Friday, December 30, 2011

CHAMPION (1949)


‘This is the only sport in the world where two guys get paid for doing something they’d be arrested for if they got drunk and did it for nothing.’

The small town youth Midge Kelly and his lame brother Connie came in search of employment to LA. With his masculine built and bully temperament Midge knows only one thing- to fight. An opportunity leads him to boxing and soon from small town hitch hiker prizefighter he becomes the unbeatable champ of boxing ring.  He grows on making his name and fame and carried away by wrong priorities. Under company of beautiful dames and money spinning success he cut off his old loyalty. The title of championship persists with a heavy personal price tag. 

By all means the film is definitely worthy enough to watch for the knock out performance by Kirk Douglas as Kelly. Must say this one of the most terrific and passionate performance of his early career. Along with fine acting talent, the man has amazing natural gift of muscular profile compared to most of Hollywood stars of the era and the film like this brought that to the public notice. The film was spectacularly successful and established him as the man to watch forward in coming time. Apart of him, all rest of the cast performed so well, especially Arthur Kennedy who played his lame brother Connie.   

The film is fine mixture of sports drama and moderate noir. There’s no doubt that the film would surely remain an inspirational one for Scorsese while making ‘Raging Bull’, as he shot the film in B&W with those brilliant slow motion and close up shots of  bloody ring action. Though nominated for best actor and best supporting actor category, the film won sole Oscar for Best editing category.

Ratings-8/10 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

HOLLYWOOD ENDING (2002)


Can we imagine any other genius filmmaker of Hollywood who publicly calls his cinema ‘an artistic masturbation on screen’? With all his eccentric, narcissist, hypochondriac, neurotic self that throws oxymoron and one liners, Woody Allen is still a darling man of Hollywood making cinema of his kind; an absolutely stress removing treat. Like most of his films, Woody played himself here as Val Waxman, a filmmaker who got an offer to direct a film after a decade long period and it came from his ex wife and his rich financer fiancé. The film is about New York City and who knows streets of NY better than Woody! But at this very juncture he suddenly turned psychosomatically blind as some strange way of God. He doesn’t want to lose the chance to regain his name and fame as filmmaker and so he goes on directing the film on sets with his blindness on, faking that he’s alright.

Hardcore Woody fans may find much repetition in theme and plot with common traits of messed up marital relationships, caricaturized characters, stretched up situations and over the top drama but than even excess is fun to watch when there’s somebody unique like Woody doing it on screen. It’s quite an average Woody but one can’t deny his fine writing skills. The conversation on restaurant table between Woody’s split self persona and his ex wife is just outrageous fun to watch. Can’t resist sharing few lines here:

Ellie: Our marriage wasn’t going anywhere.

Val: Where do you want it to go? Where do marriages go? After a while they just lay there. That’s the thing about marriage.

Ellie: We had sex. But we never talked.

Val: Sex is better than talk. Ask anybody in this bar. Talk is what you suffer through so you can get to sex.

Ratings-7/10

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DAY OF ANGER (1967)

'Him...and his pistol! There can be an experience of a lifetime in a gun. But it's not enough to be able to draw faster than the other guy if the other guy knows a trick that you don't know. In my days, we had to either learn the tricks...or we gave work to the gravediggers.'

My second spaghetti western made by this Italian Director Tonino Valerii and it’s absolutely entertaining affair for any spaghetti western lovers. Valerii worked as Sergio Leone’s assistant and imbibe many of Master’s skill in his works. Lee Van Cleef was the John Wayne and Clint Eastwood for small budget westerns and the man most of the times live up to the expectations. This is one of that western where he’s in terrific form as ruthless gunfighter Frank Talby who kills anything comes in between his goal. He arrives in a western town named Clifton as unwelcome stranger who helps a young bastard named Scott who works as sweeper and collects garbage of the local town. Under mentor Talby, Scott grows his manlihood and maturity but the camaraderie between them unsettles the unchallenged power of rich and powerful men of the town.

The film bears trademark western theme of gunslinger-disciple and one may find many traits of Leone’s western here in portrayal and execution of well choreographed action and camera angles. Riz Ortolani’s score for the film is high point of the film and it deserves to be heard even after the film is over.  

