Thursday, 31 December 2015

Best of Dec 15

December was excellent.  Most of the movies were good with some exceptional ones in between. So difficult to pick the best.

La danza de la realidad -The dance of Reality by Alejandro Jodorowsky - Spanish from Chile -2013

Watching this movie, I felt like, experiencing something co-directed by Fellini and Kusturica. What a beautiful creation this was. This is a must watch, believe me.

A kind of mix of surrealism and magical realism, to tell the story of a father, who goes through a sea change in his character, with assistance from his wife - who only sings her dialogues - and a son.

I must admit, there were more than few thoughts or view points (political/religious) in this movie, which I would not personally agree, but I could forget all that while watching. Such was the power of this cinema. It engages you in a magical way. A brilliant master piece.

Plemya - The Tribe by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky from Ukrain - 2014 - Russian sign language

This movie does not have any dialogues or any background music. But it is a stunning piece of cinema. The story happens in a boarding school for deaf and dumb and all the dialogues are through sign language.

One might doubt that you need to understand the sign language to see this cinema. Well, if you understand its better. But frankly, you don't have to. This movie has the beauty and magic of cinema, in abundance. I do have apprehensions about the story, but I don't care and would rate this as a master piece. Absolutely Brilliant.

Mustang by Denis Gamze Erguven - Turkish - 2015

A beautiful cinema about the life of 5 sisters in a rural family.

Wonderfully acted, Mustang is engaging to the hilt while subtly getting its message through to us. There is not a single moment in which any of these young girls give an impression that they are acting. They were so natural in front of the camera. Incredible.

The only negativity, arguably may be, is that the underlying theme of control over women, is getting quite repetitive when it comes to movies from Iran and Turkey.

It is very sad that, our women (Indian) suffer too, really terribly. But there are hardly any genuine or serious attempts to tell that in our cinema. Most of our movies, which boast as female oriented, turns out to be fake or pretentious.

Gett. Trial of Vivian Amsalem by Ronit Elkabetz, Shlomi Elkabetz - 2015 - Hebrew/French from Israel

I don't like anything about Israel, but really, they make very good movies. And Ronit Elkabetz is a real star. She is a brilliant actress and director too. What a woman. With this movie, she is telling us that life of women in Jewish society is terrible. Her French influence is quite evident in her direction, I think.

The title is nearly the brief of the movie. A woman wants her divorce. But in her religion, she is utterly under the mercy of her man and the clerics. 

This is definitely a continuation of the 2004 movie, To Take a Wife. Most of the cinema happens in a small court room. But there is not even a dull second. I felt like killing the bloody husband and the priests. Like most other movies in this list, sorry to say again, this is a must watch too!

La Giovinezza - Youth by Paolo Sorrentino - English from Italy 2015

Last year, Sorrentino charmed with his La Grande Bellezza, and this year he has another movie to remind us, what an excellent film maker he is. His consistency in bringing out 2 master pieces out in consecutive years is incredible.

There is something magical in the way Sorrentino captures his ideas onto screen. He must be among the best in today's directors who can consistently create absolutely stunning imagery on screen. He doesn't even seem to need a really great plot to do this, as it is in La Giovinezza. It seems to be all about aging, friendship, love, pain and what not. Yes, there is so much going on there. But Sorrentino can keep us engaged and hooked to the screen with his mind boggling mastery of visuals and sounds. He also gets the best out of his actors.

Manuscripts dont burn by Mohammad Rasoulof - Persian/Iran - 2013
The Government needs to prevent a certain secret being published by some intellectuals. 2 men are employed to find out the last remaining copies of the manuscripts and they have orders to kill if need be.  They too have their own personal lives, though. The movie concentrates on one of them, who is struggling to find money for his kids operation. 

Wonderfully shot, this is a stunning and brilliant political thriller. A must watch.

Eden by Mia Hansen-Love - French/France - 2014
In some ways Eden looks like a difficult movie to make. There are hundreds of thousands of young teenagers and men, through out the world, who dream about making it big as a DJ. Eden, follows one such young man and his struggles, over couple of decades.

An excellent cinema about pursuing one's dreams and what it costs for the same.

Kuttram Kadithal by Bramma G - Tamil -2015

Yet again, Tamil cinema comes up with an indigenous movie which can be up there with international cinema.

