Wednesday, 30 November 2011

He liu - The River

1997 by Ming Liang Tsai - Chinese movie from Taiwan

This is a much acclaimed movie, one which came out during the golden age of Taiwanese art cinema. However, let me be honest and speak out that, it is painfully slow and is on the verge of making one bohred. In fact, I watched it first time, day before yesterday night and I felt asleep. Tried to watch the last 20 minutes yesterday, before my office hours, and I was quite impressed by some of that imagery. So I tried to watch it once again.

A young man, his father and mother, who are all quite lonely in their lives. The young man hurts his neck during a bike accident.

The plot is quite simple and so is the movie. But if one can manage to keep yourself engaged with the very slow pace and eventless procedures of the movie, it is impossible to not feel the pain of the young man. You will start feeling the pain of this young man, which is inevitable. Frankly, it took a second watch for me to appreciate it, though.

But towards the end of the second watch, I couldn't help salute this director to make such a blunt and realistic cinema. It is really a painful movie to watch. There are things for which life does not have any solutions and the young man in this movie just has to suffer.

Absolutely a master piece work in cinematography. There is a scene of homo sexuality towards the end which is stunning. What a brilliant shot it is, even if it is quite shocking.

A real brilliant movie, but I am afraid most people might not watch this completely because of its pure art house style and the dragging slow pace. Better to watch it during day time. 

Monday, 28 November 2011


2011 by Jayaraj - Malayalam movie

A director who debuted with a very simple movie like Vidyarambham and later gave some excellent movies like Kaliyaattom and Makalkku, and one who has more than 2 decades of history behind him, when such a director decides to make a movie dedicated to the heroines of yester years, it is normal to have hope. But watching this movie, I doubt, what this movie was meant for.

More than a couple of South Indian heroines had committed suicide in the past and there are many stories related to these deaths. However there were a couple of movies in the 80's which dealt on these theme, most notably Lekhayude Maranam oru Flashback by K G George. So it is natural for me to think that if Jayaraj wanted to make a movie on the cause of deaths of yester year heroine's he should have planned one which would have bettered or at least matched Lekhayude... However, watching this movie the death of an actress does not look an issue for a good majority of the film. It rather looks at the relationship between an yester year heroine and a girl who is making a documentary on her. At the same time it is also like a great struggle to get into the past of a heroine.

Whatever it may be Naayika is a poor cinema. It rather looks a very amateurish movie, which is sad considering the fact that it was made by an established director. There is no intensity on the scene and it will be a surprise if any viewer would be able to find any kind of intense feelings anywhere in this movie. I wonder the whole unit were lackadaisical in their attitude during the making of this. From the basic story to the script to the director to the technical aspects and even in simple make up, the movie is so amateurish.

And I strongly deplore the fact that the story is designed by creating couple of characters using extracts from the lives of many heroines and heroes of yester years, which was quite pathetic. After mentioning about the legendary Prem Nazir many times here and there, to make a hero, with a different name, to mimic the style and persona of Prem Nazir was a childish act. I simply do not understand this.

Compare this movie with the subtle scenes of Mayakkam Enna and I am reassured, Malayalam cinema is really in a terrible state. 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mayakkam Enna

2011 by Selvaraghavan - Tamil movie

Selvaraghavan, with his story for Thulluvatho Ilamai, can boast about being one of the fore runners in leading Tamil movies to its new wave films of today. It was in this movie that his brother Dhanush was introduced as a teenage hero. Later he directed Dhanush in the path breaking cult movie Kaadhal Kondein. After few years he is now teaming up with Dhanush again and I am sure their parents will be very proud of them. As a movie, this is not as great as Aadukalam. But Dhanush's performance in Mayakkam Enna, I believe, is even better than in Aadukalam. M E, is still a very different entertainer from a Tamil pop movie team, which has the subtleties that we would expect only from art films and can be rightly called a parallel movie.

A budding photographer, who owes his life to his rich friends and parents, has great aspirations for his future. He finds that there is some kind of a feeling between him and his friends girlfriend. 

With just the above plot line, ME would hold good as an ordinary romantic comedy. But it is not. Romance makes only half of the movie and there is more to it, I mean the life after marriage which is affected because of the heroes dreams, makes the other half of the movie. I will not call it a romantic comedy. It is about the life of a young man and more surprisingly about his wife too. Very seldom does this happen in India. The heroine in ME is anything than what we would expect from a typical Indian heroine. Especially in the second half, that is when the movie looks at the tough side of life, the heroine is even more important than the hero. The last time something like this occured, if my memory serves right, was in another Tamil movie, Mirugam, which had brilliant performances by Padmapriya.