Ratings-7.5/10  

Monday, December 26, 2011

MY NAME IS NOBODY (1973)


‘If a man is a man, he needs someone to believe in.’

They said that he could draw his gun three times before the other fellow even starts reaching his own in holster. Everybody knows about Jack Beauregard; the greatest gunslinger and the only hope of law and order in the west but his staunch admirer cum follower young man knows more than anybody else. He dreams of letting him face the wild bunch of 150 sons of bitches on horsebacks!

From almost silent and tense filled opening in saloon shots to awesome climax action where one man facing the group of 150 horsemen on railway track leading to surprising twist  this is a kind of spaghetti western demands to be watched on big wide screen. The film was of seed of Producer and Master Sergio Leone, materialized on screen by director Tonino Valerii. The film has fine repeat value as it combines action, comedy and fun running on screen in equal proportions making it perfect entertainment for any age. The camaraderie between two unlikely men different in age, mood and attitude is the worth watching chemistry between legendary Henry Fonda and young Terence Hill. Needless to say it has brilliant camerawork capturing fine panoramic wide shots and slow motion action shots. Maestro Ennio Morricone’s background much resembles to his immortal score for Leone films.

Absolutely entertaining and a must watch for any Western fan.

Ratings-8/10 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

HEERA PANNA (1973)

There comes a period in every successful superstar’s career when under the intoxication of success and stardom he starts taking things as granted, making wrong choices and silly decisions being over confident, try to do things he is incapable of  that turns his progressive graph downward. The evergreen star started losing his charm with this debacle under his own banner and direction with this film and than he never turned back and continued his downfall journey to the limit that his films not sold tickets of even his opening first show. And yet he kept making cinema, if for nobody than for himself! 

After his second directorial venture and success of ‘Hare Rama Hare Krishna’, Dev Anand took the control of whole production and filmmaking in his own hands and started writing, directing, producing and acting altogether and ended up scoring zilch in all of the departments. Perhaps he made this film partly to keep his discovered muse closer to him and partly to project his self proclaimed Narcissist image on screen. With absolutely pathetic script, loud overact, odd chemistry with his aged look, the audience started rejecting their admirable star after this film. The film is drab purposeless affair on screen and Dev indulged more in showing skin of Zeenie baby. He’s playing international photo journalist who is interested taking snaps of bikini babes, driving his ridiculous car painted with names of all metro cities of the globe. 


Unfortunately the film fell short on many departments including the acting by the cast. Except Kishore-Lata’s classic duet ‘Bahut Door Mujhe Chale Jaana Hai’ even R D Burman’s  score for the film is too ordinary for banner like Navketan. What a debacle and yet Dev made another bigger box office disaster in company of his Zeenie baby titled ‘Ishq Ishq Ishq’. Both the movie and Dev’s possessive infatuation with Zeenat turned flop soon after its release. The rest is the fading glory of Dev and his once upon a time shining banner that gave not only box office hits but memorable films to Hindi cinema. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

KALA BAZAR (1960)


The year is near to end and there’s not a single rejoicing film that makes this year memorable one for Bollywood cinema! So Popular Hindi cinema entertainment terribly falls short of creative ideas and concepts this year and carry on pushing remake factory packaged with glamorous wrappers of current bollywood stars. This Christmas, the audience habituated to mediocre action cinema flocked to see their screen sensation King Khan playing the new version of Don and than get ready to see one more handsome hulk playing the new version of Agneepath. The common denominator of both of these much hyped releases is that both has brand stamp of Amitabh Bachchan who set the status of angry young man or anti hero when audience is fed up with the romantic superstar of the era. Bachchan brought to screen the man of street in audience friendly cocktail made by Mehra-Chopra-Desai brigade. Perhaps the first dare act to play shades of anti-hero on screen was attempted by thespian Ashok Kumar but the popular star of the era who first romanticized the antihero characters on screen bade farewell to this world leaving legacy unsurpassed. For many admirers and fans like me the loss of this eternal evergreen phenomenon called Dev Anand this month was the saddest Sunday of the year.    

