Saturday 11 July 2015

Husbands and Wives [1992]

Husbands and Wives, Woody’s fabulous take on his idol Bergman’s Scenes from A Marriage, might well be the last masterpiece in his prolific filmography thus far. Mordantly funny, incredibly penetrating, wryly ironic, deeply perceptive, and filled with elements of docu-drama, the film provided a darkly fascinating examination on marriage, fidelity and neurosis amongst Woody’s pet demography of intellectual, urban, upper middle-class. When their best friends Jack (Sydney Pollack) and his striking wife Sally (Judy Davis) casually announce during a dinner invitation that they have decided to split, the news do not just infuriate Gabe Roth (Woody) and his wife Judy (Mia Farrow), it literally rips apart the veneer of their seemingly happy married life by bringing to the surface rarely spoken discontents and dissatisfaction in their relationship. While Jack starts dating a pretty, dim-witted aerobics instructor (Lysette Anthony) and Sally plunges into a tentative affair with the dandy and younger Michael (Liam Neeson), it’s clear that neither relationships would last long. On the other hand, Gabe, a novelist who borrows freely from his own life, starts getting deeply besotted with his precocious student (Juliette Lewis) who hero-worships him, while Judy finds her infatuation towards Michael, who’s her colleague, turning into love, and one realizes that their lives have started taking divergent paths. Faux-interviews of the characters were slyly juxtaposed with the narrative, which added to the film’s brittle, pungent, self-deprecatory, bare-knuckled and at times disconcerting humour (given Woody and Mia’s scandalous break-up during the time of the film’s release) and underlying melancholia, aided in no small parts by the savage, witty and perceptive script, terrific character arcs, and fabulous performances by the ensemble cast.

Note: My earlier review of the film can be found here.

Director: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy Drama/Urban Comedy/Marriage Drama
Language: English
Country: US

Friday 3 July 2015

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence [2014]

The beautifully titled A Pigeon Sat on the Branch Reflecting on Existence brought to close Roy Andersson’s droll, poignant, episodic and highly ambitious ‘Grandeur of Existence Trilogy’, which comprised of Songs from the Second Floor and You, the Living, and made 7 years apart from each other. Mordant humour, deadpan observations on the perils of modern existence, melancholic undertones, stylized production designs, static camerawork, multiple tableaus stringed around a central narrative, and meditations on such themes as mortality, unemployment, loneliness, socio-economic oppression, and so forth, imbued the trilogy with the feel of one continuous show shot as three different films. The central tale dealt with the woes, frustrations and existential crises of Sam (Nils Westblom) and Jonathan (Holger Andersson), two travelling salesmen striving in futility to sell novelty items intended to make people laugh – ironically, sight of the two glum, ageing and down-on-luck men, with no companions but each other, and living in claustrophobic apartments, was anything but smile-inducing. Various vignettes were woven around this – the bitingly funny sequence where the sons of a dying lady try to get hold of valuables clutched by her as she’s convinced she can carry them to afterlife; an enthralling and deeply tragic musical interlude where a partially crippled waitress at a bar rouses emotions among a group of young, sad-faced war drafts many years back; Charles XII, the glibly callous Swedish king, making a stop at a diner in order to make a trip to the loo; et al. Despite the been-there-seen-that feel that is bound to emanate having watched the earlier two films, on its own this once again managed in being a simultaneously playful and bleak work filled with striking visual signatures and a running sense of pathos.

Director: Roy Andersson
Genre: Black Comedy/Social Satire/Ensemble Film
Language: Swedish
Country: Sweden