entire world/worlds/universes we know of. Which got me thinking that apart from the lure of being a hero why exactly is it that movies of a similar trope have such universal appeal.


THE  LURE  OF  A  SIMPLER  NARRATIVE

I think a lot of what the movie represents is the lure of a simpler narrative. There is something primitively alluring about being a simple kid with a simple, singular objective of destroying an evil sorcerer who has unlimited powers, while your only ally being a grumpy cowboy who’s been poisoned by an alien-monster-scorpion hybrid is rapidly deteriorating while having an endearing addiction to getting high on sugar drinks. Sounds simple enough.

You Can Do It GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

Compared to figuring your life out, making rent, working insane hours and the weekends, coming to terms with the fact that there is going to be nothing new or amazing about what you do, dealing with a quarter life crisis, while undergoing therapy for existential problems/impostor syndrome, coming to terms with never being able to find true love- considering giving in to your parents and signing up for that matrimonial site, realising adopting a pet was biting off way more than you could chew, missing staying at home but having your pride, the exhausting act of maintaining a facade of absolute carefreeness and YOLO-ness while silently undergoing bouts of FOMO- being secretly jealous of most of your friends successes and binging on online content every spare moment of the day ‘cos escape. Yeah I’ll take defeating sorcerers any time of the day.


There is an innate amount of freedom in not carrying the weight of determining your own narrative.

Like in the movie Jake Chambers is called to fulfil his destiny. The path is laid out in front of him like a three course dinner. Small monster appetisers in an abandoned amusement park, main course consisting of poached Padick (the Man in Black) and for desert the joy of leaving his old life behind to perform the most important task in the world, protecting the tower. I mean what more could you possibly give an eleven year old apart from a trustworthy mentor, purpose and extraordinary shine. While the rest of us eleven year olds were choosing whether we liked doing math or art, scarcely aware of the long term career ramifications of our choices. I’d give up anything to have a path laid out for me to walk on. It’s hard to question your life or your career choices when your job is literally holding the universe together, keeping it protected from the darkness that surrounds it. The joy of such a singular objective appeals to some part of our reptilian brain that doesn’t revels in the joy of not having to process any complexity for a change. The lens of decision making is devoid of its usual navigation amongst the shady lanes of grey that ordinary adult life requires. Imagine Jake as an adult, all he has to account for is will this attack the tower> kill it, will this protect the tower>protect it as opposed to Jake the adult human going, what could I post on Facebook today to get maximum likes?


THE  APPEAL  OF  THE  SUDDEN  AWAKENING

There is an act of vindicated joy that we all empathise with, when Jake is shown his world is the dream and the mid-world he enters through the portal is his reality. There is that little bit of hope, inside all of us that this can’t be it that finds validation. That our lives cannot be just about doing taxes, choosing stationery supplies and ordering takeout. That somewhere beyond all this mundaneness there is a place where we are needed. A sort of Inception inspired deception that, this is a dream and all we need to do is wake up to realise we were meant for greatness all along. I’ve romanticised it as much as the rest of you guys.

Aww GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY

“I was right! I always knew I was meant for more than this!”

There is also a certain amount of appeal that the spontaneity of the transformation holds. One moment Jake is in his room doing his “delusional” drawings, the next moment the monsters wearing human skin have come for him and he escapes to Mid-World. There is no gradual change here, the appeal I guess of such sudden transformation is that we believe they it happen to us. Right! We don’t need years of prep for it, there is no waiting time, the next moment the monster-skin-people could come for any of us. There is that deceptive hope that that moment could happen to any of us, because all it takes is a moment for the shift to begin and for the dream to end. The spontaneity of it, is proof of its probability and we begin to anticipate that moment. I’ve certainly started looking for scars behind earlobes.


DEATH  ALWAYS  WINS

Stuff like that always gets you thinking about what you’ve been upto all this while. And rather than course correct or work even harder its totally human to just put your feet up and go, “well I’m still dreaming, they haven’t come for me yet.” It’s just reassuring to know and live with the hope that any moment the dream could end and then, then we shall be truly awake and all of this, all of this will just fall by the wayside, as we embrace who we were truly meant to be, all along. When we shall throw away the cloak of mediocrity that hid our own powers all this while and show to the world who we truly were.

