My Day 1 at Mumbai Film Festival with the Masters; Panahi, Godard, Kore-eda, and Zhang Yimou.

Posted: October 27, 2018 by harrshdessai in cinema, Film Festival, film review, Mumbai Film Festival

Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces

In Northwest Iran, the rural valleys have their own laws, much like the rest of the country. On a narrow mountain road, two cars cannot pass at the same time, and a honking duel decides who gets to go first. Such is Panahi’s work, with his sharp observation, resulting into socio-politically ripe metaphors and some delicate humour. Unlike his previous metafictional works in This is not a film, Closed Curtains, and Taxi; 3 Faces is more distant and tries to cover a larger canvas. However, Panahi’s work continues to remain pensive and his defiance seems to be getting stronger with every new film.

maxresdefault

A suicide video of Marziyeh (an aspiring young actress), leads Behnaaz (a popular actress, playing herself) and Panahi into the Iranian valleys, in search of the truth. The three women, Behnaaz, Marziyeh (playing herself), and, Shahrazade dominate and steer the narrative in a world dominated by men. The fact that we never see Shahrazade, acts like a fitting metaphorical tribute to all the women, especially the female actors in Iran, who are not valued in Iran – they are ’empty headed’ or ‘entertainers’.

The Kiarostami styled shots are probably the best shots in a Panahi film till date, almost as if Panahi has set Amin and his camera free in rebellion. The carefully crafted screenplay, with the dialogues, either dipped in humour, or in political subtext create an absolute winner. Although this is no match to Taxi, 3 Faces is still a powerful statement from Panahi, kindness and compassion even when his expression is beaten down to the ground. It would be apt to end my fanboy thoights on Panahi’s 3 Faces with a verse from Maya Angelou, which fits in so apt for Panahi and his work;

“The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.”
Zhang Yimou’s Shadow

Zhang Yimou’s previous work was trashed away as a mere shadow of his three decade long filmography. However, Shadow is Zhang’s roaring return to form with only monochromic visuals.

The film description says that the film is set during the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-280 A.D.), and features an exiled king and his people, who develop a plot to regain control of their land. The events are told from the points of view of the king, his sister, his commander, the women trapped in the royal palace and a common citizen. However, Zhang approaches this Chinese legend with sensuousness, silence, and style, to deliver us with a visually epic film. While achieving this, Zhang also pays a tribute to the beautiful Chinese art of Ink painting.

5b0dfa27997c0

Some of the elements, scene blocking, and visuals in the film are oddly satisfying and stunning, even making up for the not-so-satisfying character arcs -the Chinese zither reverberating in the palace hall, the palace hall painted in ink with peace sermons becoming the centre stage for violent fights, a splash of blood painting the monochrome red, and of course, the umbrellas. I have always been fascinated with the way filmmakers have used umbrellas as a device in action sequences, for case in point, Kamal Hassan using one in Anbe Sivam and Rajinikanth using one in Kaala. However, never has anyone used the umbrella better than Zhang, all the sequences involving the umbrella need to be seen to be believed, the visuals are purely stunning. A special mention to action designer Dee Dee who makes some of the most violent duels in the film look like a visual treat to watch. If you’re at the festival to watch something you have never seen before, Shadows needs to be on your list.

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters

A family tied by blood always shares a strong bond. Kore-eda however, observes and shows us otherwise. When it comes to relationship dramas, Kore-eda is a master craftsman and we see his craft in top form here. This bittersweet slice of life drama unfolds like magic, you can never anticipate what the next scene holds.

After one of their shoplifting exercises, Osamu and his son come across a little girl in the freezing cold. At first reluctant to shelter the girl, Osamu’s wife agrees to take care of her after learning of the hardships she faces. Every scene involving Osamu’s wife or the little girl are beyond magic. Osamu’s wife played by Sakura Ando (From Love Exposure) gives a great performance, her eyes revealing all her emotions effortlessly, making us reflect and ponder upon her questions including the strongest one, “Isn’t the bond stronger when you choose your own family?”

shoplifters-2018-001-girl-woman-tiles_0

This film offers an immersive portrait of a dysfunctional family of shoplifters where everyday banter seem like dialogues out of a beautiful novel. These lines and relationships slowly start growing into puzzle pieces waiting to blow you over in the final act. Kore-eda’s brilliance lies in his deep understanding and empathy towards the characters and the various shades and secrets which they carry, and these shades unfold in such effortless manner that you will never realise when the stakes for the final act were doubled.

Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book

How does one write about a film from late peirod Godard? Is this film even accessible for people who haven’t studied Godard? Maybe not. Although, his intentions in the film are very clear; to use old footage and visuals and layer it with his political commentary, sprinkling it with an absurd musical treatment. The result is another idiosyncratic Godard film, meant only for his devotees. Although, I enjoyed a segment which was about train travel and had some wonderful images of random flowers which bloom on railroads, which of course was a larger statement. Watch it only if you want to read Godard’s mind.

jpg

Harsh Desai

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.