A young school teacher slaps her naughty student who falls unconscious and later into a coma. So many other ordinary lives too are affected

A wonderfully shot cinema, which is almost an edge of the seat kind for most of its run time. Tamil cinema should be proud about this movie. Except for some bits of unwanted song sequences, the movie is near perfect.

Following European tradition, most important actors are chosen from Theatre and this has lent a very high standard to the movie when it comes to the performances, not to mention the leash of fresh life it induces to the whole cinema experience. The student, the teacher, the principal and his wife, the students mother (sensational, I must say, with hardly any dialogues) and his uncle, all of them were brilliant. My salutes..

Tamil new generation movie makers need to be commented for their boldness in non-conformist casting. Brilliant!!!

Beasts of No Nation by Cary Fukunaga - 2015 - English - American

This is one of those movies which I would call American than Hollywood.

A very young boy is forced to be a soldier in a bloody civil war in some African country

A beautiful cinema, but a painful watch. We would not wish such a fate for any child from anywhere in the world. Must watch, I would say.

The performance by Idris Elba, as a commandant, leading the army of children and teenagers, is exceptional.

Sicario by Denis Villeneuve - 2015 - English/Hollywood

This is what Hollywood can do best, when they really want to, ie to make a genuine movie.
I had 3 reasons why I wanted to watch Sicario - Denis Villeneuve, director of one of my favourite movie - Incendies, the lovely Emily Blunt - whom I adore since I saw Young Victoria, and the majestic Benicio Del Torro.

The movie brief is quite misleading, as it sounds like a typical Hollywood action project. It hardly is. I mean there is action in this movie, but it is devoid of any Hollywood cliches. Wonderfully directed, Sicario is an excellent thriller with a soul.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Best of Nov 15

Victoria by Sebastian Schipper - German - 2015

There are few movies out there, which have been completed in a single shot. Making of a cinema is always like creating harmony out of various creative departments, and to make this happen in a single shot requires great vision, planning and pinpoint execution and hence such movies are special. However, with all the past single take movies, one factor was always missing, a la thrill. Most of them were also shot in a single or in a couple of locations.

Victoria is a Spanish girl who has just moved into Berlin for work. After some fun in a night club she comes across a group of boys and develops some feelings for one of them. However, the boys are stuck up in a very dangerous situation and Victoria too gets trapped into it.

The dangerous situation is a bank robbery. And from the above brief itself you would see that this movie cant take place in a couple of locations, right? I think there are more than, at least, a dozen locations in this cinema. Though, the first half is all about getting a bit romantic the second half takes a sudden deviation into pure thrill. Now think about it, all this is shot in a single take. Frankly, it is unbelievable and absolutely brilliant.

I must say, Victoria is not brilliant just because it is a single shot movie. It is an excellent cinema. There are some believable characters too, who are all payed brilliantly. Special mention to Laia Costa who plays Victoria. To think that most scenes must have involved a lot of on the spot improvisations and all.., it is incredible. The second half is as thrilling as any good thriller. It would be a sin to not mention the heroics of the cinematographer, who had to shoot the whole movie in one take, 2 hours plus of a single shot, half of it during night and the rest during dawn. Brilliant.

I cant imagine, how could they conceive and execute this so well. My salutes to all behind this one. Thank You.

La Isla Minima (Minimal Island) Marshland by Alberto Rodriguez - Spanish - 2014

A double murder in a remote Spanish village is investigated by two detectives.

A well taken investigation cinema, with some stunning cinematography.

Diplomacy by Volker Schlondroff - French/German - 2014

Whenever Hollywood wants to talk about atrocities on humanity or human sufferings or historical wrongs, they always go to Europe and the World war. And its always the Jews who suffer. This is another example of how European cinema seem to create master pieces out of world war situations, without Hollywood cliches.

Germany occupied Paris. The allies are closing in on the city and they can capture Paris any moment. Hitler have ordered his General - now acting mayor of Paris - to raze out the city of lights. The Swedish consul is trying his best to prevent the General from doing so.

This cinema takes us into a historic moment, happening in a room, the General's office, and let us witness their whole discussion, which starts sometime very early in the morning and goes on for hours. We see the versions of both sides and why both are so intent on doing their job. 95% of this cinema happens in this room and yet, it feels like a thriller is no mean achievement. Absolutely brilliant performances by the two veteran actors Neils Arestrup and Andre Dussollier. With all my love for the city of Paris, I may be forgiven for looking at this movie as a thriller.

