Posts Tagged ‘The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby’

The brief was the same this year. A mail was sent to the usual cinema comrades who write, contribute, and help in running this blog. It went like this – a) Close your eyes b) Think of all the films you have seen in 2013 – released/unreleased/long/short/docu/anything c) Think what has stayed back with you – impressed/touched/affected/blew d) Write on it and tell us why. Ponder like Jep Gambardella in right gif, and write about the joy you experienced like the left gif.

        

Almost everyone wanted to write about The Great Beauty. It has emerged has a clear favourite this year. But since the idea is to cover as many films as we can, so only one person was allowed to write on a specific film. Though we ended up having two writers on TGB. Finally, here’s the massive list of 17 terrific films picked by 15 film buffs, and they tell us why these films stood out from the rest. If they don’t look familiar, click on their handles. It’s linked to their twitter accounts.

(Our earlier post in the same series – 20 Things We Learnt At The Movies and 13 Unanswered Questions is here, Top 10 Musical Gems We Discovered This Year is here)

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@kushannandy   on   I L O    I L O

What do you do when a bald, tipped-hat wearing character, straight-out-of-Jeevan’s gang, writes to you and his other Versovian gang-members an underground email in which he threatens to squash your sperms, a la Uma Thurman did to the eyeballs in Kill Bill, unless you close your eyes, think of your favorite film of 2013 and some such shit…?

You shit. And you sit on your laptop.

My pick: the best film that stayed back.

A spoilt schoolboy, his unemployed father and pregnant mother, who tries in vain, to survive her pre natal pangs and the annoying habit of the males in the house leaving urine on the toilet seat, form a small middle-class family of three in a quiet province called Ilo Ilo in Singapore. Well, not three. Actually four. Terry, a modern and resilient maid, walks into this family and battles the boy-bully, combats the mother’s territorial jealousy and earns the respect she deserves from the senior-most member of the family.

There is nothing innovative about the plot. No melodrama. In fact, zero drama. Yet, Anthony Chen’s debut film left me spellbound. The unbelievably realistic performances, the emotional nuances, take it right into Asghar Farhadi territory. And what holds the film together, is Angeli Bayani’s portrayal of the Filipino maid. Chen’s silent close-ups of Bayani’s deeply emotive face and haunting eyes stay with you, long after the lights come on.

@sudhishkamath   on   Q I S S A

I’m not sure we’ve seen a better film about the fluid nature of identity and sexuality, that too from India. And this complex question of who we are is explored through a simple nature versus nurture plot.

A story of a girl raised as a boy. Because the father (Irrfan Khan) has always wanted a boy and is in absolute denial about who she really is. Tillotama Shome is just the kind of ballsy woman for the role and casting an actress in the stereotype-defying gender-bending character is just one of the many triumphs of Qissa, which is full of twists that are introduced not to shock but to explore the question of identity, layer by layer. Saying anything more may just ruin the film for you. You might have issues with the titular ghost that pops up but that’s exactly the kind of ingenuity that makes you think about the question raised in the film. With Tisca Chopra and Rasika Duggal in the cast, this is as solid as an Indian film has got in ages, especially from the arthouse circuit!

@krnx    on   R U S H

Since, I suspect, no one is going to write on a Hollywood movie being their choice of best film on MFC, I will. And also because Rush was one kick-ass film that literally gave me a rush and had me applauding at the end of it: physical reactions that no other film in 2013 managed to evoke.

There really isn’t much to say about Rush that hasn’t already been said. I used to be a fervent F1 fan (less now but still enough to be in the grandstands of the first Indian GP) and for sure that’s contributed to my admiration of Ron Howard’s expertly crafted drama. He is a director, I admit, I find hugely inconsistent (only cared for Apollo 13 and Frost/Nixon besides epic television Arrested Development) but with Rush, the slate’s wiped clean.

Just unearthing the story – James Hunt vs Niki Lauda – must’ve been a moment of triumph for screenwriter Peter Morgan. But some scripts are expensive to tell and it was an arduous journey for Morgan’s spec(!) effort before Howard got involved.

Besides the incredible rivalry that Howard’s captured in moments of pure cinema, the authenticity of period F1, and spectacular visuals (especially those of the final race in Japan in high-speed rain) that haven’t made a home in my mind for all these months; Rush encapsulates everything that Formula 1 is about – adrenaline and utter disdain for subtlety. Not the usual qualities in, what we have come to expect, a “good” film.