The hero in ME, is anything but a hero. He is just an ordinary man with some talent in Photography. He behaves quite ordinarily throughout the movie. He does not have any fights to do, nor does he even slap any one. In fact it is the heroine who slaps the hero, more than once, with no reaction from the hero. How often we see something like that in an Indian movie. Even when there is an occassion for the hero to react macho, our hero just behaves like an ordinary guy who is unable to get angry or harm any one. But the heroine for all that matter is really strong. She even have only few scenes wherein we find her smiling. Especially in the second half, there are hardly any smiles from the heroine and she is just a powerful woman who takes care of her husband. I am surprised that Tamil cinema managed to give yet another strong heroine, immediately after the role of Anjaly in Engeyum Eppothum.

The movie is shot realistically. Almost 90% of the scenes have a subtle feel about it, which is commendable. Add to it the factor that the director treats the subject with a preconception that his audience is intelligent. This is not a movie meant for multiplex audiences. A Dhanush movie can never be one. The makers needs to be praised to do it this way hoping the audience will understand what they meant, even if it is subtle and intelligently told. It has come out good and it will only do good for the future of Tamil cinema. How this act saves the movie is by avoiding lot of unwanted explanations and dialogues. In fact they have understood and treated it as a clear visual medium and many important facts are just conveyed through visuals alone. Brilliant it was.

Few other brilliant factors, were the performance of Dhanush and the new heroine, Richa, brilliant cinematography, background scores and the settings. Some moments, like the one in which Dhanush begs to a great photographer to be an assistant, when he is struck by the beauty of nature and forgets to take his shot, when he realises that his best comes out when he works with available light with people and nature and not in studios and all were really brilliant.

However, the movie is not fault free. For all the brilliance, the climax of the story was not that great. I do not mean the final schot, wich was excellent, but the final turn of events. It was only at this point that movie went for routine. The director could have sticked with his subtle treatment through out, instead of losing it in some points. And no excuses at all for using the video and photographs of African Elephants, when the locations meant were Indian. And above all, the way the senior photographer treats the hero is quite stupid. Of course a senior photographer can use the photographs of a budding photographer and take the name, but in my experience I have never seen a senior still photographer behaving rudly with anyone approaching them. This is one good thing I found about Still Photography. Any photographer is normally glad to look at the efforts of budding photographers and to discuss with  them about the subject. Even if they are not glad, they never behave rude. I have met many senior photographers and even when they were terribly busy they were nice and attentive. And even if I never became a big photographer, I was also receptive to anybody who came to me to talk about photography, later when I was seriously into it. So this character of the senior photographer was a bit over done. Anyways, what do I know, may be there is somebody like that.

I was really glad to watch this movie and will be glad to watch it again, even if I did not like the way it ended. I could easily connect with the hero too as I had gone through few moments like his character in my own photographic days. I was not comfortable with flash and indoor systems and always opted for available light. I also felt hurt when my photographs were used by few, may be its many not few, without any knowledge of mine and without any acknowledgements. Anyways.

Finally about the crowd in the theatre. It was embarassing the way the Malayaalee youth behaved inside the theatre. Sure, they might have expected a typical Tamil entertainer, but it was not. That does not mean they should behave in a way, which make watching movies a tedious procedure for anybody in the theatre. What a pity? I felt like killing those people, who were abusing and shouting inside the theatre.

Friday, 25 November 2011

En la cama - In Bed

2005 by Matias Bize - Spanish movie from Chile

The very first sound of this movie, even before any clear frame, is that of a woman who is approaching orgasm. So, unless you know what the movie is about, one could wonder if its a porn movie. But after the sex, the two persons start talking, they are asking the names of each other, that moment I realised I am going to witness a very different movie. And it was. What an unique and brilliant movie.

Two strangers meet for just sex in a motel room. After their sex they start talking casually and in between they make love.

This movie is completely shot inside a motel room. The camera does not have to go outside the walls of this room, I mean there is  not a single frame which has sun light actually. And there are only these two characters, the man and the woman who met for casual sex and get to know each other only after the sex. When I say this was simply brilliant, I am sure most people would doubt it. But, this is a classic example of exploring a unique theme and making a different movie.

After sex, the man and woman start talking about everything under sun, from war to movies to orgasm and what not and slowly they realise there is something between them, though it is too late. But their relationship is portrayed so brilliantly. Some of those moments, especially when each does not dare to look straight into the eyes of the other, but feels something, is so captivating.

Wonderful performances by both actors. And more than anything this is a directors movie, with excellent support by the cinematographer. As mentioned above, there is not a single frame with sunlight. There is not more than 2 faces, but still the camera work is one of the best features of this movie.

I would say this is a must watch for anybody who is seriously interested in cinema. For any student of cinema, may it be an aspiring script writer or director or cinematographer this movie is an inevitable lesson.

For clear reasons, this movie might not be shown even in any film festivals in India. What a pity.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

2011 by George Nolfi - English movie from Hollywood

Sometimes Hollywood presents some unique ideas through their movies. Doesnt mean the movie turns out as a brilliant one. But the novelty of the idea and the brains behind is definitely special, even if the movie turns out as just another one..

