Tuesday, 31 May 2011

El Hijo de la Novia - Son of the Bride

2001 by Juan Jose Campanella

I have been searching for this movie for long time, ever since I read Luca's book on Messi, in which it mentions this was the favourite movie of Leo. And just like the cherry on top of ice cream, after the Champion league victory, a friend send me the links.  I thought it would be a simple comedy, but it ended up as a beautiful movie, of a family.

Rafael is a busy restaurateur who forgot about life. As a result, he has earned a divorce with rights to have his girl child, once in a week. His mother, Norma, is suffering from Alzheimers and under pressure from his father Nino, he meets her after a long time. Nino and Norma had a legal marriage, against the wishes of Norma, as Nino was against religion. At this old age, Nino wants to give a present to Norma, by getting married in a church as per her wish. A religious marriage after 44 years. 

We assume Rafael and his mid life struggles are definitely going to be the centre point of the movie as it starts. Slowly he has a change of mind, after a heart stroke, towards his priorities, and wants to help his father with the marriage in the church. I was more than moved by the 44 year old love for a man to a woman. And this love is been told in the most beautiful and touching way. Believe me, there are so many moments in the script, which could have been made too much emotional and melo dramatic. But Campanella has told all those moments in a very subtle way and makes it very simple and non dramatic. But still it will reach the deep corners of our heart. I had tears at least twice during the scenes towards the end.

Yes, this is a touching love story of an old man. It is also a wonderful movie about a family. And even if not intended, it also is a movie about how to love anybody suffering from Alzheimers.

I wish Blessy had seen this movie before making his Thanmatra, which was over melo dramatic.

This is a perfect feel good film with family values and love taking centre stage. I can see why Leo Messi, a family boy, adores this movie.

This is going to be in my must watch list, if anybody asks me.

There is a scene when Rafael's girl friend accuses him that he is no Einstein, Bill Gates or Dick Watson and just like Rafael, we too are puzzled by this Mr. Watson, who the hell is he? during the end credits, a small scene shows us that Dick Watson is a porn star. That was really excellent. 

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Beautiful, Brilliant, Biwitching - Barcelona

Barca 2008 - 11 by Pep Gaurdiola

For a true lover of football, Barcelona does a performance on the field. After watching the 2011 Champions league finals about 4 times already, I couldnt help writing a few lines about my beloved Barca here.

All my nervousness from the last two days cooled down from the 11th minute onwards when Barca started its own tiki taka and made to look the EPL champions like school boys. What a performance it was, only second to the 5-0 master class we gave to Real Madrid at Nou Camp on the 29 of November 2010, in the first el classico of this season.

Like millions of cules across the world, I feel the most luckiest to have watched this Barca side, ever since Pep Guardiola took charge. From 2008 till May 28  2011, Barca have shown the world how the beautiful game is to be played. More than anything they have showd what a team ought to be, with the kind of spirit they hold amongst their utterly humble and on the earth super stars.

And Mes que un club slogan was more than appropriate when Eric Abidal, the man who went through a life threatening surgery, just a few weeks before, lifted the cup at Wembley.

I am more happy that finally the bloody, hypocritic and mean British media, even, have acknowledged that this Barca is purity at its best lead by an amazing trio of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta.

Look at these passing stats.

Some more reviews, from British, are here.
Review by Jonathan Wilson 

from The Telegraph

Tactical review from Zonal Marking

Saturday, 28 May 2011

How do you Know

2010 by James L Brooks

Still nervous about the Barca match. In Rome '09 nobody thought Barca was any match for Manchester united, especially the UK media and hence, most cules like me was not really that worried about that match.  Since, even UK media think this Barca side as something special, a once in a generation kind of team, all seems to just wonder how the hell can M United stop Barca. This favourite tag on Barca, I think, is not good and is making me really madly nervous. So I decided to watch one more movie after Due Date, especially since Due Date didnt offer any kind of healing.

One woman, two men and a couple of characters around. The same plot which have given lots and lots of romantic comedies, some times brilliant ones. 

I picked up this movie, because of Jack Nicholson. I am nearly a fan of this wonderful actor. Also to see Owen Wilson, with him was quite nice. So didnt hesitate at all to pick this up.  But oh my dear... but. Even Mr. Nicholson makes this kind of mistakes. Well, his role as a businessman, who does some dirty things and indicts his son instead, is a different character. But not for this kind of movie. I felt really sorry for Mr. Nicholson to have chosen this movie. What  a waste of talent. He does give glimpses of his brilliance, especially in the very first scene, but there is nothing for him in this movie.

And compared to this movie, Due Date is a better watch, at least. What a waste of time.

I really dont understand what happened to Reese Witherspoon. Where is her charm and where is that energy. Very disappointing.

Avoidable, cent percent. 

Due Date

2010 by Todd Philips

I have really got into the mood of the Champions league final match between Barca and Manchester United and hence have been really nervous, since yesterday and as I type this now, I think I can hear by heart beats.
So decided to see something really entertaining.

Peter and Ethan meets in the airport and finally ends up on the no-fly list. Peter has to reach Los Angeles immediately as his wife is expecting delivery. Two guys with contrasting attitudes to life and everything travels together. 

Quite ordinary plot, dont know how many times this has been repeated now, from Hollywood, filled with all the typical cliches. I am afraid this is not even average.

Watch this movie only for Zach. Even if its the same kind of routine character, he is still funny.

Friday, 27 May 2011


2009 by Guiseppe Tornatore

Even the very best directors, sometimes can faulter. When I am on my movie search, more than anything, I am  lead to movies through the director. I came across Baaria, as a Tornatore movie, the man who gave the beautiful Nouvo Cinema Paradiso and the wonderful Malena. Baaria, doesnt really have that heart touching free flowing stamp of Tornatore.

The movie is set in the Sicilian town of Baaria and extends from 1920's to the 80's, giving the life story of three generations from Cicco to Peppino to Pietro. It also touches the varying political scenario of Italy during this period. 

I was little disappointed. May be it was just me. For some reason, the movie lacks the usual heart that we get to see in Tornatore's cinema. It is not a bad cinema at all. It just fails to reach the levels of his other works.

I am not sure about this, but may be Tornatore wanted to make an epic movie like 1900 or Le Meglio Gioventu. But sadly, Baaria is not anywhere near those movies. In spite of lot of opportunities, there is a not a single moment in Baaria, which can match the emotional scale of Le Meglio....

The only factors which were brilliant were the cinematography and the editing.

But let me say this, during this movie there is a particular scene and I immediately thought, may be the Malayalam director Ranjith watched this movie, before making his Paleri Manikkyam. May be not. One shot was strikingly similar in its setting. May be its just a coincidence. Two artists thinking alike.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


1993 by Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh must have done something in his life to understand human behaviour so well. How he creates, prepares and depicts his characters, I am afraid, is beyond any imagination for most directors or artists. It is unbelievable how he creates his strange plots, looking strange and unique but these sort of things are happening around, and brings life into it with extra ordinary characters. Naked, is yet another example of this amazing anthropologist director. I dont know if Mr. Leigh had anything to do with Anthropology, but for me he has studied human beings better than anybody I know.

Johnny flees from Manchester to London, to avoid getting beaten by the husband of a lady when his sex with her turns out to rape. He arrives in the shared flat of his girl friend, Louise, shared with Sophie and Sandra. Sandra is out on a trip to Zimbabwe, which means there is space in the flat. Its Johnny's tryst with Sophie, Sandra and couple of other London characters, what make out this brilliant movie. 

Johnny is bloody intelligent actually, but like many Leigh characters, he speaks out loud against many problems of this world and its existentialism and cliches. And he does this in the most brutal and unsophisticated manner, ruthless, brutal, sadistic and cruelly sarcastic. At the same time, he needs only few seconds to charm anybody, man or woman, and to seduce them. But then its his after conduct that brings out his ruthlessness and kind of dictatorial nature.

To be frank, this is an unbelievable movie. It is no action, no comedy or drama or anything like that. But just through one character, which is unpretentious and ruthless, it portrays a different side of human nature. May be that is why it is named as Naked, as human mind is left open without any pretensions here.

