Monday, 28 February 2011

Manon des Sources - part 2 of Jean de Florette

1986 by Claude Berri

About 10 years have passed after the tragic death of Jean the hunchback. Ugolin and his uncle, Cesar are very successful with their carnations farming. Manon the daughter of Jean has grown to a beautiful young girl and is a shepherdess. May be because of all the tragedies and the attitude of the villagers, they live a life in the wilderness keeping away from the villagers. There is a new character, Bernard, who is a teacher and there is some attraction between Bernard and Manon. Ugolin happens to see a dancing nude Manon and he is spell bound by her beauty. He tells Cesar, who has been always pushing him to get married, about her. Cesar hasnt seen her yet, and after watching her, without her knowledge, he tells Ugolin that she reminds him about Florette, a beautiful woman who was in the village and left village later. Ugolin proposes to Manon in a very strange manner and she is not affected at all by the proposal. Manon over hears two hunters talking about the spring and how the Soubeyran's and even the whole village was responsible for the death of Jean. May be this brought back all the bitter memories of her childhood. Because of one of her goats, she accidentally finds the source, responsible for all the water streams in the village. She blocks this source and lack of water affects the whole village. The priest even accuses that somebody amongst them are responsible for this. During a public gathering, Manon accuses the Soubeyrans', ie Ugolin and Cesar, of being responsible for the death of her father. Ugolin nearly agrees with Manon, but breaks out and proposes to Manon in public, offering her all what he have. She spits on him and runs away to Bernard. Cesar accuses the whole village for the death. Here Manon also announces that she is the grand daughter of Florette, which is a shocking news for the village. Ugolin hangs himself and Cesar is really struck by the death of his nephew. Bernard convinces Manon that, if her father knew about the spring he would have gladly shared it for the whole village and convinces her to open out the source. They open out the source and the villagers consider the arrival of water as a miracle. Manon marries Bernard and the whole village attends their wedding. Delphine an old blind woman meets Cesar outside the church and tells him about the grave mistake he did, by not replying to the letter of Florette. Cesar is surprised and says in military they did miss many letters and never received any letter from Florette. Delphine then reminds him about a night he spend with Florette, after which he went for military service. Florette got pregnant and she then wrote to Cesar about marriage and how she would wait for him. At the same time she was being teased by the whole village for being pregnant and since she never heard back from Cesar, she had tried to killed the baby in many ways without any results. That is when Florette left the village and finally married a black smith. Cesar wonders whether that child was alive and Delphine replies in affirmative, just that it was a hunch back. Cesar is heart broken and immediately finds he has lost all his strength and knows he is near death. He prepares a letter for Manon and dies that night.

This is not a typical part 2 of any popular movie, if both the part 1 and 2 were shown as a single movie, I am sure most people would have seen it in one go and still admired it as an epic movie. Manon des sources has some beautifully shot moments which I have to list out:

- the samll scene where Ugolin is spell bound by the beauty of Manon

- the public meeting to discuss the water problem when the Mayor boasts he has managed to find a water expert. Brilliant scene which really reminded me of one Malayalam classic by K G George - Panchavadippaalam.

- the public gathering where Manon accuses the Soubeyran's followed by Ugolin proposing and breaking down and Cesar accusing the village.

- the scene where Cesar is reading the death letter of Ugolin, what a touching letter. He dies not because he is accused of Jean's death or because of the loss in the farming, its because he knows Manon doesnt love him but more than that she loves Bernard, and Ugolin wants her to have all what he have.

- the scene where Delphin explains the Florette story and when Cesar realises that Jean was his own son

- and finally the scene where Cesar makes his letter for Manon, passing out all what he have to Manon.

The movie is beautiful, just that the above scenes stands out for their beauty, for how its directed and for the drama and emotion. The two death letters, of both Ugolin and Cesar, both are so touching that we wish Manon forgives them for all their sins.

The show stopper for me are Daniel Auteuil again and Yves Montand. Brilliant, excellent and brilliant. what can i say. The scene where Daniel shouts in the public meet that 'this is not just a problem but a catastrophe' immediately made me think about actors like Gopi and Nedumudi Venu in the Malayalam classic Panchavadippaalam.

I watch Emmanuelle Beart first in Belle des Noiseuse and that took me to Un Couer en hiver, which I consider as her best performance so far, from what I have seen. Its because of her I came across Manon des sources, in which she must be only 17/18 years old, and I saw Jean de Florette. Emmanuelle is so beautiful as Manon and there are excellent shots of her, accentuating her beauty. But performance wise, she has to give way for Daniel Auteuil and Yves Montand.

And if you ask me, Jean de Florette is better than Manon des Sources as a movie. I simply wish this should have been released as a single movie and have only one major doubt. How can a beautiful girl like Manon be living in the wild without ever being seen by most villagers. 