A young politician who is a probable future Senator meets a Ballet dancer and feels like he has met the love of his life. But then he finds out that officers of an adjustment bureau wants to make sure that nothing happens between him and the lady. 

I have never seen a movie, which has given this kind of a visual and physical presence to the idea of fate.  And that basic idea I would say is brilliant. Fate is presented here as a group of officers who works to make sure that everybody has a penned out story to follow and the same has to be ensured. So little things like missing a bus is just part of the procedures by the Bureau to ensure that a persons life follows the path of the fate.

I liked this presentation, even if I am not a believer. But this is a unique idea for a movie. So the movie has a good beginning. The moments between the hero and heroine, even if they are quite few, is really warm and can compete with the best of romantic comedy moments from Hollywood. But when the hero is explained about the fate, by one officer himself, and he decides to fight to change his fate, the movie turns out to be a typical Hollywood movie, full of routine cliches which will help a character. From here, the movie turned out as quite ordinary and stupid.

Those moments between the man and the woman, played by two charming actors, Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, was the only worth moments in this movie.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


2006 by John Carney - English movie from Ireland

I am not very fond of Hollywood musicals. There are ones I liked and ones I found bohring. It is funny, I say this as an Indian, where almost all our movies are musical, strange musicals though. For us, music is just a way to make a movie more entertaining and popular, some ways to explain a situation in an extravagant way when the writer or director do not have other ways to show the intimacy or emotionality of a moment. And mostly just for pure fun. Western musicals, in that ways, is very different from ours. Anyways... this is quite a very different musical and it is simply brilliant.

A man meets a girl. Both are into music and they work together to record the man's own songs. 

The plot is as simple as that and unlike most musicals, there are not even so many characters. In fact in Once, there are only these two people, an unnamed man and woman who simply love music. Of course, when such people interact, love is on the edge and movie just look at it in the realistic way. But still for some parts, this movie felt as much as a romantic movie as much as it is a musical.

Now the most interesting and brilliant part of this music - unlike almost all musical movies I have seen, the man and the woman in this movie are real musicians. Yes, they are musicians first who just acted for this movie. And almost all the music in this movie are their own creations. Yet, they have achieved what a seasoned actor would struggle to achieve. They have acted brilliantly. And add to it the touch of professionalism during the performing scenes, they are cent percent genuine. Of course, that is inevitable I think. Two persons who can create their own music act the part as two persons who are into music, how can it not be sincere and genuine.

And since almost everything happens only between these two characters, all the music are genuine music moments, unlike in many musicals where characters interact through songs. In Once, music occurs only when the characters are performing or practising or creating music. So it is bloody realistic too. And what a beautiful musical score! I have already made up mind to find the sound track of this movie.

I loved both our actors. They were so realistic. And the lady especially, what a charming girl she is. Brilliant.

I cannot stop this without giving a big salute to the director. He is a maestro to make such a beautiful, simple and subtle movie. There were a couple of moments when I almost felt goose bumps. That final shot, when the camera slowly pans out of the window of our heroine, was brilliant. What an end!!!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Visitor

2007 by Thomas McCarthy - English movie from Hollywood

An extremely different movie from Hollywood.

A college professor from Connecticut travels to New York for work and finds that a couple (from Africa) is living in his apartment. He feels sorry for their state, as illegal immigrants, and lets them stay and slowly gets involved in their life. 

The movie begins nicely and proceeds in a simple and nice way. The way the professor gets friendly with Tarek and his girl friend is nice. I especially liked their drumming lesson and their time at the park. And even after Tarek gets arrested it is really good. But once Tarek's mother arrives, I am afraid the movie is a bit different. It takes a path which is often used by typical romantic comedies actually. It does not use it completely, but it is nearly like walking on the edge.

Finally, as the movie ends, it is still a good movie, but I felt somewhere on the way the movie lost its heart. Some more thoughts and efforts would have made this an absolute classic, but it ends up as a lost opportunity.

However, it is heartening to see an American movie thinking from the side of the illegal's whom America do not like at all. The message towards this is quite clear and the movie succeeds in conveying it, but otherwise as a movie, it ends up as one which could have been much much better.

Good performance by Richard Jenkins as the professor. I liked Haaz Sleiman, as Tarek, even better though. What a charming actor. 

Saturday, 19 November 2011


2011 by Nicolas Winding Refn - English from Hollywood

Sometimes, Hollywood too try to make a really different parallel (I am sure they dont have anything called parallel movies) movie and like in India, they are almost successful. I mean its just like breaking the pot, right when you reach the door step. What a pity.

A movie stunt guy, ends up in trouble, just trying to help out the husband of a young and beautiful neighbour. 