We get to see a different side of Johnny through all the characters he come across, all of them unique in their own ways, may it be Louise, Sophie, the security man, the young couple on street, the young waitress who throws him out of her apartment, the aged woman across the building or finally Sandra the nurse coming back from Zimbabwe. I wish, I could recollect and write down some of the dialogues of Johnny that anybody reading this, who have already not watched this movie, will understand what I am trying to say. It is a pity I cant write. I could write and write and write about this for long. Brilliant.

Truly out of the world performances by everybody, typical of Leigh movies, especially David Thewlis as Johnny. How can a man with blood and flesh understand this kind of a character and live as that person on celluloid. Unbelievable. I am told, Mr. Spielberg was so amused that he requested for a meeting with Mr. Thewlis. Speilberg, Martin Scorcese and Brian de Palma had spend a whole night arguing on this character before.

And what to say about Leigh, nothing more than what I have already. This man is a genius. It is towards the end that he really surprise us. The final 20 minutes or so turns out literally to be a laugh riot actually, even if it is not what might have been intended. Especially since the arrival of Sandra, the movie takes a very different turn for the viewer with lots of laughs. All credit to this genius director.

I dont have anything more to say actually, my salutes to Mr. Leigh and his team.  This is the best of raw cinema. Most uncompromising effort on celluloid, to my experience.

There is a way of saying in Malayalam - I live in Kochi - and I can tell to my friend, if I need to get beaten, I can get it done in Kochi, why go all the way up to Mumbai to get beaten.. In someways, this is how it works for the major character in Naked. 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


2003 by Park Chan wook

I think I have seen all Kim Ki Duk movies and I never understood why his movies are not that popular in Korea. In fact even most Koreans are not really appreciative of this wonderful director. I still dont know the reason and am not sure why I even thought about Kim Ki Duk now. But I must say that Korean movies, from all what I have seen in the last 4 years, are excellent. Even some of the pure entertainment ones were excellent. Watching Old boy, I was thinking how lucky Koreans are.

Oh Dae-Su gets drunk on the birthday of his daughter and before he can reach her, is kidnapped. He is locked in a  room and actually spends about 15 years there. When he is released he wants revenge and soon finds his kidnapper who reveals to him that Dae-Su has been hypnotised for selective memory and he will have to find out the reason behind his 15 years solitary confinement. Dae-Su, with Mi-do, a young chef he met in a restaurant, sets on this search for his past. He realises that the 15 years itself was a revenge on him, for a silly sin, and its not over. The worst part of this revenge is for him to experience, yet.

This movie is based on a novel, but if we can call some movie scripts as intelligent, then here is one for those list, which I would say is brilliantly intelligent. What a plot! Absolutely stunning. In the beginning, when he is in his jail, I was struggling to think about another movie on a similar kind of jail - still dont remember the name and if it was from US or Europe - but the similarity ends there. Oldboy actually starts only when Dae-Su is out of the jail. His quest for the past is excellent and so is his relationship with Mi-do and how he wants to take on his kidnapper Woo-jin. And as the past is out there, obviously not just Dae-Su, but even the viewers might think, is it all for this.  Really? That just looks like a very silly sin. But once the final revenge on Dae -Su, the main secret, is revealed, the transformation on Dae-Su is stunning. He falls and pleads on the legs of Woo-jin like a dog and even cuts off his own tounge. The most amazing aspect is that we keep wondering, but isnt this a bit too much of a revenge. However, at the end there is this really touching scene between Woo-jin and Soo-ah and that scene was really heart broking. If one has ever fallen in love, it is hard to bear that scene and I must say I really felt sad.

It is also noteworthy that Hypnotism plays a major part in this movie, it occupies only a few seconds on screen though. The final scene, were Dae-su finds his original hypnotist and wants to be hypnotised again, is quite nice. The movie is left open for interpretations, like modern French classics, and I liked it. It is for sure that Mi-do is still not aware about the secret, but the final hypnotised Dae-su, what exactly is he carrying in his mind, is open to the viewer to interpret.

There are still some ethical questions here but I would like to ignore all that and all those probability questions and just admire and appreciate this movie. Cent percent, this is an intelligent and beautiful movie. Intelligent for its script and direction, beautiful for its technical sides and performances.

I feel proud about this movie as an Asian. My salutes to the writer and director.

Just wanted to note down something which is repeated in this movie - When you laugh the whole world laughs with you, when you cry you cry alone. Truly loved it.

This is a kind of genius of cruelty. Brilliant movie. It is nice that Hollywood haven't remade this yet.
Please don't. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Happy go Lucky

2008 by Mike Leigh

Imagine an award committee requesting for the written script of a movie, which they consider as probable winner and the director watching the movie again to write a script. This should happen often with Mike Leigh, who just explains the plot and the scene to his actors, who have to improvise it with many rehearsals and even further on the shoot. That is a terrific, but brilliant way of film making. I have heard that Priyadarshan is able to shot adverts without even a story board. But will he be able to do a whole film? I doubt it,especially if that movie has to be comparable with the ones of Mr. Leigh, impossible. This man is incredible. He picks so out of the ordinary themes and brings out the real human reactions on those themes. Mostly his themes are so not that easy ones, like in Secrets and Lies and Another Year. In Happy go lucky, he has chosen a simpler topic, more light hearted one and have still given us another out of this world kind of light hearted movie.

Poppy is 30, single, lives with her best friend and is working in a primary school as teacher. What makes her special is her attitude to life and everything around her. She is so pleasing, looking at everything and everybody in a nice and good way, that she doesnt mind her to look stupid even, to give a nice feeling to the other. The movie is all done with some of her interactions with her friends, her sister and family, her cynical driving teacher and a new boy friend.

Well thats it. There is nothing more happening in the movie. But, what we are in is actually a treat. A wonderful character, Poppy, takes us through some really touching moments and through other characters. From her close friend, Zoe, to her Flemenco teacher to her student to her sister and partner to the cynical driving instructor Scott and a gentle boy friend. All this characters are very different from Poppy and actually almost quite opposite to what Poppy represents. But with the interaction of Poppy, we actually understands how more nice it would be if all could react with the easiness of Poppy. This is no better explained than through the scenes at her Sisters home and also the ones with her driving instructor Scott. Scott actually can create a lot of hatred, but towards the end, we could really feel for the man. And yes, even Poppy feel sorry for him at that stage. That scene, the confrontation between Poppy and Scott is a master piece I would say.

Sally Hawkins plays Poppy brilliantly. An out of this world character actually and played with unimaginable perfection. The only comparison, to my knowledge, for this kind of character is Amelie played by Audrey Tautou in the Le Fabuleux destin d'Amelie Poulain. But Amelie is a completely different movie. I would consider Sally's performance even better for the very simple and primary reason for not working on a basic script. For eg, that scenes of driving lessons, when she comments about the happenings around, which are spontaneous are really wonderful. The single scene which made me think she should get an award was the beginning of her Flemenco class.The shot of her popping sidewards for keeping away her sunglass was brilliant and more than funny.

Definitely, this is light hearted, but there is of course an underlining of sadness, not just on the character of Poppy, but on Zoe, the husband of her sister and of course Scott. I was still thinking about all these people, long after the movie finished.

Here is a unique director with a distinct style that can be picked up from even a thousand works. 

Monday, 23 May 2011

Capitalism A Love Story

2009 by Michael Moore

Yet another wonderful documentary from Mr. Moore.

This time he takes on Capitalism - the system that is the heart of America, by its own horns. He starts off from the deregulation prompted by the reign of Ronald Regan to that of Obama, how it has all benefitted only the rich. It has funny moments, sad moments, shocking moments and even moments of hope.

I really wonder how Americans, especially the ones who normally simply swallow all their media propaganda, found this docu. The most unexpected info for me was the comments by some priests against Capitalism. That was a surprise. I was shocked about the companies insurance scheme for the employees, benefiting themselves and the judge who sentenced every child to a private shelter home and to be frank almost everything actually.

And how peaceful life is Mr. Moore having, in America? I really would like to know that.

Whatever, this man is brilliant and he deserves an universal award. 