I grow up watching his cinema, listening his memorable songs, fascinating his oozing flamboyant charm and serenading romance, his style and persona with that irreplacable smile, his active energy and his many facets of star, actor, director and above all the man who never retired. Maybe he’s making film out there too! As per his name he’s truly ‘an angel of happiness’. Revisiting his cinema is a small gesture to pay him tribute. Soon after Dev Saab’s death, I was just thinking about arranging a retrospective of his films for a week but somehow that didn’t materialize due to busy schedule at job and other responsibility. Anyway I begin my tribute journey with one of his long due film for me that belongs to his home banner Navketan. The film was written, directed by his younger and talented brother Vijay Anand lovingly known in industry as ‘Goldie’.

The idealistic Nehruvian socialism and Gandhian principles were the order of that era and the film encapsulated that in the story. The theme represents love as igniting spark transforming a petty cinema hall black marketer man to the road of redemption. He faced trials and tribulations of law and society but than as idealistic side suggests that everything ends well that begins with a noble intention. Though Goldie handled the film so well, the melodrama in the second half seems quite cliché of that period revisiting today that stretching the film in the second half; but it was the flaw he improved so well in his later films with sharp editing skill. Both director-actor combo took the same theme to the next level six years later in their most ambitious project and a landmark Hindi cinema- ‘Guide’ based on R K Narayan’s Sahitya Academy winning novel. Undoubtedly their complementary combination worked as asset and magic to Navketan films. Together they became unbeatable team that gifted some of the finest Hindi films to Industry for a decade with titles such as ‘Nau Do Gyarah’, ‘Tere Ghar Ke Samne’, ‘Jewel Thief’ and ‘Johnny Mera Naam’. 


The film begins with one of the original shot which most of the critics considered as just footage but it is absolutely false assumption. We witness on screen the hero & his touts blackmailing tickets of one of the most successful and popular epic ‘Mother India’ at Liberty cinema hall in Mumbai. There are no more takers of heftily charged black tickets and than suddenly one after another all the mega stars-singers and crew of era starts coming to cinema hall in their vanity vehicles to attend that premier show waving their hands to the camera where Goldie was standing behind the camera fitted with zoom lens to capture this originally executed shot for his upcoming film.

Goldie a.k.a. Vijay Anand was heavily influenced by Hollywood Noirs of 50s and so one can witness the stark B&W frames, hero dwelling in some or other sort of street jobs and gripping editing for which he's famous. He also made some of the finest mystery thrillers with Hitchcokian twists. He paid homage to his idol in one of the scene here where Dev Anand standing next to large Hitchcock poster selling black tickets of ‘North By Northwest’ in Mumbai’s famous Metro talkies. The film finely captured post independent 60’s Mumbai with happening urban romance, and also the social reality on poverty and unemployment on Mumbai streets.


This is the rare Navketan film where all three talented Anand Brothers acted on screen together and all of them played their parts so well. Waheeda’s successful run into Guru Dutt camp won her entry to Navketan banner too. There’s no doubt that her on screen chemistry with Dev is something worth to watch in more than one film. Rest of the cast consists of Nanda, Madan Puri, Rashid Khan and Lila Chitnis, who remained officially default melodramatic mother of Dev Anand films gave her common contribution. S D Burman’s timeless compositions for Navketan is history for any Nostalgic Hindi film music lovers. Rafi’s two all-time soulful classic numbers ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’, ‘Apni To Har Aah Ek Toofan Hai’ belong to this film; though I equally love Manna Dey-Asha’s light romantic duet ‘Sanjh Dhali Dil Ki Lagi’.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966)


There are three Italian Sergio who defined Spaghetti western entertainment with their low on budget high on action firecrackers on screen. The first one becomes the most popular name who made Clint Eastwood the iconic legend with his trilogy westerns. The second one and quite lesser known one is Sergio Corbucci who made some of the brilliant westerns still unnoticed by mass except ‘Django’. What is John Wayne to John Ford, Eastwood to Sergio Leone; Franko Nero remained to Corbucci. The third and perhaps the least known one is Sergio Sollima. Indeed a wonderful discovery for western lovers!  