For more than half of this movie, it is nearly like a subtle art movie. And I was sure I am watching a very different movie from Hollywood and was glad about it. But then towards the last half, it just turns out like just another Hollywood flick, devoid of all the extravaganzia, but still with the same gory violence.

I am not against violence actually. I think the lives of most unfortunate people witness more violence than any movie have ever picturised. But with Drive, a movie which gave lots of hope with the way it treated the central character, when it ends up almost typical of most action films, it is a bit disappointing.

However, the way the central character is conceived, is really brilliant. And Ryan Gosling as the unnamed driver was so good and charming. Sure, we have seen Hollywood heroes before, men of few words, but there is some difference between the driver and the heroes of the past. It is difficult for me to explain that with my limited writing skills.

I would really reccommend this movie to anyone, inspite of my above comments though. It starts very well and is a very different watch. And sure, one will be charmed by the hero.

It just could have been much better. 

Friday, 18 November 2011

Xin Shao lin Si - Shaolin

2011 by Benny Chan

I am becoming more and more like a fan of East Asian movies. Some of the Chinese, Korean and Japanese movies I saw in the recent past were more than a revelation. They can match and compete with the best from around the world. Watching Shaolin, I desperately wished for an Indian release for movies from China, Korea and Japan.

There are many feuding war lords in China. One such war lord faces a surprise defeat, he takes refuge in Budhism and its non violence. 

In many ways, this block buster from China is preaching non violence through violence.

It is an excellent action film actually and many of the action sequences can match or beat many Hollywood flicks. But why this movie is special is due to the underlying message, which is propagated through its main character. General Hou turns a monk at Shaolin and he still has to face some duels and hence there is lots of action even after the major character turns Budhist. But it is still compelling as a movie on non violence. The movie is an epic drama with brilliant action sequences. But couple of the scenes were stunning and stood out really. I am not saying these were the only brilliant scenes. But they were special.

- there is a shot which looked like many wooden statues of men practising kungfu - standing/balancing on one leg, with the other raised towards the shoulders, on wooden poles. I thought oh thats an amazing peice of art. And then the camera goes into details and I was shocked. That isnt any statue, but real men, the characters we know as Kungu practising monks from Shaolin, who are balancing themselves on the wooden poles. I will give a 10/10 for that single initial shot. Moments when you really feel like falling at the legs of a Photographer, to make such sur-realistic imagery in this modern day of digital photography, when photography is no more an art, is truly brilliant.

- The villain has a body guard who is like an absolute warrior. Nobody seem to match him in any duel. In a final fight with a Shaolin monk, monk goes in for a very special sacrifice (he is already fatally injured) in a momentary brilliant action, which was truly brilliant.

A very important point in this action drama is that the villain lives, not even hurt actually. But his defeat is ensured by his understanding of the devastating results of his decision making. That final scene was really excellent.

And finally I saw Jackie Chan once again in a completely different role from what we expect of him. He is a cook who does not know any Kung fu and I must say, Jackie Chan is a real good actor.

This is a really good action drama, with an excellent message. It does have some faults here and there, but I wont mind ignoring them at all. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Ladies in Lavender

2004 by Charles Dance

Ageing is a real issue. I wonder how I would behave, for specific situations, once I am old and lonely. At the end of this movie, I spend quite a few minutes wondering about my future. This movie is not a classic to make me ponder about the future. But it does look at ageing, in a simple and funny way.

Two old sisters, living in a coastal village, have to welcome a very young Polish man to their villa. There is a subtle war between the sisters, trying to gather the affection of the young man. 

The movie is very simple and there is nothing in this movie, which cannot be easily predicted, including the climax. But what makes it a very special watch is the performances by the two leading ladies, Judie Dench and Maggie Smith. The former especially, for me, was brilliant. For, it is her character who really falls in for the young man, that she reaches a very special state, which is difficult to explain.

And what a brilliant performance. This movie is worth watching again, just to look at these two brilliant veteran actresses. It is like a text book of under playing emotions. More than anything, they perform it in such a way that we wonder the young man has arrived into the house of two young sisters.

Add to the performances, the brilliant music, which falls in through for almost the whole length of the movie, and Ladies in Lavender is an excellent watch. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Partir - Leaving

2009 by Catherine Corsini - French movie

There has been umpteen number of movies on infidelity, especially in French. But for many reasons, Partir is not just ordinary.

A mother of two adolescents is attracted to a man who came to work at her home and gets too passionate about their relationship that she is ready to leave everything for him. 

From that plot line, it does not look anything special, for sure. But this movie is made different by a few factors.

- The performance of Kristin Scott Thomas, which is simply brilliant. In many moments, especially when she seems to be awaiting her lover, the passionate expectations, she is incredible.