Yudham Sei

We see a lot of movies on serial killers and police investigations, from India and abroad. But in India, we have had only very few movies on serial killers. One reason could be that, we have never had that many serial killers here in reality. Anyways, most of the time, the Indian versions end up disappointing in some ways, at least to the end.There are few exceptions of course. Yudham Sei starts as an investigation on serial killings, but it really surprised me. This is one movie, which ought to be seen by International audience and truly deserves international recognition. I, for one, always have felt that the best of Indian movies are never promoted outside India.

A CB - CID officer, J Krishnamoorthy - J.K, is worried about his own sister who is missing for 3 months. Male body parts are left in card board cartons in different parts of Chennai city, in public places, and  J.K has to lead this investigation. A doctor's family had committed suicide some time earlier. Their daughter was raped and had hanged herselves first. J.K arrives into the truth slowly and at the end is even suspended from duty for letting one of the culprits to escape.

I really do not want to say much on the story. Serial killings are almost unreal for us. So for that aspect, it is quite a fantasy plot. However, this is coupled with abuse of women, which is terribly common now in India, and what results is a kind of surrealistic plot, if I can use that word. Purists might not like me using that term here, but I think the overall concept is something like that. But what makes this movie special is that a movie starting out on the look out for serial killer ends up like a thriller of a revenge drama. This is the first time I have ended up watching a movie on serial killing, with appreciation for the so called serial killers. Its not just appreciation, towards the climax, I bet, anybody with respect for womanhood would rather want the killers to finish their job. That is an incredible plus, I would say.

Yudham Sei has a brilliant script with certain shots, which shows killers doing what they do, placed cleverly between the investigative process of J.K and his team. And never, for the first time I would say in Indian movies, does J.K and his team does the routine cinematic investigation. There is only one time where J.K explains something about what he has found so far, to a superior, in the whole movie. And that happens quite earlier. We understand everything about the story directly from what is happening on the screen, not by occassional speeches by the police officer. It is a very cleverly put down script.

And there is actually only two action scenes in this movie, which too is quite surprising. The first in which J.K, wonderfully played by Cheran, takes on a few goons in a railway over bridge, is may be the best realistic action scene in Indian movies, one that could stay put with the Aadukalam fights, simple but clever.

And Myshkin has realised his script very well. Until the motive unfolds, he manages to keep a sense of the fear for unknown and there after he still manages to keep the thrills intact. Of course, Myshkin is no Hitchkock, and there are few blips, but I am more than glad to ignore them. When have I thought about a young director who have consistently kept his graph scaling up. He made a good entertainer in his first and an off the beat entertainer in his second, which was definitely 2/3 steps ahead and with this thriller he has placed himself even higher. He could have really not used that song actually, but it is almost like a Myshkin hall mark now, a beautiful lady in an yellow sari dancing with some men. And his use of famous directors for many characters, including the one of J.K, is a very clever idea. They are quite good and refreshing too. Especially using Cheran for the role of J.K was a master stroke. A simple guy as an investigator. That happens only once in a blue moon in Indian cinema. I am going to expect much more from this director.

Cinematography by Sathya, has been brilliant, except for a few scenes where the camera was too much present with its movements. And his low light scenes, there were lots and lots of them, were brilliant. After Aadukalam, yet another brilliant attempt behind the camera.

I sincerely want to salute the whole team behind this movie. The best after Aadukalam. And a special mention to that wonderful actor Lakshmi, who dared to shave off her head for this once in a life kind of character. 

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Another Year

2010 by Mike Leigh

After watching any movie, I would rarely find that the casting was allright. I would say at least a few characters could have been better with some other artists or some negative thoughts like that. For the first time, I think, I watch a film and feel the casting is 110% perfect and all the more the performances are 200%, more than perfect, actually its unbelievable. I had seen Secrets & Lies by Mr. Leigh and was impressed. But to be frank, it didnt impress me as much to just go and find more movies from him. I watch Another Year, his latest movie and I have to say, I am impressed, no am bloody impressed, that I am going to watch all his other movies.  To make beautiful movies on human life without any script is an unbelievable art.

Tom and Gerri is an old, working couple. They have more than a content life and does not have any real issues at this point of life. Some of their friends and family including their son, Joe, visits them and the conversations are mostly about the difficulties of the visitor.

In one sentence Another Year is a beautiful movie about ageing and loneliness. Fun at times and sad at times.

The movie is told through four seasons in the life of Tom and Gerri and the different characters who need them or the characters through whom they pass their time at home. There are Mary, working together with Gerri, Ken an old friend, Ronnie who is the elder brother of Tom who just lost his wife. All these three characters are quite uncertain about their future, getting old and being alone. T&G seems to be their only solace as they patiently listen to all their grievances and show some compassion, which is lacking elsewhere. At the same time, at least in the beginning we do feel that T&G also needs somebody around in their bohring life, just to talk to or listen to. As their son is not with them and they are also feeling a kind of loneliness, even if they are a happy couple. However, they look more than pleased when Joe, their son, finds a girl friend who seems to enjoy  their company.

What is very appreciative about the movie is, even if the whole movie is centered around T&G, it is nearly a story about the life of this hapless woman Mary. Mary who is divorced and cant find any new friend, at one point is seen almost seducing (not really but) Joe. She is so narrow minded (she knows Joe as a child) to think that since Joe is into his 30's and is not having a girl friend, he must be finding it difficult and might like her. Well, she is terribly shocked, when Joe brings his girl friend to the home. Mary is a perfect example of an almost attractive woman, who has to remain single after 40's, starved of love and sex, who can never be really independant, and turning really mean and selfish. She has two sides, one of an adolescent where she is almost innocent and the other of a really selfish and mean woman. Since I knew somebody like this, I was actually very surprised by the portraiture of Mary in this movie. Unbelievable.

And the best feature about this movie is, it could have been easily made into a drama, but it still appeals to us as a movie. It is full of dialogues between all this characters, who are all normal working class people. Everything comes out through the chats between the characters, but it is like cent percent natural talks. Not a single moment does it turns dramatic or even cinematic. Well, the reason is Mr. Leigh is famous for never using a script. He just gives some outlines to characters and the rest is upto them. The advantages are there to see. As I said, each and every dialogue and expression is natural, bloody natural. It offers some brilliant laughs in a minute and in the very next moment make us feel really sad.  It is like a camera is placed in the living room in a family and the movie exactly is like taking out few pages from the lives of few English men and women.

All these characters, Tom, Gerri, Mary, Ken, Ronnie, Jo and his girl friend Katie, they all were shot from their real lives, or I would say, performances are 200%. Not a single frame is there to point to and say  - see you could have bettered it. And what happens is that all this people really grow into us, even Katie who is there only for a couple of scenes has done wonderfully well. But the real star is Leslie Manville who does Mary. Amazing performance. Each and every shot of her's was brilliant.

Anybody who is single should definitely find a partner. Thats what this movie will teach you. You may find it allright to be alone at your 30's or 40's, may be. But after, there could be a time when being alone could be the worst thing to happen to a human being.

Friday, 20 May 2011


2009 by Yann Arthus - Bertrand

I have always been worried about poverty and the destruction of nature in the name of development. But to be very frank, I dont know what I ever did from my part. Nothing actually, other than forwarding some emails or posting some news on my Google Buzz about matters touching on poverty and nature issues. 99%, I am sure, those posts have not even set started a meaningful discussion. My wife would tell me, it is no use my husband, no body cares. And it is true that there were only a couple of occassions, in all my history of acquaintance with Internet since 1997/98, when some people ever responded with meaningful comments or discussions on the topics of poverty or nature. I just posted a buzz with links to the documentary HOME, and for the first time truly, sincerely I wish, please my friends, take this seriously, watch it and also make your friends and family watch it. Home is such an incredibly moving experience that each and every human being in Earth should watch it.

Home talks about life, how everything in nature is connected, countries have borders but not for nature, and how human beings who are only a later species in the process of life have endangered the very existence of our mother Earth through our own actions. All in the name of material welfare.

Home is a gripping documentary. At first we are amazed by the beautiful camera work, completely aerial shots, only once - when it captures the tallest structure in Earth in Dubai - will it have an eye level shot, which captures images from all across the world. However slowly we are shocked by the information we are told by the narrator even while watching wonderful frames.

