Archive for the ‘World Cinema’ Category

Rafiki
Kenya’s brave film ‘Rafiki’ reminds us, how the struggles in the ghettos, across the world are the same. They use even the smallest speck of dust to convert it into a burst of bubble gum colours. To be pulsing with colour, even when daily struggles in the ghetto keep getting tougher, is such a solid statement.

Despite the political rivalry between their families, Kena and Ziki resist and remain close friends, supporting each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blooms between them, the two girls will be forced to choose between happiness and safety. We have seen such films before, however, the Afro-pop visuals and the mesmerising soundscape, makes the Nairobian neighbourhood look like a garden blooming with flowers, buzzing with life beings, and Kena and Ziki, like lost bees, finding each other. However, this is no garden, there is no privacy here, all the clothes are strung between the apartments, everyone knows what’s happening behind closed doors. Kena hangs out with Blacksta at the local cafe but is strongly attracted towards Ziki, who happens to belong the family of her father’s political rival.

Kena’s exploration of her sexuality while the church, the neighbourhood, her mother, and, even her liberal minded father, are against her accepting this queer identity is worth cheering for. However, amidst all this chaos, in an abandoned camper van, Kena and Ziki spend time with each other, creating a peaceful, pure, and silent space where some of the best shot sexually tense moments happen. It is hard to believe that this is Wanuri Kahiu’s first attempt, because he seems to be in complete control of this film, steering the narrative with such great choice of visuals.

Some moments in the film are raw, gritty, and pure, allowing the viewers to get nostalgic about the first time they felt someone’s touch. To jump between socio-political scenes which are melodramatic and unoriginal, and intersperse them with fleetingly beautiful moments between Kena and Ziki, are definitely a strong achievement of the film. To those who have felt love or pain (both are equally beautiful and important), a dialogue in the film, “I wish we could go to a place where we could feel real” will hit you right where it hurts.

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One Cut of the Dead
There are so many innovative films already made in the zombie comedy space, one might easily feel, every possible plot in the genre has been easily exhausted. However, Shinichiro Ueda brings a fresh revival to this sub-genre, just like how Edgar Wright did, with ‘Shaun of the Dead’ a few years ago. And while doing this, in all sincerity, we get a terrific Japanese film which does not have a single dull moment, from the word go. We have always known that film-making can be chaotic, however, making a single take zombie comedy is an absolute madness.

There are two parts to the film, one is a low budget long take zombie comedy about a filmmaker trying to make a zombie comedy (Yes! Meta Stuff), and the other one is the entire madness about how the film came to be made. A frustrated director Higurashi who aspires for a stronger connection with his daughter, and has a wife who had to stop acting as she makes her role too seriously and ends up method acting newer unscripted parts. To make matters worst for him, Higurashi is given a makeshift team of actors and crew, forming a sort of a filmmaking unit which can be easily compared to Bhuvan’s cricket team in Lagaan. And just like in the latter, the screening venue of One Cut of the Dead also transformed into an euphoric stadium, cheering and clapping at every alternate scene upon the earnestness of Higurashi’s unit and the resulting madness. The portions involving Higurashi’s wife who takes up the role of the make up person in the film at the last minute, are an absolute riot.

The film derives it’s authenticity not from the crazy plot, or from the genius single take, but it derives the same from brilliantly carved characters, played by little known actors, who are misfits bound to make mistakes, and the fact that they still survive and make their film is what makes the film an absolute masterpiece in this sub-genre. This is one of my best comedy movie viewing experience in years. On other thoughts, this film is not just a zombie comedy, it is an ultimate ode to the madness, efforts, and love which goes behind making a film. Every film is like giving birth to a new baby, and it is crazier when the baby is a zombie comedy.

There is another show at PVR Mulund Audi 6 on 31st October at 1930 Hours.

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Border
Yorgos Lanthimos meets David Cronenberg in this mind bending debut feature from Sweden, which also happens to be Sweden’s official Oscar entry. The protagonist, customs officer Tina can sniff guilt, shame, and other such feelings out of anyone who is hiding something. As a viewer, all you can sniff for a long time is just the weirdness. However, this weirdness is not abstract, it’s indeed thrilling, and gives you complete viewing satisfaction towards the end. This offbeat work shocks you in the most surreal and elegant manner possible.

Tina’s extraordinary ability to sniff things at the customs, is challenged, when Yore, a strangely similar and suspicious looking person, arrives at the customs. Tina is suspicious, but finds nothing, and ends up developing a strange fondness towards Yore. Their fondness evolves over time and they are in a relationship, which is raw, intense, and, emotional. However, the film never stops focusing upon developing Tina’s character arc, and then it slowly becomes wow but what the fuck film!

Once into the film, the meticulous detailing and layers, reveal itself with such elegance, that it makes you question larger concepts through this abstract beauty which is shot beautifully, in a wooden house of a secluded forest. The entire landscape plays an essential character in the film giving us a great visual and mental treat.

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Harsh Desai

Screening Of Russian Films In Mumbai. Entry Free

Posted: January 3, 2017 by moifightclub in cinema, News, World Cinema
Tags:

Tarkovsky Film Club is organising screening of Russian films. And here’s the best part – entry is free. The screening schedule is attached. It has all the other details too.

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And we have come to the second last day of the Mumbai Film Festival. Here’s quick wrap of all the films that we managed to catch.

If you are looking for our previous posts on reccos and reviews from Mumbai Film Festival, our Day 1 wrap is here, Day 2 is here, Day 3 is here, for Day 4 click here, and Day 5 is here.

For our notes on Movie Mela, click here. And click here to read about Cary Fukunaga session.

Nakom

The reason why I love attending film festivals is I get to see and learn about other cultures and countries. Kelly Daniela Norris and T. W. Pittman’s “Nakom” took me to a hidden rural town in Ghana and made me a part of their daily struggles. A simple story, on the lines of “Swades”, this is a very personal and sincere film. Story about going back to ones’ roots has been explored time and again but here, the filmmakers treat it in a very unassuming and simple manner. Truly an indie film with grainy night footage, non-actors performing to the best of their abilities, these flaws only add to the narrative to tell a very personal story about being torn between two worlds. Just wish the protagonist wasn’t so righteous and had some flaws in him. Nevertheless a gorgeous to look at with some great music. Here’s hoping this film gets a wide release so people can explore this side of Ghana. “Nakom” is probably a film that Ghana desperately needs.

Trapped

After the underwhelming “Lootera”, Vikramaditya Motwane has made one hell of a survival thriller in “Trapped”. What I loved the most was that it’s set in a metro like Mumbai where anything you can think of is available. Be it food, friends, enemies, dirty, crowd, empty nights and yet Shaurya (Rajkumar Rao) has nothing! Juxtaposing this mad city with the emptiness of a brand new flat was just a masterstroke. You can see the busy city, hear the noise but a call for help is useless! “Trapped” is also technically the strongest Hindi film this year. Motwane smartly uses aspect ratio to draw you into trapped environment and goes 2.35:1 during some really epic dream sequences. Everything here is just right, not more, not less and that’s the power of editing! Without a strong edit, a thriller is nothing. Too add to the awesomeness is the mind blowing score by Alokananda Dasgupta. Terrific stuff!