- The way the female character proceeds, forgetting everything and ready to do anything for the passion. The script does not try to reason with her much, but her passions leads. I found it very interesting

The movie, for sure, is cliche ridden in the beginning. But then, it gets different with the blunt ways of its heroine, who would not mind doing anything, even stealing, for her love life.

But still, I would find it difficult to concur with her deeds, especially because of her climax act, on the effects it will have on her children. But looking at it just as a movie, it is quite a different one.  

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Midnight in Paris

2011 by Woody Allen - English movie

Woody Allen is quite a different director from America. His Vicky Christina Barcelona is one of my favourites, though he does have some other nice movies. Midnight in Paris is his latest movie, and once again Woody Allen goes to Europe.

An American family is in Paris for business. The fiancee of the daughter is an established Hollywood writer, who would like to write a novel and feels Paris is the best place for doing this. He is in love with the city and its great past.

I would say this is quite a different attempt from Woody Allen. I never expected him to make a movie which is almost fantasical in its plot. His hero is able to travel to the 1920's meet great personalities of those period and travel back to the present. He even enters into a kind of relationship with a woman he met in that era. All this only to realise that he has the wrong person as his fiancee. At the same time through this movie, Woody Allen also mentions that people would always want to think about a different period in history, than the present, as the best.

At first, I didnt understand why there was a highly saturated and fluroscent yellowish tone for the frames. But as the 20's Paris scenes came in, it made sense. Many of the 1920's scenes are so lovely and brilliant.

Gil, Woody's  young writer, is a nice man with the heart of an artist. His fiancee and her family is anything but somebody who can appreciate such a genuine guy. It is perplexing how they got engaged though. Anyways, Gil's life in Paris is quite interesting and funny, moving between the 1920's and the present. One other thing I noticed is that how similar Owen Wilson and Woody Allen are. If this movie was made some years ago, Mr. Allen would have definitely played Gil. And when Owen Wilson plays this role, I almost felt like it was Woody Allen. There is a striking similarity between the mannerisms and dialogue delivery of the two. Owen Wilson, anyways, is really excellent. Marion Cotillard as Adriana, was brilliant and beautiful too. I really did not like Woody Allen using Gad Elmaleh in a small role, with nothing to do. What a waste of talent.

I would hesitate to call it a a romantic comedy, it begins and ends like one though. But it is quite a fantasical movie in between.
Nor is it a perfect blend of fantasy and present like in the El Laberinto del Fauno.
But still it is a good one, which requires a different mind set to watch, understand and appreciate.
For sure, it is a different movie from Woody Allen and I will be glad to watch it a few more time. Just like the hero in the movie, I am also in love with Paris, the most romantic city in the world for sure. And many scenes in this movie took me to the few days I spend there, and I felt nostalgic. Am sure Woody Allen loves Paris too.

Elle s'appaleit Sarah - She is Sarah

2010 by Gilles Paquet-Brenner - French movie, with lots of English too

Sometimes I wonder, what would have the movie makers done if there was no Hitler. Hitler's atrocities, against the Jews, looks like the favourite theme for movie makers from the west. I am not holding anything against the Jews or their suffering during Hitlers reign. But it does not look fair when movie makers ignore equally horrible sufferings by other communities or group of people across the world. Or in other words, there are only very very few attempts at portraying the sufferings of people elsewhere, like the Battle of Algiers or Hotel Rwanda, to name a couple. In fact, when a movie was made in Turkey immediately after the American invasion of Iraq, about the fate of Iraqis, the west did everything possible to ensure that the movie will not be seen by the outside world. Using the dream of Turkey to enter into the European union, they even managed to ban that movie in Turkey.

It is may be the second movie in 2010, which is based on the same incident, the infamous Vel dHiv roundups of 1942. And may be there are many more movies, in 2010/11 itself, about which I dont know at all. In fact I saw La Rafle only few weeks before.

An American journalist married to a French man has to make an article on the Vel dHiv roundup and she accidentally realises that the apartment which her husband has inherited and into which they are just about to move, belonged to a Jewish family who suffered in 1942. She starts tracing the story through a little girl Sarah, who managed to escape the Nazi camp.

For sure, the movie has lots of touching moments, which shows the suffering of the innocent people during the round up. Sarah the little girl, who managed to escape the Nazi camp and Julia, the American journalist, are the two leading characters, the latter searching for the former, the movie take us through two different periods in time. Julia's life has its own problems as she is pregnant and her French husband does not want to be an old father.

Basically, it is like there are three stories here. The story of Sarah, immediately after the round ups in 1942, the search for Sarah by Julia and Julia's personal story involving her husband and daughter. And I am not sure if the script really managed to hold all this together. Even during the first half, when the movie looks much better, the scenes of 1942 and the present criss cross a lot in a rapid way that it is almost annoying. But towards the second half, it turns even poor and does not look really professional at all. Too much melodrama, which is even amateurish at times with terrible performances, too much cliches and all. In fact, it looks more like an ordinary Hollywood movie than a French movie. It does not have the charm of even average French movies I would say. The performance of couple of actors, especially the son of Sarah, was really poor. If not for Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays Julia, the second half would have been really bohring, I am afraid.