There is no limit to the applause and respects Mr. Bertrand and his team should receive for this wonderful movie.

I simply wish, this movie is shown in each and every schools, colleges, offices, villages, towns, police station everywhere in India. I am surprised nobody spoke about this documentary yet, until my friend, Father. Jijo suggested it. I think he saw it in Italy, not in India.  Thank you Father. 

Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok Joint Security Area

2000  by Park Chan-wook

India shares some volatile borders with Pakistan, Bangladesh and China. But never, our film makers made a movie on our borders, about those, the soldiers, facing off on both sides, other than some ordinary war movies. I am surprised I didnt realise this fact at all, until I saw this brilliant Korean movie, JSA. In fact, other than movies like No Man's Land, which is quite similar and different at the same time, as far as I know, there are really only a few movies on this subject, even from around the world.

When I read two lines about this movie, it felt more like Few Good Men, and could have been an adaptation, but for some reason I thought I should see this. And what an experience it has been. This is an incredible movie, much superior to Few Good Men, about soldiers from two enemy nations, once a single nation, also pointing out to the futility of war and its politics.

In the Korean border line, a shoot out occured on the North Korean post, killing 2 North Koren soldiers and injuring one. The South Korean soldier who did this runs across to his side with a bullet on his leg. The situation could turn really bad and to prevent a possible break up between the two nations, a commission of Neutral Nations orders an enquiry. A swiss officer, Sophie a law officer, arrives and investigates the case. She finds the reports from both sides completely contradictory. Slowly she manages to talk to the two soldiers, the South Korean accused and the wounded North Korean witness, and what unfolds is a brilliant story. A moving story of friendship, which was quite simple but with a violent and sad ending.

The movie starts in a bit mediocre way with the arrival of Sophie and her first attempts to talk to the soldiers. However, as the main content falls in, this movie raise itself to the level of a master piece. The different versions of the two soldiers, and the real happenings unfolds in pieces and in flashbacks and reminiscences  but its brilliantly scripted and directed. The scenes towards climax is just brilliant. So are many scenes which happens on the border. Scenes in which soldiers from both sides interact without any dialogues like the patrolling in the snow etc are so wonderful. It is the growing friendship of the 4 soldiers and the after effects, which is the heart of the plot and those are all shot brilliantly, I must repeat, its incredibly brilliant.

The final ending of the movie alone deserves some awards. In the first half there is a scene, few visitors, tourists may be, walking in the border from the S.K side and one of their's cap flies off to the other side. A N. Korean soldier picks it up and hand it over to his S.K counterpart. A tourist seems to take photographs of the scene. One of these photograph is shown at the very end and the camera pans through the various faces in the frame and this is incredible. It would make us feel sad and at the very same moment say 'Wow, thats brilliant'. I would say that is the real height of brilliant imagination. If I was to chose the most brilliant and touching last shot in any movies I have watched, I would pick this. Of course, JSA is not just about this last shot, but this single shot can vouch for the brilliance of the whole movie.

It is also notable that this movie does not try to point either of the Korean sides in a negative way. May be that could be the reason why it did not win a prominent award from the west, who have a favourite in the region and the plot is against their basic propaganda.

Thursday, 19 May 2011


2011 by Radha Mohan

I cannot remember the last time I saw an Indian movie about a hijack or even a kidnap, let alone a Plane hijack, or any such thrilling themes and ended up saying oh its ok, not bad. Movies on such themes, in India, irrespective of the language or region it is from, always ends up disappointing. There were a couple of decent ones in the 80's. And in the recent past, Mission 90 days by Major Ravi told the real story of the hunt for the accused behind late prime minister Rajeev Gandhi. But this well told movie was a big failure in the box office, as it ended on a negative note, just how it occured in real life and the audience might have expected something different, strangely though. However, later movies by the same director were really horrible attempts and his last one, Khandahar, another one from a real hijack was termed horrible movie, even by ardent followers of the super star who lead that movie. Barring Mission 90 days, all such attempts had always tried to deviate from the main plot, adding typical spicy elements which would turn the movie into a disaster. It is not just the production values which leaves these kind of Indian movies a failure, but everything from script to direction to even romantic and sentimental songs and scenes. Payanam is excellent and will give us a good feeling that, ah we too can make these kind of movies.

A flight going from Chennai to Delhi is hijacked and has to land in the Thirupathi airport. The terrorists demands for the release of a major terrorist who was captured two years back and is now serving in a Kashmir jail. As always, Indian system cannot think about any commando operation, as elections are happening very soon and for typical obvious reasons, and agrees to release the terrorist. However, the terrorist gets killed in a road accident.

Payanam is much better than the best entertainment stuff till the above incident in the movie. The movie is excellent from thereon.

This movie, produced by Prakash Raj, is an excellent attempt and this duo is on a great pursuit of making wonderful movies, which can be placed along with those beautiful parallel movies of the 80's. I liked Mozhi, their first one and I liked Abhiyum Jnanum even more, the second attempt from this team. It is just incredible that they have taken  a completely different subject than from their first two movies and came out really successful. All credit for them to choose this subject and make an excellent movie out of it.

They have chosen some brilliant characters as passengers in the flight. And through this passengers they made sure that, the movie is never lagging in any pace. These characters ensure that inspite of all the tension, there is quite a lot of fun. That is simply brilliant, especially since there is a lot of sarcasm thrown out at every thing, from Govt. system to police to media to super stars and fans and even to IT professionals. And script is excellent for this factor alone. Wonderful dialogues too. And the way it treats the hijack and the rescue operation, after the accident of the terrorist, is excellent. In fact, there is very little action to talk about, or it is actually only some simple action, much less than what is expected of such movies, but it is told so nicely, just enough to keep the viewer on the edge of the seats until the final rescue, is a big success for the script and the director.

Payanam does have some minor faults here and there, but it is still a wonderful watch. And a lot of salutes to the script and the director to avoid any stupid songs and sentimental scenes.

Had this movie had some better production values, I am sure it would have been remade / dubbed into most Indian languages. For, it is the first time in India that we get to see a good movie on this kind of topic. 

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Le Pacte de Loups - Pact of the Wolves

2001 by Christophe Gans

18th Century France saw around 100 people being killed by a beast, infamous as the beast of Gevaudan. Witness accounts described the beast as a creature resembling a large wolf and modern day investigators think it could have been an Asian Hyena.

Christophe Gans have taken the beast and placed it amongst real life characters, making it into an excellent fantasy story, wherein, the beast, the villagers, the royal hypocrisy and genuine heroes co exist in a world of super natural beliefs. This indeed, has produced, may be, the best fantasy thriller. To know that most of the characters in this movie lived for real, make me appreciate this movie even better. Curious about the deaths, King sends his Knight to the region, to investigate. The Knight, followed by his native American friend, tries to understand the killings and what unfolds is a brilliant suspense thriller. I cannot remember any other fantasy movie filled with this kind of suspense and thrill.

The script is excellent and in fact it does give some pointers to the secret, which we will not notice at all. Once the truth is really close, only then would we realise, oh yes, they did hint on this. To find this kind of a cause for the puzzle behind the beast, itself deserves credit. The same is also true about certain characters like Mani, the American, who seems to be cent percent fictitious and Sylvia, the travelling Italian courtesan. Towards the end we realise that she seemed to be the only person who had some clue about what was happening, thanks to her contacts at the very popular local brothel. I also loved how the whole story was juxtaposed with the French revolution period. The narrator of the story, the only living person who knew the whole happenings, is writing out the truth for history, before he is taken for execution by the revolutionaries.

The director has done a brilliant job, ably supported by each and every department in his team. In fact, he has made sure that the CG and Animatronics use is kept to the minimum possible. It is still a piece of movie, unlike most Hollywood flicks in which 75% of the movie is CG. I must also specifically mention the editor here. Wonderful job.

The only one thing I really didnt like was the looks of the beast, which seems to be inspired by modern day fantasies, sadly.

Otherwise, this is a brilliant thriller, on the fantasy front. Or should I say fantasy mixed reality. I really wish, my fellow Indians, who always are so upbeat about average Hollywood fantasies, watch this movie. This is so much a thrilling experience.