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Nouvo Cinema Paradiso

1988 by Guiseppe Tornatore

Salvatore, called as Toto is a young boy in a Southern Italian village who is so fond of cinema. He spends all his time at the village cinema house which is called Cinema Paradiso. He is like a pest to Alfredo who should be in his 40-50's, who runs the projector. He is so intrigued by cinema and really wants to learn everything about what is happening in the projector room. He takes the film bits home and shares them with his mother, who lost her husband in the world war II, at a young age. The local priest has a big influence and he actually censores the movies which are shown. A preview show is done only for the priest who wrings a bell, meaning Alfredo should cut that scene before its screened for the public. Toto, as he is there always, is so curious to know what happens on screen (in the kissing scenes), but Alfredo doesnt even let him touch the censored bits of film. Alfredo is kind of fond about Toto but is still reluctant to teach him the details. However, when  Alfredo has to take an examintion in the school, he has no option than to take help from Toto, who throws him his copy bit. Thats the beginning of a unique friendship between a boy and an adult. Toto soon learns everything about projection. Unfortunately, there is a fire in the projector room and even if Toto manages to pull out Alfredo, he loses his eye sight. A village man, who has just won a football lotterry, decides to rennovate the cinema house and calls it Nouvo Cinema Paradiso. The only person who can manage the projector is Toto, who is glad to work. Cicco, the new owner is not obliged to the priest and he doesnt mind any kissing scenes either. Alfredo visits Toto often at the cinema and motivates him to not miss his school. Toto, is in the high school, still working in the cinema and he meets Elena, daughter of a rich banker. They like each other but her father doesnt approve the relationship. Alfredo is all advise for Toto in all matters. Toto by now also has a small movie camera with which he makes his own short movies. Elena soon leaves the village with her family and Toto has to go for military service. His attempts to contact Elena is in vain.  Alfredo motivates Toto to leave the village forever to pursue his dreams with movies and never to come back. He gets a strong promise from Toto to not return. Toto is now Salvatore an established film maker and he hasnt gone back to his village in 30 years. His mother informs him about the death of Alfredo and Salvatore comes back to his village for the funeral. Alfredo's wife tells him how much Alfredo loved him. She gives him something, as desired by Alfredo. Salvatore is also sad to see the theatre, which is not used these days, getting demolished to build a parking space. Alfredo goes back to his city and watch the reel of movie, the present from Alfredo. The reel is a short film made of all the censored kissing scenes, which Salvatore so longed to watch as a child.

The movie, though, is told in a flash back as and when Salvatore is informed about Alfredo's death. It is a simple and beautiful film. First of all the child Toto, how charming this boy is. He carries the movie in his shoulders for the whole time he is there. Secondly his friendship with Alfredo is so well told. The movie literally took me back to my own childhood, when we used to visit our village cinema houses, we had two nearby, with thatched palm leaf roofs and simple benches and chairs as seats. We used to collect the bits of films from the theatre compound and make our movie still projections using mirrors, an electric bulb and a cylendrical tube etc. I got really nostalgic about those days. The scenes inside the theatre have been excellent. So many funny moments. The disappointment and the excitement of the audience in watching the kissing scenes looks the same, through out the world. Excellent. So was the examination scene. There are some brilliant frames which can even evoke applause from professional still photographers. Its not just fun, there are many moments when this movie gives you a simple good feeling and a lot of nostalgia. And finally the joy and tears in the eyes of Salvatore when he watches the old kissing scenes,are simply beautiful. I think it is that last scene which takes this simple movie to a few levels above other good movies.

Italy or India, old movie houses all have had the same fate. So is the feeling we have when we go back to our past and meet some objects or people which were part of our life, years back. This movie will really make us think about our childhood.

One of the movie houses in my village is now being converted to a marriage hall. The other one was brought down by fire, intentionally set by the owner himself to, at least, claim the insurance.

Friday, 25 February 2011

The King's Speech

2010 by Tom Hooper

George was not supposed to be the King, in fact he was considered incompetent for the job as he has a serious problem - stammering. He is unfit to address any gathering, let alone the more far reaching addresses over Radio. But circumstances change and he has to be the king. His, and his wife's, efforts to break through out of the stammer issues and how he finds a non conventional speech therapist, work with him, and finally make an all important address to the Nation over radio forms this film.

Last year, it was 'The Young Victoria' and this year it is The King's Speech. If Young Victoria was about all the drama behind her ascension to the throne and the turbulent days during the first few years of her rule, The King's Speech too has the drama behind the ascension to the throne by George VI, and something more. His disinterest for the throne, his pain, anger and embarrassment being a stammer all is so well taken.

A truly brilliant performance by Colin Firth is the highlight of this movie, I believe it is a British movie. I love Queen's English, as its so pleasing to listen to, quite clear to understand as well (even without subtitles), so whenever I am told there is a movie about Royal British life, I am eager to watch. Not sure, if I was so satisfied after watching this one though.  

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Jean De Florette

1986 by Claude Berri

Ugolin returns back to his native place, a village around the beautiful Provence region in France, and has a new idea to cultivate some flowers - carnations - in large scale, which can offer him better profits than other corps. He is like a right hand man to his uncle Soubeyran, who is an established farmer and a big land owner. He secretly cultivates the flowers and when it is ready to be harvested, he invite his uncles and reveals the secret. Soubeyran is not impressed but Ugolin takes him to the florist who offer a price, inspite of being off season, which impresses his uncle a lot. They are glad that they have a great idea but needs some new land for large scale cultivation. The problem in the region is lack of perennial water streams. There is a neighborhood farm land which will be ideal (which is known for a perennial water source), but the owner doesnt want to sell it and Soubeyran , though not intended, kills this farmer. He doesnt regret it at all. They find out that Jean, the hunchback, is the legal heir of the land. Soubeyran and Ugolin finds the origin of the water source and covers it with some cement so that nobody else can find this out. So even if the new owner wants to do some farming he will not have any options with water and will finally sell the land. To their surprise, Jean arrives with his wife and child to the village. Ugolin offers lot of help for them to settle but finds out that Jean has lot of plans with farming in the land. Ugolin tries his best to de motivate Jean, who has some solution for everything, some out of the box ideas and lot of optimism. Soubeyran asks Ugolin to be as nice as possible with the Hunchback and family so that they will have good control over him and can also make sure that he will never find the water source. Jean works hard, he has to get water from one mile away, madly in fact, and has good results from the kitchen garden and rabbit farm. However, nature which was initially kind turns very cruel to him and there is an extended summer which means he is losing on all accounts. They even pawn their farm land and home with Soubeyran to have some extra money, hoping to repay it very soon. A few days of rain can change his fortunes and Jean is very optimistic. He is alone and the whole village in fact looks down on him and the family. As a last attempt, he tries to dig a well in his plot. With the last bit of money he has, he buys some explosives and tries to break the large mass of rock. Poor man gets killed in this attempt.  Jean's wife and child has no optiion, but to give the land and home back to Soubeyran and collect a few thousand Francs as balance and leave the village. While they are getting ready to leave, Soubeyran and Ugolin cant resist going up to the water source and open it up. They are so happy and were unable to wait for a few more minutes for Jeans wife and child to leave the village. Jean's child, Manon, was following them and she is shocked to see water gushing out in their land, so close to their home. Soubeyran and Ugolin is still enjoying the moment, unaware of the fact that Manon, the little girl of Jean the hunchback, who strived hard unto death to find water, is aware about the water source.

