Archive for the ‘Movie Recco’ Category

Roma

Alfonso Cuaron’s latest will be discussed for weeks after release, for it’s ability to create conversations about family, employment, womanhood, relationships, ethnicity, culture, revolutions, politics, and, even dog poop. Roma will certainly develop religious followers across a period of time, especially because of it’s shot like an epic period drama but in fellini style, although not as surreal as the latter -Thanks for bringing fellini back. Cuaron’s latest is definitely his best work, although one can always argue otherwise.

Roma, being Cuaron’s semi autobiographical work takes us through the lives of two women who raised him, the young domestic worker, Cleo; and the mother of four, Sofia. Both these women have been abandoned by men, sketching out to grow into flawed, strong, and memorable characters. The narrative then follows Cleo’s journey into an unexpected pregnancy, and Sofia’s journey after her husband absconds away in the name of work.

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Roma starts with a scene of the floor being cleaned, and ends up at the sky. This film puts Alfonso Cuaron right up there with the likes of Fellini, Satyajit Ray, and Truffaut, who have made such epic semi autobiographical work from their childhood memories. Some of the sweeping pan shots of 360 degree need to be watched to believe, they look gorgeous on the big screen -why is this a Netflix film! Also, another achievement on the film would be the immersive sound design which takes you right into Mexico.

It would be criminal to not mention the breathtaking scene towards the end at a family holiday on the beach. The scene of Cleo and the kids in the sea is one of the best monochromatic scenes ever seen. This dripping with love, water, and, dog-poop poetry by Cuaron on his childhood memories and the women who shaped him is a must watch, his work is more empathetic than the people he is compared with earlier in this write up.


Climax 

Climax can easily be said to be Gasper Noe’s comeback. If not for the hype, I would’ve easily resisted watching another film by Gasper Noe, a filmmaker who has which always relied upon sensationalism, provocativeness, and intensely shocking narratives and visuals. His latest is more shocking and more deranged, but this time, his antics work in the favour of the story.

A troupe of young dancers have gathered in an old school building’s empty rehearsal hall for a party, which hits high notes of dance in the beginning but ends up hitting horrifying notes of a bad acid trip, which at some points you wish would get over earlier. Such is the horrifying portrayal of a young dance troupe’s party which quickly goes downhill.

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Noe’s comeback is innovative in its fixation of treating this as a dance film, even when people are dying of drug overdose. This is a break from Noe’s sexual obsession and stays true to his vision, the camera work accompanies the dance styles sequences as the camera flips and sweeps at so many occasions, as if the camera is also dancing on acid with the troupe. The visuals are so mesmerising that you end up sincerely watching even the horrifying ones towards the latter half. Gasper Noe is an important filmmaker because he gives us a break from the usual cinematic diet, providing visceral, stunning, and bold images of a young dance group, mostly women suffering from a bad trip of LSD. A strong mention for the kickass innovation, Gasper Noe has done with the credit sequences, randomly popping up in the film.

 

Woman at War

Weapons, check! Strategy, check! And of course a live band to accompany the warrior, check! This surreal Icelandic film, although conventional, has much to offer and enjoy. This political-musical-comedy is a terrific watch, where some dry Icelandic humour and absurd characters, spice up the otherwise conventional tale.

Halla, a middle aged choir director, has a secret mission, to bring down the heavy industrialisation in Iceland, using nothing but a bow and an arrow. Alongside, she has even written a new manifesto which is sent flying across the town as leaflets, found an accomplice in her long lost cousin, and, has gotten her application to adopt a girl child accepted in Ukraine. One cannot resist to stand by Halla’s strong resilience, whose living room has posters of Gandhi and Mandela.

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This local Icelandic Robin Hood’s character is fleshed out extremely well, allowing the viewer to accompany her in this tough adventure, amidst stunning locations of Iceland, which are magically shot in the film, allowing the rural and rustic Iceland to grow into it’s own character for the film. The vibrantly offbeat mood of the narrative is accompanied brilliantly with the live band playing some eclectic music to support Halla. The weirdly placed jokes (deadpan humour style), like the one on Vikings, are sure to leave you in splits.