This movie is titled in English as the Brotherhood of the Wolf.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Lion of the Desert

1981 by Moustapha Akkad

Libyans are fighting Italian colonialists for about 20 years. Mussolini, in 1929, appoints General Graziani as the Governor of Libya, in a last attempt to crush the 20 years long war. Libyans are all behind Omar Mukhtar, a 73 year old teacher and geurrilla, who has committed himself to this dream project of liberating Libya, almost sure it cannot be won in his time. Finally Mukhtar is captured, not before Graziani had to bring in most of Libya under a guarded concentration camp and having a barbed wire along the Libya- Egypt border, and hanged.

One of the best movies on guerrilla war and resistence. The movie, as it claims, is built on real life incidents and characters. It even shows some black and white shots of the original scenario in between which only adds to the authenticity of the movie. And at the end it also shows the BW photographs of the real Omar Mukhtar in chains.
I was really impressed by Mukhtar. Any 73 year old fighting for his birth land, with primitive guns, riding horses that too on the desert, is above most heroes. Brilliant.

Movie well brings out the patriotic factors and also the savagery of Colonialism. At the same time, there are also couple of Italian characters who are depicted as those valuing humanity and respecting Mukhtar. There are also some Libyans who supports the Colonialists.

It is a gripping movie on resistance and looks so authentic that it could be so close to a documentary. The war scenes were really authentic, not looked choreographed at all. Anthony Quinn steals the show as Mukhtar. What an amazing actor he is.

This movie was a huge box office disaster, may be because it was funded by Libyan autocract, Gaddafi. But then, when have the west and the powerful nations, including my own India, ever accepted any criticism with dignity.

Nearly, a century later, these kind of occupations still happens in the world is such a pity. I am sure news media, then was more independent and non corporatist. 100 years after, if stories of present occupations and freedom fights are scripted, how much truth would be available for those attempts? 

Monday, 16 May 2011

Inside Job

2010 by Charles Ferguson

A documentary on the 2008 Recession.

It is heartening to see, very rarely though, these kind of attempts from America. I havent seen many documentaries. But this is definitely the most brilliant and shocking docu after Fahrenheit 9/11.

It brings out the deregulation in the Financial industry, brought out after lot of campaigning and lobbying, how that helped the top players in the industry, and how the industry was warned by a few, and how they kept on with their vested plans and when the recession finally did happen, how they further managed to earn huge bail outs from the Government, which simply increased the wallet size of the top executives. It also goes into how this industry has penetrated into the Academic tables and the State and inspite of all promises to make change, how some of the same players who could be called responsible, are still playing active roles in the industry.

Even if it is a documentary, it is told in way as to how a story unfolds and its really impressive and shocking. All credit to the director to make it this way. Brilliant. I would say, this movie is the best 'fast food' for any lay man - on financial affairs, like me - to understand recession.

At the same time, it is quite disappointing that it does not give us any hope at all. Those who  should have learnt some lessons, have ignored those lessons. The world and its system is tuned for the rich and it will continue so, come what may, recession or Tsunami's.

The narration by Matt Damon is excellent. It is gratifying that somebody from the higher end of life's spectrum agreed to do this. 

Engeyum Kaadhal

2011 by Prabhu Deva

Kamal, a young rich guy, is enjoying his holiday in Paris. He doesnt believe in love. Kayalvizhi is a young music student who lives in Paris with her father, who is a private detective. Kayal falls in love with Kamal in the very first sight itself. Movie is about these two, how they get into a serious relation ship.

A typical plot for an Indian romantic Comedy. However, it is the girl who is attracted to the boy and tries hard to get his attention and love. That is of course a change. It is spiced up with some songs, couple of fights and the hero's friend, who offers some laugh.

The plus points are

There are some nice songs, which are well shot. In fact, I thought, most of these songs are beautifully choreographed, the best I have seen in long time, may be. Special mention to the very first song in which Prabhu Deva him selves tries what he is best at and the Naangai (Valliye Chakkaravalliye) song which is choreographed on an interesting concept.

Through out the movie, there is always some light hearted fun, because of the plot itselves, and also because of hero's friend played nicely by Deva's brother Raj Sundaram.

Interestingly, it is one movie with good production values.

Disappointing factor was the movie lacks a real heart or any substance. It always looks like it is just on the border line. Not going deep into anything. But definitely, I dont think the created intended to.

And quite strange and funny enough - most people in Paris seems to speak English, which was quite stupid. Paris definitely is the most romantic city in the world, but English is a completely use less language in this lovely city. The script forgets this most of the time and use French at times. No consistency at all, anyways after all this is not a serious movie at all. But I thought, using French would have offered more comic sequences and may be would have made it a little more romantic too, as its the language of l'amour.

Any candid cameraman should be able to pick up beautiful shots of couples in Paris and that would have been more apt, but here its quite evident that the couples on screen are extras.

Anyways, this movie, I am not sure will do any good for Prabhu Deva's directorial curve. But he ensures that the choreography is excellent.

An ok watch, only if you want to enjoy those songs, or just want some silly fun. 

Saturday, 14 May 2011

A Perfect Getaway

2009 by David Twohy

A honeymoon couple, Cliff and Cindey are celebrating with a kind of adventurous hike in a remote Hawaain isalnd. They are told about the murder of another couple which scares them but decides to proceed. They meet another couple Nick and Gina. For the honeymooners, these two look strange and they are worried they are walking with the killers. And then when they reach the destination, a pristine beach, the two men kayaks to a sea cave and Gina happens to go through the handy cam of the honeymooners. I am sure anybody can guess what the climax is.

Yet another movie which sells Fear. In America, anything can be sold easily with Fear, it seems. This movie is again on the same genre.

To be very frank, except for the way the climax takes a U turn, and the blunt and brief way the past and motive of the killers is told, it is just typical of what we see from Hollywood. It has good pace, the action sequences after the secret is revealed are all well shot, but what really takes the credit away from the movie is the story itself. We follow two characters, who keeps on saying , what if, what next, who are they, arent they the guys, bla bla and then its a 360 degree turn, making all viewers feeling like idiots. The revelation tests the intelligence of the viewers to the fullest, unlike most similar films.

If the killers were somebody else, this movie could have been rated better than Ridiculous. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Cyrano de Bergerac

1990 by Jean Paul Rappeneau

Cyrano is the captain of a military unit, but he is more known as an excellent poet, with a long nose. Cyrano has some inferiority complex because of his nose, but he pretends otherwise. He is madly in love with his cousin, Roxanne, but thinks he is too ugly for her. Roxanne is mad about poetry and actually would love an ugly poet rather than a beautiful man without words. Cyrano doesnt know this and he realises Roxanne is attracted to Christian, a new recruit to his unit. Christian is dynamic and beautiful, but he is not able to talk about love to Roxanne who adores poetry. Cyrano offers help and writes love letters for Christian, which makes Roxanne fall for Christian, that they get married soon. The war with Spanish brokes out and both Cyrano and Christian has to go to the battle field. Cyrano arrives in the field with food for soldiers and Christian dies after a serious injury. After 14 yesrs, Roxanne still lives in a convent, mourning, and Cyrano regularly visits her but never reveals the secret that Roxanne is mourning over his poetry. Cyrano is seriously injured, on his way to the convent, and only moments before his death, does Roxanne would know the truth.

This movie, set in the 17th C France, should easily find a place in any list of best movies of all time.

There are many great romantic movies, but this one is really unique. 99% of the dialogues are like poetry, very rhythmic. It is brilliant that we can feel the poetry even in the English subtitle. I can imagine how much French speakers might have been moved by this movie and its poetic dialogues.

Cyrano is a brilliant character. Expert on both sword and poetry, he can make anybody fall for him with his talents. But he just cant make him believe that woman, even somebody as beautiful as Roxanne, might not care for the physical beauty. Roxanne even fell unconscious reading one of his letters. And his duel in the opening scene, fighting both with sword and words, I would say, is one of the most brilliant scenes in world cinema ever. It is just better that the dialogues here are poetic too. That scene alone can win awards for Gerard Depardieu, the camera man and the director. Brilliant.  

