Thursday, 29 January 2009
Though often dismissed as pompous self-indulgence borne out of senility, Dreams nonetheless deserves a watch as much for its visual poetry as for the philosophical overtones of one of the greatest masters of world cinema – Akira Kurosawa. Comprising of 8 loosely connected dreams, semi-autobiographical vignettes if you will, the movie has covered a plethora of subjects ranging from superstitions to surreal explorations, from deforestation to the futility of war, from nuclear holocaust to a post-apocalypse, from hopelessness to celebration of life. Some of the best shorts here, like the one where Martin Scorsese plays Van Gogh (arguably the best of the lot), the deathly portrayal of Japan’s militaristic past, the one with the sublime animal dance, and the marvelous final short set in an utopian village, are those which manage to tread the fine line between philosophical overtures and moralizing. Things, however, get hackneyed and avoidable in the ones where Kurosawa couldn’t help being overtly didactic. On the whole this is a unique, albeit an inconsistent, experience.
p.s. By the way, is the elaborate dance sequence of forest gods and goddesses in the second short a subtle tribute to the legendary ‘dance of ghosts’ scene in Satyajit Ray’s timeless fantasy movie Goopy Gaine Bagha Baine (The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha), considering the fact that Kurosawa and Ray had immense mutual respect and admiration for each other? I'd love to know if others (i.e. those who've seen both the movies) feel the same way as I do.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Tuesday, 27 January 2009
Directed by American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler is a gem of a small-scale movie that has the ability to endear itself to its viewers despite never attempting to be a mainstream or an overtly sentimentalized film. The movie tells the story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson, once a huge superstar, but now a has-been wrestler who shows his skills in unflattering rings and struggling for a regular flow of income. The greatest aspect of the movie is that, because it has a very simple premise, it manages to present an intimate and moving portrayal of the life of the physically bruised and battered man desperately trying to cling to his lost glory days, striving to mend the fractured relationship with his estranged daughter, and hoping to settle down with a stripper he likes spending his time with. Mickey Rourke has given a stupendous performance as the eponymous wrestler – a middle-aged, defeated, severely lonely man living in an emotional vacuum; the only thing he knows he’s good at is performing dangerous, gravity-defying stunts. The touching story boasts of layered characterizations, understated though extremely palpable pathos and humanism, a truly magnificent final shot, and a terrific original song by Bruce Springsteen.
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama
Tuesday, 20 January 2009
Grindhouse is a no holes barred homage to the sleazy, low-budget, ultra-violent, Z-grade slasher films and exploitation pics (in essence, B-movies) that maverick filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino feasted on, in run-down single screen halls (grindhouses), during their days of growing up. Planet Terror, directed by Rodriguez, which forms the first segment of the kinetic double-bill, is a post-apocalyptic dystopian tale of tussle between ravenous zombies and humans. Though mercilessly gory, the movie has enough smart-ass action and wry humour to get blood racing. The second feature, Death Proof, directed by Tarantino, and arguably the far superior of the two, has a psycho stuntman (played to perfection by Kurt Russel) who loves taking down his beautiful victims while driving at 125 mph. Though the more sedate of the two, this is no less thrilling, and is filled to brim with high-octane virtuosity, pop-culture references and enormously engaging ‘Tarantino talk’, as they say. And boy, does Tarantino have a thing for dancing! First there was the chilling ear-cutting sequence in Reservoir Dogs, then the cool Saturday Night style Travolta-Uma Thurman tango in Pulp Fiction, and now the awesome lap dance scene in Death Proof. In order to get the feel right, the editing and film quality have been deliberately made to look crappy, the content is as politically incorrect and gleefully shocking as humanly possible, and to top ‘em all, the features are punctuated by some bizarre faux-trailers. Though an empty stomach is a prerequisite for watching Grindhouse, this is one hell of a fun ride down memory lane.
Directors: Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino
Monday, 19 January 2009
Director: Mrinal Sen
Genre: Drama/Social Satire/Avant-Garde
Saturday, 17 January 2009
While speaking about Detective critics often say that, after years of making films for himself, Godard once more chose to make one for the audience. However there’s a damn good catch here – the ‘audience’ in the statement isn’t an all-encompassing one, rather those accustomed to the iconic and quintessentially unique style of filmmaking that marked his movies during the heyday of the French Nouvelle Vague movement in the 60’s, i.e. those which are popularly identified with the epithet ‘accessible’. Starring the inimitable Jean-Pierre Leaud as the eponymous detective, the movie follows parallel storylines with a swanky Parisian hotel as the common link. As with Godard’s works, the plot has taken a backseat vis-à-vis the structure and style of execution. Filled with pop culture references, plethora of red herrings, witty and satirical commentaries on a host of topics ranging from infidelity to urban life to literature, Detective is a passionate blast of energy and an oblique homage to some of Godard’s favourite genres, viz. film noirs, private eye, gangster movies, etc.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Genre: Comedy Drama/Urban Drama/Crime Drama/Social Satire/Ensemble Film
Thursday, 15 January 2009
Sex and Lucia is in the veins of classic European arthouse movies – it has a very lazy pace, it explores deeply psychoanalytical issues and is unabashedly promiscuous. Anyone watching the movie solely for its erotic content might be in for a jolting; its mind-bending plot where the line between facts and fiction often gets blurred, and its decidedly mournful tone and gloomy atmosphere is quite likely to make the movie a not so pleasing watch for the casual viewers. The tale of a serendipitous love affair between a writer and a waitress soon turns into a fragile journey of self-exploration and desperate albeit futile attempts to come to peace with one’s relationships, memories and existence. The film has employed the use of multiple flashbacks, vivid imageries, natural lightings and complex psychological explorations to bring forth its theme of guilt and isolation. The movie might seem to drag at times, the narrative might be too meandering at occasions, and the acting might not be top-rate; fortunately that is more than made up by Paz Vega who has played the role of Lucia – her passionate performance has made this strikingly attractive lady an actress to look out for.