Love - read here

Les Combattants - Love at First fight by Thomas Cailley and Andy Goddard - French 2014

A young man has to fight a fierce young woman in a silly beach competition and falls for her. He is now ready to go to any lengths to impress her. This girl is quite a concrete block though. 

Well, that brief would make a typical Hollywood Romantic Comedy and this cinema too is a kind of Romantic Comedy, but very Frenchish with lot of cinematic touches. So do not expect all the fun and grief  and twists that you would expect in a normal Rom comedy. Excellent performances, especially by Adele Haenel.

Turist - Force Majeure by Ruben Ostlund - Swedish - 2014

A Swedish family is on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. They face an Avalanche and the mother and children are stunned to see their father running away without any worry for the family. 

This is one of those, quite different from rest, intelligent and novel idea for a movie. There are no fatalities from the avalanche and things are back to normal. But how would a family react to a father after such a thing. A really good watch, except that the end was a bit predictable. Some of the frames, embedded in thick white snow, were so beautiful and artistic.

The movie really made me think about how I might react in a similar dangerous situation. Would I put a brave face or would I behave like a coward. Our mind is a strange thing. We never know.

Saturday, 21 November 2015


Love by Gaspar Noe  English film from France - 2015

Gasper Noe broke my heart with his classic Irreversible, when he let 'my' beautiful Monica Bellucci to be violently raped for more than 15 minutes on screen. Irreversible was brilliant cinema from this Argentinian director, and it was path breaking in its cinematic language and technique and what not. Ever since Love released, I wanted to watch it and this has been a long long wait to get a copy, while I had to listen to all sorts of reviews and comments about it. Most in the English world called it porn cinema or artistic porn or pretentious cinema and so on, but elsewhere the world looked at it differently. Finally, my lady too talked about it as beautiful cinema, and I couldn't wait any more. I got the copy yesterday and to be very frank, I was a little bit disappointed. This could be because my expectations were so high or because of the director himself and the so many varied opinions including my wife's. 

Like in En La Cama, the Chilean movie, Love starts with sex. For most of the first half of the cinema, I was kind of disappointed and had so many questions. Is this really Gaspar Noe. Why did he have to make this movie in English, why did this hero had to be American. What is wrong with the love making scenes, which for some reason lacked genuine passion and so on.

Love is about an American man falling in love with a French girl, in Paris, but has to live with another girl because he got her pregnant. 

Mr. Noe hasn't forgotten his Irreversible style yet, the flashbacks works backwards in Love. I found the second half excellent and looking back, I must say, this cinema is another path breaker from Noe about relationship and love.

During the second half of the movie, a policeman is talking to the American and he says something in these lines -" You are in France now. Forget about your American feelings. Enjoy it, there are so many beautiful woman out there, go and enjoy with them and forget your possessive nature about your girlfriend, let her enjoy too. There are so many desires of hers which you may not be able to fulfill and vice versa. So trust each other and go out to a night club or sex club and enjoy your sexuality calmly with others as well. There is nothing wrong about it, feel your sexuality and fulfill your desires. As long as your girlfriend know that you are going to get back to her after (just) a sexual adventure, she will be fine and you should do the same to her too. Relax, dont be possessive".

For me, the whole essence of Love, is in these lines. I felt, Gaspar Noe wants to tell the conservative English world to not be possessive about sexuality and relationship. To look at the French and get inspired. To forget their orthodox views about sex and relationships and look at it with a more open mind. By all this he wants them to enjoy their love, sex and life even more.

Looking at it that way, I would say, Love is excellent. But I would also say, the scenes of sex lacked a kind of passion which I could feel, say in La Vie d' Adele. The raw sex scenes, all of them, in LVA looked like love making, while in Love, it looked simply like sex. I hope you get the difference. Love is not exceptionally great cinema, but it is definitely bold (even shows a nude trans gender!), non conformist, treats sex as normality, and have wonderful music and visuals which include raw sex. Acting, mostly, was average though and none of the actors had any kind of charm. I got answers to all my questions by the end of the movie, which is good.

I must say, it is possible that people who are not aware about the French ways, of openness to sexuality and relationships, might easily misunderstand this movie as porn cinema.