@sukanyaverma   on    W A J D A

For someone who watches movies for a living, it’s very hard to pick ONLY one great movie from a pile of superlatives. More so, since 2013 fared rather well in my eyes and I didn’t ‘ummm’ even once on being asked for my pick of the lot. Wadjda, with its inspiring theme and touching simplicity, is that shiny gem from Saudi Arabia that gets my vote. Ever since I saw its first trailer among a hoard of others nominated by their respective countries, vying for a place under Oscar’s Best Foreign Film category, I was drawn to the beatific smile of a 10-year-old (an extraordinary Waad Mohammed) essaying the title role. Notably, Wadjda is the first film to be shot entirely in Saudi by filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour who directed outdoor scenes from inside a van using a walkie-talkie adhering to the country’s stern filming restrictions for a woman/filmmaker and the first film from the nation to send an entry to the Academy.

 Right from the first scene where Wadjda steps forth sporting a pair of Converse sneakers in a crowd of Mary Janes, you know she stands out in a conservative, controlled society. Set in suburban Riyadh, Wadjda deals with a young girl’s determination to realise her dream of buying a bicycle after her mom refuses to do so. How she chooses to achieve her seemingly defiant goal by appeasing the same society and its doctrinal requirements is deftly portrayed in Mansour’s lovingly crafted feature. Also heartwarming are the interactions between Wadjda and her best friend, Abdullah. Unlike the grown-ups in the story, their friendship is untouched by the discrimination of their environment. Wadjda offers a palpable glimpse in Riyadh’s daily life, the anxieties and facades of its striking women, the deep-rooted conditioning of its self-engrossed men as well as the innocence of its blithe children without trying to be overtly cynical or judgmental. Through Wadjda’s mini triumph, Mansour astutely endorses a message of hope and her personal belief that change might be slow but it is steadfast and most imminent.

@varungrover     on    T H E    G R E A T    B E A U T Y

This was a year of turbulence for me. Lots of emotional ups and downs, fights, illnesses, personal and professional extremes, and a feeling of ‘ab hum bade ho gaye hain’. Mid-life crisis started hitting its opening notes this year, that slideshow of ‘80s/90s kids will remember this’ left me sadder rather than happier, some very good friends got separated from their better halves, some others got lost in the black-hole of their corporate jobs and/or parenthood, a favorite relative passed away, a cricketer I loved as a kid retired and I didn’t feel a thing, and a pet parrot flew away leaving me heartbroken.

And may be that’s why, no other film moved me as much as ‘The Great Beauty’ this year. A film about passage of time and people, relations disintegrating, dissolving into the great circus of bizarre the life is. Paulo Sorrentino’s latest, which I watched twice on big screen during this year’s MAMI (god bless Mister Narayanan, the festival director), had everything I would ideally like to associate my ‘end of days’ with –humor, acidic care-a-damn criticism of (modern) ideas of success and art, deep nostalgia, detachment, quest for beauty, spiritualism, and an affirmation that it’s all, after all, just a trick.

Films next year:

@varungrover   on   D I S A P P E A R A N C E    O F    E L E A N O R    R I G B Y    :   H I M    A N D    H E R     and    T I T L I

2 films that I saw this year (one at TIFF and another at IFFI viewing room) should be the most talked about international and Indian films respectively next year in my humble brag opinion. Ned Benson’s ‘Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her’ is a delicate, sensitive, brilliantly written and acted, mind-bending drama of a couple’s separation shown through the perspectives of him and her in two films of 90 minutes each. Think of it as Sam Mendes meets Asghar Farhadi. The layers of interpretation become thicker and mindboggling if you change the order of viewing from ‘him followed by her’ to ‘her followed by him’. And that, you’ll see, is a masterstroke.

The best Indian film I saw this year, and hopefully the whole of world will see soon, is Kanu Behl’s ‘Titli’. Seeing it on a desktop computer in IFFI, Goa’s ‘viewing room’ should be counted as an underwhelming, far from ideal setting, and still, this very dark very funny very depressing dastaavez on patriarchy BLEW ME AWAY like nothing this year. Stunning is the word. Breathless is another. Writing so sharp (Kanu Behl and Sharat Kataria co-wrote it) and performances so bang-on, not to mention excellent edgy-gritty cinematography (Siddharth Dewan), this is our best bet for world cinema honors next year.

@invokeanand   on   B O M B A Y    T A L K I E S

The Lunchbox made me long for the days gone by, Ship of Theseus made me feel guilty for merely existing, Chennai Express made me a philosopher, but the film that reached me this year was a story about identity and liberation -Ajeeb Dastan hai yeh (Bombay talkies). The film mainly dealt with identity – sexual and personal both, but what worked for me was the depiction of today’s charulata – hiding her loneliness and emptiness in sensuous saris wrapped in raw sexuality. It was her story, her struggle and in the end, her liberation. Trapped in a relationship moving slowly towards it’s end and feeling guilty for it’s eventual demise. Use of Lag Ja Gale was genius to say the least and felt like it was specifically written for this character. And in what eloquent ease does Rani Mukherjee carries herself throughout the film. And Johar, from loving your parents to hitting your parents has come a long way and we can only hope he keeps this bravado intact.

jagten1

@diaporesis    on    T H E    H U N T

Before Midnight is the loveliest film I’ve seen all year but I’ve already written about it at length. My second favourite film this year stands in stark contrast to the occasionally sunny, sometimes stormy, yet entirely endearing story of Richard Linklater’s finest film. “The Hunt” is a little-known Danish film — despite it winning an award at Cannes 2012 — that stars the reliably excellent Mads Mikkelsen in a mesmerising performance as an upright schoolteacher, and occasional hunter, who is hounded and ostracised by the small community he lives in, after a child wrongly, but not maliciously, accuses him of a criminal act he did not commit.