Hero GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY


After all, the desire to be in a story is all that drives us.
The desire to wake up one day and know that life is the dream.

– Percy Bharucha

(The author has been previously published in eFiction and eFiction India, Eastlit, Reading Hour, Gratis, The Madras Mag, The Ascent, The Creative Cafe, Invisible Illness, The Writing Cooperative, Bigger Picture, Hundred Naked Words, Be Yourself, Fit Yourself Club, Hopes and Dreams for the Future, Written Tales, Poets Unlimited and The Haven. He writes regularly on Medium and runs a bi-weekly comic strip called The Adult Manual. He also tweets infrequently at  @Sab_Bakwaas_Hai)

Bad news first – Large Short Films continues  to be moronic and is still peddling Chaitanya Tamhane’s name in all their communication, even in their medianet promotions.

And the good news – Somnath Pal’s gorgeous looking animated short is out. It’s beautifully evocative. Do watch it. Also, the posters are so striking, we are sharing all of them here.

And here’s the short

This is bizarre. And it just doesn’t seem to end. So we are forced to write this post.

Hey Large Short Films, you awake? You drunk? You know the role of director in making a film? And how different it is from being a producer? You know what Somnath Pal has done?

Why is Chaitanya Tamhane’s name being peddled everywhere for Somntha Pal’s film Death Of A Father. First, it happened during Mumbai Film Festival. The communication was so deceptive, everyone thought that Chaitanya has directed a new short film. Nobody knew about Somnath. His name wasn’t mentioned anywhere.

Even Varun Grover, who was moderating the Q and A panel for the shorts, had no clue till he was there.

We understand that you want to cash in on Chaitanya’s name, and it’s great that he is supporting other talented filmmakers. But how about we get the basics right. We don’t know what Somnath and Chaitanya feel about it, and how they are allowing it to happen, but this is atrocious.

Even the trailer that they have put it now, the description has Chaitanya’s name, and no mention of director. In the trailer, the credit has producer’s name first, and then comes director’s name. If it was some well know director, i wonder if they would have the guts to do something similar. Just because he is a new director, one can get away with anything.

WTF! And WHYTF! Anyone has a valid explanation?

Here’s the trailer

 

LOVELESS

We as an urban global world have slowly found arrogant comfort and convenience in being lonely and loveless. I am certain that when the world will be dying, we will be busy waiting for a youtube video to buffer.

These were my first thoughts after coming out of the cold, edge of the seat, apocalyptic, eerie, and devastating piece called Loveless by Andrei Zvyagintsev (Leaviathan and The Return). This is a burning symphony on the spiritual disaster of a failed marriage as Andrei uses lifeless streetlights, streets, cold Tarkosky forests, and empty abandoned buildings to document the remains of a ruined marriage. Unlike most of the movies I have seen, the first time we see a couple arguing over who does not want to keep the child over the usual debate of who would love to take the custody. The couple going through the failed marriage along with modern Russia seem busy in loveless intimate acts, selfies, luxurious apartments, status, money, freedom and, sleep while their child goes missing from their house. As Nietzsche quotes, “They do not want to know the truth because the truth would break their illusions” The couple are forced to run around abandoned buildings, hospital beds, make phone-calls, reach out to neighbors, and deal with bureaucratic cops – and they do so with the zeal and enthusiasm of a dead octopus.