Finally, it is such a pity that most of my fellow Indians would never get to watch this movie. Indians need to watch it more than those in the conservative English world. Even if they lack the openness or passion for sex like the French, many in the West do not consider sex only as a means for child production. In India, vast majority strongly do believe in this medieval English rhetoric. This movie is intended for our (Indian) kind of population, where a couple in wedlock is taken for granted as enjoying healthy love life, irrespective of how much love and love-making remains in their relationship. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Best movies from Oct '15

Man Som Hatar Kvinnor - Men Who Hate Women - 2009 by Niels Arden Oplev - Swedish
aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
A journalist is assisted by a young hacker, who herselves has a troubled past and present, in solving a 40 year old murder mystery.
This is like a cinematic classic amongst all the Nordic Noir masterpieces (TV serials). If you like investigative cinema, then this is a must watch. Please just do not expect the Hollywood style of fantasy investigation and you will be in for a treat of cinematic brilliance.

One of the scenes in this movie is definitely among the best ever revenge scene by a female character in the history of cinema, I believe. This is not a revenge movie, the scene just falls in to the life of the hacker, the girl with the dragon tattoo.

The movie was followed up by two more releases.
Flickan Som Lekte - The Girl who played with Fire and

Luftslottet som Sprangdes - The Girl who kicked the Hornets Nest

Once you watch the first, you would not want to miss the rest of the trilogy and you wont be disappointed.

PU -239 by Scott Z Burns - English/British - 2006
A nuclear plant technician is exposed to radiation, losing his job, has to ensure a good future for his wife and kid. 
In many ways, this is a kind of thriller without pretending to be one whilst telling us how dangerous the nuclear world is. Brilliant movie with just one fault - why the hell did they decide to shoot it in English, I wonder. Russian language and actors would have made it much better.

Well, I spend many days watching, Engrenages and I have to say I have become a huge huge fan. Can celluloid ever create something more realistic and more cinematic than this brilliant adaptation of police life.

Engrenages (Spiral) season 2 - 5

Only for the second time, after Sarah Lund from Forbrydelsen, am in love with a character. A simple difference is that I have become a huge fan of the actress too, who played Laure Berthaud. Laure is just one of the many hero cum anti heroes of Engrenages, but she is absolutely brilliant. Laure has many different faces and aspects unlike Sarah immersed in the work fetish  Lund. And Laure make us fall in love with her even during her negative moments. She is adorable and charming and thrilling and what not.

Somebody said, France is not rich like Hollywood or HBO as far as production values are concerned. True, its riches lie in its acting and creative talents. There is not a single actor in this series who is not about quality. Am talking about a quality which is above the international standards we are used to. The series itself is co-written - by a Police officer using a pseudonym - that the whole series is unbelievably realistic. It is a continuously evolving web of games between the magistrates, police, lawyers and criminals. There is nothing which looks out of reality. It looks like we are watching some CCTV cameras placed within the system.

This is exactly how Justice system or police must be doing things in their real life. I have never seen or read about a police officer who attested for a police (or system) movie, which he felt is close to reality. Well, there are now police stations in France who keep posters of Engrenages on their walls. That speaks a lot for the authenticity of this show. And the group of actors, all of them picked from French theatre, took the quality to a level above.

France was always about theatre and cinema. They were not that popular for TV serials. Engrenages has changed it and have become its biggest TV export, having already sold to 70 countries. No, I dont think it will ever come to India, as we are obsessed with stupid Hollywood products. Like always, Engrenages too will be remade in the US and it is for sure they will kill it like they did with Forbrydelsen. I dont have any idea how they will recreate the examining judge or the investigating judge of French justice system in the US.

And I should mention about a Hindi cinema too.

Margarita with a straw by Shonali Bose & Nilesh Maniyar - 2015 - Hindi

This was not brilliant cinema for me, just a cute good watch. However, I would always applaud the courage shown by the makers. They have dared to show a female Indian protagonist  masturbating on screen, should be a first for Indian cinema. And goes even further, makes the character a bisexual, all that requires huge balls.

Unfortunately, the character is differently abled, which means most of the viewers, including our Censor board, would look at it with lots of pity. I wonder, how would the 'Moral Indians' react to a normal character doing the above on screen.

Its also interesting that whenever our cinema has a differently abled person - as a major character - sh/e is always from a wealthy background. Why dont we dare to pick up such a character from our majority, our poor. All the shining Indians would then accuse the movie for poverty porn, I guess. 

The Malayalam movie Pathemmari was a good watch too. It is sad that an actor like Mammooty dont get  challenging roles anymore.

The Tamil movie Naanum Rowdi Thaan too was a good watch. An entertainer with lots of well taken funny moments. Vijay Sethupathi, once again, at his best.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Engrenages - Spiral

Engrenages is a French TV serial. I just watched the first season (2006), which had 8 episodes.