On the same issue, La Rafle looks a much better movie. 

Friday, 11 November 2011

Cemetery Junction

2010 by Ricky Gervais & Stephen Merchant - British movie

After watching some movies, we just think oh this could have been like this, like that and what not. But never we feel like it was good or it was ugly. A British movie to add to those kinds ...

Cemetery junction is a locality which mostly have low or middle income people, most depending on some industries for their living. Of the three friends, who are the major players in the movie, one really wants to break the mould from the locality of industrial workers and make it big in his career. He joins an insurance company and finds out that his boss's daughter is his adolescent friend.

The movie is set in the 70's and the beginning was allright, when it focused on the pranks played by the three friends, ending up in the police station on a daily basis. At this point it looked like it was going to be a comedy focusing on these youngsters. But later, it looks like a drama and in the final minutes is just another romantic comedy.

It is an allright watch, I would say. Never bohring, some touching moments in between and all. But it is mostly like, it is neither a satire or a drama or a romantic comedy. It is like watching a movie without a heart.

In between the 70's settings and the cinematography are two plus for this movie. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

35 Rhums - 35 shots of Rum

2008 by Claire Denis - French movie

Some movies are quite slow. The most difficult part in such movies are to get through the first 15 or 20 minutes. Then, you know whether this is a No No movie for you or a good one. Of late, I have come across few such movies, which took its time to make an appeal. But then they look really lovely.

A father and daughter are living in a suburban apartment in Paris. The daughter, a University student though, is still very close and tied to her father, who haven't gone for any other woman after his wife's death. 

How can a movie be so simple? Of course, it was looking like an empty show for the first few minutes. But then slowly we get into the life of this father and daughter. A young man living in the same flat building is attracted to the girl and another single woman in the same building is attracted to the father too. But both keep a distance from every thing else and finds happiness between them. Slowly the movie does give a message that it is important to have some sorts of engagements or commitments for anybody walking towards their old age.

And everything is so simple, natural and very subtle. Just that towards the final moments it was slightly rushed though.

It is mind boggling that such a simple movie with very few actors and words can keep us engaged for so long, without absolutely nothing serious happening for most of the time. The power of cinema is quite unique.

A different cinematic experience, for sure.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Four Lions

2010 by Christopher Morris - British movie

How best to make a comedy movie using terrorism as a plot. I would say, most people would not even want to attempt something like that. Which is quite clear by the sheer absence of comedies based on terror. Well, not all movie makers are the same. Chris Morris is for sure a brave man to conceptualise and execute this plot.

A few muslims in UK, wants to be jihadists and do something for their religion. Except one, Omar, all the rest are absolute idiots, typical of the characters we come across many classic British comedies. Omar and a friend even enrolls for a training in Pakistan, before they can come back to Britain and bomb some UK targets.

First of all, I cant basically agree with the politics in this plot, which is typical of the western idea of Muslims. Anyways, lets just forget about that, just look at this as a movie, hoping this movie is not watched by any ordinary muslim who might feel sorry or insulted or what not. Anyways....

A real dark comedy. Classic British one too with its absolutely idiotic characters who make bloody hilarious comments. The 4 characters are synonyms of idiots, except for Omar who looks slightly better. But the best scene, the most hilarious one too, in this movie involves Omar, wherein Omar and his friend undergoing training in the Swat valley in Pakistan, decides to shoot down an American drown flight with a huge gun(a mini rocket launcher or something like that, I dont know). What a bloody funny scene it was. Couple of years back, when Maradona was coaching Argentina, during a World cup qualification match, after watching Messi make a marvellous run through the opposition defence he commented - if that ball had gone in, the whole stadium should have gone out and bought a new ticket for the rest of the match. Likewise this scene was so funny and brilliant, that it would have been ok for me to pay once again for the ticket(if I was watching it in a moviehouse).

And the movie has many similar hilarious scenes. And one such bloody brilliant scene, is shown during the end credits. I guess, the director might have edited out many such scenes, but wanted to include this one some how.

If we are ready to ignore all those untold background politics or stereotyping, this is a bloody brilliant comedy. Brave one too.

I just wonder what a normal Muslim would feel, watching this though.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Shi - Poetry

2010 by Lee Chang Dong - Korean movie

Many movies come with the typical tag of being Fresh, but very few are fresh. Here is a movie which is fresh in all its aspects.

A 66 year old grandmother, Mija, who is living on Government pension and a small maid job, enrolls for a poetry lesson. 

That single line of plot alone is quite unique for movie world. But what makes this movie even more fresh is that Mija lives with her grandson, in a tiny apartment. Her divorced daughter is working and living in some distant town. Mija soon discovers that her grandson and 5 other school boys are behind the suicide of a school girl.

