Posts Tagged ‘Gett : The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem’

We are still nursing a hangover of MFF 2014, more so now after this week’s Bollywood release.  Hence this post.

Kushal Chowdhary is a Bengali. Brought up in Gujarat. Lives and works in Bombay and dreams of no work and Tuscany. Hobbies are reading, movies and cricket. Like everybody else in India. He has written a series of travelogues on Istanbul, Mognolia, Tuscany, Siberia for rediff.

Over to @kushalchowdhury –

The Mumbai film festival ended this week, and with it seven days of waiting in queues and overhearing amusing conversations and watching plants grow.

Kissanpur

There’s already plenty that’s been written about most of the films here and elsewhere. I doubt if I have anything significant to add. But here’re my thoughts on 7 of them anyway.

1. Barf (Iran; Dir: Mehdi Rahmani)

A young man in the army returns home for a break and finds his one-wealthy family fallen on hard times. Over the course of the film, we meet the various members and gradually learn of their problems and motivations in details and the undercurrents that run in the family. Hardly a novel setup.

For me, there are two aspects of the film that separate it from the dozens of other dysfunctional family films I’ve seen. One, that it knows that the wealthy can’t ever truly become poor. They may know they are no longer wealthy and that they must adapt themselves to a different lifestyle; they can even be successful in doing so in all the obvious ways, but there’re always little things that they cannot let go of. Clean curtains. A bit of make-up (even some helpful surgery). A sudden craving for pizza.

As a Bong, I’ve seen my share of families like that and throughout the film I spotted little things that brought back many memories.

The second aspect where Barf differs from most other films is that it is able to dig a little deeper into its characters’ motivations than that they are basically decent human beings who are trying to do the best they can for the family, under the circumstances. Almost every good film gets that right. But Barf also shows you that human beings (with their inherent sense of self-righteousness) also believe (are convinced, in fact) they are doing the best they can for the family, while nobody else is bothered. Everyone is unaware they may in fact be more selfish than they themselves think.

That aspect is probably clearest in the case of the sister (believes that getting married to a man she hasn’t yet met is an enormous sacrifice she is making for her family but doesn’t realise how much trouble she has caused by walking out of an otherwise stable first marriage only because she was bored) but is present in every other character too.

Incidentally, it appears Barf does not have an IMDb listing yet. I tried creating one and found out first-hand how complicated it is to do so.

Godard

2. Goodbye to Language (France; Dir: Jean-Luc Godard)

I have long since stopped trying to make too much sense of a Godard film. I doubt if Godard could do so himself. Instead, I find pleasure in the visuals (and the use of 3D in this film is far, far, out), the abundant references to other art, and the fleeting moments when something makes sense to me. I think it also helps if, like Godard, one has pondered over everything under the sun and has an opinion on each. That way, it is more likely that something or the other will make sense or even when it does not it will start you off on a train of thought that could be more rewarding than what the film itself has to say.

The sight of a dog being carried away (quite happily, judging by the expression on its face) by a strong river current has stayed with me. As have the sounds of farts. And several other images which I am not even sure were actually present in the film.

Why was a child allowed at the screening? Are children also offered passes for MAMI?

3. Corn Island (Georgia; Dir: George Ovashvili)

I am generally partial towards films such as this, and I admit I may be praising it more than it deserves. It certainly isn’t as good as Sweetgrass or Le Quattro Volte or even Rivers & Tides (which isn’t really the same type of film but comes together with the rest in the DVD box set in my head). But like those other films, it too approaches questions of existence and meaning by focussing on simple unadorned lives and stories.

An unusual natural phenomenon creates temporary islands in the middle of a river every year. At the same time, the river swells so much its banks become uninhabitable. And so, each year, men set out into the river looking for a temporary island and whoever finds one first owns it for the duration of its existence. He brings his family, builds a house and grows corn on it. And then, when the rains come, the island is washed away and everybody heads back to the banks.

Corn Island focuses on one such man, his grand-daughter and one such cycle. Nobody speaks much and there is no need to. Because the film is set in Georgia and Russia is right around the corner, there are also soldiers on patrol. And occasional gunshots. Some of that, in my view, diverts too much attention from the central themes of the film (or what I think should be the central themes).

There is one sequence in the second act that is oddly out of sync with the rest of the film. A couple of characters behave in a way that isn’t organic to their nature. And the final act probably gets too literal with the film’s metaphor. There was no need to shoe-horn such obvious tragedy into a film that really should be more evolved than that.