Mihir @mihirbdesai

My Life as a Courgette

Icares is sent to an orphanage after he accidentally kills his mother in an unfortunate yet hilarious accident. He meets a bunch of other orphans there and after some initial hospitality, he develops a bond with them, especially with Simon, the resident bully. Camille enters the scene after a few days and Courgette falls for her.
This gorgeously rendered stop motion Mary & Max-ish feel wali French language film is Swiss official entry for the 89th Academy awards. I’m so glad I ended my day with this after starting it with the eerie Hounds of Love. Had a huge grin on my face throughout the 65 minutes of this absolute cuteness overload.

– Avinash @filmworm85

Multiple Maniacs

On the surface, Multiple Maniacs is about Lady Divine and her motley crew, luring unsuspecting suburban folks to her show ‘The Cavalcade of Perversion’, the catch being the audience will have never seen something so ‘nasty’, so ‘filthy’. The show consists of acts such as ‘puke eater’, ‘faggots’ kissing and alike. At the end of the show, the unsuspecting audience is looted off their money and belongings on gunpoint.

Scratch a layer deeper, the film is about John Waters luring sweet suburban folks (yes, even us Mumbaikars) in to his own version of ‘Cavalcade of Perversion’. The film is like looking in to a mirror but only seeing a more grotesque version of your staring back. The film is truly twisted at its core. All institutions of our current day society such as education, family etc. are torn in to thither, but none as much as ‘Religion’. If you are even remotely religious, stay away from this, you have been warned. But if in case you have a thick skin, you are in for a bizarre treat which hasn’t aged a single day in the 46 years since it first released. Mr. John Waters, you have attention as well as our curiosity! P.S. Multiple Maniacs will be screened on Day 7 of at La Reve, Bandra. Do catch if possible.

– Aditya @TheRadiowala

Death In Sarajevo 

Danis Tanovic’s new film is an Altmanesque satire, a drama of ideas until it isn’t. Cash strapped and desperate, a hotel prepares to host a function commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the first World War while its meagre staff readies for a strike, while at the same time tensions flare between a Serb and a Bosnian woman interviewing him on the rooftop. The hotel becomes a fascinating backdrop for exploring worker rights and capitalism while Tanovic brilliantly uses the rooftop sequence to depict the dissonance between humanity and politics as the two warring parties display a subtle sexual chemistry. A prerequisite knowledge of European history, specifically of the Slavic countries, is recommended.

The Untamed

I didn’t watch Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante’s Heli at last year’s MAMI but I heard people berating it while riding the elevator up to the screens, an old bearded man ranted about how it had gone too far. I never got around to watching it but a viewing of Untamed has all but ensured that I’ll seek it out.

It’s a bizarre lo-fi sci-fi domestic drama about a mother of two and her husband who is in an abusive affair with her gay brother. The science fiction elements mostly take a backseat to the human drama but when it’s there, it’s deliciously done, calling to mind Andrzej Zuwalski’s Possession, with its creature design and erotica. There’s some allusions to the misogyny and homophobia in Mexican society but I’ve little context for it. On some level, I’m in love with the film, but I’m not entirely sure why. It’s definitely not a film for everyone.

– Anubhav @psemophile

 

Trapped

This MAMI has been a bit of a disappointment in terms of the new works by revered and trusted directors. A lot of great filmmakers produced average to even abysmal works. Somehow, despite that, I hadn’t lost even an iota of excitement for Trapped, because Motwane has my unshakable faith.

Trapped is a very simple survival drama, simple as survival dramas go. I’ll divulge as few details as I can, since even a trailer has not come out and I do not know what can be a potential spoiler to you. The film boils down to this – a man gets trapped in his own apartment, due to his own carelessness and actions performed in desperation. He has to survive, and find a way out. This isn’t any apartment, it’s an apartment in an unoccupied building. The whys aren’t something I’ll get into, suffice it to say that nothing seemed contrived. The writing felt utterly grounded, the protagonist utterly relatable.

The greatest thing that the movie does is that by virtue of it being set in Bombay, it taps into a contradictory claustrophobia that all of us who’ve lived here have felt at some point of time. You’re just one person in a sea of people, and despite the sheer population and closeness with which we live, it can be the most daunting task to be heard, to be seen, to be found. Along with that, the film deals with a lot other fears that you or I may have while living in this city. The shut out balconies. Animals. The blind trust that everything will work as planned. In the end, and this is the truth which we all need to know, when the shit hits the fan, we have only ourselves to rely on to clean it all up.

The film is not at all lengthy, the pacing is solid, the editing practically flawless. Few moments feel ripe with tension, not just in terms of “what the fuck is going to go wrong next?” but also in terms of “oh my God what is this guy going to do next?”. If you’ve seen enough movies, you’ll start trying to predict all sorts of scenarios, and Trapped sometimes lands where the predictions land, sometimes it does not, but regardless of either case, it does not feel stupid or watered down one bit. You truly feel the basic survival instinct kick in, and the battle between surviving and already set fears. Forgive me for speaking in such abstract terms, any more specifics could ruin the film for you. I enjoyed it as much as I did because I knew NOTHING about it. The thing about survival dramas is that it’s set in such a confined space and it’s got such little space, it’s easy to lose track or momentum. Tedious flashbacks, slacking of pace, repetitive tropes, all of those are pitfalls which Motwane and team effortlessly and continuously avoid. There are parts where the humour isn’t obvious, but you laugh inside. And even more effortlessly, the story eases us back into the scenario of tension. There were quite a few instances where my balls were in my mouth, pardon me for the lack of a better euphemism. Anything said about this film CANNOT be complete without mentioning the hero of the hour and a half, Rajkumar Rao. The man has proven himself time and again, but I firmly believe that he has outdone himself. Have you ever screamed yourself hoarse? You know what your voice sounds like after that. This man has actually acted that out. You see a rabid survival instinct in his eyes develop gradually as the film progresses. In the sequences preceding the entrapment, you see the awkwardness, introversion, infatuation and pure love. And then you see the most basic human nature take over. It takes an immensely skilled actor to bring all of that into one character, and this film would’ve fallen like an unstable jenga tower had it not been for Rajkumar Rao’s acting.