I dont know what to say. A beautiful story (originally a novel) made into a very beautiful film. The first feeling I had after watching this movie is to go to my village and start farming. Years back, when I saw Maravathoor Kanavu, a Malayalam movie, then too I had this feeling, a little. But this time the feeling is 10000000... times more may be. Because this is simply excellent, excellent and excellent. The beauty of Aix en Provence is so well captured and so are everything about the life around a rustic Provence village. Each and everybody who appear on screen is a real person. More than anything, it looks like, till few decades back village life was same, even if it was Asia or Europe. We saw in 'Lagaan', how much the villagers craved for rain and Ashutosh Gowariker had to use a song there to capture the situation. In Jean de Florette there is the same situation, sans songs, but is simply beautiful. We feel like crying for Jean.

Life was hard and it was a constant struggle between man and nature. It is the struggle of our forefathers, their common sense, their intelligence and inventions which have lead us to our modern life. How much I wish, this movie was dubbed and released in India. For the great Indian middle class and corporate world, who seem to have lost count on the poverty in our country and the importance of Agriculture, this movie is a must watch. May be they will think for at least an hour about our farmers. At least our Hon. Minister, P Chidambaram, who dared to announce that he wish to see 70% of Indians living in cities, this movie is a must watch. I dont think any normal human being can complete watching this movie without sparing a thought for farmers who struggle with nature to feed us.

I always felt Daniel Auteuil is an excellent actor, but he can only portray simple and quite kind of characters. I was wrong. As Ugolin, I cant think about anybody else. Even the minute subtleties for such a character is taken care of, I must say. If not for him may be Ugolin would have just been an ordinary village man who is just a stupid assistant of a crooked land owner.

And Gerard Depardieux, as always, is excellent. First, I didnt understand why Jean had to be a hunch back in this movie. Even if he was a normal man, that would not have changed the story. But this is not modern France. In a rustic village, and even in French cities, hunch backs were basically looked down upon by normal population. They were not supposed to be intelligent and are stupid basically. In French literature, hunch backs lived in a world of their own and were villains. And here the hunch back is supposed to surprise the whole village.

I would always consider this as one of my best cinematic experiences. A movie which gives me this immense feeling to be a farmer, which make me think so much about the struggles of our fore fathers, which make me wonder about the influence of nature on humans, which make me admire some artists and craftsmen, who dont even speak my language, is definitely going to live with me. I will always sing its praises. This is one which can be watched and enjoyed by anybody, irrespective of whether one likes to watch movie as an art product, an intellectual piece or pure entertainment stuff.

Jean De Florette, which also has some excellent music to accompany, has a second part too. Both the parts were simultaneously shot, but released as two movies. I cant wait for the second part.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Rocco e i Suoli Fratelli - Rocco and his brothers

1960 by Luchino Visconti

Italy is witnessing mass migration of poor peasants from the South to its Northern cities. Rosario Parondi, who just lost her husband, come to Milan with her 4 kids (Simone, Rocco, Cirro and Luca) hoping the eldest, Vincenzo who is working in Milan, can do something to end their miserable lives. She is a very possessive mother and immediately dislikes Vincenzo's fiancee and her family. They have to struggle for a better life now. Simone starts training to be a pro Boxer. Vincenzo meets Nadia, a prostitute and introduces her to the whole family. Simone is too much attracted to her and even steals a kind of ornament (I dont know what its called) from the Store manager, where Rocco works, to present to Nadia. Nadia gives the present back through Rocco, telling him she doesnt want to see Simone anymore. Simone could have been a successful boxer, but he has many other interests than boxing and soon fails. He has too many negatives in his stride to emerge a champion. Rocco, who always dreams about going back to his home town, joins the army. He meets Nadia again and they really fall in love. He is the person who can lead Nadia to a normal life. But Simone finds this out and he ends up raping Nadia in front of Rocco. Strangely, Rocco advises Nadia to go back to Simone as he needs her more and is desperate to get her back. Rocco too starts training to be a pro boxer. When the ex manager of Simone goes for a police case to get back a big sum of money which Simone had stolen from him, Rocco enters into a long term contract in Boxing and pays back the money. Rocco thus enters professional boxing for the sake of saving Simone and he starts a successful career. Simone is searching for Nadia who is running away from him, and is back into prostitution. Simone pleads before her but her words, how much she despise him, provokes the criminal inside him and kills her. Rocco would like to save his brother, but the younger brother Cirro, who is working in a company, informs Police and believes the family is better off without Simone. Cirro explains to the youngest brother, how much it was important for the family to get rid of Simone. He explains Rocco as a saint, who lives only for the family not for himself, but doesn't think one should be that much forgiving, for it was Simone who destroyed the family peace.

This is an epic story, told as chapters about each brother. Except for certain things, I couldnt help thinking how much Indian this story was. I cannot be specific, but we might have seen many similar tales in India. I always felt that it was in Italy and Spain I could find some kind of an Indianness in their people. This movie reiterates that feeling.

Story is everything here, we are unable to understand few things though. How can Rocco forgive Simone after  raping his girl friend in front of his eyes, and how can Nadia go back to Simone after being raped, How can Rocco be so generous, he is the protagonist here and is more like a Biblical character. The kind of big brother we often see in Indian movies. Simone is the perfect antagonist, but how can he still want to live with a woman who shouts (and spits on his face) that she hates him. Well, few questions like that, but I would still say its a great story. Though, it is told as different chapters on each brother, its Simone and Rocco who really runs it through. Italy is still famous for its male domination. Well, may be that is quite evident here. And the mother of the five children, I felt, is very much Indian. For me Rosario Parondi is the best character in this movie.