Still the water

4. Still The Water (Japan; Dir: Naomi Kawase)

A film full of poetry. Observes the lives of people on a Japanese island and tries to find meaning in the mundane.  Succeeds most of the time. Of all the different segments, the one that transcends the rest of the film is that which observes a family – father, mother and daughter. The mother is in her thirties (or perhaps early 40s) but is ailing and does not have long to live. The family knows it and they spend their last days together in corners of their house that they have come to love and their conversations are filled with humour, affection, melancholy and acceptance. The Japanese culture has a rare grace and wisdom in how it deals with and embraces the subject of death (Ebert writes about it here with more elegance than I ever can) and no matter how many films I see and books I read from that country, it never ceases to fill me with wonder.

The opening scene is that of an old man hanging a goat by its legs and making a cut at the neck from where the blood slowly drains out. The goat bleats for a while and the man stands by it, patting it affectionately until it stops, and perhaps contemplates his own mortality. Cruelty and compassion co-exist in the same act.

The scene has little to do with the rest of the film but then, that’s the kind of film this is.

5. Two Days, One Night (France; Dir: The Dardenne Brothers)

I am not quite sure if the central premise of the film is realistic – a small business owner offers his employees the choice between their losing their annual bonus (1000 Euros) and losing a co-worker (Marion Cotillard). The recession has not been kind to the operation and it is impossible for the owner to arrange funds for both. Most people (14 out of 16) choose to take the bonus (and therefore leave Cotillard out in the cold) the first time they vote but Cotillard convinces the owner to organize another vote two days later and then sets out to meet all 16 co-workers over the course of a weekend.

I don’t know if any owner would actually come up with a choice like that (very unlikely I believe) but as far as setting up a film to explore the clash between the morality of doing the right thing for another person and the need to do the right thing for yourself, it is a brilliant setup.

Unsurprisingly, once you buy into that premise, it is a great film.

Two Days, One Night

I was also keen to see (like most people, I suppose) why the Dardennes, having built a career out of casting unknown faces, felt the need to have Marion Cotillard for this film. The reason’s evident, once you watch the film. Her performance and interpretation of the character is central to the film’s success. It is the sort of character that, on the basis of merely what must’ve been in the script, could easily be played with unimaginative straightforwardness.  And that’d have made the film many degrees poorer.

6. Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel; Dir: Ronit & Shlomi Elkabetz)

Fascinating film, without doubt. And in many ways an excellent indictment of the Judiciary. But I also wonder, what exactly is the alternative? Yes, the first few times when the husband refuses to turn up in court, it is a clear case of the law needing to be revisited. But, once he does start appearing, this is what the scenario looks like – Both are present – neither is willing to accuse the other of anything that resembles grounds for divorce – the husband is unwilling to agree to the divorce – the wife wants it because they aren’t compatible as a couple. How do you frame a law to handle that?

The more I think of the film, the more it seems to me like it should actually be about the absurdity of expecting the Judiciary to sensibly handle a case like this rather than being an indictment of the Judiciary.

'71 film still

7. ’71 (England; Dir: Yann Demange)

Somebody please explain to me the layout of the building that is the venue of the central sequence in the film. How many floors? How many wings? The crack in the wall was where? Where did it lead to? How were the hunters spread out? How could nobody see the prey walking out in the open for an entire wing? For the centrepiece action scene in an action film, isn’t this stuff important?

Great sequence leading up to and right after the blast at the bar, though.

I liked several other films too, this year (in fact, hardly disliked any, except Lessons in Dissent) – A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Clouds of Sils Maria, Charlie’s Country (the actor had me at Hello). But 7 is already too many.

Mumbai Film Festival – Our annual movie ritual is on. And like every year, we are going to cover the Festival like nobody else does it. Team moiFightClub will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews. We are also involved with the fest this year – helping wherever you can to make it better.

Our Day-1 Wrap is here, Day 2 report is here, for Day 3, click here.