I believe this film would not have been the way it is had it been set in any other city. This is a story of a man surviving in Bombay. In a hunger and thirst induced stupor, he hallucinates about how joyful it would feel to travel in a sweaty, crowded local train compartment again, how joyful it would feel to argue with a BEST bus conductor again, to jump into the sea at Chowpatti beach. The barricaded balconies, the “jugaad” that we are used to seeing and doing, everything forms an integral part of the story, or character, or both. Motwane made a coming of age film that was a masterpiece. Then he adapted an O Henry story and made it into a period drama. Now, he’s made a survival story that’s stripped bare, and yet, its not devoid of magic. That’s Motwane for you, and that’s Trapped for you. Trapped is right up there with Red Turtle for me as the best that MAMI has to offer this year.

Light Music

An experimental “Experience” of sorts, involving two 16mm projectors, to showcase the way sound is used in celluloid. This one was a half an hour long experience for the curious, for the die hard cinema lover. Seeing a 16mm projector in the flesh is beautiful, to say the least, but the best part about the whole thing was that the two projectors were kept opposing each other, one in each end of the cinema hall, and with the fog effects, the rays of the projectors felt like they were having some sort of a magical duel. Or maybe I’m just indulging myself here. The images projected were that of the soundtrack part of the celluloid. We were supposed to hear, as well as see, what the sound aspect of a film is, or was. However, after maybe 10 minutes, I got bored so I stepped out.

When Two Worlds Collide

A documentary about the battle between an indigenous community and the government for the Amazon, the atrocities that can and are committed in the name of “progress”, and the price some people are willing to pay for the greater good. It is a harrowing tale, no doubt. And it is ever relevant, as whatever be the struggle, the core of it is the same everywhere – standing up for what’s right. However, this documentary had some strong pacing issues in the start. By the time it picked up the pace, I’d lost interest (in the film, not the subject), so it wouldn’t be fair if I said anything more.

Achyuth Sankar

 (Pics – Varun Grover/Jio MAMI)

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4 days down, 3 more to go. So this post is about all the films that we saw on Day 4 of the Mumbai Film Festival. If you are looking for reccos and reviews, our Day 1 wrap is here, Day 2 is here, and Day 3 is here.

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Hounds Of Love

Ben Young’s debut feature HOUNDS OF LOVE, about a couple that kidnaps and kills wayward teenagers together meet their match when one victim recognizes the fracture between them, is one of the greatest genre films I’ve seen this year. The film plays out like a relentlessly thrilling version of Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe, with the setpieces substituted for drama, depicting a very textbook situation of domestic abuse and gaslighting. The framing is gorgeous throughout coupled with some truly inspired music choices and there’s some magnificent acting by Emma Booth and Stephen Curry as the serial killer couple.
I think the meagre similarities it has with Don’t Breathe is the reason the producers haven’t been marketing it much, but it is an absolutely stellar thriller and Ben Young has announced himself as a talent for us genre fans to keep tabs on. Must watch.

The Similars

I went into this Mexican film by Izaac Ezban completely blind, knowing nothing about it except for it being science fiction. A loving Twilight Zone, 70’s B Horror homage, the film plays it straight for the first forty or so minutes before a completely bonkers twist changes everything. This film has basically a single visual gag, probably conceived by the director while he was high, and milks it to death. But it mostly works every time they play it simply because of how absolutely bonkers it is. The script is absolutely wacko, but oh so clever. It has a beautiful internal logic that always makes sure you’re involved and always keeps you guessing. Highly recommended for scifi and horror geeks.

– Anubhav @psemophile

The Untamed

Twisted, trippy, hypnotic and an absolutely insane experience. “Heli” director, Amat Escalante backs a strong, suspenseful family drama with an alien invasion twist. A very smartly written story about a dysfunctional family and how they get further destroyed after a comet attack. Unlike his previous film, which was an extremely graphic representation of the Mexican drug war, here Escalante keeps his style very simple. The writing here is very strong and at no point do the visuals over power the story. With a basic approach like, lock-off frames, subtle and almost desaturated colours, minimal yet very ambient score Escalante manages to keep us on the edge throughout. A twist at every stage, constant change of dynamics between characters prepares you for the big reveal. A new kind of horror!

Barakah Meets Barakah

A rom-com from Saudi Arabia that may not be a new story for us but if one looks at it contextually, the filmmakers have pushed the envelope to make a statement about censorship and freedom of choice. For example, there are pixelation jokes which turns real when you realise a lot of it was not done for the film but that’s how advertising is over there and that’s a big part of the narrative. Director Mahmoud Sabbagh keeps the tone consistent which makes this film easy to watch. Right from the first slate, he is constantly making a statement but in a comedic way. “Barakah Meets Barakah” is a breezy, satirical rom-com that should be the last film you watch at MAMI to gear you up for “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil”.

Mihir @mihirbdesai

I Called Him Morgan (Kasper Collin, 92 mins)

If you read more about Lee Morgan – a famous Jazz trumpeter who was shot dead by his wife when he was only 33 – you might get a completely different picture from what this documentary paints. Somewhat shaken by the film – which is a bit too long by at least 20 minutes – I delved a bit deeper into his life. One of the most popular long reads about the case is subtitled: “Lee Morgan’s young life was stopped short by a toxic romance with a woman who saved him, then shot him dead.” If, however, you watch this movie, you’ll come away with a conflicted, yet sympathetic view of Helen Morgan, Lee’s wife who shot him in a moment of madness on a harsh winter night in New York. (It was snowing so badly that the ambulance could get to him only after an hour.) If you love jazz, this film not only paints a fine picture of the life of young Lee Morgan — famous so quickly, and then gone so soon — but also of “Black classical music”. But most of all, this documentary works because it serves to re-steer the narrative in a kinder, more complex direction than that of the “bitch” who killed the most famous trumpeter of the century.

The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi, 125 mins)

Let me begin by saying that The Salesman has the most misleading IMDb summary ever. Second, the presence of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman in the background is a mere contrivance that finds reflections in the lives of the protagonists. Ultimately, I found the movie to be about troubling and complex moral questions that have no clear answers: the ‘duty’ of a husband in ‘being a man’ and avenging an assault on his wife vs the wife’s agency in wishing to forget it or forgive the assaulter; the uncomfortable undertones that suggest the woman has fared worse than is being admitted; how to deal with an unlikely assaulter who seems to have little agency of his own. As in Farhadi movies, the woman is not a pawns or bystander, but a plot-mover. The movie somewhat falls prey to its director’s reputation — as well as to the presence of actors who have worked with Farhadi in the past. Unlike what you might hear from many fest-goers, it isn’t actually a bad film — or even a weak one. In fact, if you haven’t watched a Farhadi film before, or have watched only a couple of his best-known ones (I am one of those), this film manages to lend many moments of quiet musing.