Gerard Depardieu makes one of the most amazing performances ever in movie history. What an actor. This must have been a great experience for this man.

I am almost sure that French Period movies are much much better classics than the most popular Hollywood ones. And their cinematography is brilliant. I must repeat that the cinmatography in this movie is simply brilliant.

A brilliant Romantic drama (sad, though) with the most beautiful performances, settings, costumes, cinematography and direction. 

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Maanikkya kallu

2011 by M Mohanan

A government high school in a remote village is fast getting extinct. For long, it has achieved cent percent failure in the school leaving examinations. Naturally, there are only a few students left in the school, obviously from the most poor people in the village. And nobody, including the teachers and parents, are interested in the fate of these students and school. Teachers are happy they get their regular salaries and also get more than enough time to engage in other business. A new teacher, who specifically requested to be appointed in this school, arrives and wants to take the responsibility of making a difference.

Being released as a main stream movie with prominent stars and actors, all is quite predictable about this movie and that is exactly what happens too. So there are teachers who have different interests, lead by a head master himself, some villagers who show interest in school activities and a story which , exaggerative though, talks about the situation faced by more than a few Govt. run schools in villages, with the necessary extra ingredients of a love story, an orphaned child waiting to be lead to good life etc.

It is not a bad movie and has more than a few beautiful moments. However, the script and the director seems to have put in some effort to not raise it above an ordinary watchable movie. As a director, Mohanan showed us that he held some promise with his Kadha Parayumbol, but with Manikkya kallu, he is not able to make a forward step, but steps backwards too, at least by one or two. It is also noteworthy that the climax in both his movies share almost the same sequence, which cannot be definitely termed as a style. But may I repeat, this is still not a bad watch and considering all the horrible main stream movies we are used to, it is a better one. At least it is glad to know that some one has touched upon the affairs of Malayalam medium Govt. schools in a full length movie.

Prithviraj plays the young teacher and has done a decent job. But just like the fate of George Clooney, in spite of all his efforts and sincerity in taking these kind of simple roles, Prithviraj always looks Prithviraj on screen, barring one or two exceptions.

Samvritha Sunil gets a role, a role which is more challenging than all what she have done so far, and is only just ok, I am afraid. I terribly wish, this actress with the most lovely facial features, typically Keralan, also puts in a bit more weight to enable her to take all kinds of matured roles. Even her colourful saris are not able to cover up her too sticky frame, which I am afraid is a draw back in her performances, especially for these kind of roles. For I believe, acting is not just facial expressions and a better physique and its body languages can always support and even improve the facial feelings.

Having said all this if an avid Bollywood fan, a North Indian, is watching this movie, he might still say this is an art film. 

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Il Postino - The Postman

1994 by Michael Radford

Mario Rouppolo is a very innocent man who doesnt want to be a fisherman like his father. In the movie house, through a news reel, he sees poet Pablo Neruda arriving in Italy. Neruda has to live in exile for some time. The village post master is looking for an extra post man to personally deliver all the post for Neruda. Mario takes this job. He can read and write hardly. The only thing he knows about Neruda is that many women are attracted to him because of poetry. Initially he cannot even talk to Neruda, but slowly they start talking and Mario gets very much interested in poetry and communism. When Mario is attracted to a beautiful girl, Beatrice, Neruda helps him. When they get married, Neruda is his first man. The Govt. of Chile has revoked the arrest warrant of Neruda, who asks Mario to take care of the house and his belongings and leave the village. Mario expects some news from Neruda but there is nothing. He is still not disappointed and explains to others that is normal. After few years Neruda walks into the village and meets Beatrice and the boy of Mario, Pablito, named after Pablo Neruda. He learns that, Mario attended a communist rally which turned violent and was killed few days before the birth of his son.

If by anyways a movie can be called a poem or gets as close to poetry, Il Postino is poetry in celluloid. I have heard so many people boasting similar things about many movies, but I never thought the same. Watching Il Postino, by the time the friendship between Mario and Neruda develops and strengthens, I was feeling a special bliss of happiness and by the end, I said to myself, this is poetry in a movie.

There is friendship between two souls from two ends of life's spectrum, there is love, there is sadness and above all there is a great human being, may be the most innocent male character I have ever met through the medium of cinema. From his very first dialogues, we know that this man is really innocent and as he starts his work we set on a kind of journey with Mario. We are more desperate than Mario, may be, for the poet to open up and chat with him. We feel his curiosity, his excitement and his hunger to understand and learn more and more about poetry. We are filled with joy as he really makes friendship with Neruda and when Neruda leaves to Chile, we miss the poet as much as Mario. We too would start thinking about excuses for the poet to not contact Mario or for him to not mention about Mario in his interviews. And finally we are grief stricken to know the fate of Mario. The last shot when Neruda stands on the beach thinking about Mario, wonderfully passes his grief to the viewer.

There is not a single scene or shot in this movie, which we would say was unnecessary or anything like that. The scenes between Mario and Neruda, where Mario gets curious about different aspects of poetry, how he is introduced to metaphors and how he himself discovers metaphors, they are all so brilliant and lovely that we feel kind of joy, that we get very seldom, watching a movie. Each and every moment between Mario and Neruda are more than beautiful.

The scenes and dialogues between Mario and Neruda, takes this movie to a different level which makes us feel that this is no ordinary movie, but poetic. They are brilliant. Of course, it is the innocence of Mario which makes these scenes poetical and joyful but they are beautifully brilliant. His innocence offers us a lot of joy, but few moments were simply lovely.

- Mario tells Neruda about Beatrice and says he could say only 5 words to her. 'What's your name?' - Neruda says, that makes only 3 words? Mario - 'she replied Beatrice Russo and I repeated Beatrice Russo'

- Neruda asks Mario to speak to the radio - for his friends in Chile - about the most wonderful aspect about his village, and Mario  says 'Beatrice Russo'

- Earlier in a scene Mario wishes Neruda would receive the Noble prize. Later, when he wants Neruda to write him a poem about Beatrice and Neruda refuses, he curses that if Neruda cannot write a poem about Beatrice then he will never get the Noble prize.

I am sure, I am not expressing it nicely, but as we watch the movie, these moments are so so beautiful. It is a pity I am not a writer to explain my feelings in detail. Also the recordings Mario makes, for sending to Neruda, was exceptionally beautiful.

Massimo Troisi as Mario is living a life on the screen. This is not an easy character, but he lives the life of Mario and may I say, this is among the very best performances for me. It is quite difficult to play such an innocent role. Philippe Noiret as Neruda and Maria Gracia as Beatrice are the two other major characters.

Yet another film which is perfect to explain what the role of the cinematographer is, in making a beautiful movie. Another major highlight of the movie is its background score. Simply beautiful.

It is surprising that this movie was not directed by an Italian, but by an English man. That requires the man to be some genius of the medium. Brilliant work of art.

Il Postino is a once in a life time movie, a real poetry in motion. 

Friday, 6 May 2011

Le Gendarme de St. Tropez

1964 by Jean Girault

Cruchot, an ambitious and strict police officer is promoted and transferred to St. Tropez. He arrives there with his young daughter and straight away sets on to his duty. He even masterminds an operation to arrest a group of nudists who had been a head ache for long time. When his daughter falls into an unintentional case of a stolen Mustang, Cruchot has to set it right, if not his career would be affected. The Mustang was also having a stolen Rembrandt painting. Cruchot comes out successful, also with the help from his daughter and her friends.

This movie in fact managed 4 sequels, shows how successful it was then. One of the famous hits from the maestro Louis de Funes, however for me this was not as exciting as typical Louise de Funes' movies.

