Posts Tagged ‘The Hunt’

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

There should be a film festival equivalent of  jet lag – let’s call it filmfest-lag, or just fest lag. Many of us were in the same state in the last seven days. Get up, forget the newspapers, run, catch the 10am show, one more show, quick lunch, another show, or squeeze in office hours in between ( for paapi pet-waale), run back for evening shows, stand in queues, do some jugaad, try to catch two more evening films, and if the body and mind survives, go out for dinner with your gang of usual suspects and return back home with a dead body to start the same cycle all over again the next morning. And if you are a film buff, there’s no other way to enjoy a film fest. This was a week in fast forward mode, at least that’s what it felt – the fastest week in this calendar year.

With the main venue being shifted to NCPA, we, the poor suburbanites, had to travel a lot. But the good part was Tata Theater’s 1100 seats. So once you reach there, one thing was for sure – you will get in. INOX started ticketing system to sort things out but it was more of a headache. We will try to cover the fuckups in a different post. The aim was to see four films everyday. But with so much traveling and paapi-pet responsibility, had to miss two days of the fest. Quick reviews/reccos of the films i saw in the last seven days.

After Lucia : A father and a daughter trying to come to terms with a tragedy in which both were involved. They start their life in a new place, both pretending to be strong but get into situations which go out of their control and ends on a very unsettling note – the baggage of guilt. It gets scary when you are not sure about right and wrong but take a drastic step to justify it. Brilliantly written, acted, and directed, the film starts randomly – a man leaves his car in the middle of the road and walks away. And slowly, over the next one hour you connect the dots. The last shot – a man with a deadpan face and…well, that will be spoiler…is going to stay with me for  long. Must Watch.

Beasts Of The Southern Wild : Aha, another father-daughter story. There is magic, there is fantasy and there’s harsh truth of life and survival. This one is quite an ambitious debut film which creates a terrific new world which is rarely explored on the big screen. A sense of community, that pull of your own land even when the physical “land” doesn’t exists, or it’s all submerged underwater, still you want to return – this one touches upon many interesting themes, see which one works for you. This is what you call a daring debut! Must Watch.

Throw Of Dice : This 1929 silent film was screened with live orchestra and it was my first time in such a screening. Though it was hard to see one musical instrument on-screen and hear the sound of something else, it was quite a unique experience. While the film was rated “Universal”, i kept on counting the number of smooches – three for sure. Where are we now?

Shahid : The first 40 mins or so of the film made me quite restless. All i saw was montage which looked disjointed, not sure where the story was going, and the background score was repetitive and loud. Maybe there was some problem with the projection too. But once it settles down, it flies and how! The best scenes of the film are without any background music – the court room and family scenes. Raj Kumar Yadav is there in almost every frame of the film and he makes you believe that he is Shahid Azmi. A top notch performance, he holds the film together, and am willing to bet my money on him. The strength of the film is the way Shahid is portrayed – it’s not black and white, sometimes you are with him, and sometimes you are not sure about him, his intention or his work. Welcome back, Mister Mehta!

Like Someone In Love : The film has been getting some cold reviews so far but i still took a chance. Early morning show, and a Japanese old man who is not sure what to do with a hooker. With a slow pace that i was prepared for, i was feeling so sleepy that i could have gone to bed with the old man too. I thought it’s better to walk out and get ready for the next one.

Miss Lovely : WOW! The film has brilliant written all over it and in every department. But it’s not an easy watch because Ashim uses the story/plot as merely a prop here. It’s documentation of a time, of a world that deserves much more attention, and it tries to slowly soak you into it, sometimes to the point of suffocation. Money, nudity, sex and exploitation in those smoke filled dingy rooms – it all looks so real that you can even get the stench. It’s indulgent. It’s cocky. It doesn’t want to follow the convention and ends with a brilliant sequence where blood is not scary. Get into this world if you are interested, otherwise don’t even walk in. Easily one of the best directed films in India in the last few years. Must Watch.

From Tuesday to Tuesday – A rape happens, someone sees it, that someone is into bodybuilding and he tries to sort out the lives around him – all in seven days. Just another film that you can easily skip.

Rust & Bone – Aha, this was disappointing. Or maybe i was expecting too much from it. Two lonely people find comfort in each other but their problems and priorities are different. Few sub-plots here and there which really doesn’t contribute much and it ends up saying or showing almost nothing new. On the other hand, this is what i call “cinema for gender equality” because both the male and female leads are hot and sexy and there is ample nudity – time for some good ol’ eye-gasm.

Shameless – A film on incest which sounds like another one on the same topic – Shame. And as Varun mentioned in his post, this was like prequel of Shame. If Shame was minimalistic in his approach with European sensibility and mostly about character sketches, Shameless was completely amreekan in its approach. If you have seen Shame, don’t bother.