Shubhodeep @diaporesis

Elle

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a fucked up fantasy thriller of a raped women looking for revenge. Michèle is the CEO of a leading video game company, who is raped in her house by an unknown assailant, whom she tracks down and they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game.  It is a courageous character study of a woman who refuses to be a victim. In our extremely misogynist society, a sexually assaulted woman is alienated; emotionally, mentally and physically. Verhoeven takes all such retrogressive ideas, puts them in a bag and throws them out of the viewer’s reach. He subverts stereotypical behaviour of a raped person and instead puts the women in command to avenge the attack against all manipulative forces. This is that rare progressive film where the character treats rape as an accident. No izzat, aabroo bullshit. Where have we seen a woman pleasuring herself a few days after being assaulted. Silently and with a lot of inner strength, Elle made me feel powerful.

– Shazia @shazarch

Rape revenge comedy – the phrase may sound incongruous but in the hands of an able director, all things discordant find a  coherence. This is the case with Paul Verhoeven’s new film, Elle. Bold and bizzare, the humour only elevates the film. Verhoeven delights in unsettling the audience. You will find yourself laughing throughout and then uncomfortably questioning your beliefs/assumptions about assault/rape victims amongst many others.  Something as serious as the act of rape that we see at the onset slips into the background but we see its implications like that elephant in the room. The indestructible Michelle makes for a terrific character study – psychotherapists would have a field day deconstructing her. Isabelle Humpert delivers an electrifying performance. Not an easy watch, it is difficult to embrace its ironies. You might take a while to truly process if Elle is an empowering film. One line will stay with you for long, ‘Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us doing anything at all’.

Dipti @kuhukuro

The Unknown Girl

One word to sum this film up is “disappointing”. The Dardenne brothers are known for their dialogue heavy, slow moving character dramas that work so well because of the emotional tension flowing right from the start. The premise of this film is extremely intriguing and ripe with potential – a doctor goes around looking for the identity of a Jane Doe who died so that she can give her a burial and notify her family. Why was it disappointing? The extremely slow pace, the lack of tension. The intrigue was there, but the urgency, the sheer need that propels a character to do what she does, that barely came across. I found myself struggling to stay awake.

Hounds of Love

An Australian film about a serial killer couple whose MO was to pick up one girl at a time, a girl who’s walking alone in the streets, and then kidnap her, torture her and dump her body. The film does have predictable tropes, that of emotional abuse, that of a dominating man and a submissive woman. The plot is straightforward, and if you’ve seen enough films, you’ll see the ending coming. What you won’t see coming is the way the story is told, from its excellent framing to its brilliant use of slow motion, and most of all, its even more brilliant use of music in pivotal and spine chilling moments. Bolstered by brilliant performances all round, this film is an example of fine horror filmmaking.

Elle

Paul Verhoeven’s return to prime form, the less said about this film, the better. It is as mindfuck as mindfuck gets, with the main character herself voicing our thoughts, “This is twisted, isn’t it?”. Twisted doesn’t even begin to cover it. If I mention anything about the plot, it’ll just take the surprise away, because there are so many of those sprinkled throughout the film. Isabelle Huppert shines through and through as the titular character, and while this film deals with the topic of rape, I doubt whether any film has dealt with the topic the way this film has. This film spins a whole new definition of “twisted”, and it does so effortlessly. Fine filmmaking indeed.

Achyuth Sankar

Lost in Paris

A cute little slapstick, the kind that are rarely seen at festivals. Fiona travels from Canada to meet her aunt Martha in Paris but loses her luggage in a freak photography accident. How she finds (or doesn’t find) Martha, is the rest of the simplistic film about. Charlie Chaplinesque and vaudevillian, some of the gags are excellent and the overall good-natured love story is a heart candy.

The Salesman

Farhadi saab is back with another domestic thriller but this time the results are mostly middling. Or are we too used to his style by now and expect more surprises now? In any case, the depth of his last 4-5 films was missing from this one, in spite of his lead performers giving God-level output yet again.

Neruda

Pablo Larrain is in the middle of a fucking wide purple-tinted patch of his artistic vision and NERUDA has the gene-code of all the daring such patches bring. Shot on digital (the only grouse), about a state cop chasing the ‘commie’ poet in Chile, the film evolves into a strange beast of its own – a mix of poetry, novel, memoir, and alternate history. The poet and his ideals stand in stark grey zone, while the half moron, half idiot cop becomes the idealistic centre of the story as it proceeds. Imagine Narcos minus drugs plus poetry, and written by Marquez. Absolute, emphatic win.

वरुण @varungrover 

I Called Him Morgan

About the life and times of the Martin Luther King of hard bop- Lee Morgan, his relationship with his wife Helen and eventual death, this docu should’ve been a 20 min film, instead of the 90 min affair it was. There’s just not enough material. I’d rather this had been a doc about the Jazz music, or as they like to call it “Black classical music”, of the era.

The Similars

This campy, laugh out loud funny, ajeeb sin city-esque horror sci fi is a great film, and you don’t need to know anything else about it. There’s one more show of the film on 5 day. Watch!

Hounds of Love

Nobody makes genre films and then puts a spin to it, like the Koreans and the Autralians. Ben Young’s Hounds of Love one such distressing drama that is brilliantly made. Subverting the usual nihilist tale, by focussing on domestic abuse in relationships and treating its characters, good or bad, with uncanny empathy is what makes Young’s film stand out. Brilliant cinematography and soundtrack, stunning film.

Bhaskar @bolnabey

417 Miles

Mumblecore about two friends meeting each other after college — one went on to make films, other pursued his US dream. Plot points come in expository manner; they talk about things just for the sake of talking in a mumblecore film — not asking for profoundness but there’s nothing much to hold on. Few scenes are thought well (on paper) and the road trip takes you to quite serene locations but it is shot like a film school project. Low-budget issues, I know, but should that be the reason to give a leeway? Only if the film had scored in the content department…  And, oh, there’s also a tribute to the legendary PFC blog.

Autohead

Mockumentary involving a film crew following an aggressive and sadist Mumbai rickshawala. The politics of the film is quite debatable but the film is so self-aware. The filmmaker – subject interaction/intervention makes it walk the fact-fiction thread line, and the actors play along that line brilliantly. Solid, confident direction.

Barakah Meets Barakah

The opening slate of the film about the pixellation done in the film is the most hilarious joke in the film. Saudi Arabia’s Oscar entry is a satirical take on the religious censorship in the country. The scenes where the protagonist compare the liberalism of the state over the years feel little forced in and borderline preachy. Also, looks like the film goes for an easy resolution with a slight contrivance. Still, likeable fun.

Anup @thePuccaCritic

 

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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.

cinema travellers

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.

– Avinash @filmworm85

Graduation

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

Bhaskar @bolnabey

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.

Neruda

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.

Achyuth Sankar

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.

The Commune

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.

– Shazia @shazarch

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.

Aquaris

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.

– Anubhav @psemophile

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.

The Cinema Travellers (Dir: Shirley Abraham, Amit Madheshiya)

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!

