Sunday 27 February 2022

The Worst Person in the World [2021]

 It takes some gall and verve to take genres as fraught with clichéd trappings as rom-com and coming-of-age, and create something fresh, effervescent, quirky and infectious out of it… and well, also getting away with a title as melodramatic as The Worst Person in the World. Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier, in turn, also concocted a funny, delectable portrayal of Gen-Z, with their confusions, dilemmas, frivolities and minuscule attention spans. Narrated like a novella, it chronicled a few years in the life of Julie (Renate Reinsve), a smart, beautiful, sassy, idiosyncratic and carefree young woman in a perennial existential crisis, who keeps jumping from one choice to another hoping that the route to her desired destination is just round the corner. The narrative established this indecision at the outset, as she switches from medicine to psychology in a moment of epiphany, and thereafter to photography. And this further manifests in her relationships – she jumps into an immersive affair with Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie), who’s significantly older to her and creator of a provocative comic strip; and then, when things couldn’t look more stable, she dramatically falls for a married guy (Herbert Nordrum) who, like her, is still living a directionless life. Reinsve was superb as the film’s lively, impetuous and vivacious heroine, as was Danielsen; and, its central strand was strung together through a series of zany, ingenious asides – a bravura sequence where time in Oslo stands still; a night of seductive blind flirtations, and a couple of brilliant #MeToo evocations – one where Julie writes a libidinous essay, and another where Aksel gets attacked by a couple of feminists in a TV debate for the aggressive sexuality in his comics.






Director: Joachim Trier

Genre: Comedy/Black Comedy/Romantic Comedy/Coming of Age

Language: Norwegian

Country: Norway

Friday 25 February 2022

Petite Maman [2021]

 Céline Sciamma’s filmography – Water Lilies, Tomboy, Girlhood, Portrait of a Lady on Fire – had so far been filled with complex, fierce and magnificent inquiries into gender, feminist and queer identities within heteronormative, patriarchal and conformist social structures. Petite Maman, therefore, was a breath-taking departure in its scope and themes, in that this was a deeply restrained, quietly haunting, achingly intimate and disarmingly low-key portrayal of childhood innocence, grief, loss, memories, and an engrossing but fleeting relationship that brews between a child and her mom when she too was a kid. On the latter aspect – viz. meeting the younger version of one’s parent – it has drawn some comparisons with the hilarious sci-fi Back to the Future; however, the Sciamma and the Zemeckis had as much in common as French condiments and American ketchup do, which is to say none but for some apparent resemblances. It was, therefore, an absorbing ghost story and evocation of a free-spirited child as the mother of a disconsolate woman, which Sciamma captured through interplay between a potpourri of emotions – joy, fears, pain, melancholy and reconciling to one’s life – despite remarkable narrative brevity and tonal simplicity. 8-year old Nelly (Joséphine Sanz), who’s just lost her loving grandma, has come to her mom’s childhood lodge to pack all the old stuffs; but when her grief-stricken mom (Nina Meurisse) absconds, she meets – and beautifully bonds over pancakes, games and shared loneliness – with Marion (Gabrielle Sanz, Joséphine’s real-life twin sister), a cheerful girl her age bearing a striking physical likeness to her and with uncanny commonalities to her mom’s childhood days. It’s especially extraordinary that Sciamma found and brought about such lovely and endearing performances from the twin sisters.






Director: Celine Sciamma

Genre: Drama/Childhood Drama

Language: French

Country: France

Thursday 24 February 2022

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn [2021]

 Radu Jude, in his loopy, pungent, delirious, absurdist, provocative, funny and formally adventurous film Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, served a scalding, ferocious and no-holds-barred indictment of conservative bourgeois morality, and in turn the Romanian society. It boldly navigated through amateur smut, dry realism, kaleidoscopic montage, political satire, black comedy and unfettered farce, alongside a salacious prologue and a wickedly playful three-act structure. The film’s premise involved Emi (Katia Pascariu), a capable history teacher at an elite school, whose job comes under fire when a public scandal erupts around her on account of a leaked sex tape that’s gone viral. It begins with an unsimulated home video – featuring Pascariu herself – where the couple’s acts were often hilariously interspersed with voices from other rooms speaking about medicines to be purchased and kid’s toys to be sanitized. That latter point, which unequivocally foregrounded the movie in the Covid-era, was further established in the terrific first segment, “One-Way Street”, where we see Emi walking endlessly through the streets of Bucharest running various errands, while tension gradually mounts as she’s been summoned for an emergency parent-teacher meeting; and, while she goes about walking, we see the brash machismo, misogyny, consumerism and social media driven fake news that the city has become infested with. The fabulous middle segment, “Short Dictionary of Anecdotes, Signs and Wonders”, was a scathing and stunningly crafted montage covering a dizzying range of topics from Romania’s past and present, including Nazi-era massacres, Ceaușescu’s totalitarian regime, the Church’s complicity, the 1989 revolution, xenophobia, sexual hypocrisy, neoliberalism, etc. And finally, in “Praxis and Innuendoes (Sitcom)”, Emi faces a hostile, sanctimonious, and lascivious kangaroo court which explodes into the wackiest climax imaginable.






Director: Radu Jude

Genre: Black Comedy/Political Satire/Social Satire

Language: Romanian

Country: Romania