This movie is about a lot of things. About ageing, about loneliness, about nature and poetry, about parental love and protection and also about how a single elderly woman manages a grue some situation of a family crime, all alone. But all these is carefully and tactfully woven into a wonderful script.

Of course the movie is slow paced, but it has a big heart. Mija would make us curious, happy and sad for her.  She will even inspire us with her way of living and approach. The way she treats her grandson, after knowing about his crime, is brilliant. A really brilliant character, very fresh of course.

The performance by Jeong-hie Yun, as Mija, is simply brilliant. It was one of the simple scenes which really made me admire her acting, actually, above all. There are a few scenes of Mija walking on the streets, talking to her daughter. It looks bloody natural. Brilliant performance all through out by this veteran actor.

Mija is one of the most powerful and strongest characters in cinema, for me. Her image is still in front of my eyes.

Monday, 7 November 2011


2008 by Matteo Garrone - Italian movie

A modern day masterpiece from Italy. A brilliant take on the Camorras, a mafia organisation running its business around Naples.

I am afraid, there isnt any particular story with any typical beginning or end, in this script which is based on a book. It is more like looking at what is happening with 5 different characters who are all some how related to the Camorras. These characters are so different from a textile designer to an industrial garbage dumper. And sure there are the typical characters like spoilt boys who reach the world of drugs and guns in between.

But the way the movie is told, showing how all these people are influenced and affected by this huge mafia, whose webs are so long and powerful, is brilliant.

The movie is very typically European, with shades of Latin American style, dealing with dark matters though. It is not any action packed Hollywood style. But there is action on the back ground. It has to be seen to believe it. A real different way to shoot mafia, I would say. Most entertainment movie makers from the popular movie industries around the world could be embarassed by the stark reality that is presented.

I would say it is difficult to explain, how I felt about the thrills and chills of action, tension and murders, all without really much action actually. There is a scene in which few adolescent boys are asked to drive down huge trucks to a dumping quarry. This scene is kind of spine chilling even if it is told very quietly and is kind of pointer to how the movie treats its plot. Absolutely brilliant. And an amazingly brilliant cinematographer too.

The movie is not fast paced, it has a kind of slow pace, but it is still very gripping, once we get into the thick of the happenings.  In fact, that might be the only negative, if at all that can be called a negative. It might take some time for us to really understand what exactly is happening on screen. Till then, I was wondering may be this is too intelligent stuff for me. But once it came through, it was superb. The real Italian mafia, without the glamour and gloss that normally covers up such movies from every where else. It will not be a mistake if anyone wants to call it a documentary of Naples mafia.

Real brilliant movie. 

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Taegukgi Hwinallimyeo - The Brotherhood of War

2004 by Kang je-gu - Korean movie

A real epic movie. Just not sure, whether its an epic movie on war or on a family. It is more than interesting that when we get war movies from America, they are just war movies, barr a couple of exceptions. But many war movies from Europe and Asia, there is actually a heart too. Especially the ones from Asia are quite different in this aspect and this movie is the best example. We cannot easily term it as a war movie or an epic movie of a family in the backdrop of a war.

During the Korean war, two brothers are forced to the war front. War changes the eldest into a true soldier, while the younger one is shocked by the change in his brother. Only one survives for sure.

Of course, there are few moments in this movie, which definitely looks inspired by certain Hollywood scenes. But otherwise, it is a real epic movie from Asia. The love between the two brothers and that for their family is wonderfully captured. The changes happening in the two brothers which gets into a kind of love hate relationship, is typical of certain Indian family movies. Just that, here all this happens while at war and I found it simply brilliant.

At times, the movie has a real American way of looking at things, quite biased but through the younger brother it also goes into the human side of the war. This is the most interesting aspect of this movie. The elder brother stands for nationalism and the younger for the human aspects, the negatives of the war.

Just that, in few scenes it turns a bit too dramatic, only if one wants to nit pick. But otherwise, here is a movie which has executed both the war and emotional quotients brilliantly.

There is no question about the quality of the technical aspects too. Everything is simply world class. Koreans must be really proud about this movie. Some of the frames, even if they are in between violent war scenes, are really classic and adds to the epic nature of this movie.

Brilliant performances from the two brothers. And also from the actress who played their mother. A woman who lost her voice at the death of her husband, who only have very few scenes in the movie, but every time she is on the screen, she really impress and can touch our hearts.

If this was released as a Hollywood movie, I am sure that this one would have been accepted by people all over the world, especially Indians and Asians, with all their heart. The family aspects of the movie, though universal, will strike a chord with Asians very easily. It is a real pity our people dont get to watch such epics. 

Copie Conforme

2010 by Abbas Kiarostami - A French movie by an Iranian director, also with lots of English and Italian dialogues

I dont know what to say. This movie might be a different or classic or artistic master piece or what not, but I did not understand.