वरुण @varungrover 

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If you missed our post on Mumbai Film Festival’s Day-1 wrap, click here. And scroll down to read all the reviews and reccos from Day 2 of the fest.

Cecilia

After The Storm

Hirozaku Koreeda’s new film is an absolute delight. Capturing the lives of a family following immediately after a divorce, the film relishes in depicting and celebrating intimate moments, our fatal, unavoidable flaws that careen us towards destruction and the inadequacies of love, itself. Wonderfully acted and directed with a certain sensitivity, After The Storm is a magnificent film and one of the best I’ve seen at MAMI so far.

The Salesman

While nothing will ever top director Asgar Farhadi’s groundbreaking A Separation, The Salesman is a stellar entry from the Iranian filmmaker who again exhibits his mastery of the modern drama. Ebad and Rana, a married couple who work in a drama troupe currently performing Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, move into a new apartment, but the previous tenant’s infamy results in a traumatic moment for them. Farhadi uses segments depicting Death of a Salesman as a metanarrative, using it to voice his frustration with the stringent censorship in his native Iran. There is much to be said, much to be deconstructed in this marvellous, layered film.

Personal Shopper

Personal Shopper bears a Dario Argento plot, but rendered toothless and senile by an absolutely horrible screenplay written by director Oliver Assayas. Riding high on the success of his stellar Clouds of Sils Maria, Assayas attempts to weave a spiritual, meditative story about a psychic medium played by a Kristen Stewart who also works as a supermodel’s assistant. Assayas struggles to make his style work for a story that demands terror, populating it with dialogues that won’t fail to make you cringe. The sole bright spots are Kristen Stewart, trying her best to contend with the awful material, and a sequence involving a brilliantly realised ghost that comes in earlier in the film. The unintentional hilarity gives way to abject boredom when you realise that Stewart has been texting with a ghost for the past fifteen minutes and you just want it to end.

As the credits rolled, I stood in solidarity with those who had to endure this film at Cannes and festivals the world over and shot a middle finger straight at it. Don’t bother.

– Anubhav @psemophile

The Commune

It was a rather underwhelming day, thanks to some poor planning on my part. After missing the first show of The Untamed, the live music session at the screening of Man With The Movie Camera saved the day.

When it comes to festival films, I look for unexplored subjects or a window into a different culture/s. Set in 1970s Copenhagen, The Commune is a film about a couple’s experiment in group living and how it turns out to be revelatory about their own relationship. Though fascinating in terms of the premise, it veered from the initial setup of exploring the dynamics of the commune to a love triangle. The subplot with a young boy with a heart condition seemed half baked. If the film had invested more in the supporting cast, it would have been fitting. It still engages and has some beautiful moments; look out for the scene where Eric confesses to Anna about his extramarital relationship.
The most persuasive character is that of the daughter played by Martha Sofie Wallstrøm and the lead performance from Trine Dyrholm makes it an engrossing watch.

Dipti @kuhukuro

The Untamed

Amate Escalante’s follow-up film after Heli, whose one bizarre violent scene is still etched in my mind since it’s 2013 MAMI screening. He takes the bizarreness even further this time. A couple goes through shifts in their relationship after a meteorite has an effect over their village and due to the presence of a mysterious creature. A fucked-up relationship drama in its first hour and then opens like a thriller. Telling anything more would be a spoiler, thanks to its anti-climatic storytelling. It has deliciously wicked ‘Tell, don’t show’ moments.

I, Daniel Blake

Another year for a relatively mainstream content winning the Palme d’Or. Daniel Blake, a retired carpenter, in his struggle with the red tape, digital-by-default system to make way for his old-age funds, meets a single mother whom the system has failed equally. Light-hearted and funny initial minutes grow into heartbreaking and severely empathetic tale. Few cliché plot points and utterly predictable climax but that angsty Blake scene wins everything over.

Goodbye, Berlin

Coming-of-age of two kids on a road trip reminds of Michel Gondry’s Microbe and Gasoline from last year’s edition of the fest, which was also a better film. This one even borrows its climax, but it’s again a genre trope. It does involve cliché classroom romance but fun, nevertheless.

Anup @thePuccaCritic

Graduation

I had never seen any Romanian film till now. It was sheer luck that on Day 2 of the festival I picked Graduation. Other films that I saw on Day 2 are Neruda, I Daniel Blake and Goodbye Berlin – great films back to back but the first film of the day has stayed with me.

Graduation is the story of middle age man who has an estranged wife, a mistress and a  teenage daughter. I was able to relate to each and every moment of the film. A fine understanding and potrayal of each character by director Cristian Mungiu. Now I have to check out all his films. Don’t miss this one. #MustWatch

The Road To Mandalay

The Road To Mandalay opens as a simple story of struggling illegal immigrants, but gently unfolds into emotional drama with a shocking climax. Some scenes are going to stay with you forever, like the indicative sex scene with Komodo Dragon.
I was shocked, surprised, and moved by this simple film.

Manish @rmanish1

Cecilia

Cecilia tells a heartbreaking story of a tribal woman whose teenage daughter has died in mysterious circumstances. Apart from being a brilliant investigative journalism about child trafficking, the documentary also deals with moral dilemmas – would you rather accept monetary compensation or fight for your daughter’s justice? Pankaj Johar successfully shows the apathy of they entire system and makes you question your role in its contribution. By the end of it you feel absolutely numb. How can you break this vicious cycle when you yourself are a spoke helping it rotate. This is a brave documentary and needs to be seen by more people.

– Anand @invokeanand

After The Storm

From the director of Like Father, Like Son (a film I really enjoyed), this is a film about…I actually find it extremely difficult to summarize. Truth be told, this film deals with a large amount of little emotions, through little interactions, small and simple scenes involving nothing but conversation. The film follows a private detective and novelist who, in the wake of a typhoon, gets a chance to spend some time with his family. His humorous and lively old mother, his sarcastic and bitter sister, his ex-wife and his young son. The main character comes with his flaws written in permanent marker ink on his forehead. The film is simple in the sense that it shows people trying to deal with how complicated they’ve made life. The best part about this movie was that in its entire runtime, every single interaction and scene reeked with intimacy, a real subtle kind of intimacy that we know people share with people they know and love. Due credit has to go to the writing as well as the acting. That said, the film takes its time to unfold the story, to such an extent that sometimes, it feels like there is no story and it’s just another one of those “a day in the life” type films. If you haven’t got a problem with that, and if you loved Like Father, Like Son, then this is definitely your cup of tea. To me, as good as the film was, it was nothing new, nothing unforgettable.