In one of the most heart-wrenching sequences of the film, the police, search party, and the father of the lost child are seen searching an eerily- in-ruin abandoned building in the middle of the forest which used to be the missing kid’s spot. The shots of this building by Andrei’s regular cinematographer Mikhail Krichman are metaphorical of the loveless state a disastrous marriage can take. Cannes Jury Prize winner Loveless is an essential film to watch. The film will has morose impacts on your mood – as Marcel Proust would put it “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is the grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

ASHWATTHAMA

We all have grown up listening to the stories about the warrior Ashwatthama still being alive, though, not as a result of being immortal but rather as curse given to him by Krishna. According to legend, Krishna was angry with Ashwatthama for killing Pandava’s sons. He decided to curse Ashwatthama to avenge the destruction of Pandava’s lineage – hence cursing him with an unending life of pain and suffering. Krishna cursed Ashwatthama with terrible leprosy that would haunt him for 3,000 years. Krishna further stated that Ashwatthama would not be helped by anyone or provided food or shelter.

Now imagine a young 9 year old Ishwaku, who is growing up on this story, and suddenly is burdened with equal pain as Aswatthama is in the legend. Francois Truffaut meets Satyajit Ray in Pushpendra Singh’s Ashwatthama – a surprise gem in the India Gold section of Mumbai Film Festival this year. Pushpendra Singh inter-cuts between the painful reality of the kid’s existence after the loss of his mother with folk songs, cultural narrative of Rajasthan and Madya Pradesh, Ishwaku’s dreams, imaginations, and search for Ashwatthama who is supposed to be living in abandoned ruins of the village. The myths, religion, and customs of the village shape devastating childhoods for the kids living here. The plight is shown with rich impact through an almost black and white lifeless atmosphere. Pushpendra Singh looks completely in control of this film as every shot of the film is rich and haunting aided by cinematographer Ravi Kiran Ayyagiri. A few rare moments of imagination of the kid explode with color on screen, bursting into the suppressed desires flowing with the mind of Ishwaku.

Although, the influence of the likes of Truffaut, Kiarostami, and Ray are evident; the film still is one of the most authentic, pure, rustic, and, genuine coming of age movies I have ever seen. The film is filled with melancholic nostalgia – especially if you have spent your childhood days loitering around in vast landscapes and nights spent imagining the stories from your family storytellers.

ZOO

“Death is not the greatest loss. Loss is what dies when you’re still alive”, said Tupac. Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.’s sour turned friendship is a severely heartbreaking tale for upcoming rappers. This tale has its fair share of influence on the underbelly of Mumbai slums.

Aspiring rappers from these slums, Prince Daniel and Yogesh Kurme are dreaming to become an epic rap duo like Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. However, Prince is also certain to not let their friendship turn sour like it happens in the former story. Little did they know that the landscape they are trying to survive in is filled with drugs. Messi played by Rahul Kumar (Millimeter from 3 Idiots) aspires to take over his elder brother’s drug empire inspite of having a potential career in football. Messi’s brother played by Shashank Arora is a drug seller who supplies ‘sugar’ to a city running deep on these white lines. This also includes Shweta Tripathi’s character who has not stepped out of house since months owing to a past incident. Her life is filled with PS4, online food deliveries, coffee, and delivery of sugar. The lives of all these characters somewhere or the other end up with drugs taking away the best of them.

However, in the process of showing this degradation due to drugs, Shlok Sharma gives us some really fresh scenes like Shashank’s character playing a dumb waiter at a coffee shop, Prince and Yogesh singing probably the most hilariously obscene rap lyrics ever witnessed in an Indian film, or Messi doing a Robert De Niro like mirror scene. The rotting drug filled contemporary Mumbai underbelly has been captured with complete accuracy by Shlok Sharma in this film completely shot on an Iphone. The narrative of Zoo fills much more complete than it did in Vasan Bala’s Peddlers. Having disliked Haramkhor, Shlok Sharma’s Zoo was a pleasant surprise for me.

MACHINES

Rahul Jain’s Machines aims to empathise us with the sub humane working conditions in textile factories of Gujarat, India. It raises the same old questions of wages, standard of living and, the work life balance which is absolutely missing in the lives of the workers documented. However, Machines is shot in a meditative fashion, allowing some of the shots of the Machines to make you really wonder who the slaves are – Machines or Men themselves?

