Monday 28 March 2022

Three Floors [2021]

 In Three Floors, Nanni Moretti transplanted Eshkol Nevo’s acclaimed novel Three Floors Up from Tel Aviv to Rome, for an intricate, interlinked tapestry – three hyperlinked shorts meshed into a crisscrossing whole – that provided for compelling, operatic and voyeuristic peeks into bourgeois dysfunction, malaise, moral transgressions and self-centeredness. Grief, memories, self-destructive streaks, loneliness and unresolved animosities juxtaposed its sombre melancholy while underscoring the wry aphorism that life, despite everything, must go on. The film begun with a brilliant opening sequence that immediately established the context and set the ball rolling for the three families living at an upscale condo in a leafy neighbourhood. Monica (Alba Rohrwacher) – who stays alone under the spectre of insanity, as her husband works in oil-rigs – is trying to catch a ride to the hospital as she’s going into labour, when she witnesses a disturbed young guy (Alessandro Sperduti) – having a turbulent relationship with his disciplinarian father (Moretti) and doting mother Dora (Margherita Buy) – accidentally hit a passer-by, before crashing into the apartment inhabited by the cocky, well-to-do Lucio (Riccardo Scamarcio) whose life and marriage will get torn apart when his daughter goes briefly missing in the company of their senile neighbour and later when he allows himself to get seduced by strikingly beautiful teenage girl (Denise Tantucci). The story of the intensely lonely Monica, slowly slipping to the other side, was especially haunting, while the soft-spoken Dora – who struggled between her husband and son, before tragically losing both – was quite affecting too; Rohrwacher and Buy, in turn, were the standout performers in the ensemble. The lustrous visuals, deliberate pacing, and lovely piano and accordion-based score added gentle touches while the film intercut across the stories.






Director: Nanni Moretti

Genre: Drama/Family Drama/Omnibus Film/Ensemble Film

Language: Italian

Country: Italy

Saturday 26 March 2022

Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy [2021]

 The 2021 award for making the two most diverse films in the same year arguably goes to Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. If his magnificent Drive My Car was an immersive and melancholic work on loss, grief and memories, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy was instead a thematically lighter and formally playful portmanteau film. In fact, its wry, gently ironic and low-key portrayals of chance encounters, transient relationships, seriocomic interactions, old grouses and the human condition were reminiscent of Rohmer and Hong Sang-soo. Interestingly, while “theatre” formed the central component in the former film, everyday role plays – to camouflage one’s past, evoke reactions and relive old memories – featured here, and this performative aspect provided for an interesting commonality between the two. It comprised of three short episodes stitched together along the above facets. “Magic (or Something Less Assuring)” began with a deceptively relaxed conversation between Meiko (Kotone Furukawa) and her best friend (Hyunri), wherein the latter shares her budding romance with a guy; as it turns out, he was Meiko’s ex, and despite her outwardly bubbly nature, she harbours a lashing spite towards him. In “Door Wide Open” – the best episode of the lot – a married woman (Katsuko Mori) in an affair with a college student is coaxed into entrapping a professor (Kiyohiko Shibukawa); though a surprising kinship develops between them after a saucy game of erotic one-upmanship where she recites an explicit section from his novel, an unfortunate goof-up plays spoilsport. Finally, in “Once Again”, two middle-aged women – an out-of-work IT coder (Fusako Urabe) and an unhappy housewife (Aoba Kawai) – strike a fleeting friendship upon thinking the other as someone they once knew, and decide to continue with that mistaken identity.






Director: Ryusuke Hamaguchi

Genre: Drama/Comedy/Slice of Life/Omnibus Film

Language: Japanese

Country: Japan

Wednesday 23 March 2022

Memoria [2021]

 Celebrated Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul retained his thematic preoccupations and formal signature from Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives –tranquil, eerie, leisurely, befuddling, allegorical and ethereal explorations of the overlaps between dreams, memories and existence, through a narrative that’s both spare and oblique – in Memoria, his first directorial venture outside his country. It was therefore a similarly hypnotic, confounding, meditative and mystical work filled with curious vignettes, existential inquiries, political undertones and magic realism that defied easy and coherent explanations. Jessica (Tilda Swinton), a British expat living in Colombia – a country with similar flora and fauna, as well as history of state-sponsored and military-led violence – is suddenly woken up in her apartment by a sonic boom that she’ll keep hearing at different places even though it isn’t audible to anyone else, thus leaving her disoriented and perplexed. That takes her on a strange aural journey, including to a guy in a recording studio – who no one else seems to know – to recreate that sound, and thereafter to mysterious man with the same name who remembers everything in his life and even beyond, and therefore lives a solitary life in the Amazon to avoid information overload. Meanwhile she also visits her sister who’s hospitalized in Bogotá with a mysterious ailment – which they assume could be due to a tribal curse on account of a road being constructed through an ancient burial ground – experiences a terrific impromptu jazz jamming session, and visits a friend at an archaeological expedition site, amidst the various enigmatic occurrences surrounding her. Unbroken long takes, extended moments of silence, beautifully textured visuals and Swinton’s understated presence further added to this exquisite piece of slow cinema.






Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Genre: Drama/Surrealist Drama/Magic Realism

Language: English/Spanish

Country: Colombia