Monday, 30 March 2009
Rarely does one get to watch a movie with such a fascinating blend of irreverence and nostalgia like Emir Kusturica’s imperious masterpiece Underground. Through the absurd exploits of its three unpredictable protagonists – the flamboyant Blacky, the intellectual Marco, and the beautiful Natalija, and a host of other colourful characters, Kusturica has painted a whimsical, outrageously farcical and deliriously exuberant recreation of the erstwhile Yugoslavia’s devastating history from being a Nazi-occupied territory during World War II, through Communist regime during Cold War, to the ugly Balkan Wars that resulted in the disintegration of the country along ethnic lines. On the surface the movie might seem like a vaudeville with its surrealistic images and carnival atmosphere, but scratch a little and you have a movie of epic proportions with a deeply tragic statement on the ludicrous and destructive nature of war where “brother kills a brother.” The acting is gleefully over the top, the trumpet-dominated score is brilliant, and the screenplay an original and freewheeling expression of artistic freedom. At once a black comedy and a grim tragedy, Underground begins with a thumping procession, twists and twirls through madcap adventures, and ends spectacularly in the land of Utopia. As an afterthought, the "underground" aspect of the movie might have been the inspiration for Goodbye, Lenin.
Director: Emir Kusturica
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Black Comedy/Political Satire/Avant-Garde/Experimental/Historical Epic/War
Saturday, 28 March 2009
Genre: Drama/Police Drama/Psychological Thriller/Mystery/Americana
Friday, 27 March 2009
Fat Girl is an ultra-feministic movie by, you guessed it, a female director. Catherine Breillat is one of the most controversial filmmakers working today; watch this daringly provocative movie and you’ll know why. This is a grim and disturbing coming-of-age story of two adolescent teenage girls – an obese 12-year old girl who is desperate to lose her virginity, and her infinitely prettier and narcissistic older sister who loves all the attention she gets from the boys. Unsurprisingly, none of the male characters in the movie are likeable. Further, the ‘surprise’ psychobabble of a climax was a shocker in its lack of subtlety. On the flip side, the love-hate chemistry between the siblings has been very well portrayed. The two girls’ performances, too, are extremely noteworthy thanks to their audaciously frank, uninhibited and matured turns. As is perhaps evident, my views about this movie are very ambiguous. However, like Sex and Lucia, anyone watching the movie solely for its near pornographic content, will be in for a complex, deeply discomfiting, and at times a tad pretentious exploration of the psychosis of relationships and sex.
Director: Catherine Breillat
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Coming-of-Age
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Coming from the same guy who made the ultra-hyperkinetic action flick District B13, it’s no surprise that Taken is a slick, fast and a downright enjoyable movie; but surprisingly, unlike the former, it isn’t a no-brainer show. It does belong to those movies that may require what is known as ‘suspension of disbelief’, but the execution is so damn engaging that I ended up quite liking the movie despite its oh-so-predictable skeleton of a father fighting against all odds to save his daughter from the bad guys – the murky world of flesh trade in this case. The packaging is very stylishly done and the action sequences are fabulous. And in Liam Neeson, as a former agent who hasn’t forgotten his exceptional trade skills, the so-called genre of mindless action movies gets a rare dose of intelligence and warmth. Taken might not be the best forum for portraying acting skills, but Neeson has infused a dose of believability and roundness in his character, thus taking the movie a notch higher than other such genre films. And boy o boy, did he kick some butt! Never ever piss off a movie dad, especially one who once worked for the 'Government'.
Director: Pierre Morel
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Director: Sergio Leone
Genre: Gangster Drama/Ensemble Movie/Buddy Film
Saturday, 14 March 2009
Sean Penn, like a number of his contemporaries, is a sterling example of a revered actor who has effortlessly managed to make the transition to the director’s chair, and Into the Wild is arguably Penn the director’s magnum opus. Based on real events, the movie is an attempt, and an astounding one at that, to recreate the complex, eventful and life altering journey of a young wanderlust who leaves his dysfunctional family and hits the road in his search of truth and bliss – those magnetic yet eternally elusive things that are supposed to lie at the end of every great odyssey. Aided by a terrific soundtrack comprising of an array of beautiful country songs, and soothing camera work that lovingly explores beauty in America’s vast wilderness and her colourful locals, the movie manages to make an immediate impression. Add to that Emile Hirsch’s astonishingly “real” portrayal of a journey that isn’t just excruciatingly physical but also disturbingly psychological, and equally memorable turns by the supporting cast, and you have a movie that isn’t just exhilarating to watch, but also has the ability to make one ponder over issue ranging from life to death, and all that lies in between.