 

Touch Me Not

Romanian film ‘Touch Me Not’ raises questions about body, sexuality, and intimacy, in the most dishonest and non-intimate manner. This film has admirers who have awarded it the Golden Bear at Berlin, however, failed to raise any interest for me. The film manages to blend fiction with reality seamlessly, but ends up exploring more themes than it can handle. The strange relationship humans have with their bodies could have been a strong subject, this however is a huge missed opportunity.

Laura Benson is Laura, who appears in dialogue scenes with the director, discussing her issues with voyeurism. Christian Bayerlein is a man with spinal muscular dystrophy who wants to challenge body-image preconceptions. Tomas Lemarquis is looking at comparable ideas. It is all heading towards the sex club. The scenes featuring Christian, narrating his perception about beauty and touch are some of the only watchable parts of the film. The rest of the affair is extremely naive, petty, and radical to an extent that it can be an attempt of narcissistic filmmaking.

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Harsh Desai

Cold War

The Best Director award winner at Cannes 2018, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War is an epic love saga, in a 4:3 aspect ratio, where a man and a woman begin a tumultuous relationship in the ruins of post world war Poland. The film, as revealed in the end, is inspired and an ode to Pawlikowski’s parents and their love story. For me, this is Pawlikowski’s version of La La Land, and a triumphantly stronger version of it where the couple goes through 15 years of Cold War where they not only cross geographical territories, but also musical ones. Watching this at Regal, moved me into a Sahir Ludhyanvi mood. 

In 1949, while conducting auditions for a Polish folk troupe, Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) is smitten by Zula (Joanna Kulig, earlier seen in Pawlikowski’s stunning Oscar winner Ida), a village girl who could sing extremely well, and is unapologetic in acknowledging her involvement in her father’s murder too. Soon, the ensemble is formed, with Wiktor helming it, and a romance kickstarts,  helmed by Zula’s temperament. This temperamental couple (almost like America and Russia, although more romantically involved) in the cold backdrop, dance their way through this melancholic ballad across thousands of nights, meeting and separating from each other in Berlin, Yugoslavia, and even, Paris. 

The narrative shuffles from highs and low of the relationships, like the tides of the sea, into a melancholic end, almost like the sad ballad which moves from polish folk to French jazz, ultimately ending into a defeating silence. At just 89 minutes, Pawlikowski is completely in control of this epic, where the music allows poetic contemplation upon the carefully designed frames.

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Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Bi Gan gives a surreally hypnotic trip, which is a treat to watch, and an equally amusing trip to write about. Divided into two parts, this film’s first half is in 2D, exploring in no linear fashion, the loss and sadness of the protagonist; the second half of the film is a dreamy sequence, shot in a single take, and to be viewed in 3D. Watching this film is like entering into a local jadugar’s tent, you know everything is unreal, but you are still amazed at the countless possibilities. 

In the first half of the film, I was suspended into a semi lull stage, almost hypnotically following Wong Kar Wai styled sequences between the protagonist and the woman. These stylish sequences are often cut to show us the protagonist pondering poetically over life. Such atmospheric blend is sure to put one into drowsy state, and just when my eyes had completely surrendered to the protagonist, he entered a porn theatre and asked me to wear my 3D glasses with him, leading me into an almost hour long sequence. This part, shot in a surreal fashion, is a single take where the protagonist goes through phenomenal spaces like an old hallway of pool tables, a rustic room of slot machines, and an old touring karaoke van setup. One of the most beautiful portions of this long take is the bizarrely slow ropeway sequence which gives us a wider understanding of the space. Bi Gan shows signs of becoming an auteur, because this plotless film is so ambitious and yet strange. For instance, another sequence of the second half has a kid who promises to help the protagonist only if he can defeat him in Ping Pong -the ping pong game ends in a conversation on memories and time, which is extremely elusive.

Watching this film is a hallucinating experience, I would be unapologetic in saying that this was almost like lucid dreaming. Accompanied by a mesmerising cinematography and mesmerising soundscape, Long Day’s Journey into Night makes every other film playing at Mumbai Film Festival fall short in ambition and execution. However, everything at the end is only transitory.