The Wall – I knew what i was getting into – a women goes to a jungles and leads a lonely life surrounded by a dog, a cow and a cat. She writes her diary everyday and we get to hear her thoughts on daily life, death, company – philosophy through voice-over. That’s it. Yes, that’s it. Looking at the scenario here, i do wonder if the biggest achievement for these films is that they get made! We love to call it “meditative” genre and sometimes you feel like trying that. The film can also be described as vegetation porn – you either watch so much green onscreen to soothe you eyes or you turn vegetative watching all that for 2 hours. For me it was the former.

Kauwboy – A kid, his father, a jackdaw and a tragedy. Simple things, simple joys of childhood and an effort to simplify life – aha, if only it was all that simple. The director handles the kid and his story with so much empathy that you wonder if it was all written or he just handed the bird to the kid and started following him. Beautiful.

The Hunt – A teacher is accused of molestation by a kindergarten kid. We all know the truth but the kid doesn’t know or understand anything. So? The film started a debate on Twitter because few people thought it’s a simple story of prosecution. I felt that’s NOT the film, it’s about kids psychology, how it works and how the family can change things accordingly – it’s blood scary. Must Watch.

Paanch Adhyay – Film reviewer Pratim D Gupta makes his debut with this bengali film. Though the film has some nice moments and Pratim tries to play around with the structure as well, the film doesn’t really gel well. The second female lead has a squeaky voice which makes things worse and the love story with her feels weak and unconvincing. The songs create a good mood but too much use of the same tunes in background makes it look forced and jarring.

Electrcik Children : A Mormon teenager gets pregnant and thinks its because of a song she heard on a tape. And so begins the search for the singer who has sung the song. The premise actually sounds much more interesting than the film. This is more of a journey film rather than a destination one. And the journey seems short and fast because of the liberal dose of funny moments and dialogues.

Beyond The Hills : Another disappointment. But this one is again brilliantly directed. It slowly builds up a scary scenario as two teenage girls tries to find some comfort in their lives which is all about poverty, loneliness and strict rules of a Monastery. Problem is it takes too long to makes its point and keeps on moving in loop. This one needs patience. On a lighter note, it felt like Gossip Girls set in a monastery. Gir1 wants sex. Girl2 wants Jesus. Rest of the girls are having fun trying to figure out the drama.

Ship Of Theseus : Another desi, another true blue indie, and another WOW! Anand Gandhi’s debut feature is ambitious, assured, and tackles some heavy philosophy on life, death and moral dilemmas but without being pretentious. The first story feels weak compared to other two. It slowly unravels the three stories one by one but never bores you. Also, it’s remarkable that how without any known actor in its cast, it manages to pull it off so smoothly. The background music is unlike other desi stuff and is subtle and haunting. The “humane” factor at its core stays with you for long. Easily one of the best desi debut films. Must Watch.

Pune 52 : Was eagerly looking forward to it because of its trailer. But first things first – trailer is NOT the film. Liked it in bits and parts but as a whole it felt like two films trying to fit into one. It’s more about a married man who is detective rather than a detective who also has wife.  Girish Kulkarni and Sonali Kulkarni holds it together though some of the sequences are suddenly so abrupt and out of the blue. The makers are still working on the film.

Holy Motors – Popular opinion at the fest was that bizarre is the keyword here. But if you scratch the surface and connect the dots, it’s not that bizarre. The treatment makes it look so weird but it’s more of a symbolic representation of themes and thoughts which has been put together like a mixed media art installation. Or just google and read a bit, it will all make sense. It’s great fun till it lasted but don’t think it’s going to stay with me for long. This is cinema of audacity. Must Watch.

(PS – Wanted to start the fest with Sarah Polly’s Stories We Tell. Since that could not happen, i thought at least the header should have some bit of it.)

And what all you saw? Please do let us know your reviews/reccos in the comment section.

@CilemaSnob

To know more about Varun Grover and to read his Day 1 report, click here, and Day 2 report is here.

One thing I realized this time, thanks to the daily commute of roughly 4-hours to and from the festival venue. Watching a film festival is as much a measure  of your love for cinema as it is a test of your fitness. Running down the railway station stairs to catch Virar-Churchgate fast that is arriving in 1-minute, keeping your senses alert and combative till a seat is found in the crowded train (generally happens after initial 30-minutes of standing at the optimum place – somewhere in the middle of two rows so that you have double the probability of getting a seat), taking the 2-3 kilometer walks from Churchgate station to the venue, and of course keeping your legs folded and hands tied for the duration of the films. That’s why, people who look so enthusiastic on day 1 or 2 of the festival start dropping out by 3rd/4th day. Or start looking like one of the characters from depressing European cinema they are watching.

That’s why, if you don’t sleep mid-screening at least once, you aren’t doing a film festival right.

Digression done.

Shameless/2012/Filip Marczewski/Poland: 

Festival’s centerpiece film Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ was cancelled in the morning. Theories abound – they couldn’t find the password to open the disk (apparently, password is sent just one hour before the screening to avoid piracy etc.), the file format they sent was unreadable, that they had a special screening for Tina Ambani and friends the previous night and didn’t realize the password is valid for one screening only. (Thankfully, Amour is screening today afternoon finally.)