Without talking about the accusation itself, nor of the movie’s very finely shot and acted scenes, it’s worth examining two key themes of the movie briefly. The first is banal but has several important interlinked parts — children are impressionable, difficult to understand, and can react unpredictably when spurned or angered. In the movie, the child is shown a porn clip by her brash teenaged elder brother. Later, when angered by the schoolteacher, she uses details seen in it to accuse him of an act he did not commit, without being aware of the fallout of her innocent anger. For some reason, while watching the movie, I was constantly reminded of another disturbing film in which an older child wreaks havoc on his family and schoolmates: “We Need to Talk About Kevin”. That movie should perhaps be watched in accompaniment to The Hunt for it sheer contrast in material. Second, perceptions and influence work in strange, and sometimes troubling ways. It is assumed that the child must obviously be speaking the truth while making such serious accusations. The teacher-in-charge, instead of trying to verify the story, literally puts words into the mouth of the child in her haste to get “justice” for the child. It must be noted that, in general, everyone knows that children are notorious liars; yet for serious accusations this is often overlooked. Moreover, the “epidemic” — of accusations of similar acts committed with other children — that breaks out soon after the initial accusation points to how impressionable children are, how vulnerable their minds and the paradox that must exist to protect them: to ensure their safety there must be inordinate power vested in their words. The hunt for truth and justice often leads to the bloodshed of those who only happened to cross the firing line at the wrong time. For a schoolteacher this lesson was hard to swallow; for the hunter, it could not have been more obvious.

@manishgaekwad     on    C H I T R A N G A D A

At the Kashish Mumbai International Film Festival this year, the closing film Chitrangada was also one of the festival’s most difficult films to sit through. Three days later, actor-director Rituparno Ghosh was dead. The film, which is inspired by a Tagore play, is about a transsexual choreographer undergoing sex-reassignment surgery. In a way, it mirrors Rituparno’s own battles, as he began to express himself more as a woman in the public eye.

This confusion in the audience to be able to identify with him, is also the moot point the film makes when he steps into the role of the agonising choreographer. Festival audience moved quickly; the deadweight of the film’s slow treatment, and watching this pouty, greasy, unattractive man blur the boundaries between art and life, freaked most people. By the end of the screening, the theatre was near empty. Which is clear how people do not want to see filmmakers indulge in self-flagellation. Keep your private parts, private, don’t turn it into something prosaic. Perhaps, Rituparno over-shot his license.

It is however, a film, one must return to, for the artist who holds a gun to his own head. The film bored me, made me uncomfortable, there were long and dull portions, but what never left me, was that in his role as ‘deus ex ghosh’, he was trying to say something really, really important; about gender and bias and fluid sexuality, and what films should do and tell us about ourselves (sometimes). As Aparna Sen wrote about the film, in his obit, ‘Without sending out a message, within quotes, as a lesser filmmaker might have done, Ritu managed to bring the hitherto marginalized into the domain of the mainstream, to an extent.’ His timing was right, his exit wrong.

 @nagrathnam     on    S O O D H U    K A V V U M

Every year there is ‘the’ Tamil film which crosses boundaries and turns out to be a benchmark. From previous years’ Paruthiveeran, Subramaniapuram, to Aaranya Kaandam and this year’s Soodhu Kavvum. This one shows how to do a Guy Ritchie-ish film with dollops of quirky characterizations, outlandish situations, kickass dialogues, and amazing usage of music. And the best part is that the film is made with no stars (unless you count Sanchita Shetty & Pizza’s Vijay Sethupathy- the Abhay Deol equivalent, as ‘stars’), and is a realistic, ambitious, sensible film with zero pretension, with a dose of commercial masala tadkas. Ambition needn’t be limited by a budget. One might argue that the 2nd half was more ‘plot’ & less character as compared to the 1st half, but still, no one can take away the fact that the film surprises you at multiple levels without insulting your intelligence.

[SPOILERS]- Ironically the only two ‘honest’ men in the film end up as losers and most of the bent characters end up victorious. This one also has the greatest subversive ‘stalker’ scene in the history of tamil cinema (the IT guy with the lover girl office situation). Now waiting and hoping the hindi remake matches upto the original.

@damoviemaniac     on     N E W    W O R L D

Who said the gangster genre is dead?