This is my first Sollima film and it’s absolutely gripping entertaining treat for any spaghetti western cinebuff. The film pitted two men poles apart from law and we see engaging cat and mouse play between an unofficial lawman named Corbett and a notorious and wanted Mexican outlaw named Cuchillo accused of rape and murder of a 12 years old girl. It has surprise in the middle and that push the boiling action to new direction. Lee Van Cliff is the man to watch here as Corbett and this is one no admirer should miss. Ennio Morricone’s score for the film is not as brilliant as his other achievements but nevertheless it gives you feel of Dollars trilogy of Leone. Sollima’s western has fine rustic and raw feel in visuals and locations unlike American studio set made westerns, catch the classy climax to know what I mean. This is kind of western which I love to watch again and won’t get bore for single minute. The movie is enlisted in Quentin Tarantino’s Top 20 Spaghetti Westerns.

Love to explore more of Sollima.

Ratings-8/10 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

THE SKIN I LIVE IN (Spanish) (2011)


One of the talked about film of the year by Spain’s most acclaimed contemporary filmmaker and Festival circuit favourite Pedro Almodavar. Beneath the thrilling and mysterious drama here’s a film which is unpredictable and bizarre in experience. The plot is abnormal and contrived one with surprising twist to get you hooked. A plastic surgeon experimenting with patient’s burnt skin and challenging the natural order by experimenting Transgenesis on his subject. Than it shifts gears into flashback and we witness the common traits of Almodavar cinema- accidents, drugs, family secrets, tragedies associated with it and complicated characters suffering from sexual disorder and mental trauma and guided by passion and obsession. There’s lot of intrigue in the film in the middle and I won’t ruin the surprise and twist by revealing it as spoiler. 

Almodavar filled the screen with lot of flesh and graphic nudity and considering the skin as one of the senses, it’s sumptuous visual food to notice. Elena Anaya is dame to watch in seasoned hands of tailor of aesthetic skin show but still there’s no alternative for Almodavar’s muse on screen- Penelope Cruz! But what is fresh is to see Antonio Banderas back in form to a role befitting his suave enigmatic persona other than mindless action flicks. The only drawback of the film is it wavering and shifting of theme like the character’s skin without much room for character elaboration. I was expecting a surprising twist or shock in the end but it ended up as considerably quite predictable affair without much conflict.

Ratings-7/10     

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

CROSS OF IRON (1977)


‘I believe God is a sadist but probably doesn’t even know it.’

Perhaps one of the most underrated Second World War masterpiece made by the cinematic poet of violence. After seeing this film Orson Welles was so overwhelmed that he instantly cabled Sam Peckinpah to let him know that it was the best anti war film he has ever seen about the ordinary enlisted man. The film portrays the setting of 1943, Second World War where German soldiers are fighting on Russian front under the able and valiant leadership of Corporal/Sergeant Steiner. A new appointed selfish and over ambitious officer Captain Stransky takes the charge as a new commander. The confrontation between the two sparkles the fire untamable as one is courageous man of honor don’t care damn about winning medals, the other is pure wicked man paving his way to win favors and bag undeserving medals.

Watching Peckinpah films and his aging heroes reminds me another master American wrier Ernest Hemingway and his heroes. The myth and culture of American macho hero is predominant part of both these Masters of their own fort and their contribution is perhaps well appreciated much after their death. Well one can write a whole essay on Sam Peckinpah’s heroes (won’t call them just ‘protagonists’) and their association with violence. Here Steiner is a disillusioned and stoic courageous soldier trapped in the world of ruthless violence of war and selfish seniors craving for ‘cross of iron’ medals compelling him to favor their unscrupulous act; and still he managed to remain the man of integrity. Though he’s fighting the war like valiant soldier he hates the blind ambitious rat race. He is the real man of honor who has to sacrifice himself along with others in the hostile situation not only against enemy but towards home too. For James Coburn perhaps this is the meatiest and memorable role of his career.

As for Peckinpah fans, Violence on American Cinema is divided in two general categories- pre Peckinpah and post Peckinpah. Master’s penchant for slow motion action portrays the intense experience. Just like his brilliant westerns, he managed to brought the brutal and godforsaken side of war violence with striking visuals. The film also depicts the psychological damage and paranoia that horror of war can inflict upon soldier. The awesome climax is pure Peckinpah touch of exploding chaos and violence on screen and there’s no match for ‘Bloody Sam’. The exciting thrill under the bridge, the unpredictable affair with lady soldiers followed by landmines in Russian trenches and the shattering final nemesis of Steiner’s platoon. Even in the final frames Peckinpah showed you the nihilist and unpredictable horror of the war making man almost animal; and Peckinpah knew no language suits him better than anger, blood and bullets. Hopeless angry Steiner emptying his machine gun to Triebig is the scene hard to forget. The final freezing frames are brilliant satire about war and the two faces of war heroes.