The Land Of The Enlightened

This was a film that I walked into because I had nothing else to watch. I shan’t say much about this film as I would be doing it injustice. Why? Not because it was out of the ordinary. But because it seemed to have no narrative. It seemed like nothing more than a stylishly allegorical take on Lord of the Flies, minus a narrative, but I’ve already mentioned that part. For the longest time in the film, one scene moved into the next without any seeming relation whatsoever. I eventually lost patience and decided to grab some much needed shut eye. Walking out wasn’t an option as there wasn’t anything else playing that I wanted to watch anyway.

The Salesman

I’d been eagerly waiting to watch this. This was one of the biggest draws at MAMI this year, and rightly so, since it’s written and directed by Asghar Farhadi and it won the best screenplay award at Cannes. With sky high expectations, I sat down and watched the story of a school teacher and his wife unfold. The couple are in the process of putting up an enactment of Death of a Salesman, while the teacher continues his regular day job. When the apartment building they live in becomes dangerously unstable, they move in to another apartment which was previously occupied by a mysterious woman who lived a rather “promiscuous” life. The couple and the previous tenant have nothing in common except for the fact that they both occupied the same space at some point of time. However, life seemed to want to add more planes of intersection, and a brutal home invasion creates a new obsession in the husband to track down both the perpetrator as well as the previous tenant, while his wife deals with the shock and trauma and learns to live with it. The film is rife with everything Farhadi is loved for – his utter avoidance of pomp and show, his completely relatable middle class protagonists who are unabashedly grey, frequent but simple dialogue exchanges, and emotional tension that’s near hair raising. The biggest trademark of Farhadi’s is also present – his story is ultimately a commentary on Iran’s society. Why was this film slightly underwhelming too? Because in the third act, once the perpetrator is revealed, it becomes predictable. Even the emotional tension, while extremely real, feels predictable. To make matters worse, that same third act feels stretched. The pacing goes for a slight toss. It is worth mentioning, however, that even in the midst of the predictability (which actually arose because Farhadi had to set things up early on, he can’t really be blamed for that), he adds a final emotional conflict, something that made things even more tense, something that brought the film back to its core – a story about a husband and a wife. Was it a good film? Definitely. Much better than good. Was it an unforgettably great film? Not to me, it wasn’t.

Personal Shopper

This too was one of my awaited films of MAMI, but all it did was fill me with frustration. The film has a rather convoluted story (which honestly seems rather genius on paper) about a personal shopper (someone who does the shopping for celebrities who are too high profile to go out and buy their own stuff) who is also a medium trying to get in touch with her dead twin brother’s spirit to see if he has made it to the afterlife. Naturally, there’s much more to the story than that. However, this was a film, not a novel, and a story being good on paper is not nearly enough. Kristen Stewart holds her own for the most part, hell she even shines, but there are a lot of scenes where she seems nothing more than awkward. That could also probably be because of the shoddy dialogues (the film’s mostly in English, so shoddy subtitling isn’t really an excuse here). It could also be because of the entire chunk of the film where Kristen Stewart is doing nothing but texting. Yes, texting. The camera pulls into a close up of her phone as she types and sends texts, receives texts, back and forth for what felt like atleast 20 minutes. By then, the film began to be nothing but frustrating. Assayas also takes his own sweet time getting the plot to move forward, and at one point, the film felt like it was dealing with four separate plot points simultaneously. I think the problem with the film was that it didn’t have one core identity, it was trying to be a lot of things, and in the process, it ended up being nothing much at all. Clouds of Sils Maria is a tough one to topple, but a film that’s as disastrous as Personal Shopper was least expected.

All in all, a day of two good films, two unlikeable films, and zero films that’ll stay with me. But then again, it could be my fault too.

Achyuth Sankar

Paradise

That ‘Holocaust Drama’ is a film genre says a lot about the gravitas of the people who decided to tell stories about this human tragedy. Paradise doesn’t prove to be a very significant film about the holocaust. Richly shot, with visual and narrative references to Tarkovsky, it boasts of some very uninhibited performances (you can endlessly gaze at those faces!).
Andrei Konchalovsky, here, seems to be a filmmaker still caught in time (what’s with the clumsy dubbing?), looking back with empathy at a time when people struggled for grace.

The Land of the Enlightened

Pieter-Jan de Pue’s docu(fiction?) is probably the most gorgeous film this year. You will want to enter, live and breathe inside those frames. It’s also a film with a sound design to die for (explosions had never sounded like this!). There’s little to this film than that. The film sets out with a very Herzogian concept, of examining the travails of a post Soviet Afghanistan invaded by the Americans. Although, it’s bereft of politics. At best, it is an impression of Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, providing very little insight about the children it considers its protagonists.

Death In Sarajevo

Danis Tanovic’s allegorical satire is a film of low nuance and severe shock value. Set inside an aging hotel, inhabited by goons, politicians and anarchists, Sarajevo ks brimming with cynical political commentary. It only helps that Tanovic shoots the film with flair, incorporating leisurely long takes that makes for a very intriguing narrative. I felt the film stopped short from having any personal opinion about the Balkan crisis, or Europe as a whole. It’s easy to be cynical and call something as decaying, and it’s quite damning to see it happen because the stage has been set for a delicious political satire. There’s a 5 minute sequence where they rip apart European politics. I have a dream.

Personal Shopper

Count on Oliver Assayas to make a severely provocative film, once every few years. This might be his most preposterous movie, yet. Personal Shopper is an irreverent ghost fable, with a touch of body horror, that packs a Kristen Stewart performance for the ages. Peter Bradshaw calls it Assayas’ best film in years, and I believe it will pay rich dividends.

PS – There’s an extraordinary Hitchcockian texting sequence in the film, which I wish hadn’t ended

Bhaskar @bolnabey

Autohead (Dir. Rohit Mittal)

A noir mockumentary that tries to subvert the mockumentary genre too and succeeds quite well. A film crew follows a violent, suppressed auto waala in Bombay and things spiral out of control. In a post-Nirbhaya India, the questions about cycle of violence have come centre-stage. The film has a heavy subtext of victims of class-violence turning perpetrators of gender-violence, while the privileged try to understand it by turning voyeuristic. Intense-sounding stuff but done in a neatly shot dogme style. Easy to see why the film did well at some of the genre fests it has been to.

वरुण @varungrover 

The Cinema Travellers

After missing the various rough cuts of The Cinema Travellers at various stages of its making, finally managed to catch it at MAMI, after it’s travelled half the world.I had actually blacked out all the reviews & interviews so far as I wanted to savor it fresh.
And boy, was it worth the wait!
Rare (Indian) docu that managed to moved me. The film explores Cinema as a phenomenon, as the moment of connection when one loses himself and becomes one with the medium! In the making for 8 years, the film shows how the “gift of time” can elevate a documentary film to much more than the sum of its parts. Watch out for a sequence that completely turns on its head the myth that the film assiduously has been trying to build in the first place.