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Non-Fiction

I am not amongst those who can resist an Oliver Assayas film, especially if it also happens to star the greatest of all time Juliette Binoche. Oliver Assayas has been one of the popular favourites at MAMI, with both Clouds of Sils Maria, and Personal Shopper receiving brilliant response. These earlier films were atmospheric thrillers which tackled contemporary themes, however, his latest Non-Fiction is like a warm evening embrace for writers and their contemporary issues. The mehfil of conversations which the lead characters create is a delightful watch.

Alain and Leonard, a writer and a publisher, are overwhelmed by the radical digitalisation of the publishing world. Deaf to the desires of their wives, they struggle to find their place in a society whose locks they can no longer key into. Twitter and Instagram seem to be new literary platforms, and books are no longer in vogue, however e-books are selling like pancakes, and audiobooks recited by celebrity stars are even more in demand. All the four characters are dealing with the change in times, in their own particular manner. They however, share their frustration while hustling through these changes. 

Using dialogues as verbal duels; references of Michael Haneke, Bergman, and even, Star Wars; and the gorgeous performance of Juliette Binoche; Oliver Assayas delivers a scintillating and thought provokingly beautiful Non-Fiction, which although simple in treatment, is ambitious in digging undiscovered depths of philosophy. Almost like a Woody Allen dialogue based tango, Non-Fiction treats heavy questions in a breezy manner, resulting into a sweet, funny, philosophical, and cheerful drama. It is easy to fall short of words while describing Non-Fiction, because all the lines in Non-Fiction are such literary gems, you might have to watch it twice to get the eloquent delight created here.

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Harsh Desai

Arati Raval-Pandey is a huge Mumbai Film Festival fan and religiously prepares her to-watch list every year.

This year too, she has prepared a pool of the most recommended films that she has collated after reading numerous lists and articles on the web.

She is also one of the oldest readers of MFC, and thus decided to share the exploits of her research with all of us this time.

The only disclaimer is that, like all lists, it is a qualitative opinion of various film lovers. A lot of films that people are looking forward to, won’t be here. It’s no Bible – just a reference for those who have little time to know what are the films with most buzz.

  1. Touch Me Not
    Director: Adina Pintilie
    Language / Country: Romanian
    Festival: Golden Bear – Berlin

    Supposed to greatly divide audiences. About modern sexuality

  2. The Heiresses
    Director: Marcelo Martinessi
    Country: Paraguay
    Festival: Best Actress – Berlin
  3. Reza
    Director: Alireza Motamedi
    Language / Country: Persian

    Delightful modern rom-com

  4. Manta Ray
    Director: Phuttiphong Aroonpheng
    Language / Country: Thai
    Festival: Venice Horizon
  5. Azougue Nazare
    Director: Tiago Melo
    Language / Country: Spanish
    Festival: Bright Future – Rotterdam
  6. And Breathe Normally
    Director: Issold Uggadottir
    Language / Country: Icelandic
    Festival: Direction – Sundance
  7. Ma.Ama
    Director: Dominic Sangma
    Country: India

    Only Indian film in the International Competition

  8. Birds of Passage
    Director: Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego
    Language / Country: Spanish

    Colombia’s entry for the Oscars

  9. Woman at War
    Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
    Language / Country: Icelandic

    Iceland’s entry for the Oscars

  10. Shoplifters
    Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
    Language / Country: Japanese
    Festival: Palm D’or – Cannes
  11. Supa Modo
    Director: Likarion Wainaina
    Country: Kenya
    Festival: Crystal Bear – Berlin
  12. Roma
    Director: Alfonso Cuaron
    Language / Country: Spanish
    Festival: Golden Lion – Venice

    Mexico’s entry to the Oscars

  13. Cold War
    Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
    Language / Country: Polish
    Festival: Best Director – Cannes
  14. Burning
    Director: Lee Chang-dong
    Language / Country: Korean
    Festival: FIPRESCI – Cannes

    South Korea’s entry to the Oscars

  15. Champions
    Director: Javier Fesser
    Language / Country: Spanish

    Spain’s entry to the Oscars

  16. Border
    Director: Ali Abbasi
    Language / Country: Swedish
    Festival: Un Certain Regard – Winner

    Sweden’s entry to the Oscars

  17. The Wild Pear Tree
    Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
    Language / Country: Turkish
  18. A 12 Year Night
    Director: Alvaro Brechner
    Language / Country: Uruguay
    Festival: Venice, San Sebastian