When we compare with other Funes movies, this is only ordinary. But, only when we compare with the other classics of Funes. While we watch this one, we can see that time has took its toll on this movie and its comic settings. This is still a good watch. And this movie only reiterates my approval of this amazing actor. All the other movies from this guy were real classic comedies which has with stood the passing decades of time, which is no mean feat.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Baran - rain

2001 by Majid Majidi

Lateef works in a construction site, supervised by a straight and kind man Memar. When Najaf fells down and breaks his leg, Zoltan brings the 14 year old Rehmat, Najaf's child, to the site and Memar promptly takes him for work. Rehmat seems too weak for the heavy jobs and Memar swaps his work with that of Lateef. Lateef was having an easy time just preparing stupid food and tea for the workers. He is quite angry with Rehmat but soon realise that Rehmat is a girl. His attitude to Rehmat changes and he is more kind and protective of her. Soon he realise that he is in love, but he cannot let her know about that or even look at her straight. Rehmat soon has to leave the site, as she belongs to a group of Afghan's without legal permits. Lateef tries to find her and when he realises the terrible situation of their family, as Najaf cannot help, he even withdraws all his savings from Memar and sends it with Zoltan. But Najaf actually asks Zoltan to take that money and leave for Afghanistan as Zoltan's family is really broke. Lateef then even sells his work permit for some money, to help Najaf. But to his shock he finds out that Najaf also has decided to go back to Afghanistan. Before he sees them off, he looks directly at Rehmat, for the first time, and earns a beautiful smile from her.

A beautiful love story, of untold love, in the background of poverty.

Typical of all Majidi's movies, its told in a very simple way, with minimum dialogues, but with a great pace ideal for the movie. For some reason, we might all feel that Rehmat may not be a girl from the first scenes itself, could be seen as a drawback. But from the moment Lateef realise that and he starts feeling for her, the movie takes a huge leap into a very special love story. His pain, when he sees Rehmat doing heavy jobs at other sites, is beautifully told. It is wonderful how Mr. Majidi always manages to convey deep feelings without the help of mundane dialogues. And he still manage to keep an attractive pace is really an important point of all Majidi movies. In Baran, we would also notice that he has used some kind of background scores only for 3 or 4 scenes. But still this movie does not look at all, like a pretending artistic one or like a documentary. In fact we may not notice anything at all other than Lateef and Rehmat. Brilliant direction. I dont remember seeing a love story in which the heroine doesnt have a single dialogue.

The last scene, where Lateef is sure that he is seeing Rehmat for the last time and runs in to help her pick the vegetables from the ground, is the real highlight of this film. For the first time, they have a lovely eye contact and the shot of their hands crossing each other, picking the vegetables, spoke a lot, much more than many love songs. Well it could be interpreted that way. But like Lateef, we too are not sure if Rehmat realises his love or loves him. For sure she must know that the Lateef, helping her pick up the vegetables, is a changed boy. I simply hope, she was damn sure about his love for her. But then, there is this shot of Rehmat pulling down her veil (of her Purdah), covering her face from Lateef. May be that is because she really realised there was something special about Lateef in that moment and felt shy and wanted to impress him. Culturally it is important for her to pull down the veil. So may be..

From the side of Lateef, may be it was a mistake he didnt express anything at all. As girls always pretend as they never knew, they want all to be told to them. As one, who had many untold loves, I really feel for Lateef.

But I have to say, it is Mohammad Amir Naji as Memar, who did the best performance in this movie. May be I am too much of a fan of this amazing actor. Lateef and Rehmat, they were all good, but Mr. Naji is the best.

Yet another simple and beautiful movie from Iran. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


2000 by Guiseppe Tornatore

Second world war period in a small town in Sicily. 12 year old Renato is glad to have a second hand bicycle so that he can join the gang of local boys. Through them he sees Malena for the first time. She is around 28 years old and her husband is away, serving the military. Malena is the most beautiful woman in the town and since she is alone too, the moment she is out on the streets, the town comes stand still. The whole men folk follow her. Even the women follow her because of sheer jealousy. It is love at first sight for Renato and he keeps on following her day in and out. He makes peep holes in different points in her home and is always watching her. He dreams about her all the time, writes unsend letters to her and even picks up fight with his friends when they speak bad about her. There are so many rumours about her, but only he knows that they are all false and Malena is in love with her husband. One day the news arrives that her husband was killed and the whole men folk have hope now. The deserted street in front of her home is filled with gentleman wanting to impress her. Even she doesnt realise that men create stories of adultery and there is even a case of adultery against her. The advocate who proves her innocense in the local court almost rapes her and wants to marry her. But finally she says no to him. Renato keeps dreaming about her and wants to grow up to a man to go and protect her. He is unable to even face her straight. Soon Germans occupy the town and Malena, who is on abject poverty, turns into prostitution. She serves Germans. When the allied forces recapture the town, the women folk drags Malena out into the street, beats and kicks her and humiliates her. Renato and most men can only just watch helpless. Renato sadly watch Malena leaving the town, catching a train to Messina. After an year or so, Nino, Malena's husband arrives. Nobody wants to help him but Renato sends in a letter in which he assures her about how faithful she was and he could find him in Messina. To the shock of the villagers, Nino and Malena walks back to the town. The same women who kicked her, accepts her back.

Malena may not be amongst the greatest movies I saw, but Malena will always be one of my favourite movies ever. Renato in the last shot in the movie says -  "Of all the girls who asked me if I remember them, the only one I remembered is the one who did not ask."  - likewise, I was lead to this movie only because of Monica Bellucci but I am going to carry it with me for many other reasons.

It brought back all those memories during my own adolescence and teenage days. All those waits and cyclings up and down only to catch a glimpse of the odd beautiful girl in the village in a pattu pavaada (long skirt and blouse, mostly in glazing silk) or half saris and even Saris. I stopped going to temples around 12 or 13 years. But was always around the temple or the church region to get that one sight of a beautiful girl or women. Later in college, we knew exactly the time periods when senior girls - mostly from final year graduation or post graduation class - would walk out, to follow their beautiful walks in those wonderful cotton saris. Now it is shocking for me that I did not care at all about how beautiful their body was. All I cared was how good a face they had. May be those wonderful dresses covered up their bodies so well. In Malena however, the boys are amazed by her beautiful body. The way the boy's gang followed her and later Renato alone did, was so beautifully picturised.

I could easily identify with Renato and I am sure almost every man would, making this movie a very realistic nostalgic experience. Renato breathed and lived Malena. The use of old classic movies, placing Renato and Malena in place, was a brilliant idea and that was so beautiful. Even while raising many serious questions, the movie has a basic element of fun which prevails almost till the 3/4ths and that was excellent. All the dream sequences of Renato with Malena was so beautiful too. Real adolescence inspired romantic and sexual thoughts.

But Malena is the central character and she really grows on us. We really feel sorry for her state and this movie clearly shows how society can create prostitutes out of nowhere. Even women, owing to jealousy, can act most cruelly to a single woman in need of help is brilliantly portrayed. The scene of public humiliation was brilliant but will touch us deeply. For me this was the most heart breaking scene after the rape scene in Paruthiveeran. Her situation and also the helplessness on the faces of Renato and some other men plus the sheer cruelty on the face of some women really adds up to this scene and all credit to the director to make it a brilliant experience. And the scene immediately made me think about the similar atrocities upon the hapless Dalit women in India. Even by official reports, at least 4 dalit women are raped or paraded naked, daily, in India. Mostly the motive behind these crimes would be that of trying to take water from well meant for upper castes, questioning any upper caste men or women or not obeying them or for petty crimes committed by their husbands or even for opposing sexual advances of upper caste men. Malena at least had the choice to leave the town and live even if by selling herself and she was accepted back to the society when she had a man. But for our poor dalit women, they will never enjoy any kinds of such kindness from our brutal society. Whatever crime it may be, to humiliate women in public it is beyond any law or logic or beleif too. It is the worst crime that can be committed to a woman, just like rape. I wonder what would have been the thoughts of Sicilian public, women especially, watching this movie.

After watching Irreversible, I always was haunted by the painful face of Monica Bellucci and has longed to see her in a different kind of role. Thats how I was lead to this movie.  And as the movie progressed I was happy and was stunned by the beauty of this woman. What a beauty? Her grace and elegance contrasts perfectly with her sensousness. But then came that humiliation scene and oh, once again. That was too much for me. Anyways this is a wonderful performance from this amazing lady. She doesnt even have many dialogues in this script. But she is the back bone of the script and she has done a great job as a woman who is punished for the sin of being beautiful.