Having said that the movie is too much dramatic at some points. It is excellent in many parts though.

While watching this movie, should I say most Classics in Black and White, I felt bad that I did not learn Black and white film developing and printing when I started taking pictures. If I did, I could have still used my manual cameras to take beautiful b&w shots. Black & White is brilliant.

Sorry to say this. Ever since I saw Le Meglio Gioventu, whenever I watch a long movie I am forced to compare it with L M Gioventu and I feel sorry for Rocco..., I am sure more people might find Rocco as a Classic Italian from a great Italian master, but L M Gioventu, for me, is the best example to make an epic movie without losing its pace at all. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Der Untergang - Downfall

2004 by Oliver Hirschbiegel

Russian army is only about 12 Kilometers away from Berlin and almost everybody around Hitler is sure that Berlin will be captured. All his loyal men are wondering what to do next, to leave Berlin to save themselves or to fight until death or to convince Hitler to leave Berlin or even just suicide as the last resort. Hitler in the mean time realises that most of his generals were cowards and havent listened to him and have acted against his orders which has paved way to losing the battle. He is full of confidence one moment and is depressed the next. More and more news arrives about the cowardice of his generals and also about some valiant generals and soldiers. Inspite of all the pressure by some of his generals, Hitler is adament he will not leave Berlin, for he does not want people to curse him finally. At the same time he also says that evacuation of Berlin is not possible and people deserves what they are facing now. Eva his girl friend seems to be enjoying these moments and is adament she will not escape, so are some secretaries of his, who finds all these happenings so unreal. Hitler marries Eva and announces that they will commit suicide and orders his body guard to make sure that the enemy do not even find their bodies. His loyal servants burns their bodies afterwards. Once defeat is confirmed many of his loyal generals too commit suicide. Traudl Junge, his young secretary manages to pass through the Russian army and escapes Berlin. The movie is an account of her experiences.

This is a brilliant movie. It is so well taken that inspite of being the story of the most hated monarch, it still has many moments that will touch you. The Cinematography is more than brilliant, it can serve as a lesson on how to capture the mood of a theme, without ever making the viewer think about the camera, inspite of having a lot of action around.

Bruno Ganz lives as Hitler. What a performance. He looks fearful and even attracts our pity in some scenes. The scene where he listens to the song by his ministers children, followed by his discussion with Eva and secretaries how to commit a painless suicide, and his last good bye to his close assists were simply excellent.

Alexandra Maria Lara, my favourite German actress has also done well as Traudl.

Finally may I say, this is purely a directors movie. Excellent movie, a master piece.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Makeup Man

2011 by Shafi.

A typical Malayalam 'masala' romantic comedy.

Rich girl and man elopes. She is lucky to act in a movie and her husband diguises as her make up man. Unfortunately, she is attracted more towards movie life and there are problems between them and finally all ends in good terms.

It has all the typical Malayalam romantic comedy ingredients.
2 songs
a hero who looks 2 decades older than the heroine
all unnecessary characters, played by great actors who dont have any opportunities for good roles these days
All machoisms of normal Malayaalee husband, who seems to get applause even from the Malayaalee women in the theatre
Some police men, media and television news & a court scene which is out of this world as always
and some laughs here and there
almost 3 hours of length which could have been told in 2 hours

In fact, Sunday was a day for an excellent comparison between Tamil and Malayalam movies. 

Nadunissi Naaygal - Midnight Dogs

2011 by Gautham Menon

Samar, as a child, is sexually abused by none other than his father. Because of a vigilant neighbourhood woman Meenakshi, Samar is saved and Meenakshi takes care of Samar thereafter, who calls him Veera. Even as a teenager Veera falls in love with Meenakshi. One night he has this terrible dream about his past and ends up in the bedroom of Meenakshi and he is more of Samar and nearly rapes her. For some wierd reason, which we should make out, Meenakshi continues having Veera in her home and she gets married to one of her old friend. This is too much for the boy and Samar stabs Meenakshi's husband on the very first night on their bed and there is a fire in the room. Meenakshi too is killed, later in the hospital I guess, because of this fire. But for Samar, Meenakshi is alive around him and he moves to Chennai from Mumbai to a home which looks apt for his kind of personality. Here he hunts down other girls and kills them. He cuts the hair, after he abuse/kills his victims, and presents to Meenakshi, for Meenakshi had lost all her hair in the fire  have a liking for the hair of these girls. He sees Sukanya, a school mate and tries to get her to his home. The movie unfolds through the events of the night when he tries to get Sukanya and through his confessions.

But let me tell you, this movie has a brilliant script. Of course, there are loop holes here and there but still, may I say this movie is quite different from the run of the mill ones, and is brilliant in more than a few aspects, unless we want to sit down and only criticize. The truth that Samar has a dual personality problem, that he lives as both Samar and Veera is clear only towards the second half of the movie. His halucination of having Meenakshi, whom he saved from the fire but left alive with a terrible face, who is living with him in the strange house in Chennai is made to look real until his dual personality is presented. But the script and the director - both by Mr. Menon, has done quite enough to keep the surprises in tact and producing a special thriller out of a true story. He has gone quite out of the way for this in few things, the length of the movie is only 90 minutes, there is  no background music or any songs, mind you its a thriller but with no background music, and only few actors.

It is the performances of the lead characters, especially the debutant Veera who plays Samar, who makes this one a very different watch. It is difficult to believe that its only his first movie. The Cinematographer, who has worked mostly under low lights, and the editor, both have done a brilliant job.

When I was told that this movie was about a serial killer and bla bla, I suspected that this would be yet another adaptation of a script/s from elsewhere. But all credits to Gautham Menon, this is purely an Indian thriller. To nit pick, we could find similarities with many such stories, but the way how it is told, Nadunissi Naaygal is a surprising winner.