Highly Recommended.

Ratings-8.5/10   

Monday, December 12, 2011

IN TIME (2011)


This is kind of sci-fi thriller which results from miscarriage of a brilliant idea with poor screenplay and pathetic direction and execution. It has a fine and unique concept from which one can make brilliant and entertaining sci-fi thriller if scripted well or treated better. It begins with showing us the futuristic world where time is currency, time is mode of payment and time is what human beings are running for when one grows 25 years old. There’s no aging post 25 and so mother, daughter, son or grandson seems just 25 years old but only rich are fortunate enough to see the second and third generation. A protagonist running short of time saves the life of a stranger who has more than century of time on his sleeve (ya, Hollywood shows your time balance account in electronic digits on sleeve) Soon the stranger transfers his time to sleeping protagonist and commits suicide. The timekeeper (the vigilante cop who’s managing time in the world) is now hunting for the protagonist to get the time back.

Now everything seems fine and entertaining upto this juncture in the film. What we see next is Hollywood’s routine chase and run thrill then onwards where there is no conflict and no intrigue, even thrill and tension is terribly missing as the film is absolutely tilted one way to the hero and heroine who’re able to outsmart others anywhere anytime, they’re distant cousins of Robinhood stealing time from rich and distributing to poor, the rest is all mindless mediocre action from Hollywood Inc. I don’t care damn about Justin Timberlake or Amanda Seyfried  but what a waste of promising actor like Cilian Murphy!

Quite a disappointment!

Ratings-4.5/10 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

KURONEKO (Japanese) (1968)


From the man who gave us eerie Japanese psychological horror ‘Onibaba’, here is another equally brilliant supernatural horror offering not to be missed. It begins with a bunch of hungry and thirsty warriors came around a secluded hut surrounded by grove where two ladies live alone. They not only ravaged the house for food but also gang raped the young girl. The house is set on fire as soon as they left. Next is haunting horror journey in company of stray black cats, deceptive specter full of appearances and disappearances, a series of night affairs began with chance, guided by lust and ended with revenge trap. Don’t consider it as entire spoiler of the film; since this is just what one third of the film is, the rest is still an intriguing thrill of more than an hour.

Just like ‘Onibaba’, Kaneto Shindo maintained a haunting atmospheric set up in fine B&W frames. The paddy field and a round pit of ‘Onibaba’ replaced here with a dark narrow path and a house surrounded by bamboo clad jungle. The natural set up adds unusual wild and raw tense feel into the frames and action. In both the films passionate love is used as catalyst factor progressing the drama and action. It’s this treatment and style which sets this supernatural revenge fable into something unique and unforgettable classic experience on screen.

Ratings-8/10 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

SATAH SE UTHATA AADMI (1980)


‘Pure image has no representational meaning associated with it.’

Call it disillusioned modern poetry on screen…or an intellectual food of thought nobody interested to consume (forget the digest)! One can register any other spontaneous numbers of adjectives as the mind pleases but this is something so unique and unusual cinema which is perhaps unparalleled to the history of Indian cinema. The greatness of any film lies in the kind of quality of attention and sensibilities it evokes while watching it, contrast to that Mani Kaul’s this film invokes intellectual stimulation and vibrations about perspectives of art and life. Just first ten minutes into the film and the poetic narrative angst and fragmentary images make you think hard about the disturbing pretentious reality of mundane world and absurdity of life; raising pertinent existential questions about scrutiny of self, world and time. Based on Gajanan Muktibodh’s book by the same title, the film is personal statements of several disillusioned characters portrayed in disunited voiceovers and narration. .  

A poet named Ramesh is an artist far removed from reality, his friendship with Keshav helps him sort out his puzzling mental vibrations about art and life. The poet is seeking wayout redemption from his puzzling struggle between internal and external affairs juxtaposed between life (creation) and art (recreation). It’s difficult to elaborate plot any further because what you see requires lot of patience free from preconceived notions. Within a layered and scattered narrative the film portrays a very personal material consists of a surreal dream, a symbolic story of termite eating bird and discussed the theoretical and perspective aspects of poetry of an artist struggling introspection to recreate the spontaneous moment of idea (thought) transformed into fantasy. The duality of struggle in the mind lies between language and expression.