    Uruguay’s entry to the Oscars

  19. The Miseducation of Cameron Post
    Director: Desiree Akhavan
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: US Dramatic Grand Jury – Sundance
  20. Nancy
    Director: Christina Choe
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Sundance – Screenwriting Award
  21. Kailash
    Director: Derek Doneen
    Language / Country: Hindi / English
    Festival: Doc. Jury Prize – Sundance

    Documentary on Kailash Satyarthi

  22. Three Identical Strangers
    Director: Tim Wardle
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Sp. Jury for Storytelling – Sundance
  23. Matangi Maya M.I.A.
    Director: Steve Loveridge
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: World Cinema Doc – Sundance
  24. Mug
    Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
    Language / Country: Polish
    Festival: Grand Jury Prize – Berlin
  25. In the Aisles
    Director: Thomas Stuber
    Language / Country: German
    Festival: Ecumenical Jury – Berlin
  26. The Day I Lost My Shadow
    Director: Soudade Kaadan
    Language / Country: Arabic
    Festival: Lion of the Future – Venice
  27. BlacKkKlansman
    Director: Spike Lee
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Competed for Palm d’Or; Won Grand Prix

    African American detective infiltrates a KKK conspiracy

  28. 3 Faces
    Director: Jafar Panahi
    Language / Country: Persian
    Festival: Best Screenplay – Cannes
  29. The Image Book
    Director: Godard
    Language / Country: French
    Festival: Special Palm d’Or – Cannes
  30. Diamantino
    Director: Gabriel A, Daniel S.
    Language / Country: Portuguese
    Festival: Nespresso Grand Prize – Cannes
  31. Climax
    Director: Gasper Noe
    Language / Country: French / English
    Festival: Director’s Fortnight – Cannes

    Musical Horror

  32. Samouni Road
    Director: Stefano Savona
    Language / Country: Italian
    Festival: Documentary Award – Cannes
  33. Widows
    Director: Steve McQueen
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: TIFF, Closing Film at MFF
  34. Shadow
    Director: Zhang Yimou
    Country: Chinese
    Festival: Venice, TIFF
  35. The House That Jack Built
    Director: Lars Von Trier
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Cannes
  36. Season of the Devil
    Director: Lav Diaz
    Country: Philippines
    Festival: Berlin – Competition
  37. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
    Director: Gus Van Sant
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Sundance
  38. High Life
    Director: Claire Denis
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: TIFF

    Claire’s first English feature

  39. First Reformed
    Director: Paul Schrader
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Venice – Competition
  40. Ash is Purest White
    Director: Jia Zhangke
    Country: Chinese
    Festival: Competed for Palm d’Or
  41. Non Fiction
    Director: Oliver Assayas
    Language / Country: French
    Festival: Venice – Competition
  42. Our Time
    Director: Carlos Reygadas
    Language / Country: Spanish
    Festival: Venice – Competition
  43. In Fabric
    Director: Peter Strickland
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: TIFF, London FF

    Horror-comedy about a cursed dress in a departmental store

  44. Grass
    Director: Sang-Soo Hong
    Language / Country: Korean
    Festival:
  45. Hotel by the River
    Director: Sang-Soo Hong
    Language / Country: Korean
    Festival: TIFF
  46. Colette
    Director: Wash Westmoreland
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Sundance, London FF
  47. Beautiful Boy
    Director: Felix Van Groeningen
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: TIFF

    Would be out on Amazon US on October 12

  48. Vision
    Director: Naomi Kawase
    Language / Country: Japanese
    Festival: TIFF
  49. A Tramway in Jerusalem
    Director: Amos Gitai
    Country: Israel
  50. Maya
    Director: Mia Hansen-Love
    Language / Country: French / English
    Festival: TIFF – Special Presentations
  51. Fahrenheit 11/9
    Director: Michael Moore
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: TIFF

    Already released in the US

  52. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
    Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Venice – Best Screenplay