Two Days, One Night

The promise was Dardenne Bros and Marion Cotillard, and I didn’t read or listen to any reviews for this one. And I wasn’t disappointed. Sandra is a worker in a solar factory and has been laid off due to her depression, and now has to convince a majority of her 16 co-workers to vote for her while foregoing their bonus. With a complex combination of grit, determination, desperation and self-pity Sandra does her job, going door-to-door, supported by her husband. Even though a little manipulative, the film does put the limelight back onto the age-old human values question, that the very central premise is exploring. The choices we make, why and the system we live in that influences us to do what we do. It’s a portrait of the dog-eat-dog world we live in but probably giving us hope that just maybe we all aren’t dogs after all.

Gett – The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

Never have I seen a mix of complex relationship drama, black comedy, goofiness and an almost scathing social critique in one package! Gett – The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem hinges on one line that one of the characters say ‘Your honour – See her, Hear her’. For me, that not only told the story of Viviane but all womanhood, who she represented in the film, the second sex who are never deemed important enough. The film has no bluster or fanfare, no theatrics or nothing manipulative, it’s a simple court-room story (I won’t say ‘drama’!) of Viviane who has been struggling since five years to get divorce from her orthodox husband for whom she has no love left. The film takes us through every trial she has faced in those five years and with that through the ups and the downs of human relationships, marital dynamics, religious beliefs, gender inequalities and deep-rooted patriarchy of the world we live in. Extremely well-written, well-acted and well-directed, it shows us once again a good film does not require great technical pyrotechnics. A soul and a heart is enough. What adds glory to Gett though is it has a sharp mind that questions too.

Chauranga

Bikas Mishra is one of those few rare critics in India that I’ve personally admired for a long time for the nature of his film criticism and style of writing. I was pleasantly surprised to see the same elements that inform his criticism (and the ones I much admire) inform his style of film-making as well – a unique objectivity, a certain comprehensiveness, a distance from the subject hence doing away all kind of manipulative acts or drama. Chauranga, an otherwise explosive subject which in other hands would have petered into righteous chest-thumping or dark, social uprightness, is an almost contemplative account of the caste atrocities that have plagued India since time immemorial. And then, there are the subtly woven issues of sexual repression amongst adolescents and the elderly, among men and women alike, without telling much, without probing much, just touching and then letting our minds take over. The world cinema sensibilities are apparent, the grammar isn’t local and it serves the film from raising it from the ordinary to a refreshing debut.

A Most Wanted Man

An espionage thriller that left me cold as most espionage thrillers do. Suspense for the sake of it, drama for the sake of it and a thriller for the sake of it, it’s a tightly-woven film, keeping us engaged and on our toes, a typical Hollywood B grade product that left me seriously wondering, that Hoffman apart, what was it doing at MAMI?

Nymphomaniac – Volume 1

A sex tale that is not a sex tale, an almost scientific approach to sex that has a million connections and layers beyond itself, the film has me by the throat and waiting for Volume – 2. Explicit and so explicit, with an almost clinical precision that it takes all the hype around sex away from it, liberating it from taboo-ed shackles yet exploring its myriad shades and what it does to the human soul. More on this after Volume – 2!

@fattiemama

Coming Home

When I was ten years old, my grandfather lost his memory. For ten years, I had been the cynosure of his eyes; for the next seven months, I was unknown to him. In Coming Home — shot beautifully against the backdrop of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in China — a political prisoner returns home after many years and finds his wife no longer recognises him. In his helplessness, in his desperation to wake his wife out of her waking slumber; in his touching attempts to protect her and bring her small joys; in his discovery of disturbing past events, I rediscovered those seven months of my life. Every day was an attempt to bring back a person who had left us, every day was a denial that he was further away. And then, of course, those familiar shattering moments when his memory would flicker back for a brief moment.

Hope is the greatest saviour and the greatest deception. The loss of memory follows a predictable pattern. You know what will happen in the movie, but when you watch it you will not care. You will be mesmerised by it — by the powerful performances, often acted out through the women’s eyes; by the exquisite detailing of Chinese middle-class life during the 60s and 70s; by the sameness of desperation in their lives and ours.

And yes, you will have your heart broken. Just as you’d known you would.

Vessel

In June 2008, a group of pro-abortion activists called “Women on Waves” unfurled a banner with a call for safe abortion from the Statue of the Virgin in Quito in staunchly anti-abortionist Equador. This radical approach to spreading an essential message  (thousands of women die every year due to botched, illegal abortions) has been a mainstay of Women on Waves, who have, over the past decade, adopted increasingly creative methods to offer help to pregnant women in distress. Due thanks, of course, to modern drugs such as Misoprostol, and the elusive nature of the internet that has allowed them to launch Women on Web, making it even easier for women living in “anti-abortion” countries to seek help.