Trust the Koreans to make actors dressed in black suit and assaulting each other with knives and baseball bats look poetry in motion. The film explores the power politics within a gang, primarily dealing with structures and mechanisms. It has unusual emotional depth for a gangster film and often feels like a tale of bromance and loyalty.

It is the perfect onion, unwrapping one layer at a time as the film progress. The film teases the viewer to a game of one-upmanship, trying to outdo each other. And just as we think we have solved the maze, the climax flips everything upside down and we gasp at the sheer brilliance of storytelling. But the film does not rely on the last minute plot twist for the viewer to appreciate. It acts as the cherry on top.

@lordmeow    on    T H E    G R E A T    B E A U T Y

Jep Gambardella claims that he was destined for sensibilities, whereas his friends cared only for inner lips of women. He has walked a long path, arriving at a view of life that gives him a panoramic display of the human comedy, broad and unambiguous. He has lost love, but his nature hasn’t undergone a brutal upheaval. He has been at war with himself; he’s the man who has been different men at different points of time. He has emerged from the uncertainties of life, remade, and illuminated by new feelings. Now, whatever its worth, is fairly settled, and he knows how to express it clearly, facing the camera, without a shadow of doubt, in true Italian style.

Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty witnesses the decadence of Rome again, seething with tragic irony of a Gibbonesque spectacle. It flings literature giants at you so elegantly that you are waiting to be damned by its words. But unlike Woody Allen (whom you actually expect to pop up at any moment in the film) whose intellectual adventures merely give a half-formed philosophy in an autobiographical fashion, Sorrentino’s characters reveal the inner labyrinth of life, rather a satire of life, on life everywhere, the struggle of its aspirations to fructify, the madness that follows it, and the disillusionment that awaits at the far end of the journey. The observations are sharp, but it is not cruel, rather it looks at poor folks, baffled and lost, rarely comforted, with a distant sympathy. With a rhythmic rise and fall of images (that gliding camera), Jep is the voice of a time going by. He utters inconsistent wisdom, not because of the character’s infidelity with truth, but because he has outgrown his preceding selves. To know him, unquestionably one must know him entire, and I can only fancy the aching romantic pain that sweeps his memory. As 2013 is flying by, I would rather settle for his terrace party, swinging to ‘Mueve La Colita’.

@ghaywan    on    T H E    C O N G R E S S

“Nazis and holocaust bring awards” says the head of ‘Miramount Pictures’ as he convinces Robin Wright, an ageing star, to surrender her youth to a pile of codes.

Ari Folman’s The Congress is a dizzy concoction of commoditization of cinema, the dystopian bleakness of our future that is bereft of choice, the blazing bohemia of a century full of animated characters and our relentless questioning of where we came from. It’s a giant fuck you to the Hollywood’s studio system, an ode to animation and eventually, an allegory of what our future holds for us with all it’s decaying art.

Robin Wright plays herself as the star who has to sign a contract with her studio to sell her image to digital restoration turning her real self completely obsolete. 20 years later she is called to the futurist congress, a convention of an animated world, where she is forced to lend her image to the capitalistic franchise of Mirmaount Hotel. The studio boss asks her for an extension of her contract where she “can now be eaten in an omelette or a Crème brûlée… you’re now a substance”. He even suggests her of a world where people will pay royalty to fantasize about a star. More ambitious than Waltz With Bashir but limiting in it’s cohesiveness of a singular theme, The Congress, has to be devoured for it’s vision and craft. As it goes with life, you may not understand this film completely but it is worth the trip, with all its spot-the-reference moments. This is Sunset Boulevard on acid!

@fattiemama    on    B E K A S

Innocence is difficult to portray without sentimentalising. Much more difficult is to weave in that rare brotherly bond amidst poverty ridden circumstances yet steer clear of patronising. Using children as children and letting their light shine through requires talent, one which Bekas, a delightfully pleasing and touching film, does without fanfare.

The story of two orphaned Kurd children who dream of going to America and meeting Superman thereby uplifting their impoverished lives, Bekas keeps coming back to me as the most memorable film I have watched this year solely for its tone – bantery humour with controlled drama underlining the narrative. Cleverly drawing the line between sentiment, drama and comedy, Bekas turns a feel-good narrative into a story of familial bond while set in the harsh reality of war-torn Iraq. It has one of the most delightful and sharply written lines, warmly etched characters and deeply insightful social references of life in a small town in Kurd and the impact of the war with US. The ghost of US merchandise symbolising the ‘arrived’ life looms large in everything the two hold dear; Superman, Coke and Michael Jackson become much more telling symbols of US supremacy globally.

All its little joys and the wonderful child actor playing the younger, spirited brother apart, Bekas is dear to me for its one brilliant achievement – of letting children be children. From Majidi we have learnt, they tell their own story. All we need to do is allow them to speak. And then just sit back and listen.