– Vikas @vikschandra

Hounds Of Love

Is Australia the new Korea? From Animal Kingdom to Snowtown and now, Hounds Of Love – going by the cinematic gems Australia is continuously delivering in the last few years, it seems so. A serial killer genre film which is also love-triangle at one level,  is atmospheric, and has ample slo-mo montage in the narrative which reminds you of director Ben Young’s background in music videos, but it’s never jarring. This low-budget film has been shot mostly inside a house, but you are hooked to the narrative as one feels trapped like its lead character. Inspired by real life stories, the film is about the psychology of its three lead characters and how their fate depends on how they play each other. The stark arid landscape of Australia gives it a perfect mood. Young is a talent to watch out for.

@notsosnob

The Commune

I went to see this film because the memory of seeing another film by Vinterberg ‘The Hunt’ is still fresh in my mind. And I loved it because like ‘The Hunt’, ‘The Commune’ also poses very important questions in the process of understanding an ideal of peaceful co-existance. Many strangers start to live together (like a big Indian joint family) in a single house to explore the ways of equality, democracy, support and acceptance. Acceptance as an idea seems so ideal and worth keeping atop by all who think of themselves as more evolved. But what is at its heart and is acceptance of outer reality even possible without accepting the whole of our own self?

Man With a Movie Camera

A restored classic from 1929 played with a live jazz orchestra. Promise of this experience alone was reason enough to go this film.

As honest and straightforward as its title. And like the title, it seems mundane but explores the beauty of mundane to the hilt with such passion that it completely mesmerised me. And if this film is able to arouse such wonderment even now, I can’t think of the deep pioneering impact it must’ve had in its own time.

It attempts to deny the help of any established form of art, language or literature to explain itself, in the hope of finding an inherently universal language of its own.

And what does the man with a movie camera find in his mad and passionate quest of rejecting all avilable forms of communication?  Yes, according to me he does find the core – rhythm in/of ever present movement in everything – and blatantly shows us as constant streams of abstract imagery.

But beside this, the filmmaker even lays bare the quality of passion itself and defines the process behind any true art.

Like in the film, the body of filmmaker filming or even his camera were the ‘the observed’ aspects. So who is basically observing? Is it not the core of passion when observer becomes the observed and the lover becomes his own beloved?

And is it not the definition of true art when it contains the bare truth of the artist, when both become one, in the truth, as truth?

Personal Shopper

This was an awaited film for me for its subject of mediumship. It explores the unseen, intangible energy world of spirits through the story of siblings who communicate with the dead. As ‘mediums’, they are attuned to sense this presence of invisible connect.

But what connects? Intuition.
And what separates? Reason.

This struggle between intuition and reason is the quest of faith, which this film is all about. And it explores the question through a ‘medium’ (the sister getting signals from her dead brother) trying to find a sign desperately to satisfy her reason. This gap between tangible and intangible, this faith, demands a brutally honest exploration of her doubts. And this brutal aspect of honesty to gain faith is shown very beautifully here.

Raj Kumari

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MAMI is back. And so are we, for our annual movie pilgrimage. Like every year, moiFightClub regulars and readers will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews. Here’s our Day 1 wrap.

Neruda

Certain Women

Director Kelly Reichardt is mildly successful in capturing moments in the lives of her four women characters played by Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone. A restrained, languid pace, and a lack of melodrama places the film halfway between fascinating and a collossal bore. Stellar acting from the cast, which also includes Jarred Harris in top form and fantastic 16mm cinematography by Chris Blauvelt certainly help.

Neruda

In NERUDA, about Chilean poet/diplomat Pablo Neruda’s attempts to hide from a fascist government, the director Pablo Larrain weaves a wholly unprecedented form, merging elements of Film Noir, Western, and Terence Mallick to create what I would term his masterpiece. Every scene manages to evoke poetry, what with the editing and the cinematography, done for the most part with a wide angle lens that invites light sources to cast beautiful echoes. The film maintains an even, zen-like serenity even in its more tumultuous scenes, cleverly steering clear of any explicit depictions of the Chilean government’s brutality. Anchored by magnificent performances by Luis Gnecco as the eponymous poet and Gael Garcia Bernal as the detective who pursues him, NERUDA is a magnificent, moving film.

Old Stone

Johnny Ma’s debut feature Old Stone is well made and mildly compelling. While it weaves itself around a fascinating concept – Chinese laws that encourage motorists to kill anyone they injure in accidents rather than save them – it does little else. A shame, because the film is technically quite well done, beginning in a soft cinema verité style that gradually gives way to gorgeously photographed traditional cinema. There is little nuance to his story, little depth to his otherwise well acted characters. Worst of all for a film that masquerades as social commentary, all attempts at metaphor and commentary come across woefully heavy handed.

Austerlitz

A documentary about tourists visiting a concentration camp, Austerlitz is fascinating and taxing at the same time. Gorgeously composed in black and white, long, static frames invite us to see men, women and children pouring into a former concentration camp with their tour guides leading the way. There is no point of focus for the audience, no single character or theme you can latch on to, which can translate, quite quickly, into tedium. There is, however, something quite hypnotic about the rhythm of the crowds during certain scenes, some faces and people invite you to investigate them, the grotesquerie of the cellphone camera is in full display in scenes where crowds click pictures as if in unison. I hesitate to recommend this film because it requires immense patience from the viewer.

The Lure

A gonzo Polish musical about two mermaid sisters who become singers and strippers at a nightclub, this sexy, messy flick gets pretty fucking crazy but never really seems to fulfill the promise of its premise. Some of the numerous songs are quite grating and it never really finds its tone but there’s some great bizarro moments and a constant punchy soundtrack that keeps everything fun.

     – Anubhav @psemophile

Neruda (dir: Pablo Larrain, 107 mins)

Pablo Larrain’s Neruda is a magnificent fantasy masquerading as bio-pic. Part truth, part fiction, the story is as deceptive as the titular character — evasive, chameleon-like, and, above all, magical. Staged as a thriller, the film is actually a surrealist painting. Delving deep into the myths about Neruda — the man, the poet, the lover, the people’s champion — the film follows a police officer’s (played by the strikingly handsome Gael Garcia Bernal) futile hunt for Neruda, who’s on the run from his anti-communist government. Shot gorgeously — in a purple haze literally — the camera-work is reminiscent of 40s and 50s movies. Ultimately, however, what remains are the echoes of Neruda’s most famous lines, and by the time you leave, you think:
“The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.”

Austerlitz (dir: Sergei Loznitsa, 94 mins)

How do you watch a difficult movie on a difficult subject? Sergei Loznitsa’s Austerlitz is a black-and-white documentary film that challenges even the most patient viewer. At 94 minutes, there’s no action, as the cameras endlessly record footage of people in real-time.The film juxtaposes the present — tourists, hordes of them in colourful moods and clothes and phone cameras — with the dreadful past at the concentration camps of Dachau, north of Munich, Germany, and Sachsenhausen, just outside Berlin. Does history serve to make us feel better or worse about ourselves? As one tourist poses as a hanged inmate at the concentration camp, you wonder whether the lessons of history are lost as soon as they are learnt. After all, the papers every morning suggest just as much.