So in the slot emptied by ‘Amour’, we headed for ‘Shameless’. And why not? The trailer and synopsis made it read like a juicy piece on a sex-filled drama about a brother and sister. In many ways, it can be thought of as a prequel to Steve Mcqueen’s ‘Shame’, again about a brother and sister having problems due to their unusual sexual ‘conditions’. The ‘troubled place’ Carey Mulligan’s Sissy talks about but is never shown in the film could be imagined as vaguely similar to this. But that’s the only good I could extract out of this film with so many coincidences, thin sub-plots, and sexually charged but never lighting up  mood. Ending, in true European cinema fashion, was abrupt and frustrating. So was most of the film too.

The Taste of Money/2012/Sang-soo Im/South Korea

This reminded me, above all, of DD afternoon show ‘Swabhimaan’ (the one with Rohit Roy, Kittu Gidwani, Manoj Bajpayi et al). A family drama about rich, perverted, crazy for power and sex people. Had a few moments of brilliance, but overall was quite self-serious and  at places, hilariously ridiculous. The worst watch in this festival for me. P.S. – It was the kind of film where in an emotional scene, it starts raining heavily.

Sunrise/1927/F.W. Murnau/USA

Hadn’t seen any film by this master of silent cinema – Murnau, and thanks to this rare opportunity by MFF, I got to see one of his best. So much visual experimentation in a 1927 film, and so original humor and slice-of-life moments (the two toughest things to write in my opinion). And Liberty Cinema, with its red carpeted staircase and red-leather finish chairs in balcony was just the perfect venue for this chicken-soup of a film.

Kauwboy/2012/Boudewijn Koole/Netherlands: 

The last film of the day was an easy watch. Jojo finds a chick Jackdaw fallen out of its nest, carries it home and pets it, while his always-angry-and-cruel single-father learns to love his son over the course of the film. It was that simple a plot, told with lots of humor, emotion, music, and slice-of-life moments. Very little could have gone wrong with this, and very little did.

(Am tempted to add – It should do well in close-knit-family oriented territories of Central and Northern India. First weekend collections should be good. The Jackdaw bird does a satisfactory job but could have done better in emotional scenes. Music was as per the need, and editing was good, but another 10-minutes shorter and it would have crossed 20-crores in 1st weekend.)

DAY 4

Holy Motors/2012/Leos Carax/France-Germany:  

How does one begin writing about this film? A film that is trying to break every convention, burn every book, and shake every belief about cinema in particular and philosophy of life and living in general. It starts with a dream-like sequence of a man breaking a wall to enter the balcony of a cinema hall, where people are watching a film while a naked baby and huge bull-dogs parade the aisles. And from here on, it gets more bizarre. But it’s the variety of bizarre that keeps you completely engaged (I had donated my senses and soul to the film completely, within initial 15-minutes), asking you to stay alert and try piecing together the information, and in return giving you visuals and events of such ambition that your brain’s g-spot is constantly in a rub.

Though for the best experience, I’d suggest you go for it without reading ANYTHING about the film or its plot (as I did) because most of the reviews do give out the philosophical connotations the film is hinting at. And that means some of the awe of discovering it for the first time is gone.

It reminded me of many things, from Hindu mythology to  reptile-race-aliens based science-fiction to Freud’s ‘On Dreams’ to this short film to one of my all-time favorite films, Charlie Kaufman’s ‘Synecdoche, New York’ – another crazy, inventive journey into trying to point out the loopholes in the normal understanding of why/how we exist. And in spite of all this apparent depth, the film is never heavy. In fact, it’s comical at quite a few places, and musical at quite a few others. Will write a detailed piece after the fest is done, and after I’ve watched it one more time when it’s out online.

The Hunt/2012/Thomas Vinterberg/Denmark: 

Ideally, nothing should have been watched after the high of Holy Motors, but the greedy festival junkies we are, chucking a film as hyped as The Hunt would have been out of character. Going with the image of Scandinavian cinema, this one too had a cold and dark feel to it. A man, accused of a sex-offense by a kindergarten kid, faces the witch-hunt from a small hunting-crazy town of Denmark. The film gets heavier and intense as it proceeds, but in spite of all its finesse (in almost every department), it failed to impress me much. May be I was still in Holy Motors zone, or may be it worked on too predictable lines of persecution and silence – I found it quite a middling, safe attempt. The last section and the epilogue are terrific though. Good enough to redeem the depressing-frustrating middle.

Something in the Air/2012/Olivier Assayas/France:

Ghanta kuchh samajh nahin aaya. French version of ‘Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi’. Set in 70′s France, featuring a group of students learning and unlearning the neo-communist movement. Bas itna hi samajh mein aaya. Rest of it was oppression-repression-dissolution-subaltern-minimalistic-bourgeoisie-mumbojumbovadapaav. Excellent production design, a couple of sex-scenes, and evocation of an era gone by were the only redeeming factors. I even stopped reading subtitles after the 1st hour and just spent time looking at the props and recreation of the 70′s France.

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