Poignantly captured in the movie is a major anomaly in anti-abortion laws — if laws are meant to protect people and act in their best interests, there’s something certainly awry in refusing women autonomy over their bodies. If there’s one thing that cannot be said enough, it is this — criminalising women’s choice to protect their bodies is in itself an act of violence against them. This might not be the film for those weaned on “exciting” documentaries; however, the lack of style is well made-up for by stark reality of the stories within. This is a powerful documentary about the indomitable spirit of Women on Waves; their incredible efforts, through hook and by crook, to offer life-saving advice and training in over 20 countries; their victories big and small; and, most of all, about the power of conviction — especially in an idea whose time has come.

@Diaporesis

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

This Black & White Noir film apparently set in ‘Bad City’ (was it?) begins with a malleable morals-wala hero picking up a cat. I do not want to talk about the story of the film any more. Highly Recommended. Do not miss it.
Spoilers ahead – And we see – the father, girlfriend, villain, ‘whore’, supporting character in what we discover is a creepy thriller with outstanding music & sound design, and few vampire moments – a romance at the heart of the film.

@nagrathnam

Mumbai Film Festival – Our annual movie ritual is on. And like every year, we are going to cover the Festival like nobody else does it. Team moiFightClub will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews. We are also involved with the fest this year – helping wherever you can to make it better.

Our Day-1 Wrap is here, and Day 2 report is here.

gueros

Gueros

The kind of film you want to discover at a film festival. A new world, a new voice. Set in almost the same time as another iconic Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien, this one too has boys on a road trip plus Mumblecore plus trippy visuals plus coming of age plus paapad-dry and crisp humor. Complete winner on so many counts!

Charlie’s Country (Dir: Rolf de Heer)

Co-writer and lead actor David Gulpilil hits it out of the park with his (semi-autobiographical) portrayal of a very sexy, charming, funny, and bitter aboriginal man angry about the way white people have encroached on his country and now treat his people as nuisance. Full of so much pain and still an undying resistance by this spirited man, the film is a depressing watch that hits closer home with the way our government and corporate treats the aadivaasis.

With Others (Dir: Nasser Zamiri)

Iranian drama about surrogacy. Slipped into artistic macro-lens shots of water dripping or eggs falling every now and then and loaded with too many emotional characters, this was a bit of a tough watch. The plot, performances, and the open-ended resolution were the high-points but a lot of it was just ‘festival cliche’. It didn’t help that the original print didn’t play and the DVD version didn’t have great sound or visuals.

@varungrover

Difret

Moved to tears by the sheer simplicity, realism and humaneness of this unpretentious, seemingly small film. Very Shahid-like in its treatment and approach- the graininess, the handheld shots, the sound, the battle of a lone warrior against huge odds. Earthy and touching. A 15 yr old girl is abducted and raped and she kills her abductor, who apparently wants to marry her, to save her life. Her entire community is against her but one women’s organisation stands up for her and fights a battle that is a universal one for women of all ages all over the world. If I could, I’d love to watch it again, and again.

Mommy

Disturbing and reassuring at once! A single mother strives to hold onto her ADHD son as she tries her best to look after him while making both ends meet. The mother-son’s journey is intertwined with another woman’s and the dynamic of friendship and mutual understanding helps them grow…its a lovely tale of human relationships and struggles told with a little quirk and lot of heart…the violence, especially the loudness and repetitiveness of it gets disconcerting at times but is overtaken by fabulous performances and lasting naturalness…

One on One

Kim-ki-duk’s violence isn’t style or bluster. Its soul-searing window to understand the film world and its people. A rare signature style that he uses in One on One once again. A subversive vigilante film, it puts a spin on the condition of urban living with its consummate questions of materialism, violence, injustice and power. Repetitive and quite random it lacks a spark and renders the otherwise potent theme lustreless.

The Mummy

The charm was to watch an internationally acclaimed Arab classic. Classics are so associated with European or Indian or at best Japanese cinema that I jumped at the opportunity to watch this one. Haunting and mysterious, the film is a world in itself. It’s based on a real-life event that took place in 1881 but realism melts into surrealism with the film’s tone, music, camera angles and performances. There was a eerie reverb in the sound that added a complementary romantic quality to the film about Pharaohs, tombs, mummies and the search for lost national treasure…give me this version over the kistch video game films on the same themes, anyday.