Shubhodeep @diaporesis

Neruda

Although it isn’t a biopic, Pablo Larrain’s Neruda is how a biopic should be. Set in a pre Pinochet Chile, the film feels like one of Neruda’s poems. Larrain is a master at deriving more from the screenplay than what’s written, and he does that here with visual references to old Hollywood, purple hued lens flares and a truly Nerudian narrator. Gael Garcia Barnel is sachha Neruda. One of the greatest films this year, bakshna mat!

Old Stone

A taxi driver’s travails when he decides to save the life of the person he gets in an accident with. Johhny Ma’s Old Stone tries to take a stark look at China’s dystopia, but gives it up midway for some arbitrary thrills. Could have been an entirely different film, and a good one at that.

Bhaskar @bolnabey

Aquarius 

The film revolves around a retired music critic who refuses to sell her apartment to a construction company. The film’s setting barely extends beyond a beachside apartment block of Recife in Brazil but gives a great sense of place. The camera work is a thing of beauty and the running time of two & a half hours justifies the languid yet solid character study. The sassy Claire ( subtle and exquisite, Sonia Braga) will give you friendship, grace, sexual confidence and aging goals. What fascinated me the most was how the intangible feeling of ‘home’ is tied to some of the most mundane objects and how spaces are repositories of personal histories.

Dipti @kuhukuro

The Lovers and The Despot (Dir: Ross Adam, Robert Cannan)

Great premise. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il (baap of present dictator Kim Jong Un) kidnapped a Director-Actress couple from South Korea to make better films in his country. But the docu turned out to be okayish only, mainly because of the plain, uninventive, non-ironical way it was narrated. Could have been a cracker, but too little to play with (probably because of the iron-wall of N. Korea) as no footage available.

The Lure (Dir: Agnieszka Smoczynska)

A gory, bizarro, creature-horror musical. That sounds yummy and yummy it was! Two human-eating mermaids come to live with a music band at a night club and love, sex, exploitation gets into the mix. Run this through mermaid-based folk tales while beautifully shot and composed music becomes an integral part of the narrative. Winner for day 1 at MAMI!

वरुण @varungrover 

Under The Shadow

Peter Bradshaw has put it right for this film — it’s Asghar Farhadi meets Roman Polanski. Horrors of political war kills dreams and ambitions of an aspiring doctor who is now left alone with her daughter after her husband has been transferred to another city. Their fears, insecurity (of her being an incompetent mother) and surrounding paranoia culminates into horrors of  supernatural. Even though it has all the tropes of a horror film, it manages to surprise and shock at right places. The film deserves a lengthier review to discuss all its metaphors and humane observations. But till then, put this on your MAMI schedule.

Mostly Sunny

Looks like Dilip Mehta is confused if he wants to do a Wikipedia page of Sunny Leone or a Caravan profile. He ends up somewhere in between. If you have read anything about her life trajectory, this film has nothing new to offer. At times, it deifies Leone with people making sweeping statements like “everybody in Bollywood wants a piece of Sunny now”. Mehta interviews people from different sections — taxi driver, spot boys, TV channel head, but asks them the same question about what do they think about her past life. The film is short of perspectives.

The Lovers And The Despot

The fact that something like this happened is so hilarious that I stopped minding its over dramatic treatment. A divorced South Korean film couple — director and actress — is kidnapped by the dictator of the neighbouring communist country for them to make films. It’s a dream for any director to get to make films of his choice with all the country’s money. In a Stockholm Syndrome kind of situation, he did give North Korea its first romantic film and made non-propaganda films… but now the filmmaking itself is a propaganda.

Anup @thePuccaCritic

 

A Death In The Gunj

A death in the Gunj is my story. It’s your story too. It’s a story about life and its vagaries, and our inability to handle it. It’s a story about the weaker ones amongst us and their struggle for survival, almost Darwinian. The story slides through mundane parties and games, and like the town in which it’s set (McCluskiegunj), the film moves in leisure pace giving you ample time to absorb and soak in it. The melancholic aftertaste of the film refuses to leave me. Vikrant Massey who plays Shutu, depicts the vulnerability of his character so earnestly that he keeps you rooted throughout the film. This is such an assured debut by Konkana Sen Sharma that I can’t wait to watch it again.

 – @invokeanand

A fabulous start to the MAMI madness for me. Saw 4 amazing films in this order – Neruda, The Lovers And The Despot, You Are My Sunday & Loev. All completely different movies of different milieu but felt like being woven through some common invisible thread. They became like pearls of same necklace for me and the thread was – a deep realisation within human beings about this fact that our outer realities are mere reflections of our inner creations. Obviously this also says what I am looking for in a film i.e my inner reality. But surprisingly enough, this is not only a subtext which I am deriving based on my interpretations. And happier part of this experience was that 2 of the 4 films were Indian, low budget Indie films – You Are My Sunday and Loev.

Loev / You Are My Sunday

Both films felt so fresh and non pretentious at its conception and writing level itself. And both had this newness regarding truthful exploration of emotional landscape behind Indian male psyche. They blurred the boundary of male and female characterisations and became the voice of human emotions only. The fears, the hurts, the hesitations, the longing and the inherent complexities of understanding love while being in it which remains same at fundamental level for both the sexes. And to see two indian films show this root aspect of human existance so beautifully and effortlessly on the very first day would be the most pleasant surprises for me in this MAMI I think.

Neruda / The Lovers And The Despot

Both the films had one major event happening in the artist’s life which finally defines the artist’s individuality against its environment i.e his/her country and its situations but basically becomes a tale about the power of art and its influence in our politics and finally ends into blurring the persona of the artist even. Both end up telling the same basic truth again – our inner realities creating our outer reality. And when seen in this light, how our individial stories just becomes a symbol, an emoji or a shortcut link may be to take us back to the same basic inherent beliefs (read fears) behind our creation.

In Neruda, this point of creation was shown through the character of Neruda being an enigmatic and fearless poet.

In Lovers and the Despot, this is being reflected by the life and deeds of Kim Jung il, the former president of North Korea.

Both the films were about protagonists getting trapped due to an oppressive system and then the chase for freedom resulting after that.

The Lovers and the Despot at its core is about ‘denial of fear’ being mistaken for fearlessness even by a dictator. And hence the constant state of paranoia. And if this basic misunderstanding is done by a man of power, how it creates a whole society based on false perceptions of every emotion possible.

And Neruda, was the admission of this same truth, in the words of poet itself, which is guiding the mad chase of other protagonist, the police inspector, simply to show him the futility of his own chase at the end.

Raj Kumari