The cinematography of the film is breathing with sweat, chemicals, dirt, and life in these factories. These breathing shots allow you to experience life in these windowless rooms. Men bathe, eat, work, and live around chemicals as if they are living out of a suitcase in Tokyo. In one of the most subtle yet painful shots, a man is seen entertaining himself by resting his feet on a machine which is in full throttle action, the vibrations of the machine are music to his tired musceles which are being massaged in the process.

Rahul Jain succeeds in creating an immersion point for the viewers through sight, sound, and smell through shots of the nightmarishly sludgy company rolled around in profits while their workers survive on peanuts. The 70 minute film is a visual treat which raises no new questions but still immerses is in the textile toil of carried by the workers. The final scene of this movie is a stunning blow where a group of workers surround the camera and start asking the intentions of the film being made. The sound design on the film is commendable as a musical treatment comes together through the various noises of the factory creating an invigorating track of sorts which leaves you thinking.

NOTHINGWOOD

“ No Hollywood, No Bollywood, We are Nothingwood; we have no money and no resources. Qayamat is here (end of the world) but my Ishq-e-cinema (love for cinema) is forever. “

Father of 14 kids in the worn torn Afghanistan; Salim Shaheen is the prince of Afghanistan’s film industry where cinema itself has been banned by the Taliban. Sonia Kronlund documents the extravagant and tour de force director Salim Shaheen while he is shooting his 111th movie which is an autobiographical affair on his own transition from being and Army General to being the Badshah of Afghan Cinema. Salim Shaheen and his crew’s energy is as infectious as a film crew finishing their student project. The passion of Salim Shaheen for films over bullets reeks out of all the statements, songs, visuals, which are beautiful woven together in this documentary.

In one of the most job dropping yet hilarious scenes, a chicken is sacrificed on the sets of the film to showcase spilled blood in his new film. This scene is a testimony to the love and passion for cinema which is harboured by Salim and his team. With almost no resources and funds, Salim has been making films since decades. A huge fan of Bollywood actors Dharmendra and Manoj Kumar, Salim started by making lip sync videos by singing to the famous Indian songs. Today, his movies are seen by people across the sides of Taliban and Police.

This film is an ode to film makers, a love letter for people who are so wildly passionate for cinema that they can do nothing else with their lives. A retired army general turned filmmaker Salim shows us that passion is all you need for making a movie, rest is and always will be upto the destiny. This film will leave you cheering in the end for Salim’s relentlessl and infectious energy.

– Harsh Desai
(Tweets: @iamharshdesai
Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions http://www.lowfundwala.com)

24 Frames

An image speaks a thousand words. Abbas Kiarostami however finds a million words to say in a still image. I entered the film with complete fatigue after watching almost 4 films on Day 2 at Mumbai Film Festival. Within 30 minutes of the film, almost 10-15% of the audience walked out and a few slept off. Somewhere I could imagine the smile on Abbas Kiarostami‘s face as he would always say, “Some films have made me doze off in the theater but the same films have made me stay up at night, wake up thinking about them in the morning, and keep on thinking about them for weeks.”

Abbas Kiarostami uses 24 inanimate pictures or paintings and creates spellbinding visual magic by sprinkling these images with music, sounds, and ,movement. An ice cold masterpiece from the auteur who takes a curtain call with the dedication of a student. These frames are intoxicating, melancholic, sleep inducing, and a fitting tribute to Kiarostami’s craft.

One of my favorite frames in the film is a frame where logs of freshly cut wood are stacked in the foreground, while two trees gracefully fall down over a few minutes over a mesmerizing track in the background. The added sound effect of wood cutting machines further make this frame a breathtaking visual. Tigers fornicating in the wild, cows loitering on beaches, a horse running in a snow clad forest, and a herd of deers migrating with the season make every frame look like a priceless greeting card. Kiarostami, you have left a void which can only be filled by re-watching your films. Thank you for the films.