Director: Julio Medem
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Romantic Drama
Wednesday, 14 January 2009
The most famous Japanese movie and legendary filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s best known work, Rashomon ranks among world cinema’s greatest masterpieces. Borrowed innumerable times by various directors, this was the first movie that introduced what is known as the ‘Rashomon Effect’ – contradictory/conflicting chronicling of the same incident by the various observers of the event. Set in the 11th century and employing flashbacks inside flashbacks, the movie recounts what might have transpired which led to the rape of a woman and the murder of her husband allegedly by a samurai (played with explosive unpredictability by Kurosawa regular Toshiro Mifune). The camera work is exemplary – who can ever forget the scene where the woodcutter (narrator) is walking into the jungle before he discovers (?) the crime scene. A horde of cameras at various angles and speeds were used to record the motion of just a single character, making this one of the most unforgettable sequences in film history. At once ominous and reflective, Rashomon is most memorable for its brilliant exploration of the thin line between ‘truth’ and ‘perception’.
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Genre: Drama/Crime Drama/Samurai Movie
Tuesday, 13 January 2009
Director: Sam Mendes
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Family Drama
Sunday, 11 January 2009
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Genre: Comedy Drama/Social Satire/Ensemble Film
Thursday, 8 January 2009
Director: Wong Kar-Wai
Genre: Drama/Romance/Existential Drama/Psychological Drama/Sci-Fi
Language: Chinese (Cantonese)
Country: China (Hong Kong)
I had watched Ghajini prior to this; moreover, my enthusiasm for the movie was zilch to put it mildly. Hence, suffice it to say, I had a far better time than I had expected, while watching it. Starring the indefatigable Shahrukh Khan, Rab Ne… is a formulaic movie but with a heart. Overtly sentimental, melodramatic at the drop of a hat, brazenly sappy, filled with over-the-top romance and relying heavily on coincidences – the movie is as mainstream as it gets; yet, (though I find it too embarrassing to admit) I found the movie strangely enjoyable. The story couldn’t be any more filmic – a man, married to a much younger girl in a marriage of convenience, gets a secret image makeover, changes his identity, and starts romancing her on the backdrop of a reality-show dance competition. The part of a geeky, unspectacular, soft spoken, middle-class, scooter riding, shy man and loving husband has been played extremely well by Shahrukh. It’s when he becomes the more recognizable lover-boy, err man, during the character’s dual existence that the situation starts getting more run-of-the-mill. Debutant Anoushka Sharma has done a pretty good job as the young bride. The snap shots along with a voiceover that chronicles what happens after the incidents of the movie, shown during the end credits, are quite hilarious. This is a feel good movie and nothing more.
Director: Aditya Chopra
Genre: Drama/Romantic Comedy/Musical
Monday, 5 January 2009
Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Genre: Comedy/Social Satire/Political Satire/Farcical Comedy/Black Comedy/Ensemble Film
Sunday, 4 January 2009
To read a more in-depth review of the movie by me, click here.
Director: Danny Boyle
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Underdog Story/Romance
Thursday, 1 January 2009
Staunch Marxist, principal provocateur and one of Satyajit Ray’s greatest contemporaries, Mrinal Sen is famous for his political and ‘angry’ movies. But he was also equally capable of making films which were less aggressive and more eloquent; case in point – Ek Din Pratidin. Its storyline is quite simple – the sole breadwinner of a lower middle-class family, who happens to be the eldest daughter of the family, fails to return one night, only to turn up when least expected. Through this movie Sen has taken an incisive look on the parochial middle-class psyche, the fragile clash between conservative sentiments and modernization, and the question of female emancipation. When she fails to return, the family is afraid and concerned. But when she finally does returns, things turn even more harrowing – conjectures, snide remarks and silent rebukes make her return a matter of greater disturbance, albeit understated, than the more obvious one that arose during her absence. Exquisite acting and terrific sketches of the nuances of various characters’ thinking processes have suffused the movie with realism and subtle observation, while making it devoid of melodrama. That the whereabouts of the young lady, played by Mamata Shankar, has been left open to interpretation, made the movie that much more poignant. In fact Sen himself once stated, "I myself didn’t know what had happened to her that night.”
Director: Mrinal Sen
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Psychological Drama/Family Drama