The cinematography is brilliant, we will not worry about the camera at all, and so are the settings. It may not have brought as many acclaims to Tornatore, like Cinema Paradiso did, but he should be proud about this movie. Beauty is not always an asset, especially for the unfortunates. Society can turns itself into a beast to an innocent and unfortunate beauty.

It is a pity that this kind of movie will never get released in India, because of all its sensual nudity and the thread of adolescent eroticism behind Renato, but it is a real pity. This movie is for all men who love and respect womanhood. It is also for those who doesn't, including women. And since, in India, the latter hugely outnumbers the former, I would say it is a must watch. 

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Dangerous Liasons

1959 by Roger Vadim

Juliette and Valmont are married for 11 years, living in Paris. They both love each other but to keep their love more passionate and to avoid the typical marriage problem of getting used they get adventurous. Both are free to have affairs with other men and women, only for the sake of physical pleasure. They will not fall in love with their extra marital friends, at any cost. This is the unbreakable law between them. Both discuss their affairs and even help out each other in manipulating and seducing the persons whom they find interesting. Once Juliette suggest Valmont to go to a ski resort and seduce Cecile, who is deeply in love with a student Danceny. he tries his best but soon realises her serious love for Danceny. He then meets Marianne, who is married with a baby, and goes after her. He realises that, even if Marianne likes him, she will never go to his bed. He explains all this to Juliette in a detailed letter and Juliette also arrives in the Ski resort. By then, Valmont had forced a night on the hapless Cecile. Juliette further manipulates her so that Valmont can continue to have a relation with her. Juliette realises that Valmont has really fallen for Marianne and is really desperate for her. She ask him to seduce her and then throw her away to prove that he has not broken their rule of no love. Valmont goes to Paris and goes out of his way to seduce Marianne and deeply falls in love with her.  And then the climax is very dramatic.

This movie was based on a 17th C French novel. It could have been treated like a sex comedy, but it isnt. For those who are not used to a bit of French culture, this movie can be more than shocking. At the same time, it might also surprise viewers from countries like India in some ways. There are scenes where Danceny and Cecile is discussing their marriage, which is more like a page out of a typical Indian lovers discussions, wondering about the permissions of parents etc. I could not help thinking about our own morality which were imposed by the Colonial regimes as they were following those moral codes in the 18 to mid 20th centuries. They moved on, especially after the social revolutions of the 60's, but we Indians decided to stick on to this imposed morality as our tradition, with more and more passion, putting the responsibility of torch bearers of morality and culture wholly on women.

Anyways coming back to the movie, this must have been a great release in 1959. The way some scenes are told should have been quite novel for those days. I am sure it must have caused quite a lot of ripples as well. I especially was amused by the seduction scene of Cecile. That was brilliantly directed. Also inspite of being a French movie, there isnt much of nudity in this movie is also noteworthy. Sex is actually only on the background. The seductions and heartlessness is what is thrown at the viewer. Also except for Juliette's seduction of Danceny, it is more following Valmont. There are only some suggestions and a scene about the adventures of Juliette.

It also looks at one point about men trying to seduce women. Men, at least most men, would try to seduce a woman and the easier the woman falls for him, the faster he might stop it with her too. And such men really likes to take the challenge of seducing women who are not easy. This is quite nicely protrayed in this movie. The way Valmont is frustrated with Marianne's rejection is very nicely pictured and it is this rejection of hers which creates an obsession in him for her, and gradually makes him really feel for her.

I am afraid my inabilities to write is stopping me from expressing my views any further on this movie. I am sure anyways that this original French movie is much better as a movie than its later Hollywood adaptation. Still the climax was looking quite rushed.

The movie has some brilliant black and white photography and some good music. 

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bhakthajanangalude Shradhakku

2011 by Priyanandan

Vishwanathan is an ordinary Government servant. His wife Suma, together with her mother in law, runs a small village restuarant and is fighting to meet the both ends and to save something for the good future of their two children. Vishwanathan is a straight forward man, however he is almost addicted to alcohol, which is a constant worry for his family. He keeps on promising to stop his habbit, but is always back home completely drunk, also because of his friends. Once he even forgets his boy in the bar. He is still a very religious man with deep faith in their family goddess. Prompted by a comment from the sister in law, Suma pretends as if she is possessed by the goddess and makes some furious comments on Vishwanathan's habbit. This works wonders for the family. At the same time rumours spread on the special powers of Suma. The restaurant is actually co owned by an Uncle who is back home. When there are some problems, related to Vishwans work, the Uncle asks Suma to pretend as the Goddess once again, to get rid of the strong political forces against them. The Uncle actually forces her to do more, as this is a good way to make some money. Soon, Hindu fanatical forces join the uncle and Suma is forced to be a Goddess Sumangala with an Ashram built for her. She is kept away from her family and her attempts to elope and even commit suicide, all backfires and make her even more famous as a God woman.

Priyanandan is a director who had always taken a parallel path to movies, neither being too artistic nor being mainstream and his first two movies, especially Neythukaaran, were exceptional. The last one, Sufi Paranja Katha however was excellent only in patches. In all these movies his selection of plot, I thought was brilliant. He again proves that he has a special eye for selecting his plot and in Bhakthajanangalude Shraddakku (B S), he has touched upon an important topic which is socially very relevant with many under and parallel tones. It has been long since I watched a Malayalam movie and had thought, this is one movie which can be put in the same class as the ones in the golden 80's. B S, friends is one such movie and I am more than proud of this movie and this director.

This is a kind of movie, that would have perfectly fallen in place between the parallel and mainstream movies of the 80's. After long, we get to see a straight forward and simple narration of a story without any modern gimmicks. May be it is old fashioned for some, but some times old is gold isn't it. But in spite of the straight forwardness of the movie, I would say this movie has may be the best realistic camera work in Malayalam movies in a very long time. Especially the lighting used make each and every frame, may it be indoor or outdoor, look as if only available light is been used. There might be people who could argue for some different angles on some of the frames, but no one would question the lighting in this movie and it is consistent for the whole length of the movie.

Priyanandan, I am sure, might embarass most of the main stream directors of Malayalam. He has handled some scenes so nicely, may I say. The first time Suma gets possessed and the scene in the bus, when she tries to run away with her family, especially are worth mentioning. Still, there is a major draw back in the script, which I thought could have been avoided. The problems of Vishwanathan at his work develops well in the beginning and it even proceeds to a scene in which he nearly man handles the MLA, ends up in Police station and even his career looks in trouble. However, thereafter, this  lead is left out completely. May be there was something and it got cut in the editing table. But I thought the movie would have been even better without this. Also the second possession also was not needed. The movie would have been more classic if the possession scene was restricted to just one. So are some of the loop holes in the script, once the Ashram is established. But I think those are pardonable. Especially since there is an anti climax in this movie, which is more than brilliant. That is a perfect mirror to the foolishly spiritual society of India.

There were a lot of articles, on the great performance of Kavya Madhavan in Gaddama, which surprised me actually. But in BS, as Suma Kavya might have done her ever best performance in her career. Bearing in mind that in India, its only once in a lifetime an actress get to play a strong female oriented role, Kavya might have just did it and she is brilliant especially in the first possession scene. Arshad, as Vishwanathan also did good, but I thought, he could have been much better and this definitely is a small mistake from the director.

Kerala, inspite of all its claims of being a left oriented land where even right wing people have leftist views, is becoming a highly religious and caste oriented society. God men and women emanates out of nothing and people, the rich and the educated especially, follow them like the mise after the pide piper. B S is a brave attempt and I wish this movie was a hit. Watching it on the third day of release, I was more than sad to see that the hall was almost empty. But each and everybody in the theatre enjoyed this movie like anything, inspite of not having commercial ingredients, was quite clear. If B S doesnt become a hit, Keralites should never complain that they do not get good movies, like before.

I salute Priyanandan and his team, especially the camera man, for this wonderful movie. I am sorry, if this movie will not make profit. It will be also a pity for Kavya Madhavan. She has been brilliant and if this is not seen by most Keralites that is really a pity.

Even the Tamil boy, at the snack bar in Kochi Sarita theatre, looked sad that BS is not popular. In his Tamil accent, he told me - Keralaavil nalla cinema kaanaan aarum illa alle chetta