Tuesday, 10 September 2019

I Don't Hear the Guitar Anymore [1991]

Philippe Garrel crafted a magnificent example of personal filmmaking – thematically and formally – with the haunting, introspective and intensely self-critical masterpiece I Don’t Hear the Guitar Anymore. This extraordinary chapter in his faux autobiographical series, which he’d begun with L’Enfant Secret and Emergency Kisses, touched upon diverse subtexts – impermanence, the veneer of marital bliss, reconciliations between past and present, how time often converts a bohemian into a bourgeois before one even realizes it. Melancholic and subtly affecting, yet avowedly unsentimental in its portrayal of complex transitions in relationships, it was lacerating in its self-infliction on incredibly personal memories. Dedicated to his former lover Nico, the German pop-icon with whom he had a decade-long affair, the film chronicled their turbulent journey filled with emotional upheavals and poignant intimacy, including trysts with reckless freedom, disregard for conventional mores, heroin addiction, moments of doubt and insecurity, falling apart, and futile attempts at moving on. Johanna ter Steege gave an unforgettable turn as the frizzy-haired, freckled, impulsive, self-destructive and tragically beautiful Marianne, with whom Gérard (Benoît Régent) has a doomed affair. When their relationship collapses, he gets married to Aline (in a courageous turn by Garrel’s then-wife Brigitte Sy) – but Marianne continues to haunt both even in her absence, and more so when she makes a fleeting reappearance into their lives that ends up putting in disarray the fragile equilibrium in their domestic bliss, ironically presaging Garrel and Sy’s real-life marital dissolution as well. Shot in muted, washed out colours, and set to a low-key, mournful score, I was almost expecting Leonard Cohen’s heartbreaking So Long Marianne to be played as the end credits rolled for this alternately blazing and poetic pièce de résistance.








Director: Philippe Garrel
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Marital Drama/Film a Clef
Language: French
Country: France

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Volver [2006]

Almodóvar crafted a gem suffused with intimacy, seductive beauty, melancholic pangs, heartbreaking moments, strong feminist undertones and a teasing hint of magic realism, with the charming and engrossing Volver. While it might not appear to have same degree of jaw-dropping bravura as All About My Mother had, it nevertheless formed a fabulous combo with the latter in the way it celebrated womanhood, in its assured use of melodrama to capture the characters’ neuroses and pathos, and in the string of difficult and discomfiting themes it covered, albeit cloaked with a delectable layer of joie de vivre – viz. sexual abuse, pedophilia, unreconciled memories, complex familial bonds, mortality, grief and loss. The intricately weaved tale is centered on its ensemble working-class women characters – Raimunda (Penélope Cruz), a striking, luscious, straight-talking and enterprising woman who, through a mix of smarts, allure, doggedness and culinary skills, must financially survive and also protect her daughter (Yohana Cobo) who’s accidentally committed a murder; her naïve, fidgety sister Sole (Lola Dueñas) who runs a beauty parlour in her tiny apartment; their gentle-natured mother Irene (the former Almodóvar regular Carmen Maura) who died 5 years back in a fire accident and whose ghost has returned to reconnect with her daughters; and Raimunda’s childhood friend Agustina (Blanca Portillo) who’s afflicted with cancer and is searching in futility for her hippie mother who’s been missing for years. Luminously photographed, comprising of a sumptuous score, and set in the La Mancha region where the Spanish giant was born, this sensual, infectious and warm-hearted film contains excellent turns by all, led by a magnificent performance by Cruz in the way she effortlessly complemented toughness of spirit with deep emotional vulnerabilities.








Director: Pedro Almodovar
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Family Drama/Ensemble Film
Language: Spanish
Country: Spain

Monday, 2 September 2019

Sacred Games (Season 2) [2019]

The moody, compelling Season 1 of the Netflix original Sacred Games had laid out a sprawling, operatic, politically provocative and immensely addictive double-narrative centered around its two protagonists – sidelined Mumbai cop Sartaj Singh (Saif Ali Khan) defiant on unraveling a potential terror threat; and the turbulent, spectacular journey of Bombay don Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). The 2nd season continued from where it left off as the two strands – the present and the past – gradually and inevitably merge. Sartaj, who’s now heading the against-the-clock investigation, starts connecting the murky dots which leads him to an enigmatic religious cult, a promiscuous pedagogue (Kalki Koechlin), a hyper-nationalist rabble rouser (Girish Kulkarni) and his deceased father. Gaitonde’s eventful saga, meanwhile, continues 1994 onwards as he’s banished to Mombasa where he becomes a mobster as well as a henchman on leash for dogged, poker-faced Intelligence Officer Kusum (Amruta Subhash), begins a strangely affecting telephonic affair with the sassy, foul-mouthed madam (Surveen Chawla) of a high-end brothel, and becomes drawn towards a sinister Hindutva “guru” (Pankaj Tripathi) who’s harbouring apocalyptic plans. While Nawaz continued to be arresting as the hilariously crude, eccentric and increasingly contemplative force of nature, Saif was excellent too in portraying Sartaj’s dilemmas, loneliness and grief over estrangement with his wife (Anupriya Goenka). And, while Tripathi, Kulkarni and Neeraj Kabi (as a corrupt cop) were good as always, Subhash and Chawla provided the standout performances this time around. Though still operatic, sprawling, politically provocative and addictive, the 2nd season lacked the wicked humour, gleeful unpredictability, frenetic energy and grimy pull of the 1st season. That, combined with the overused trope of a mastermind villain keen on nuking mankind for its own good, made this comparatively more formulaic and banal.