@miyaamihir    on    J A I     B H I M    C O M R A D E

तय है कि अापने इस तीन घण्टे दस मिनट लम्बी वृत्तचित्र फिल्म का नाम ज़रूर सुना होगा अौर अगर अाप थोड़े भी जागरुक पाठक हैं तो अब तक इस फिल्म की तमाम घोर राजनीतिक समीक्षाएं भी पढ़ चुके होंगे. लेकिन अानंद पटवर्धन की ‘जय भीम कॉम्रेड़’ मेरे लिए अपने मूल में नितान्त व्यक्तिगत फिल्म है. यह एक मित्र के अचानक चले जाने के बाद उसके मित्र के अात्मसंशय से उपजी फिल्म है. अात्मसंशय, कि कहीं अपने दृढ़ राजनीतिक विचारों की घटाटोप सामूहिकता के बीच हमने अपने दोस्त को अकेला रह जाने दिया. यह फिल्म वो ईमानदार सवाल है जिसे अानंद स्वयं से पूछ रहे हैं अौर यहाँ उनके ‘स्व’ में कहीं न कहीं हिन्दुस्तान का पूरा प्रगतिशील विचार शामिल है. प्रगतिशील विचार जिसने ‘पहचान’ के सवाल को वर्गसंघर्ष की महती लड़ाई के मध्य द्वितीयक पायदान पर रखते हुए सदा अप्रासंगिक मान खारिज किया लेकिन स्वयं उसके बीच मौजूद भिन्न पहचान वाले कॉमरेड का अकेलापन नहीं देख पाया. यह एक रचनाकार-फिल्मकार के ईमानदार अात्मसंशय से उपजी फिल्म है अौर स्वयं पर सवाल खड़े करने की अौर उन सवालों के साये में खुद अपने विचार को खुर्दबीन से परखने की यह ईमानदारी हमारे समय में दुर्लभ है. इसी संशय के चलते अानंद अपने प्रगतिशील साथियों के सामने कुछ वाजिब सवाल खड़े करते हैं अौर शायद एक पूरी विचारधारा के लिए अात्मपरीक्षण का वह दरवाज़ा खोलते हैं जिसकी सांकल अभी तक उन्होंने स्वयं भीतर से बन्द कर रखी थी.

गौर से देखें तो सामयिक हिन्दुस्तान में मार्क्सवाद अौर अम्बेडकरवादी विचार के मध्य के तनावपूर्ण अंत:संबंध को परखते इस घोर राजनीतिक वृत्तचित्र के मूल में एक मित्र के असमय चले जाने की कसक मौजूद है. मित्र, जो चला जाता है लेकिन अपने पीछे सवालों का एक बियाबान ख़ालीपन छोड़ जाता है. सन सत्तानवे में कवि विलास घोगरे की अात्महत्या फिल्मकार अानंद पटवर्धन को झकझोर देती है. लेकिन इस बियाबान ख़ालीपन का सामना अानंद रचनात्मक विकल्प तलाश करते हैं. एक प्रतिबद्ध फिल्मकार अपने साथी की मृत्यु के बाद उसकी मुकम्मल पहचान की तलाश में निकलता है, उसके जनगीतों के पीछे के असल कंठ को जानने निकलता है, उसकी कविताअों के दृश्य ‘हम’ में मौजूद अदृष्य ‘मैं’ को खोजने निकलता है. यह एक दोस्त के चले जाने के बाद भी उसके मित्र की अनवरत तलाश है जो अानंद को खैरलांजी तक लेकर जाती है. ‘कबीर कला मंच’ तक लेकर जाती है. शीतल साठे अौर उनके क्रांतिकारी गीतों तक लेकर जाती है. एक दोस्त के खुद को अकेला समझ चले जाने के बाद भी उसका मित्र उसका हाथ नहीं छोड़ता अौर अस्सी के दशक में बनी अानंद की पहली फिल्म ‘बॉम्बे: हमारा शहर’ की शुरुअात में “एक व्यथा सुनो रे लोगों…” गाते नवयुवक विलास घोगरे की उस छवि को अानंद मिटने नहीं देते. ‘कबीर कला मंच’ के शीतल साठे अौर सचिन माली जैसे नौजवान उसी खो गये मित्र विलास की प्रतिछवि हैं. प्रेम जिसकी सीमाएं जात-धर्म के पार जाती हैँ अौर अन्याय के खिलाफ प्रतिकार की वही साझा कॉमरेडशिप जिसका सपना विलास घोगरे की कविताअों में झलकता था. अौर जब एक अाततायी सरकार द्वारा उन्हें नक्सलाइट कहकर जेल में बन्द किया जाता है तो अानंद उसके खिलाफ डटकर लोहा लेते हैं. अापको पता है, शीतल अौर सचिन ने अपने नवजात बच्चे का नाम क्या रखा है? ‘अभंग’. अभंग – जैसे वह दोस्ती जिसे मृत्यु तोड़ती नहीं, सदा के लिए वापस जोड़ देती है.