I still thought, Mr. Menon has scripted it for an audience who are intelligent, even the lay man in the theatre seems to have enjoyed it, so I couldnt understand why he still decided to give a routine explanation by a Psychiatrist at the very end, which was not required at all.

Veera have some deadly dogs, but still the title isnt relevant. 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Mechanic

2011 by Simon West

Jason Statham is again a pro killer and agrees to train Ben Foster into a hit man, just because he had killed Ben's father. They are a deadly team, until Ben has doubts about his father's death. Typical Hollywood and the end too is typical.

Like Sanctum, another less than average one. Ben Foster was good. Jason Statham needs to think seriously about his choice of movies. Of course he is best fit for action, but he could go for some action movies with a difference I guess.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

La Strada - The Road

1954 by Federico Fellini

Gelsomina is described even by her mother as a strange girl, and is sold to Zampano, a street entertainer, a man with an iron heart, for 10,000 lire. Gelsomina is taught some trumpet and drums so that she can help Zampano during his street performances. She is happy to travel and do some bit of music and dance and also to eat some food but she has to bear the horrible treatment meted out to her by Zampano. She seems most worried about the fact that Zampano easily falls for other woman. Finally she runs away from Zampano and happens to witness another street performer 'the fool'. Zampano promptly finds her. Zampano ends up in a new circus group where the fool also performs. For some reason he doesnt seem to like Zampano and even make fun of him and disturbs him during his performance. When Zampano tries to attack him they are both jailed by police. The Fool is released first and he talks to Gelsomina about Zampano. He tells her that may be Zampano likes her, is the only reason why he keeps her inspite of her inability to cook or be a good performer and her strange looks. He tells her there is a reason why even a small stone is there in this world. When Zamapano is out of jail, they are back on the road again and Gelsomina suggests to get married, but he is only irritated by this. On road, they come across the fool and though not intentionally the Fool gets killed. Gelsomina is shocked by this and doesnt looks normal. Zampano waits for a few days to see if she gets back to normal, but not and finally decides to leave her as there is a fair around, where he can make some money and it is no use waiting for Gelsomina. After few years he overhears somebody singing like Gelsomina. The woman tells her that it was learnt from a woman found on the beach by her father. She is no more. Zampano is more than affected by this news and is heart broken.

A story by a great master, it is like the romance between a beauty and the beast. There is no romance in this movie, but it is all over. Zampano acts like a terribly cruel man for almost the whole length of movie but in the climax we must think that he was moved by Gelsomina, the strange woman with qualities of a child, but with an ugly face as told to her by the Fool.

This movie would not have been great, if not for the casting. The three main characters, Zampano, Gelsomina and the Fool, they are perfect, especially Gelsomina. I cant think about any other actress, from all the movies I saw from across the world, who can fit in the features required for Gelsomina. She is happy one second and cries the next second and is clue less the next. What a brilliant performance. There have been so many characters who make us feel for them. But Gelsomina is different as we start feeling for her within the first 10 minutes of the movie, it keeps on growing. So when Zampano deserts her, I really thought this is a very different turn, may be it is going to be good for her, but the final news really make us sad. What a character and what a performance. Her face haunts me even today.

This is the best of story telling, some great characters, excellent performances, Cinematography for the movie, nice music and a real craftsman as the director. Simple is Brilliant and beautiful.

May be it should have been titled Zampano and Gelsomina or just Zampano or Gelsomina. You hear the name of Zampano throughout the movie, but not Gelsomina. I dont think even a few times. 

Friday, 18 February 2011

La battaglia di Algeri - The Battle of Algiers

1966 by Gillo Pontecarvo

As the name suggests its about Algeria's struggle for Independence from the French. FLN is an organisation, by a small minority of Algerians, fighting to gain independence through any means. The organisation has a strange hierarchy, wherein  any member might not be acquainted with more than 3 other members. They have the support of the people and kills French policeman in simple, but excellent, operations. When a police commissioner, who believes normal laws are not enough to deal with such fighters, plants a bomb in the Casbah, the locality dominated by Algerians, killing many locals, FLN also starts attacks with bombs killing French. It finally turns into a very violent battle and the French desperate to hold their foot, calls for their Army, who are just after an embaressing defeat in the Indo china war. Army soon manages to capture most of the FLN members, especially all their leaders and the battle of Algiers seems to be won by the French. But after a quiet of couple of years, without any organisational movements there is a strong popular movement and this time French has to withdraw themselves and Algeria wins its freedom.

This movie is beautifully captured in black and white has dialogues in French and Arab and is wonderfully directed by an Italian and seems to be produced by both Italian and Algerian firms. This could be an Italian or  Algerian movie.

This movie, which is based on a book, is wonderful as it could have ended as a documentary, but is so brilliantly directed that it ends up as a thrilling movie, with so many great moments of emotion, thrill, patriotism and everything except romance.  The scenes like ,a to be FLN leader witnessing the killing of a freedom fighter in the jail, the FLN operation to bomb three different locations in French Algiers by their 3 women cadets keeping the bomb in their hand bags, the deeds of the little boy who work as FLN messenger, the press meet of a captured FLN top leader, the press meet of French army colonel, the plight of a tortured Algerian to rat out his leader and the final revolt of the people, all are so brilliantly shot.

The background music is so different, but adds brilliantly to the mood of the movie.

It is impossible to think about all what is happening around us, while watching this movie. The current revolts in the middle east, the occupations of Afghanistan, Iraq, the problems in our own Kashmir and Eastern states, all kept flashing in while and after watching this movie.

Just like America managed to ban a Turkish movie on Iraq occupation (I was told about this movie by a friend who said it was like a documentary) immediately after Iraq was occupied, this movie was banned by France for more than 3 years since its release.

This is a must watch movie for every human being, but not for the fascist and colonialist. 