Obviously, it was my interest in Nordic Noir, which led me to Engrenages. It had got excellent reviews from European critics.

Frankly, Engrenages did not look very interesting in the beginning. I really started thinking, ok the French are masters of cinema, but may be not for TV thrillers. Now, that I have got this bad habit of comparing every crime story to the Danish or Scandinavian standards, I argued with Corinne that Engrenages is not really top class. She too agreed.

But then, slowly, by the 4th episode, I realised something. Even with the Danish crime stories, the whole investigation is just after that major crime. If something else happens, they are all some how connected to the initial crime. The excellent Rejseholdet too, which is based on true crime stories, this was the pattern.

Would it be like that in a real life Police department? This is what makes Engrenages different and incredible.

There is the original crime, which is being investigated. But this doesn't mean other crimes dont happen, right?, so, the same officers also have to take care of other matters around them. There is a murder, which is giving head ache to the investigating team, but they are also stressed out by other crimes, another murder by young drug traffickers, a mother under suspicion for killing her baby, a father accused of raping his daughters and so on.

Sure did it take some time for my tube light to get into the same wave length. But therein, everything looked absolutely different.

When you think about it, Engrenages should be the closest to reality of how the justice system work.  It is brilliant, to be frank. Crime CID's, Judges, Forensic doctors, Public prosecutors, Perpetrators, victims and witnesses and media (interestingly, media presence is very limited), a whole web of people around crime. None of these characters are black or white. All are normal people with lots of grey matter. Like the Nordic stories, it too goes into the private lives of some of them.

At one point, I even thought, the serial might end stating that the whole system is corrupt. But no, it is not about that. It does say, there is grey every where. But it also tell us how law is helpless sometimes. How the insistence on solid proof prevents the law keepers from ensuring justice. Law may not be absolute.

Engrenages should change our view of how crime stories are told.

If you try to watch, allow some time, please. Inspite of bits of knowledge about the French, it was slow for me. Also, please keep in mind that the French justice system is quite different from ours or the US. So we might find certain aspects strange.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Best movies from Sep '15

Ich Seh Ich Seh - Goodnight Mommy by Severin Fiola, Veronica Franz - 2014- German from Austria
A mother comes back home, after a cosmetic surgery to her face, to her waiting young twins in a beautiful countryside villa. Her face is all bandaged and she also behaves strange that the boys doubt if she is their mother at all.
An excellent example for the beauty of the art of cinema. The movie starts slowly but gets tense and tenser. Am sure towards the last 10 or 20 minutes my mouth was bit open, kind of awe struck. The cinematography is absolutely sensational, with most of the scenes happening inside the villa.

Kis Uykusu - The Winter Sleep by Nuri Blige Ceylan - 2014 - Turkish
A not so successful theatre artist of the past, now enjoying some local fame as a writer, lives with his young wife and divorced sister, in a quite popular homestead. One or two friends, a kind of assistant and his tenants in the village makes up the rest of the characters.
The movie, proceeds through some scenes with long discussions between the couple or some of these characters. These discussions, sometimes, brings out the deep discontent within some of these characters but other times are about 'kind' of philosophical topics. It is very long, a bit more than 3 hours, yet, this is very engaging, speaks volumes about how well it has been made. Often the camera has little to do, but still I found it was a brilliant work. It was incredible that, many a times, I felt, the director was letting us watch some of the hypocrisies of the rich.

A brilliant cinema which make one feel like reading an epic novel.

Gui Lai - Coming home by Yimou Chang - 2014 - Mandarin/China
A couple who got separated because of Cultural revolution. By the time the husband is back from prison, wife has memory issues and do not recognise him. She keeps on waiting for her husband and the husband tries his best to get back to her memory. 

Well that story gives the feeling that it could be another cliched Hollywood epic. But not with Yimou Chang. He has made a kind of epic poem out of this story without making it overtly emotional or too much sentimental or not even going into too much of politics, which is omnipresent around. In fact the movie is quite slow, very engaging, with beautiful cinematography. Many of the scenes are very detailed and still have a kind of subtlety to it. However, most of those scenes will touch our heart. The ending is another class act.
Li Gong, what an actress. What a pity that most people, who know about Meryl Streep, do not know about this wonderful actor. 