‘अात्मसंशय’ हमारे समय के लिए एक नायाब पदबंध है अौर बेहद ज़रूरी भी. सच यह है कि वर्तमान समय में विचारों का ऐसा एकवचनी कोलाहल मौजूद है कि शायद कभी एक सवर्ण होने के नाते, कभी एक हिन्दू होने के नाते, कभी एक पुरुष होने के नाते अौर कभी एक विषमलिंगी होने के नाते हमें सदा खुद से यह असुविधाजनक सवाल पूछना चाहिए कि ऊपर से बराबर दिखते सामूहिकता के इस तुमुल कोलाहल के बीच वो एक कंठ चुप क्यूं है? ‘जय भीम कॉम्रेड़’ उसी अकेले कंठ की समाज में वाजिब हिस्सेदारी की चाह का दस्तावेज है मेरी नज़र में.

@cilemasnob     on     G O Y N A A R    B A K S H O

The Great Beauty, Inside Llewyn Davis, Francis Ha, Before Midnight and Gravity must be the top five reasons to fall in love with the movies this year. Wrote about Llewyn Davis and Frances Ha here. So am picking a bengali film for this post.

This is my favourite story about the oldest lady i know and i keep repeating it. She keeps reminding me that on her deathbed she might ask for some non-vegetarian dish and she might even force me to get it. She has seen people doing that. But she says i should not let her eat that, not even offer anything remotely non-vegetarian. She hasn’t tasted it in last 70-75 years. She doesn’t want to change that in her last minutes. She says these things happen on deathbed. When you haven’t tasted something for so long, that intense craving comes back in your last moments and it feels like that’s the only door to salvation. She married young, widowed young, and since then it’s been like that – white saree, no non-vegetarian, and some more restrictions. Because of social and religious norms initially, and then you accept it and refuse to let it go. And i keep joking that i will get her the best kebabs she wants, she should die peacefully at least.

Aparna Sen bravely went ahead and gave her character something more to chew on in her film, Goynaar Baksho (GB). A story involving three generations of women, and the one that stood out is about a widow with a bitter tongue, who becomes ghost and returns to her house to guard her jewellery box. Our cinema has made some people completely invisible. Once upon a time, the woman in white saree used to be there for ornamental purpose at least. But they are completely extinct from screen these days. In GB, the old widow with her acidic tongue and funny bone encourages the young woman to look for real love by breaking all the social norms, even though it’s 1940s rural Bengal. But when she gets emotional and talks about the love that she has missed, has forgotten what cuddling with lover feels like, that physical intimacy, and how she was fooled into believing that materialistic pleasure was enough when the men of the house enjoyed life to the fullest, you can’t help but feel guilty and teary-eyed. For being conditioned by the same society norms in such a way that you never thought about this aspect of that lady in white.

It’s a ghostly tale told in a funny tone with freedom movement in the background, and has terrific performances by Moushumi Chatterjee and Konkona Sen Sharma. At a time when gender crime is making headlines every day, and when most of our films still treats female leads as T&A prop, this one stands so tall. Get the dvd and watch it.

Gif source here

Screenwriter and lyricist Varun Grover‘s script Maa Bhagwatiya IIT Coaching was selected for NFDC-TIFF’s ScriptLab this year. He not only went to the lab but also managed to catch some of the interesting films at the fest. So over to him for all the dope on the fest and some film reccos.

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Thanks to NFDC’s script lab in association with Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), I got to attend this year’s fest (from 5th to 15th September) in Toronto. Though the first 5 days were devoted mostly to the script lab sessions (with our excellent mentors – Marten Rabarts, Olivia Stewart, and Esther van Driesum – who got the nuances and layers of our scripts so bang-on in spite of being from a culture far removed from ours), I stayed for 5 more days to watch cinema. And I think Toronto has been getting the best line-up of films for the last few years. Oscar season is close-by, TIFF Director Cameron Bailey’s film-hunting/sourcing skills are legendary, and TIFF doesn’t shy away from seemingly non-festival stuff like Gravity and The F Word (on two ends of commercial spectrum) – resulting in a film fest with so many options (with ample repeat screenings) that out of the 16 films I could catch, at least 10 were absolutely stunning and another 3 in #MustWatch category. And I missed at least 7 big films, in addition to many small ones, that I so badly wanted to see. (People’s Choice winner ‘12 Years a Slave’, FIPRESCI winner ‘Ida’, Cannes winners ‘Blue is the warmest color’ and ‘A Touch of Sin’, Richard Ayoade’s ‘The Double’, Reitman’s ‘Labor Day’, and Miyazaki’s last ‘The Wind Rises’.)