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Love and Other Drugs

2010 by Edward Zwick

Jamie is an incredibly smart sales man working at an electronic shop and is excellent in handling woman. When he lose this job, he starts working for a Pharma company, selling drugs. Now he meets Maggie in a hospital, who has been diagnosed with stage 1 Parkinson's disease at her young age. Maggie is a free spirit and doesnt want to enter into any kind of relationship and is interested only in sex. Jamie is getting lucky with his new job and have started selling Viagra. The movie is all about how they are in love and in spite of hesitations, finally end up in a relationship.

A typical hollywod romantic comedy, except that the heroine is having Parkinson's disease at a young age. There are some funny moments, especially in the first half. But as always, its all very predictable and the script or director hasnt done anything to make us feel that this movie is above the ordinary. Most importantly, in the climax when Jamie explains why he needs her, its pretty ordinary. Theres nothing moving even if the heroine seems to be affected.

The difference is about the charm of Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. Not exceptional performances, but the charm is there, in fact there is nothing special in the script for them to make exceptional performances.

And let me confess, I was surprised and happy to see Anne Hathaway nude, never before.

Also, there was a very beautiful song, starting , I lived in a place called ...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Un Coeur en Hiver - A Heart in Winter

1992 by Claude Sautet

Stephane is an introvert, but a master in repairing Violin, in a workshop run by Maxime, frequented by celebrity Violinists. They have been working together for so many years and seems to know each other very well. Maxime reveals to Stephane that he finally seems to have met a woman for his life, and is ready to leave his wife for her, Camille a violinist rising to fame. Camille's violin has a problem and Stephane repairs it for her. The extra ordinary coldness in Stephane is strange during the meetings, but Camille seems to be interested in this strange man. Stephane also has a friend, with whom he meets often and she does think Stephane has an interest in Camille. Stephane or this lady friend of his doesn't seem to have any other interests in their friendship. Camille is interested in knowing more about Stephane but he is not interested in talking about himself at all. The occassional absence of Maxime does offer more chances for Camille to get close to Stephane and she express her liking to him. But Stephane is very cold and rejects her completely. Camille reveals her mind to Maxime as well. In a restaurant, Camille, who still cannot believe she was rejected, desperately tries again to talk into Stephane and his rejection makes her go nearly violent. Maxime too is angry and slaps Stephane there. Stephane walks out  from the Violin workshop and sets up his own shop. After about 8 months Maxime visits Stephane again wanting to be friends again and Camille too seems friendly. Past is past.

We have seen so many love triangles. This one is a master piece of a Love triangle story. Typical of French movies, a lot of story is left for the viewer to interpret. How come Camille is interested in Stephane, why is he rejecting her and so on. It is when we watch such a beautiful movie we miss the original language, many subtleties are missed by the subtitles.

From recollecting some moments of the movie, I guess this :- Stephane is gay and he holds a special admiration for Maxime. He is unhappy that Maxime would leave his wife for a new woman and is quite jealous of Camille. Stephane uses the moments he have with Camille to cast a spell on her, in his own ways, and intentionally rejects her love to make her upset and to let Maxime know that Camille is fallen for his friend. May be he was hoping by this, Maxime would let her and he would have his friend back. Maxime also seems to be hurt that Camille is interested in Stephane, but because of his love for her, he is more disturbed that Stephane hurt Camille by rejecting her. Camille realises that Stephane is never going to love her and falls back to the comfort of Maxime's love. With time, the past has been accepted and normal friendship seems to be back, though there is a particular shot which says Camille still thinks about Stephane. I might be wrong in my assumptions, but I have to say this is an exceptionally great movie.

There are many many beautiful moments and some of these scenes explain how so much things can be told without saying anything at all. For eg: there is a scene were Camille visits the book shop where the lady friend of Stephane works. They dont speak anything about Stephane here, but the Camera follows their faces and their looks say everything. So is the scene in the restaurant where Camille tries to talk and finally cant control her rage, she simply cannot understand how a man can reject her.

I have seen only very few actresses, who have a very beautiful face and a perfectly beautiful body plus excellent talent to act. Emmanuelle Beart is definitely one of them. An important point in the movie is how can a single man reject the love of a beauty like Camille and I think there cannot be any better person than Ms. Beart for this role. Her eyes speaks more than a thousand words. I was charmed by her physical beauty in 'La Belle de Nouiseuse', here she proves she is more than that.

As the title reads, this movie is about a cold heart which is difficult to understand and who better than Daniel Auteuil to enact it. This role is made for him.

Cinematography in this movie is so beautiful and it can be a lesson to how to capture human beings and their emotions. There are also beautiful excerpts of  Violin.

For me this movie is a real master piece.
How much I wish to write more about this movie, better.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Atame - Tie me up, tie me down

1990 by Pedro Almodovar

Ricky is a prominent inmate in a Psychiatry hospital. He have eloped many times and have been back always promptly. In one of his such escape attempts, he had an adventure with a porn actress Marina. Ricky is now released from the Hospital and his dream is to work and have a family and he can only think about Marina as his wife. Marina is trying to change her career by leaving Pornography for a real movie. Ricky has no other way, so kidnaps Marina to her own home hoping she will fall in love with her. Marina manages to escape, but goes back to Ricky.

Quite disappointed with this Almodovar movie. Antonio Banderas looks so young and his charm is the major plus for this movie. It looks more like a Spanish movie on popular hollywood lines. The background music is really terrible in many parts. There were some interesting moments, but overall disappointed. 

Monday, 14 February 2011

Avaze Gonjeshk-ha - The song of Sparrows

2008 by Majid Majidi

This is not a real comedy. But there are so many innocent & funny moments in this movie. A man who has just lost his job tries to earn in anyways he can for his family. He also has to buy a new hearing aid for his daughter before her exams. Even without any pre meditated plans he starts his own motor bike taxi, illegal, in the city. His travails are beautifully told, you cant help laughing and at the same time feel his pain. A heart touching tale of a father and his family.