@fattiemama

One on One

A vigilante squad made up of a bunch of poor and/or frustrated, defenseless people trying to deliver justice for a murder. It is strictly okay as a revenge saga, but the political dialoguebaazi is so naive that it makes ‘One on one’ a pretty ordinary affair. The repetitive torture scenes do not help.

@neerajaturtle

Gett

Gett : The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem
The first complete knockout of the festival for me, this divorce drama simply set in a courtroom for its entire duration is thoroughly gripping, heartbreaking and savagely funny. Excellent writing and performances across the board, the story of a woman’s five year struggle to obtain a divorce from her husband is both a powerful indictment of religion and toothless justice as well as an unexpectedly hilarious black comedy. As the case painfully drags from tareek to tareek- you’re right there with the characters, often unsure whether to laugh or to cry as the proceedings move from absurd to frustrating to borderline surreal. Must watch.

Gueros 

Alonso Ruizpalacios’ Güeros has a wonderfully freewheeling and playful quality that is unique to many great debut features- Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche vaguely comes to mind, especially since both films are in B&W, 4:3 aspect ratio and have a rough-hewn quality that works in their favour. With a great sense of humour- including some hilarious meta-jokes- and thoroughly endearing young characters, it’s a trippy, nostalgic road movie as well as a great portrait of youthful disaffection set against the backdrop of a student revolution.

Girlhood
I didn’t warm up to Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood while I was watching it, but it is testimony to the director’s exceptional craft and the film’s strong grasp of character and milieu that I find myself still thinking about it- this one truly grew on me. We rarely see good female coming-of-age films, especially ones which go beyond the bracket of white, privileged young people- and this one sure packs a punch with its sharply observed and distinctly non-judgemental coming-of-age story of a young black girl’s struggles with identity and angst as she befriends a gang of tough girls in the hood. While Boyhood was universal- sometimes almost to a fault- Girlhood is remarkably specific and manages to beautifully capture nuances of race, class and gender without falling prey to stereotypes, tropes and preachiness.
PS: Also catch the director’s last film Tomboy- another excellent film about a young girl and gender identity.
Two Days, One Night
Probably the most underwhelming film of the day for me, despite the Dardenne Brothers’ dependably solid and distinctly humane storytelling, after a while the film just felt a little repetitive and lacked any surprises, big or small- or maybe I missed something here. But it’s still immensely watchable, anchored by the magnificent Marion Cotillard whose portrayal of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown keeps us hooked and on edge.

@jahanbakshi

Ambassador to Bern

Dog day afternoon situation steeped in Hungarian politics with two revolutionaries/terrorists (depending on which side you look from) holding the Ambassador in the Hungarian embassy at hostage. This edge of the seat thriller is based on a real event. You get the idealism of the revolutionaries and the helplessness of the Ambassador. Watch it.

Güeros

Brilliant coming of age film, Stoner comedy, student agitation, killer sound design, black and white frames, Quirky treatment, handheld static & frequent frenetic camerawork, Eccentric, Funny, pointless and yet making quite a few epiphany waley statements every now and then. This one is a MUST watch. And what a monologue by the elder brother in the end. With an equally anti-climatic resolution. Highly recommended.

One On One

I have been told by fans of Mobieus & Pieta that this one fades in comparison but in isolation, it still has quite a few ‘korean cinema’ trademarks – F****d up situation/characters, dark humor, a rape scene, brutality, torture, domestic abuse, grim setting, angst due to economic differences. Basically a bunch of vigilantes dispensing justice. But what if they are wrong ? And why are they doing this ? Will they continue till the very end or does violence consume them ? Wasn’t disappointed by this film.

Mommy

A self destructive, chain smoking, alcohol guzzling widow trying to make ends meet all the while taking care of her son who has been released from a Detention Center. Her son who is angsty, in disciplined, insensitive, insensible, abuse yelling, disobedient ass, besides being a little sanki as well. Clocking at 140 minutes, the fact that this film doesn’t feel long is thanks to Xavier Dolan’s masterful direction. Killer performances, perfect selection of music, rapid editing, cinematography (with extreme closeups), heart tugging scenes handled with maturity betraying Xavier Dolan’s age. Ok stop reading this review and WATCH the film. Do not miss this for anything.

@nagrathnam