Director: Sean Penn
Genre: Drama/Road Movie/Psychological Drama/Adventure/Docu-fiction/Biopic
Thursday, 12 March 2009
As a number of critics have so aptly pointed out, The Reader has the distinct feel of a European arthouse cinema to it – lazy narrative, low-cost look, natural lighting, unabashed nudity et al, despite being an American movie. Narrated by a German guy (Ralph Fiennes) reflecting on his past, the movie is about a naïve teenager who gets into a torrid affair with an older lady, who, as he comes to know later, is hiding an explosive secret that that is bound to have devastating implications on their lives. Covering topics ranging from sexual to psychoanalytical, this is a deeply thought provoking movie, and quite surprisingly for its slow pace, is an engaging watch. The movie boasts of a very sensitive treatment by the director, and a superb, implosive turn by Kate Winslet – one of the finest (and need I say, boldest) actresses of her generation. Even though the director didn’t delve too deep into her though-processes, thus leaving quite a few of her actions curiously unexplained, this is however a minor glitch in an otherwise highly commendable larger picture.
Director: Stephen Daldry
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Romantic Drama
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Bishh, like Dev D, is a fascinating indication of the fact that a few Indian directors are willing to take risks that were inconceivable even a few years back – earning the wrath of puritans being one reason, presenting tales that are far removed from ordinary sensibilities being another. Bishh isn’t anywhere close to being a great movie, I concede – it sags a bit in the middle and the characters aren’t very well developed; but what makes the movie darn interesting lies in the director’s dare in having a hard look at the taboo subject of sexual emancipation and everything that comes with it, his courage in taking the experimental route rather than the popular one – the initial few scenes of the movie are quintessential Godard, and his ability to maintain the movie’s credibility despite a few cheesy as well as soppy sequences. The dark story revolves around three girls who, over a cup of coffee, decide to be ‘bad girls’ for the ensuing night. Splashed with psychedelic images and striking visuals, comprising of a laudable new-age soundtrack, and boasting of a daringly promiscuous turn by anchor-turned-actress Rituparna Sen who I found an extremely alluring combination of wild beauty and raw sensuality, the movie deserves a watch, even if it’s only for its bold content.
Director: Kaushik Mukherjee (aka Q)
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Psychological Drama/Existential Drama/Psychedelic Drama/Experimental
Monday, 9 March 2009
Director: David Fincher
Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Epic/Fantasy
Saturday, 7 March 2009
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Genre: Comedy-Drama/Coming-of-Age/Romantic Drama
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
Director: Rituparno Ghosh
Genre: Drama/Urban Drama/Family Drama
Sunday, 1 March 2009
The Killers starts off with a now legendary opening shot which lets us know instantly that we are in a dark world from which there’s no escape, and forms a terrific preamble to this definitive film noir. Adapted from an Ernest Hemingway short story, the movie follows a zealous insurance agent uncovering the mysterious bumping off of an ex-pugilist. Making amazing use of a series of temporally disjointed flashbacks he uncovers a murky tale of robbery, false love, cold blooded betrayals, double crosses, and murder. Burt Lancaster is astounding as a doomed man – the classic noir anti-hero – walking the path to destruction. Ava Gardner is absolutely sizzling as a sultry, duplicitous, drop dead gorgeous vixen – one of the most unforgettable femme fatales every seen on screen; boy, with those magnetic looks she sure could to lead any man to his grave without so much as battling an eyelid. The Byzantine plot has been given a life of its own courtesy assured direction and sublime screenplay. And as for the visually arresting cinematography – with those smoky vignettes, dimly lit rooms, brilliant use of shadows, oblique camera angles, iconic silhouettes, moody high contrast shots, and a mesmerizing mixture of screeching long takes and paranoid close-ups – it raises the viewing experience to dizzying levels. If this stupendous noir masterpiece doesn’t grab you by the collars, nothing really will.
Director: Robert Siodmak
Genre: Film Noir/Crime Drama/Mystery