Village Rockstar

Finally, a positive Indian indie film dealing with puberty, village customs, childhood, and the beautiful music scene in Assam villages. Rima Das passes the debut test with flying colors as she blurs the line between fiction and documentary while working with a bunch of complete non-actors. The usual village scenes like kids cycling on raw dusty roads, kids jumping into the water, and kids running around in beautiful grass landscapes are filled with new and fresh energy as the kids in the film are already woven into the milieu of this village.

Fascinated by music, these kids are often seen using old cans, thermocol sheets, and wooden planks to enact live music performances. These musical ambitions are a contrast to the landscape of the village where girls are still raised differently than boys. In an engaging tale narrated by a grandfather about Mahabharat’s Yudhisthir’s answers to tough questions; the 10 year old central female character is enchanted to know that her mother is larger than the sky. And rightly so, we end up discovering one of the most beautiful mother-daughter relationships ever witnessed whereby the mother defends her daughter who wishes to start a rock band, wants to buy a guitar, and even wants to climb those trees with the boys. The role of the mother and the daughter are essayed with rustic perfection creating beautiful images.

Rima Das has her named engraved across departments in the credits of the film accomplishing what very few can. Village Rockstars is a commendable attempt and yet another story from the Indian roots which is worth watching.

– Harsh Desai

(Tweets: @iamharshdesai, Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions – http://www.lowfundwala.com)


S. Durga

Sexy Durga or S. Durga as it is now known to be in censor obsessed India. This is a psychedelic thriller, a documentary, a dark trippy film, a social commentary on state of women and goddesses in India. It tries to be so much that it ends up being nothing but a claustrophobic watch. The start of the film itself throws us on to a terrorising ritual practised in Kerala to offer respect to Goddess Durga. This gruesome ceremony is unsettling, discomforting, and very difficult to sit through. However, I am sure there are viewers for this real life gore too. Because these scenes however horrifying they maybe are shot with class, dedication and, with a passion to tell a story which is already said but still needs to be told again and again.

However, there is some very clever use of camera and street lights which makes the film watchable in parts. The best scenes in the film are scenes where the goons are trying to misbehave with a couple trying to elope in a omni van turned into a death metal psychedelic lounge with make shift lights and indie grunge music. This trippy Maruti Omni would put to shame the mystery machine in scooby dooby doo. The film has a story worth exploring regarding Kerala’s patriarchal society. Although, Kerala also happens to be the most literate state in India.

Besides the trippy van, horrifying opening scene, fantastic score; the film is also a hallmark of the hopeless nihilistic world we are trying to live in. It is a testimony to the fact that we are all perpetrators of cruelty towards woman. We are all stuck in lope just like the couple in the film who keep going back to the van inspite of trying to run away from the same.

Relang Road

“Weed is a plant and not a drug, I am Garden and not a criminal”

I have no idea why I have started with this quote. However, this is one of the quotes which is scribbled on a bus stop in a scene from Ralang Road. The quote, although interesting sets up a dark undertone which is waiting to explode in this atmospheric cross between Lynch’s style and Edgar Allan Poe’s cold poetry.
The thicker the blanket, the colder the surprises underneath it. The dense, thick fog reverberating in the opening shots of Takapa’s Sikkim is like an ice cold blanket which seems tranquil to look at
but hides the darkest of the secrets. The opening shots are hazy -almost confused me between the streetlight and the moon. The blanket in this film is full of how poetry, beer, weed, and candy crush
have pervasively influenced the landscape of an otherwise small town -nature resists consumerism in all forms. Beneath the blanket lies, a new in town math teacher who seems look a total misfit in the film (which actually works well in the favour of the character), kids wanting to even scores with the math teacher, a man wanting to commit a murder for a bag, and a vengeful woman. This sets multiple layers to the movie which strips itself scene by scene creating a ticking time bomb which is waiting to explode as the paths of the central characters cross each other.
The director succeeds in creating an original atmosphere with clever selection of visuals and composition in the film. A scene where people are packed into a jeep like cattle could have been shot in many interesting ways, however Takapa focusses on the eerie silence in the nature through the front view mirror of the car when the car is attempting its best to trash the forest peace. The scene also has one of the best claustrophobic conversations of the film whereby a person keeps convincing the central math teacher’s character to arrange his daughter’s admission in the school in exchange of pure Sikkim cow’s milk. In another scene, the math teacher gets into a fight with the barber while a small kid is busy enjoying his facial in the background. These scenes although very general and mundane, explode with eccentrically tense results for the audience. Sikkim definitely is no longer a touristy space for me after watching Ralang Road.
The clever use in the film of masked kidnappers, folklore grandma, trippy streetlights, drunk men, lottery addicted men, and even a cat are never your first thoughts about a small town film.
However, Takapa decides to take our judgements, turn them upside down, and fry them over a pan. In return, Takapa presents us with an unknown force or feeling from nature in this small Sikkim town which seems to resisting or getting far too comfortable with the new changes in the demographics and culture of the milieu- I am a nature’s baby and I felt somewhere so responsible to see how and what we have done to nature and the ecosystem of Sikkim. I am not sure whether this is what the film intended to address but I was moved to chills by experiencing the change in the ecosystem represented so casually in this film which absolutely works in favour of the film.