But what a smooth fest it was. Never seen volunteers this organized, informed, helpful, cheerful, and above all passionate for cinema! Most of them were students who chose to volunteer because for every 6 hours of work they used to get one movie ticket free. And then there were some who had been doing it for many years – and some (like this 80-year old lady scanning barcodes on our cards outside the venue) who loved being part of the buzz. Every volunteer inside the venue I went to (Scotiabank) knew which movie was playing on which screen, who had directed it, and what was the duration. And they would make a human-chain in the theatre gallery for really crowded screenings (like Gravity’s) so that no one jumps the queue. Met two young filmmakers while waiting in a queue who had volunteered at the fest 3 years ago and they said the recruitment for next year’s volunteers will start soon after this is over, and they prepare for close to 10-months for this level of professionalism.

So here’s the list of films I watched and my 2-line reactions to them:

fifth estateThe Fifth Estate (Bill Condon): Hugely underwhelming. No insights into Assange’s mind or workings or flaws, and more like a Madhur Bhandarkar attempt at cashing-in on the hype around the man. Wannabe Social Network, but with writing so clichéd that even Cumberbatch couldn’t save this one. And later I realized the director, Bill Condon, had made 2 Twilight films before this. That figures.

PrisonersPrisoners (Denis Villeneuve): Sirf naam hi kaafi hai. Villeneuve’s last (Incendies) was one of the best, most explosive film 2 years ago, and hence was really looking forward to this. Turned out it had (my fav) Paul Dano too in it, with (Prestige-faced) Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal. And what a spine-chilling film it was! Definitely among the top 3 I saw at TIFF. Villeneuve (with his writer Aaron Guzikowski) enters a David Fincher world but brings much more art-house sensibility (with a Korean psycho fetish angle) and Roger Deakins’ absolutely gorgeous aesthetics to it. Won’t talk about the plot as this film is best savored with a blank slate mind. Doubt we will see a better thriller this year.

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron): This one was a safe bet – and it still managed to exceed my expectations. By around a 100 light-years. I don’t think I breathed for the 90-minutes it played. Best use of 3-D, green-screen, Sandra Bullock, and space debris yet in cinemas. Watch it on the biggest screen in 3-D please.

The-Strange-Colour-Of-Your-Bodys-Tears-posterThe Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani): I don’t really know what I saw. 4-5 people walked out every 5 minutes and by the time the film ended, only 30-35 of us were left. Something that would make the much acclaimed mad-duo of Belgian cinema happy. Weirdia of the highest order. Lots of blood, nudity, absurdism, zero narration or attempt at it, but everything done with so much class and aesthetic value that difficult to dismiss it. Colors, mood, performances – all screamed ‘installation art’ of highest order.

R100R100 (Hitoshi Matsumoto): One of the best discoveries at TIFF. Directed by Japan’s most absurdist filmmaker and leading comedian, this was weird, funny, cutting-edge satire, and sexual fantasy in equal measures. Brilliantly, genuinely subversive. (And he called it R100 to take a swipe at censor boards who’d give it a rating ‘suitable only for 100-years or older’). Wait for this one!

Enemy posterEnemy (Denis Villeneuve): Yup, DV had two films at the fest. Both with Jake Gyllenhaal in a major role. He apparently shot them back to back and then edited parallel – and seeing how different the genres and mood was, he has to be having two separate brains to do it with so much perfection. Enemy, based on a Jose Saramago novel (yup!) though reminding me of a Satyajit Ray short story ‘Ratan Babu’, has terrific Melanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon giving company to Jake finding his exact double accidently, and is so moody that it feels like a tarantula spider creeping up your back. Just a bit underwhelming when compared to ‘Prisoners’, but is comparison even valid?

MoebiusMoebius (Kim ki Duk): You walk into a Kim ki Duk film expecting bizarre but this one, as far as I know, is bizarre level max he has ever reached. This one is bizarre level ‘eating a dick after cutting it’. This one is bizarre level ‘mom eating son’s dick after cutting it’. (No, it’s not a spoiler, just a warning. This particular sequence is right in the beginning of the film.) And it’s a silent film – completely silent. And it could have been called ‘Dick of Theseus’. And it was the funniest, goriest, sexiest, most disturbing, and thrilling, and taali-seeti worthy film I saw at TIFF. And somehow, Duk manages to push his Buddhist agenda through all this weirdness too. Takes a genius for that. Also among my top 3 there. Must watch if you can handle bleeding dicks.

Gopi GawaiyyaGopi Gawaiyya Bagha Bajaiyya (Shilpa Ranade): The only film at the fest that left me disappointed. Had high hopes with this one – and the art of the film is top-notch. Beautiful frames, decent level of animation, but where it faltered badly was in the dialogues and technicalities of animation. Lines written in clunky, orthodox Hindi and making the background out-of-focus to give depth (in a 2-D animation!) made the film look way tackier than it should have been.