For me this is a simple, but brilliant movie.  Exactly like Jaffer Panahi's 'Offside' this is another gem from Iran.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


2011  by Alister Grierson

A typical Hollywood masala, may I say, filled with its routine cliches and turns, and falls below average even by Hollywood masala standards.

I label it as Hollywood, not English though. 

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Juana La Loca - Juana the Mad

2001 by Vicente Aranda

When a true story or historical movie is very impressive I do try to find out more about it and Wikipedia says so about Juana the Mad

Joanna or Joan (6 November 1479 – 12 April 1555), nicknamed Joanna the Mad (SpanishJuana la Loca), was the first Queen regnant of both the Crown of Castile(1504–55) and the Crown of Aragon (1516–55), a union which evolved into modern Spain.[1] Besides the kingdoms of Spain, she also ruled the kingdoms of Sardinia,Sicily, and Naples in Italy; a vast colonial empire in the Americas; and was Countess of Burgundy and the consort of the Burgundian Netherlands, thus initiating Spanish interests there. She was the last monarch of the House of Trastámara and her marriage to Philip the Handsome initiated the rule of the Habsburgs in Spain. Throughout most of her long reign she was under the regency of either her husband, father or son, and she was long confined to a nunnery under the pretense of mental illness.

Beautiful and young Juana is married off by her parents to prince Philip in what is clearly explained by her mother as a political marriage. Juana falls in love with Philip, madly. They have children and her love for Philip is only growing, so is her sexual passion for Philip. But on a bad day when the news of her mother's death arrives, she also finds out that Philip is unfaithful to her. She is shocked and behaves unlikely of a queen, more like an ordinary woman crying and screaming. From here spreads a talk that she is mad. Normally, Juana is the new Queen of her parents kingdom. Out of her passionate love for Philip, Juana is more interested in the other life of Philip than her kingdom. In fact she behaves less like a queen and more like an ordinary loving wife who cannot bear the fact that her husband is a cheat. At the same time there are men behind Philip who like to make use of this madness of Juana and declare her mad and unfit to be a queen, so that Philip will reign as the King of Castille, the monarch. There are some noble men who think Juana is not mad and they try to help her, in an attempt to stop Philip crowned as the sole monarch, but Juana is more interested in finding out who amongst her ladies is the mistress of her husband. She is declared a mad queen and has to live the rest of her life in a Castle in seclusion, with permission to visit the tomb of her beloved husband.  

Let me say this is a unique love story. We read, hear and saw stories and many movies about royal love, but for the first time I can see a queen who is really in love. When did we see a queen worried about the King chasing women, I cant remember any. Queens always behaved as if Kings can have many women.

Juana is from royal blood and she knows very well how to behave, but out of love she doesn't care for royal pretentions and behaves ordinarily. 

I am watching Pinar Lopez de Ayala, who plays Juana, for the first time and I am so impressed. She is beautiful and she can act, she acts very well in fact. There is a scene where the noble men are trying to talk to her about all the political drama around her, but she is desperately checking the hand writing of her ladies to find who amongst them have written to her husband. She was brilliant here, of course through out the movie she is, but this scene stood out for me. 

This movie also have excellent photography, costumes and music. 

We have seen so many royal movies, with all the drama around the battles to kingdom and what not. But Juana la loca, for me, is very special. I would place Juana la loca even above other royal movies - The Other Obelyn girl, Young Victoria etc, where the story is around the queen. 

Friday, 11 February 2011

Novecento - 1900 Twentieth century

1976 by Bernardo Bertolucci

Olma and Alfredo are born on the same day at the beginning of 20th century, former as an illegal son of a peasant in an Estate owned by Alfredo's father. Despite being from two ends of the society, they become friends and this movie is the story about how their friendship is carried forward till their old ages in spite of all the different political scenarios which affect Italy during their life time. Alfredo of course is the bourgeois master through out and Olma the socialist peasant. As a teenager Olma leaves for military service and Alfredo assists and learns the trade with his father. His father has also appointed Attila as his Estate supervisor, who turns out to be a real nightmare for the peasants, a fascist watchdog. By then Olma is back from military service, end of world war I, Italy has turned out a real Fascist country.

Alfredo marries immediately after the death of his father and his wife very soon turns unhappy as Alfredo doesnt seem to act against Attila  and Regena who are despised by the peasants. Attila also have a relationship with Regena who always wanted to marry Alfredo. Together Attila and Regina make a dangerous sadistic couple. Olma's wife dies during the delivery and Alfredo's wife likes his daughter very much. Alfredo also has doubts about the relationship between his wife and Olma. The political scenario changes with the end of war in 1945 and Alfredo is captured by a teenager boy. Alfredo is bought before the peasants court headed by Olma. Olma is keen to save his friend and explains to the peasants that Alfredo the master is already dead and its only Alfredo the man who lives.

This is an epic movie, taking us through Italy in 1900 to 1970's. Beautiful cinematography, some good music and excellent performances complete this film. I have never seen Gerard Depardieux (Olma) in such a young role. He looks so beautiful and is quite a pair with Robert De Nero (Alfredo).

The first half of the movie, I must say is quite slow. However this is made up by the second half which is so well shot. There are so many beautiful moments in this movie and you cant help applaud Bertolucci for that.

The movie is quite long (almost 5 hrs) and I am not sure if I have seen the full version as there are many versions available for this movie.

There was this other Italian epic - Le Meglio Gioventu - which is actually even longer and which I have seen three times. Once I saw it, 6 hours long movie, in a single stretch. I dont think I could do that with Novecento though. 

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Novecento - still watching

Watching Novecento by Bernardo Bertolucci

The total length is about 300 minutes only finished the first part. 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Black Cat White Cat

1998 by Emir Kusturica

A small time smuggler seeks the help of an established one for a heist. He gets cheated by the established, without even knowing he is cheated, and ends up owing a lot of money. The only way out is to agree for his son to marry the sister of the established one. The son is in love with another girl and the sister is dreaming about an ideal love marriage though. There are also two old time smugglers, one of whom happens to be the father of the small time smuggler.