5 to 7 by Victor Levin - 2014 - English/Hollywood

This cinema, in some ways, might look typical of many Hollywood romantic comedies. But there are two remarkable points about the movie.
- that someone is telling how conservative or closed Americans are in private life, when compared to the French or Europeans, barr the British.
- I dont know another Hollywood movie which even mentions the French 'system' of 5 to 7, a technical term for 'legitimate' extra marital affairs. This is the thread behind the movie.

Above all, I would say watch it simply for the stunning, beautiful French actress Berenice Marlohe. She has lovely curves and posture, but her smile takes it all to another level. Her smile lives on, even few seconds after the camera has moved on from her!

I am, again, gotten back into watching 'Nordic Noir' serials.

Den Som Draeber (Those who Kill)

Ornen: En Krime Odysse (Eagle : A Crime Odyssey)

Rejseholdet (Unit One)

All were good. But none felt like Forbrydelsen though. Its funny to know that all the above serials have been remade in America!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Best movies from August '15

There were so many Barca matches in August. It almost felt like April or May when, usually, Barca has a game every 3rd day. So unusual for the beginning of football season. Watching and re watching those games, I saw fewer movies in August. There were a few gems though.

1. LA FAMILLE BELIER - The Belier Family  by Eric Lartigau - 2014 - French
Charming, Cute, Funny, Heartwarming.. I could use many more words to describe this adorable movie.

The Belier's are quite an unique family. Both the father and mother, typical French farmers who sell their cheese in the weekly market, and their young son, all three are dumb and deaf. Only their daughter Paula can speak and is literally the PR person of the family. In school, she realises that she has a talent for singing. Her teacher wants her to apply for the big music school in Paris. But then, what about her family.

This is so stunningly shot on screen, with heart touching performances. Nearly every next scene will touch your heart, make you smile and will let you part with some tears. It goes into certain details, which other movies on dumb and deaf have never tried - for eg. the parents make all the noise, while making love, without realising it. It is though, quite normal for the daughter,  the healthy member of the family, to accept it and deal with it.. It is also so nice to listen to all the songs. How beautiful it is, when the characters sing their songs on the screen.

Louane Emera, who plays Paula, was definitely cast for her singing skills, however, at one point I did ask my wife if she was singing for herself, I mean, she was living Paula on the screen. Towards the climax, when she uses sign language, while singing, so that her parents can understand, is so beautiful and really really heart touching. For me, that was one of the most heart warming moments ever in cinema. We should be grateful that such cinema exists.

Also the song, My dear parents, am not running, am flying, is a song from the 70's. At the end of the movie, we wonder if this song was written specifically for this movie. Was the movie built around this song, or they researched around and found this song?

2. Mommy by Xavier Dolan - French from Canada - 2014

Story of a widowed mother, struggling to manage life, and son, who is hyperactive/unpredictable/violent and a woman from the neighborhood who wants to help them. This movie is about parental love, of course. But it can be described simply as violent or unpleasant or heart breaking or what not. Most scenes, even if you disagree with the content, are so intense, really really intense. The son's character and even the movie, especially during its first half, brought back memories of Starred Up. In some ways these two movies are cousins.

3. Ba Wang Bie Ji - Farewell my Concubine by Kaige Chen Mandarin - 1993
Story about 2 friends who meet during their (grueling) training in the Peking Opera. Their friendship continued for 52 years with lots of drama in between.
An absolute period classic from China. I find it hard to believe that every Chinese period movie I have watched, nearly all were excellent. They seem to really have that 'thing' to make wonderful period dramas. This movie is wonderful in its grandeur, but as an epic drama, it does not touch your soul as much as, say, Aftershock. Still a classic.

4. Sunshine on Leith by Dexter Fletcher - British - 2013
A movie about a close knit family told in a musical way. Every time I have watched a western musical, I have had moments when I found myself getting bored, when characters went about singing. But in Sunshine on Leith, every time they sung, it was pleasant and brought a smile on. It was such a pleasing experience. 

5. La Fille Du 14 Juillet - The Rendezvous of Deja Vu  by Antonin Paretjatko - French - 2014
The English title is quite weird.
This is one more example to prove that the French are masters of exploiting Cinema in the most unexpected or different ways. This movie is old at times and modern at other times. It is incredibly funny, inspite of being weird, is more than sarcastic and still created some feeling for couple of characters, in between. It could even be a meeting of Goddard, Fellini and Kusturica, and this coming from a debutant director, its brilliant.