QissaQissa (Anup Singh): A film based on partition, in Punjabi, starring Irrfan and Tillotama Shome and Rasika Duggal and Tisca Chopra! I was already sold. And though it deals with partition in a more symbolic, metaphoric, allegorical way – I was moved immensely by it. Many friends had issues with the logic and amount of suspension of disbelief it demands (basic premise of a father who brings up his daughter as a son without letting anybody else know is a bit of a stretch, yes) – but it still managed to disturb and involve me probably because of the magic realism zone it enters in the 2nd half. And also because of Rasika and Tillotama’s terrific performances. Probably it’s only me but I think the film gives a solid theory on why Punjab has the maximum cases of female foeticide/infanticide. (Qissa won the NETPAC Award at TIFF.)

Why_Dont_You_Play_In_Hell_Banner_4_25_13-726x248Why Don’t You Play In Hell (Shion Sono): Shion Sono of Cold Fish fame is a rockstar already and this film (recommended strongly by my script lab friend Nikhil Mahajan who wanted to watch all the films in Midnight Madness section, a section devoted to all the mad-horror-slasher-campy films, with titles like ‘All Cheerleaders Die’) came with huge expectations. And the first 15-minutes just raise your expectations to the skies. A spoof on Yakuza cinema of Japan, film sags a bit in the middle with spoofs being so subtle that it starts looking serious, but the last 30-minutes or so Sono comes back full-steam and blows your head. And the very last shot adds another magical layer to the entire film! Super-ambitious and super-welldone. (WDYPIH won the best film in Midnight Madness section.)

under-the-skinUnder the Skin (Jonathan Glazer): The creepiest film at TIFF, in spite of it being non-gory, non-gross. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien (nudity is there, perverts) and nothing much happens beyond a pattern (which may be a minor spoiler so avoiding), but the mood, location (cloudy, wet Scotland), Glazer’s solid craft, and Mica Levi’s trance-type BG score make it a super-juicy watch.

Half of a yellow sunHalf of a Yellow Sun (Biyi Bandele): Knew nothing about this film but then Aseem Chhabra recommended it and I found out it’s based on a novel by Chimamanda Adichie (always a big plus for me when a film is based on a book). And it was like a fulfilling novel – a sprawling, excellently recreated epic of 2 sisters and their 2 lovers in the middle of Nigeria-Biafra conflict of the late 60s. Would have been a strong Oscar contender in many categories if it didn’t have an all-black cast and ethos and history. And to make it even more worth it – Thandie Newton and flavor of the season Chiwetel Ejiofor (of 12 Years A Slave fame) hit it out of the park with their excellent performances.

Walesa, Man of HopeWalesa: Man of Hope (Andrzej Wajda): Another of my favorite genres – biopics. And this one is as solid as any I’ve ever seen. Based on the life of Lech Walesa, a man I knew nothing about except vague memories from GK books that he won a Nobel Peace Prize, the film is a bit too political-jargon heavy, but none of it stops it from being a great, engaging film with some godlevel period-recreation detailing. And the use of Polish punk-rock music as a thematic narration device adds so much to the mood of the era. Plus the main lead Robert Wieckiewickz has the charm and power of early Robert De Niro and the actress playing his wife (Danuta Walesa), Agnieszka Grochowska, had a face with so much beauty, pain, and understanding ki mujhe us-se pyaar ho gaya. Triple Ace!

ElanorThe Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby – Him and Her (Ned Benson): A mouthful of a title, a seemingly simple drama about a couple’s separation but dive into the film and realize it’s almost as ambitious as Gravity. Two films (of 90 mins each) showing the perception of events through husband’s and wife’s perspective – and so many layers added by just one more perspective to a particular event. And the best part – the film showed as Him-Her and then in another show as Her-Him (the order of perspectives reversed) and that changed the meaning of many scenes for viewers, including the climax. So in a way, it’s a film as well as a perception game! Interactive cinema done so simply. And I’ve not even started on how sensitive, brilliant, and insightful Ned Benson’s writing is. This one too, among my top 3 at TIFF.

ThouThou Gild’st The Even (Onur Unlu): Shot in crisp 35 mm black and white and great to look at, but kuchh samajh nahin aaya so walked out after 30 minutes. Read more about it here and go WTF.

The f wordThe F Word (Michael Dowse): Don’t even ask me why I went to see this one. (There wasn’t anything else playing at that time, mainly that’s why. Also ‘cos Dowse made the terrific ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’.) A standard rom-com, most likely to make profit if it releases during Christmas or Valentine’s Day, with some very funny lines, and some very average clichés, but done well. Zoe Kazan is excellent, crush-worthy, yet again after Ruby Sparks (which she by the way wrote too), and Daniel Radcliffe is stuck in that odd place/age where Kunal Khemu and Jugal Hansraj have already been.