The latter half of the movie is all about the marriage. It is a very different comedy which has so many hilarious moments. In fact there are only a few moments where I was not smiling at all. It is the performance of the actors, which takes this movie to another level. There are few things that are difficult to understand, obviously because of the cultural differences.

This movie is not at all like Underground or When father is away on business, which are my Kusturica favourites. Black Cat White Cat is still a great comedy which has Kusturica stamp on it. 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


1997 by Katja von Garnier

Four women make a music band in the prison. They get an opportunity to perform in a public gathering, but they use this chance to escape and are on the run. They manage to keep the police at bay, but at the same time they also manage to make money by publishing their songs. The Bandits are quite popular now, but still eloping and they have problems too, within them.

This movie is different from run of the mill escape movies as all the four wanted culprits are women. And how many times have we felt bad watching popular actors, though good at acting, playing musical instruments so badly, in movies. Here all these four women are themselves musicians and they have written the music too for the film.

An interesting film, with good performances from all actors. 

Monday, 7 February 2011

Khaddama - house maid

2011 by Kamal

There are thousands of women in the Middle east who work as housemaids. They work hard, bearing all the tortures from their owners, only because they have a family to feed back at home. A widowed woman from Kerala arrives into a family in Saudi Arabia as a maid and she tries to escape, unable to bear all the mental and physical torture. Movie is all about how she finally make it out and also about some human beings who plays part roles in her escape.

This could have been a heart touching movie, but falls far short of it. It is not a bad movie either. For many reasons I thought it is only just a watchable movie, with a difference, considering the present state of Malayalam movies. It could have been an incredibly touching movie. The script doesnt offer much challenges to its lead actress to bring out a life time role. But some of the male roles, though short, do get few moments to excell. Casting goes wrong, especially for the two major roles. Kamal should have taken a cue from Tamil cinema and casted out of the box acters for such a movie, which is taken from the life of ordinary people.

May be its because I always thought about Kamal's Perumazhakkaalam as one of the best Malayalam movies of modern times, I am not able to accept anything sub standard from him.  

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Arjunan Saakshi

2011 by Ranjith Shankar

About an affluent Malayaalee who decides and set out to find the truth behind the muder of a good Bureaucrat. Supposed to be a thriller. Ranjith Shankar gave lot of promise with his debut movie, Passenger. But he has taken many steps backwards with this movie. Nothing much to say.

Saturday, 5 February 2011


2010 , by Ravi Jadhav

Guna a poor villager, loves theatre. When he and his friends lose their job their only option is to start a theatre of their own, to finally live doing their passion. Guna is a strong man, a body builder who is called a King, by his friends. He dreams about his royal role in his own drama, but realises that it is important to have a panzy character (an effeminate/ eunuch) which can draw more crowds for the show. After a lot of hesitation, he accepts the challenge. His theatre is a success, but he is treated as a Eunuch by everybody and his family and social life is affected. He gains recognition with his passion, but he lost a lot too.

For an Indian movie, this is a unique theme. And debutant director Ravi Jadhav has created an excellent script based on a novel and Natrang has turned out as an exceptional movie. Just thought director could have made it even better, but still. Some of the scenes where Guna is trained to be an Eunuch and the shot where he first walks, from the right side of the frame, like an Eunuch are all so beautiful.

Ever since I saw Chandni Bar, I have considered Atul Kulkarni as one of the best actors in India. He has got a life time roll here and he has excelled in it. His change from a strong body builder to a lean Eunuch is incredible, so are his varied emotions. This kind of transformation, like that of Robert De Nero in Raging Bull, is very new to Indian cinema. It is unpardonable that he was not credited with the National award.

This is an excellent Indian cinema from India.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Cache - Hidden

2005 by Michael Haneke

A brilliant film about a family being haunted by video tapes (send to them), which are simply surveillance tapes of their own life, and weird drawings.  Interestingly, it leaves the question open - who did that - for us to decide.This is a cent percent directors movie.

Juliet Binoche, ever since I saw her Chocolate is a favourite actress of mine, effortlessly plays the house wife Anne. Daniel Auteuil is his quite self, like in Le Placard. I wonder if he has ever played any different kind of roles. 

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Harishchandrachi Factory

2009 by Paresh Mokashi

Story about how Dada Saheb Phalke made India's first cinema, Raja Harishchandra in 1913. The Adventure filled story about how a man (with a wife and 2 kids) , who has just lost his printing business come across motion picture, falls in love with it and sets out to make the first motion picture in India. Enroute, he is even taken to a mental hospital by his friends, on the day of outdoor shoot police arrest the whole crew and what not. But all this is told in simple and funny way, projecting the innocence of the man through out. His two boys and wife especially, is more than a support. I just wish the movie was rather named Phalke family or something like that. Actually I felt proud about this simple movie. Such a pity regional Indian movies are all terribly sidelined by Bollywood.

It is the cinematography which took me by surprise. Often in Indian movies we dont get to see such beautiful, but subtle work. The lighting is so soft and helps the mood of the film in big way. An off beat movie like this can produce such excellent camera work, is very surprising for me. Even most of the commercial movies who play with huge money haven't tried this kind of lighting.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Winter's Bone

2010 by Debra Granik

A 17 year old girl has to take care of her 2 younger siblings and a sick mother. Her father, was part of the local drug mafia, disappeared on Parole and has to show up in court, failing which she will lose her home too. Movie is about her search for her father putting herself in danger. Pace is slow, but one cant help feeling the pain and anger of this girl, which is why I think it is worth a good watch.

This movie is all about good performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence. She could give us more.
An off beat movie from Hollywood. 

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Der Tunnel - The Tunnel

2001 by Roland Suso Richter

Based on a true story of the escape of 29 people from East to West Germany, immediately after the Berlin Wall came in, this is a good watch. It is so well directed and nicely photographed.