6. Wild Bill by Dextor Fletcher - Irish - 2012
A father is out from prison on parole and find that his two sons are struggling to live by themselves. Their mother had left them. Being a good father was not his priority at all, but he seem to slowly realise what he was missing. At the same time, his old criminal friends are around too. The story as such may not look that attractive, but for how it is told, this is wonderful cinema with a superb performance by Charley Creed-Miles as the father.

I should also mention about the Hindi movie, Manjhi. A beautiful true story with a wonderful performance from Nawazuddin Ziddiqui, however it all ended up as a lost opportunity. We, Indians, are not really good at making biopics, me thinks.

Thani Oruvan, the new Tamil movie also didnt disappoint as a neatly taken entertainer. The director manage to make Aravind Swami look like a decent actor. Even Mani Ratnam didnt manage that! It is not always that in Indian cinema, there is an intelligent villain, who grows in stature as the cinema progress. It is also rare for us to see a main stream entertainer starting out as a perfect thriller, getting slower and slower as it progress, but keeps on getting more and more engaging. Simply wish if the hero was played by Surya or Vijay though.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Best movies from July 2015

Some of the best I got to watch in July. Hopefully I will manage to do this every month.

1. GRAZELI NATELI DGEEBI - In Bloom - 2013 by Nana Ekvtimishvili & Simon Gross- Georgian

Other than loving movies, why I look so much for watching movies from all around the world, is for the chance to peek into a different culture. Most nations make indigenous movies and when told well, they are such a good documentation of their culture. Many countries may not be able to match the sheer number of movies made by Hollywood and India. But they do make it up with the sheer quality of their cinema, very genuine. They wont have characters imitating Hollywood, or those who want to behave as if they are modernised western version of the local country, they simply stick to their own culture.  

In Bloom, is one such gem from Georgia. Its the 90's. 2 teenage girls, friends, have lots of problems in their families and their neighborhood. And it is so nice to watch, when movies depict life so realistically, without artistic pretensions, but still keep it more than engaging.

The toughest job, I think, for a film maker should be to shoot natural life, realistically, in a family or in the neighbourhood and to make it engaging for the viewer, (something which Mike Leigh specialise).

2. A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT by Ana Lily Amirpour - 2008 - Persian from USA
For me, this is a masterpiece of a cinema. It takes advantage of all aspects of the medium and is presented by an intelligent director. If you want to watch a typical Iranian movie, you will be in for a shock as this movie about a young vampire in the Iranian bad city, is comic, horror, romantic and suspense all in one, very original, very cinematic movie!

3. BLIND by Eskil Vogt - 2014 - Norwegian
A wife who have just lost her eyesight is killing her time and what else can she do than imagining. And her imagination goes quite wild. It is stunning that even the imagined characters are as powerful as the real. What a creation this movie was? The lines between reality and fiction is sooo blurred, but so cleverly done. 

4. KRAFTIDIOTEN - In order of disappearance by Hans Petter Moland - Norwegian - 2014
One more reason for me to substantiate my thinking point, that the Nordic and the French are way ahead of  others, in cinema. This is a simple story of a father revenging the murder of his son. But how it is told make it such a wonderful cinematic experience.

5. SILS MARIA -  Clouds of Sils Maria by Olivier Assayas - 2014 - French film in English, French & German

What a movie this is. A famous actress had rose to fame at 18, playing a younger character in a cult play (about a complicated relationship between a young employee and her 40 something boss). Now at her 40's she is asked to reverse the role for a new adaptation of the same play. She now has an young assistant, and she starts rehearsing the play with her. At times it become impossible to distinguish between the real cinema and the rehearsal. There is friction because of the characters in the rehearsal, there is friction between the actress and her assistant too, a generation gap evident.
Assayas was the director who gave Juliette Binochet a big break in the mid 80's, and now he is making this movie with her when she is 51. So many things we cant ignore.
Another interesting matter is the levels to which European cinema can elevate a Hollywood actress.  I would never dare say Kirsten Stewart as just another Hollywood star, hereafter. She goes toe to toe with Juliette Binochet.
There is a scene during which Juliette Binochet and Kirsten Stewart enjoy a swim in a lake. The uninhibited French she is, Binochet gets nude and jumps into water whereas the cautious Stewart keeps her underwear. That scene, for me, is quite symbolic of some of the differences between Europe and America.

6. SAMBA by Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano - 2014 - French
Another movie about the European attitude to immigrants, but told in a Romantic comedy style. Samba is told with lots of fun, so its quite entertainment, but it is touching too, will feel like laughing and crying with Samba. What an excellent actor Omay Sy is. And Gainsbourg, I think, its the first time I see a movie in which she has good and funny moments. 

