Monday 29 March 2021

The Salt of Tears [2020]

 The Salt of Tears, with its muted B/W aesthetics, melancholy, gentle tonal inflections, emotional undercurrents, and a tightly framed tale around the themes of infidelity, romantic vagaries and the fragility of love, marked another delectably low-key entry in the now septuagenarian French auteur’s canon. It was also stylistically connected to his absolutely magnificent and just-concluded ‘Trilogy of Fidelity’ – viz. Jealousy, In the Shadow of Women, Lover for a Day – even if, unlike here, marital fidelity was the dominant theme there. The film – wryly captioned by a reviewer as “portrait of the cad as a young man” – followed the amorous dalliances of Luc (Logann Antuofermo), a callow, soft-spoken and outwardly sincere but inherently roguish guy who’s following the footsteps of his aged father (André Wilms) in learning the trade of joinery. It begins with Luc arriving in Paris – for the entrance exam at a prestigious carpentry institute – where he meets the shy, sweet-natured Djemila (Oulaya Amamra), and they embark on a tentative relationship; the setting then shifts to the town where he lives with his dad, and there he falls headlong into a passionate affair with the striking, flirtatious Geneviève (Louise Chevillotte), which leads to a heartbreaking episode for Djemila as he continues to persist with her in parallel; and finally, upon getting selected, he relocates to Paris where he gets into a torrid affair with a sultry, sexually liberated nurse (Souheila Yacoub). The affecting, luminously photographed and gorgeously scored film – possessing a perceptible kinship with Rohmer – comprised of fine turns all around, with an especially memorable one by Wilms as a wizened old man whose love for his son doesn’t blind him to the disconcerting unraveling of Luc’s failings.






Director: Philippe Garrel

Genre: Drama/Romantic Drama/Coming-of-Age

Language: French

Country: France

Sunday 28 March 2021

There Is No Evil [2020]

 Dissident Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof’s There Is No Evil – unsurprisingly banned in his country – was a magnificently crafted anthology film suffused with rousing political defiance, dramatic power and existential melancholy. However, what perhaps stood apart was its remarkable thematic clarity, viz. unequivocal opposition to capital punishments. The film comprised of four chapters – disparate in terms of premise and tonality – except that they were all exquisitely bound by their quietly resolute thematic convictions and their deliberately paced narrative buildups that always ended with startling twists. The first chapter, made in the form of a family drama, chronicled a seemingly average day in the life of middle-aged married man (Ehsan Mirhosseini) whose seemingly mundane life belies his hideous profession; the second chapter, fashioned as a thrilling prison-break film, was centered on a young soldier (Kaveh Ahangar) who must take a reckless route to avoid executing a doomed prisoner; the third chapter, presented for large parts as a blossoming romance, sees another young soldier, making an unannounced visit to his vivacious fiancée’s place, only to learn of a disquieting death; and the riveting final chapter, moodily orchestrated as a family reunion, portrayed a young woman spending few days with her mysterious uncle who lives a fiercely secluded life thanks to something he did – and didn’t do – many years back. Each episode was distinctively striking – the first for its shocking coup de théâtre and depiction of banality of evil, the second for a euphoric finale ecstatically accompanied by the antifascist resistance anthem ‘Bella Ciao’, the third by the realization of the devastating consequences of blindly following orders, and the final by its complex meditation on the oftentimes massive cost of displaying moral courage.






Director: Mohammad Rasoulof

Genre: Drama/Thriller/Existentialist Drama/Political Thriller/Omnibus Film

Language: Persian

Country: Iran

Friday 26 March 2021

The Woman Who Ran [2020]

 The Woman Who Ran – with its meandering flow, rambling conversations, low-key style, subjective POV, and romantic relationships existing at various stages of dysfunction – possessed all the distinctive traits of Hong’s filmography. And, while it might’ve appeared to be low on meta-narrative and self-referential elements, it had a bit of that too; one of the characters absentmindedly opines about her writer husband, “If he just repeats himself, how can that be sincere?”, which didn’t just inadvertently allude to the film’s protagonist Gam-hee (Kim Min-hee) who keeps repeating to all her friends – with a deadpan air of insincere make-believe – the same story of undiminished love that she shares with her husband, but perhaps on a sardonic note to the director’s oeuvre too. The episodic narrative was loosely structured into three parts wherein Gam-hee – seemingly making use of her “me time” as her husband is apparently on a business trip – connects with her old friends. In the first chapter she visits Young-soon (Seo Young-hwa), who’s divorced and shares her apartment at a picturesque Seoul suburb with a female flatmate; in the middle chapter she visits Sou-young (Song Seon-mi), who’s having an affair with a guy who incidentally resides in the same building. And, in the final chapter, she has an unplanned reunion with an estranged friend (Kim Saebyuk) married to Gam-hee’s ex-boyfriend. The movie’s outwardly placid happenings – albeit, with gently simmering undercurrents – were often punctuated with wryly funny moments, be it a hilariously courteous argument with a man who’s wife has an aversion to cats, or Young-soon’s dramatic fight with a younger guy who keeps pursuing her; or Gam-hee sharing an awkward smoke with her visibly flustered former lover.


Director: Hong Sang-soo

Genre: Drama/Buddy Film

Language: Korean

Country: South Korea