    Western anthology written by the Coen brothers

  53. Sorry to Bother You
    Director: Boots Riley
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Sundance

    Already released in the US

  54. Too Late To Die Young
    Director: Dominga Sotomayor
    Language / Country: Spanish
    Festival: Locarno – Best Direction

    First woman to win Direction award at Locarno

  55. Thunder Road
    Director: Jim Cummings
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Grand Jury – SXSW
  56. In My Room
    Director: Ulrich Kohler
    Language / Country: German
    Festival: Un Certain Regard
  57. Wildlife
    Director: Paul Dano
    Language / Country: English
    Festival: Critics Week – Opening Film
  58. Transit
    Director: Christian Petzold
    Language / Country: German
    Festival: Berlin

  59. Dhappa
    Director: Nipun Dharmadhikari
    Language: Marathi
  60. Tesoros
    Director: Maria Novaro
    Language / Country: Spanish
    Festival: Berlin
  61. Balekempa
    Director: Ere Gowda
    Language: Kannada
    Festival: IFFR – FIPRESCI
  62. Soni
    Director: Ivan Ayr
    Language: Hindi
    Festival: Venice
  63. Leave No Trace
    Director: Debra Granik
    Language: English
    Festival: Sundance

    Already released in the US

  64. Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota
    Director: Vasan Bala
    Language: Hindi
    Festival: TIFF

    Opening Film

  65. Long Days Journey Into Night
    Director: Bi Gan
    Language: Guizhou Dialect
    Festival: Cannes – Un Certain Regard

<It’s better that you go see it first and then come back and read it.>

Hospitals are usually extremely humbling places. I have been to some, quite a few times and every single time I have felt the fragility of life from up close. Hotels, on the other hand, are the exact opposite. Specially 5 star ones. October expertly navigates these two spaces. One filled with arrogance, opulence, mirth and joy and the other full of weirdly calming sounds of ventilators, ECGs and the constant humming of the ceiling tube-lights.

During the 1st year of our Engineering college annual fest, two of the hostel-mates went drunk-biking and drove into a divider. The luckier one survived with a fractured arm, while the other, who was riding pillion, a good looking 6 feet+ Delhi boy ended up with a cracked skull in a hospital. All of us went to see him. He lay on the bed unconscious, his head wrapped in white, blood splotched cotton bandages and his face bruised tender on one side. He was critical. He had to drop out because he wasn’t the same guy after surgery. He was hospitalized for a long time, lost most of his memory and went home to recover. We all forgot about it and went about our lives as usual. I remember it vividly because it was my first visit to the ICU and it was a surreal experience for an 18 year old me.

I saw the guy 2 years after that. He came back to re-enroll in 1st year. His father was holding his hand while walking him around the administrative buildings. He was limping with the help of a cane. His speech was slurred. Some of the guys went to say Hi, but he didn’t recognize them.

I remember seeing him like that and feeling strangely emotional. My eyes welled up a little. I had played cricket/volleyball with the guy. He was a proper hunk and to see him as a hollow shell of his former self made me sad.

I hadn’t thought of him since that day, until yesterday. October made me think of him. I was one of the side characters in his life like one of the many friends of Shiuli who visited her a few times in the hospital and then slowly moved on.

One of her friends, Dan, didn’t. He stuck around. Why? October doesn’t have a straightforward answer for you. As a film, it’s more interested in observing the glacial pace of life and healing and human bonds that form by accident but last a lifetime.

October 1

You hang on to something, only God knows for what reason. You find a purpose in it? Sukoon? It makes you feel good about yourself? Or you’re just delusional and making up shit that isn’t there. Maybe you are overcompensating for the lack of anything else meaningful in your life? ‘Dhun’, ‘Lagan’, ‘Deewanagi’, ‘Obsession’, call it whatever. You grab on to it tightly and hold it close to your chest, and you don’t pay attention to anything that tells you to do otherwise.

Job hai, family hai. Sab kuch chhod chaad ke thodi baith sakte hai. Practical hona padta hai yaar.

But Dan’s practical is different. His practical tells him to let go of sanity and embrace this cause because her last sentence was a question about him. “Ae, Where is Dan?”, said absolutely casually, with no hidden meaning or feelings. A totally casual inquiry that just happened to be the last thing she said before she met a life altering tragedy. But he somehow makes it his crucible to carry.