7. EN GANSKE SNILL MANN - A somewhat Gentleman by Hans Moland - 2010 - Norwegian
A man who is out of jail after a long time, doesnt have any aspirations with his life. He doesn't mind doing anything, in exchange for some food and shelter. 
I have never seen Stellan Starsgard doing funny things. He really comes out of his typical mould. What an actor. The movie also have couple of the funniest sex scenes in cinema, for me.
Finally, there is a distant similarity with the recent Malayalam movie, Munnariyippu.

8. MANDARIINES - Tangerines by Saza Urushadze -2013 - Georgian
Set in the 90's when Georgia is under war. Georgians, Estonians and the separatists feature as the characters in a border village. An Estonian farmer saves two soldiers from opposite sides. Its an excellent watch, once again looking at how war is pointless over humanity.
It is impossible to not think about No Man's land, watching this one, though.

9. PRIDE by Mathew Warchus - 2014 - English/British
Based on true events. The Coal mine workers are on strike. A small group of Lesbian and Gay friends start the LGSM group (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) to support their strike, unwelcome though. Later, when the LGBT community goes on for a huge protest in London, the miners revert back their support.
So simple, but so well told, with so much to laugh together with the amazing characters. Beautifully performed by each and every one, this is one of the most simplest feel good movies, for me. Just that, as a cinema, it falls short of reaching the level of Ken Loach movies
The only strange fact would be not to mention at all about the communist background of Mark Ashton, the leader of the LG group. This was, possibly, done to avoid any controversy or negative reactions with the American viewership.

10. NARAYAMA BUSHIKO - Ballard of Narayama - by Shohei Imamura - 1983 - Japaneese
There are few movies about this famous ballad from Japan, about old people being carried to the top of a mountain, as its difficult for the families to feed them, where the old wait for death.  Beautiful story and cinema. It would be impossible to not cry at the end of this one.

Monday, 29 June 2015

A brief list of some must watch Cinema's

It has been very long since I posted something and this post is only because of the pressure from a friend who saw two of the movies in this list and called me back right away.

Each and every one of the following movies deserve very very detailed write ups. But I cant. Watch them, you will not regret it, I bet.

1. Starred Up by David Mckenzie - British - 2014

Simply, this is a prison movie, with a couple of stunning characters. Tension is there through out and that too without any support of background score. It is unbelievable that this kind of a prison thriller, with arguably the greatest prison characters of all time, made me finish it with a tear in my eyes. It is stunningly brilliant, I watched it thrice in a week.

2. Relatos Salvajos - Wild Tales - by Damian Szifron,  A Spanish movie from Argentina - 2015

Few short stories, each more crazy and wild than the other, this is absolutely brilliant. Please tell me which story made you more crazy.

3. Hunger by Steve Mcqueen - British - 2008

Until I saw this movie, I always felt the body transformation by Mathew Mcconaughy for Dallas Buyers Club, was out of this world. Well, Michael Fassbender has made the best transformation and performance too. Hunger is a superbly taken cinema. In fact there are only few scenes with any dialogue - believe me its not bohring art house - and one scene with a very long dialogue between two characters, with the camera not even moving a bit - but this is a wonderful cinema

4. Kajaki by Paul Katis - British - 2014

This is a true story , a war movie, like American Sniper. But it will put American Sniper to shame. You will never feel like you are watching a movie. I felt as if I was part of a camera crew following some soldiers in a mine field. Stunning. 

5. Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako - from French Mauritania  - French/Arabic - 2014

For me, its the first movie which looks inside terrorists or extremists. Beautiful cinema.

6. Respire - Breathe by Melanie Laurent - French - 2014

A brilliant cinema about teenage relationship. An intense drama about two girls getting into a dangerous friendship (no no, its not a lesbian relation), wonderfully acted and told.

7.  Gemma Bovery  by Anne Fontaine - 2014 - British/French

This is not an exceptional movie, but watch this simply for the wonderful acting of Fabrice Luchini, the amazing French actor.  For me, he is among the very best actors in the world. The movie is may be even average, but it has very funny moments, with Luchini at the heart.

8. And from India, please watch the Tamil Kakka Muttai - Brilliant cinema of international quality. For me, it is the best international quality movie, after Pisashu.

There are many more, but am lazy.