Posts Tagged ‘Goodbye To Language’

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 is here, for Day 3, click here, and for Day 4, here.

party-girl-angelique-litzenburger-joseph-bour

Clownwise

A sheer treat! A writer explores the life of three old professional clowns, now in their sixties and battling personal struggles. One of them has cancer, another is caretaking his wife afflicted by Alzheimer’s, another has a disrupted family he needs to make up to, and so on. Razor-sharp wit, versatility of craft, snappy dialogues and wonderful performances aren’t just what make this a heart-warming film. It’s the uplifting worldview, the thrift of storytelling and sheer brilliance in balance between emotion, drama and tongue-in-cheek comedy that made me laugh and cry at once at the heartfelt-ness and absurdity of it all. Just like how the filmmaker intended I’m sure. And just like how life is.

Pride

Empathy is what makes us human. Empathy is what makes the world go round. And empathy is what makes us one. At one point in history, a gay and lesbian group decided to support UK’s miners fighting for their rights because they saw the same issues in their own fight. They had nothing to gain but they thought expressing solidarity is the right thing to do and they did so. Pride tells the tale of this incident that happened in UK in 1984 and looking at the world today, I must say we need such lessons in humanism more often. So realistic, so humane, and so balanced. Without any revolutionary bluster, without a comment, and without any bias, it’s a beautiful expose of how the world looks at marginalised communities (and it isn’t a coincidence that fat, old WOMEN are the biggest supporters here). It leaves us questioning our biases and breaks down man-made boundaries so succinctly, I’m not ashamed to admit I did shed a few tears in the end. A must must watch!

Nymphomaniac – Volume 2

Blown away! I will admit I got tired halfway through Volume 2 but the end wrapped up Lars’ dystopian world and film so wonderfully it left me with goosebumps! Volume 2 is a seamless continuation of Volume 1, something that belies the trailer which suggests a buildup in tempo and tension, something that works itself up innocuously and not dramatically. Trier gradually goes from science to psychology to ideology to plain old animalism and the transition is so smooth, it is stunning. We began to pyschoanalyse Joe, the protagonist (and her name is quite telling too) in Volume 1 itself but Volume 2 forces us to go deeper and probe, just like Trier (and Joe and Seligman) are doing for that matter. The explicit sexual content continues to demystify sex, elevating it from a gratifying or sentimental point of view to a scientifically analyse-able object (not subject). The Christian context continues and so do allegories, adding to the wealth of connections of human evolution Trier is trying to make through exploring a so called ‘base’ instinct-human sexuality. Like I said earlier, blown away!

–  @fattiemama

Goodbye To Language

Godard bids farewell to the language of cinema and creates his own new cinematic language. I went in expecting Godard to challenge the audience, and he does. Experimental in its true sense, this is one trip that you must miss (generally and in 3D). Images float, projection abruptly quits, sound breaks,  big words and author names are being thrown around, camera spins, dog barks. There is no way I can interpret what was going on, my observations are literal. In conclusion: Goodbye Godard.
My tribute to Godard 2.0: http://instagram.com/p/uVjDygrdYr/

@mihirbdesai

Lessons in Dissent

This documentary showcases the emergence and rise of ‘scholarism’ – the Hong Kong based student activist group which protested against ‘Moral & National Education’ & the Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying (referred to sarcastically as ‘Wolf’ – for his cunning abilities). Would you believe that the brains and mouth behind this group is a surprisingly articulate and confident 16 yr old student – Joshua Wong. Although one wishes the director had covered few voices that were not necessarily the voices of dissent. Despite perhaps coming across at times as slightly one sided & propagandist, this one is a decent window into changing Hong Kong political scenario.

P.S – Apparently as per the National Education Curriculum – if a student cried during the national anthem, he/she would’ve been given higher marks than others.

Party Girl

A 55+ yr old woman working in a cabaret (Strip Bar/pickup joint) decides to settle down with a customer who is deeply in love with her. And then what happens. This interestingly titled film delivers a powerful punch, thanks to a lovely performance by the lead actress. You not just curse her for failing to get a grip on her life, but also empathize with her, despite the fact that she has a screwed up family situation, sad personal life & an unhealthy lifestyle. Is love enough? Do old habits really die hard? Will the wedding happen? Will she reconcile with her estranged kids?

@nagrathnam

Norjmaa

Breathtaking shots of Mongolian highlands are enough to make you fall in love with this film. Norjmaa, a shepherd waiting for lover to return from some war, remains steadfast against the wishes of the rest of the village to move to a safer place during the second world war. She nurses a Russian and a Japanese soldier back to health only to realize that as soon as they are able to move, they are at each other’s throat. Every comic moment that ensues as a result of this is a comment on the futility of war. Badema, who play Norjmaa, is brilliant in every scene. She embodies loneliness and kindness. Her maternal attitude and anger is touchingly portrayed whether it is directed to her livestock or to the soldiers she saves. Highly recommended.

Party Girl

An aged stripper agrees to marry a man who has been a regular at her cabaret joint and is in love with her. Although she is seen preparing for her new life, one is never convinced that she is doing it because she really wants it. Or she is doing it because she needs it. A sort of social acceptance, a nod from her children that she is a part of the civil society now. Her uncomfort and indecisiveness seep through the screen. Will she marry this man or does she prefer going back to the cabaret spending the nights getting drunk with her other stripper girlfriends? Is this an easy decision for someone who has been in the job as long as she has been?

@neerajaturtle