Ralang Road is one of the better films to have come out of independent circuit in India handling a fine balance between humour and acute coldness of a atmospheric thriller intact.

– Harsh Desai

(Tweets @iamharshdesai, Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions www.lowfundwala.com)

The Day After

“I think you still love me, but we can’t escape the fact that I’m not enough for you. I knew this was going to happen. So I’m not blaming you for falling in love with another woman. I’m not angry, either. I should be, but I’m not. I just feel pain. A lot of pain. I thought I could imagine how much this would hurt, but I was wrong.”
― Haruki Murakami

Never had I ever thought that Infidelity as a film topic could be dealt with such poise, patience, and, character. However, when Auteur Hong Sang-soo handles a subject this delicate, the result is a poetic, meditative, melancholic, and a boozy drama.

In competition for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes this year, this is the 4th film by the Korean master in the past 8 months – and oh boy, he seems to be operating at the prime of his career.  Set around the life of a morose publisher and his affair with a woman, Bong-wan (Kwon) spends most of his screen time discussing love and life getting over shots of Soju. Little does the new employee Ah-reum (Kim) knows that she is replacing Bong-wan’s flame Chang-sook (Kim Sae-byuk). When Bong-wan’s wife (Cho yun-hee) finds a love poem written by Bong wan, she assumes that the mistress is Ah-reum. Ah-reum on the other end is almost a conscious reflection of bong-wan asking him strange and unsettling questions over, again some shots of soju. However, not all the characters in the film seem as layered as Bong-wan.

This film is moody, painful, and a nuanced understanding of infidelity. Barring the sudden zoom shots, this movie can surely get you drunk on mid-life crisis without the shots of Soju.

The Florida Project

Florida Project will remind you of Short Term 12. This is a gem from Sean Baker who proves that he is a seamless storyteller with fresh sensibilities to tackle complex issues with simple narratives. The colourfully lit frames of the film have dark underlying tensions which suck you into the milieu at the outskirts of Disneyland in Florida. As an audience, you enter the film with shots of kids creating havoc with their mischief and abuses but you are left weeping in the end.

There is something about kids, something about their innocence which has the power to fill the entire screen up. Moonee played by the young kid Brooklyn Prince will win laughs and break hearts across borders with her performance of a brash kid who is always upto adventures with her rebellious mom and ragtag buddies. Willem Dafoe gives a nuanced performance, speaking volumes about his maturity as an actor in top form. A scene where Willem Dafoe is seen requesting the birds to clear the drive way is an endearing sight which speaks for the wrinkles he has developed on his neck over the years.

The Florida project, CO-written, directed, and edited by Sean Baker is a very special film. The screenplay is incredibly fresh, believable, and breathing with Florida vocabulary. Tangerine filmmaker Baker again uses dynamic shots resulting into a charismatic storytelling technique. The Florida Project is an unmissable experience.

– Harsh Desai

(Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions (www.lowfundwala.com)