A woman takes a man, who is in town for a seminar, for a drive. They talk about the woman's son and soon it looks like they are both real husband and wife, meeting after long.

Really I dont know, what this movie is meant to be. May be it is too intelligent for somebody like me. But I found it quite stupid enough for somebody like me, for a layman.

Very bohring and confusing movie.

The only good thing is the performance by Juliet Binoche. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

About a Boy

2002 by Chris & Paul Weitz - British movie

For me, to know Hugh Grant is there in a movie is to know that there is guaranteed entertainment, in a different way. Even if his roles are always having a similar kind of style, he is excellent and entertaining. And now, when he plays a kind of different role, it must be even more different, right?

Hugh Grant plays Will, a spoiled 30 something man, who has regular income from his father's carole song and hence does not have to work at all. Nor does he get deep into any relationship. Just because he found single mothers are very nice for short term relationships, he thought about an odd way to meet single mothers and finally meets Marcus, a 12 year old boy. The movie is very different from then on. It is like Will is learning lot more about life through a 12 year old.

The movie nearly has the settings of a typical romantic comedy, but it isnt one. It is much more than that. Many of the moments between Marcus and Will are really brilliant. If not for the typical kind of drama in the end, the movie would have had a brilliant classy feeling to it.

It has lots of funny moments, but not like the ones from typical romantic comedies. Most of the fun here has a touch of elegance to it. Really, this is a serious and elegant comedy.

Hugh Grant was excellent, so was Nicholas Hoult as the 12 year old. 

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Love Actually

2003 by Richard Curtis - British movie

This is quite different. Of course it is a romantic comedy too. But normally we have one or two pairs or some triangles in such comedies. In Indian movies, even a 3 hour long movie is not enough to describe the love of a couple. So this is quite different.

8 couples, from different walks of life, in London. This inlcude the British prime minister to an adolescent school boy.

It is absolutely brilliant how the script and the director manages to bring out the emotions between the characters through very few scenes. Most of these couples do not have any connection at all and the movie actually jumps between the couples. So actually there is very few time and space left for the script and the director to bring out a new love story or end an existing one. But the way this has been done is simply brilliant

As I said, when Indian movies take too long to describe just one love, this movie with few scenes takes us to so many couples. Each and every one is different and so are their situations. This is best explained by the character of the prime minister and of the school boy. But really, it is splendid. I especially adored the scenes between the typical British man in South of France having a Portugeese maid. Both do not understand anything from the other's language, but their love was really so nice. I liked all the situations, but this was really nice.

Towards the end, the movie takes almost a similar path of most romantic comedies and lose its brilliance, which was so well maintained till then. But it still ends as a brilliant entertainer. It still has some real touching and disturbing moments though. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011


2010 by Misskin - Tamil movie

When my Tamil friends told me about this movie, I wanted to watch it right away. Misskin had already proved as a different director. And when they mentioned Mysskin proves that he is a director from another level, it was so tempting. But then, as always the best Tamil movies never make it to Kerala. Only the ultra popular ones or the ones starring the big super stars will release in Kerala. There are still lot of extra ordinary Tamil  movies which have never seen Kerala theatres. Thenmerkku Paruvakaatru, Aranya Kandam and recently Azhagar Saamiyin Kuthirai all had the same fate. So finally when I got the Nandalala dvd, I was really happy. But I was quite, positively, shocked by the movie.

The first two movies by Misskin, though different, were still made out on the entertainment format. Though I was warned this one was different, I never expected Nandalala to be a real cinematic experience.

Within a few minutes we are sure that Mysskin is inspired by Kikujiro, the lovely Japaneese movie. However, Mysskin has made a lot of additions giving it a real Tamil feel, he has kept some elements from the original script though.

So Nandalala has two souls travelling in search of their mother, one the child and the other an adult, but mentally destabilised. It is their journey, meeting many others, good and bad people enroute their destination.

I am sure those who look down at Tamil cinema would immediately scream, oh this is just an inspiration. But the elements added by Misskin are as powerful as the original characters. And that is why I would say this is an exceptional movie. We could still watch it like some of those Italian movies. There is a lot to laugh and cry with the two main characters here.

The cinematography of this movie is truly brilliant. May be the best I have seen in any Indian movies in a long time. Everybody interested in motion photography, I would say, must watch this. There are lots and lots of brilliant mid range shots, all seems to have shot using a normal lens. Mid range shots are almost extinct in Indian cinema, sure this is a bit exaggeration. But here we get to to see a classic work.

Tamil people must be very proud about this movie. Here in Kerala, inspite of knowing that Pranayam is inspired by Innocense, people still seem to praise it like anything. So why not give credit to Nandalala too. At least Mysskin has made a much better movie than Blessy.