That kind of inexplicable madness is of course what drives artists, explorers, scientists, and people who really really give a fuck about what they do. But sometimes ordinary people like Danish Waliya fall prey to it. There is nothing to be achieved here, in materialistic terms. It’s not even spiritual per se. It just is. It took the controls from him when he wasn’t looking and now he can’t go back. He loses appetite, sleep, friends, routine and even a career. For a person he barely knew. But this cause has become his life’s mission. It’s a beautiful mess.

He isn’t her boyfriend. Not even one of the close friends. They were Hotel Management trainees at Radisson, Dwarka and sometimes worked the same room or hung out at the roof where Dan brought everyone stolen booze coz he’s an irritable class clown but also a sweetheart. He’s annoying & temperamental but also capable of befuddling kindness. He don’t suffer fools or snobs. So you know, life’s difficult for him.

Thankfully, October surrounds him with nice people whose own kindness allows them to see through his annoyance. Friends are so important.

october 2

“She can’t survive. It’s highly unlikely. We should pull the plug. It’s too costly to keep her alive.”

He hears everything and he doesn’t get angry. There is no melodrama, emotional outburst, or an impassioned speech against euthanasia. The dexterity with which this film tiptoes around cliches is mesmerizing.

“She is just 21. I think she would have wanted to live.”

This is enough. Enough for her mother to clutch on and keep fighting for her barely conscious girl. He becomes a part of their life so effortlessly. The doctors, nurses, staff, Shiuli’s family, they all accept this stranger, with obvious initial reluctance. He finds a sort of relevance that we all crave for, in a place where hope springs eternal.

A friend of mine once told me that “Helping someone is inherently a very selfish act.” and I have found myself agreeing with it most of the times. The sleight of October is that it is skillfully oblivious of this selfishness, and so is Dan which is what makes him such an endearing character. Someone you would want to hug every time you see him. Varun Dhawan brings his A game here, not as a star, but as an actor.

Dan’s mother, in a beautiful scene between her and Shiuli’s mother Vidya, talks about the fear of losing ones kids once they grow up, hinting at Dan who hasn’t visited her even once in 10 months.

“Dan has been a pillar.”, Vidya (a perfectly cast Gitanjali Rao, an award winning animator and storyteller herself) informs her.

Dan was busy being the son of a single mother whose daughter may or may not have cared about him.

Vidya abruptly leaves the room and the camera linger a second too long on Dan’s mother and Shiuli as the scene changes.

This restrain in the writing and thoughtfulness in frames is magical and so unconventional for a Bollywood film (only ‘Court’ comes to mind), all thanks to the sensibilities of its writer Juhi Chaturvedi, who has matured into such a confident screenwriter over this trilogy of sorts of ‘Delhi Films’ (Vicky Donor, Piku). It also reminded me of this brilliant animated short Death of a Father, perhaps because a major chunk of it is set inside a hospital and it also refuses its audience a catharsis.

Delhi winter, with all its fog and smog and pollution, makes for a beautiful backdrop to this film that finds warmth in abundance in everyday moments. Be it a conversation between Dan and the Nurse (“Gift leke aana aap”), or between Dan and her friend who gives him 2500 rs for petrol (“Kitne chahiye? ” “Bas tank full ho jaaye.”) or when Shiuli’s siblings make fun of him or when he is the only one who remembers to get a wood-plank installed at the doorsteps because Shiuli will be on wheelchair when she comes back home (“Iske neeche baad me na cement lagwa denge“). It’s choke-full of such tender moments and just when you think that you can hold the water in your eyes, the exceptionally contained background score kicks in. This just might be Shantanu Moitra’s life’s best work, at par with this beautiful Leftovers theme that never fails to move me.

There is so much filth around us for the past week that I had kinda started giving up on humanity. Cynicism and bitterness are a constant when you are scrolling through your twitter/FB feed and seeing people spew hatred and garbage towards each other. In such a time, October was like a soul cleanse I so badly needed. You do too. Go for it, you will come out a better person, I promise you.

Avinash Verma

(Avinash‘ full time job is to watch films and in his free time he pretends to be a Digital Marketeer. He occasionally writes on Medium as well.)

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)