Director: Anurag Kashyap, Neeraj Ghaywan
Genre: Crime Thriller/Gangster/Political Thriller/Police Procedural/TV Series
Language: Hindi
Country: India

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Emergency Kisses (Les Baisers de Secours) [1989]

Philippe Garrel’s fascinating, intimate and masterful faux-auto-biographical movie Emergency Kisses – a continuation from L’Enfant Secret with which he’d formally begun his journey into blurring personal and cinematic realities, boundaries and spaces – can indeed be said to have put ‘meta’ into metafiction. How about considering this as the premise of this delightful and distinctively French work basking in deadpan irony – a filmmaker is making a film about his wife and himself; however, she gets intensely annoyed when, even though she’s an actress herself, he decides to cast another actress in her role in the film he’s making; and thus begins a period of separation between the couple as she construes his decision as a sign of infidelity, accuses him with following stinging words: “You don’t love me, you love my role”, and even beds a stranger. And here’s where things got darn interesting and a whole lot more ironic as all the key characters have been portrayed by the Garrel clan – the filmmaker within the film was played by Philippe, his onscreen wife was marvelously played by his then wife Brigette Sy; their then 7-year old son Louis Garrel played their onscreen son for whom they finally reconcile their cinematic marriage, even if their actual marriage didn’t ultimately survive; and Philippe’s actor-father Maurice Garrel also offers him sagacious advices to wade through his marital turmoil. Strikingly shot in grainy B/W filled with shadows and soft close-ups, and an irresistible and melancholic sax-based score imbuing it with poetic moodiness, this bewitching work ended with a reunion with filmmaker-couple friends – peppered with droll observations amidst a freewheeling conversation over a dinner at a café – that furthered its cool sensibilities and deftly self-reflexive touch.








Director: Philippe Garrel
Genre: Drama/Marital Drama
Language: French
Country: France

Saturday, 24 August 2019

All About My Mother [1999]

Almodovar began an incredible creative run with the profoundly affecting, searing and multi-layered masterpiece All About My Mother (this was followed by Talk to Her, Bad Education, Volver, Broken Embraces). The lushly beautiful, visually sumptuous, emotionally ravishing and thematically rich film, with a mesmeric interplay between bawdy humour and heartbreaking melancholia, tackled complex subjects with disarming ease – gender identity, homosexuality, AIDS, prostitution, marital fidelity, familial estrangement, feminism, grief and regrets. Manuela (Cecilia Roth), a nurse and single mother, is struck by cataclysmic loss when her loving son Esteban (Eloy Azorin) is accidentally killed right after a memorable theatrical viewing of A Streetcar Named Desire – it starred stage actress Huma (Marisa Paredes) who her son admired, and she had herself played the protagonist during her younger days. Manuela severs ties with Madrid and shifts to Barcelona in search of Lola (Toni Cantó), a trans-woman who was her husband many years back, as neither Lola nor Esteban were aware of the other’s existence. In her journey back to a part of her life that she’d long left behind, she bonds with unforgettable women who, for varying reasons, are all outsiders – Huma, in an affair with fellow actress (Candela Peña) who’s a drug-addict; Rosa (Penélope Cruz), a vulnerable nun who helps sex workers and has become HIV+ after becoming pregnant with Lola; and Agrado (Antonia San Juan), a witty, vivacious transsexual prostitute. Packed with dazzling performances led by the riveting Roth, framed with vibrant colours, set to an intoxicating soundtrack, comprising of elaborate fade-ins and dissolves often leading to dream-like superimposition of images, and filled with infectious joie de vivre, this was a stunning triumph by a maestro at the pinnacle of his artistic prowess.








Director: Pedro Almodovar
Genre: Drama/Comedy/Ensemble Film
Language: Spanish
Country: Spain