Kaul is heavily inspired from the cinema of Robert Bresson and followed his traditions in his cinema. Like him he strongly tried to avoid the forced or extended meanings into the image. Who will understand the significance about purity of image in today’s pretentious and consumerist advertising and voyeuristic television driven audience. Kaul avoided structural technicalities of conventional cinema. One may witness the experimental elements of French New wave cinema too in the form. Rather than conventional narrative, Kaul’s film is scattered narrative of fragmentary collage coiled up by disunited voiceover, poetry, stream of consciousness, surrealism, dream, symbolic story, literary criticism, political satire and confessional writings of an artist.  That too portrayed with uneven, unadorned images captured with static camera shots using available natural light and non acting performers (using actors like Bressonian models). Though all unusual accomplishments, what is major drawback of Kaul’s cinema is his vehement and deliberate avoidance of human element. Bresson though made films with detached portrayals of his non acting characters, ultimately till the end of the film made them more than human in spirit (read ‘Saints’) in his cinema. Compared to that Kaul failed to uplift that element with his self absorbed world full of too personal expressions.     

The maker of this avant garde and experimental Indian film died just few months ago; for a day or two the media and news headlines produced short obituaries proclaiming him as one of the most original and experimental filmmaker India ever produced. The big question is did the country care about him really when he was alive? The man had made a few films in his entire career and ran pillars to post finding finance to express his unparalleled ideas and cinematic expressions hard to avoid. What is terribly sad and unfortunate is that till day almost all of his films including gem like these remain unavailable to public. Even this pirated version which I managed to see after a long hunt is full of severe cuts and has near to ruin condition. We need Martin Scorsese to save our gems of Indian Film Archives as the man remastered the original prints of many Indian films near to ruin including Ghatak’’s ‘Titash Ekti Nadir Nam’.

Writing all this, I must confess that still I’m kindergarten kid to understand depth of this sort of cinema as it demands multiple views to comprehend fully…wish someday I’ll be able to understand it more better way! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

IS RAAT KI SUBAH NAHIN (1996)


I seriously wonder is it the film made by same Sudhir Mishra who made films like ‘Dharavi’ and ‘Hazaaron Khwahishen Aisi’? Perhaps this is the most pathetic film he ever ended up making. The film is a crime and drama of one night which opens quite well with an interesting premise and than it jumps to straight nosedive with crappy script, directionless and loud act show. The characters of Nirmal Pandey, Tara Deshpande and Smriti Mishra are so flat that they look more like objects than human; even otherwise good actors like Aashish Vidyarthi and Saurabh Shukla are also seems so loud and over the top in act. In fact all the characters here do not talk…they just shout to their highest decibel possible.

Mishra’s preoccupation with theme of street crime in Metro is visible here (undoubtedly Scorsese influence) and his recent two films reflected that too. Here he tried to blend two different tracks of plot; where he handled the internal gangster trouble part quite well initially and messed up for the remaining part  but pathetically odd is the second and almost undeveloped drama of stretched extra marital affair between a long hair flat face hulk and his two nagging dames. The characters are so flat and bore that you altogether don’t care damn about them within few minutes. Add to that poor editing, tedious continuity of chase and messy situational tension, unnecessarily pushed songs that makes the film almost unbearable towards the end. The twist in the end is quite predictable one for the audience who get enough space and time finding loopholes.

Ratings-4/10   

Sunday, December 4, 2011

DUVIDHA (1973)


Years ago I’ve read one of Girish Karnad’s play titled ‘Naga-Mandala’ based on a mythical Indian folk-tale that absolutely resembles with the plot of Mani Kaul’s this Indian New Wave  alternative cinema classic. And besides that Amol Palekar’s retake of the same film ‘Paheli’ made with two budding stars of Hindi cinema made the plot and story of the film almost revealing factor. So the mysterious and intriguing plot of this wonderful folk-tale is not something that is new for me. What is more unique is not the story, plot but the cinematic form.

This is my first Mani Kaul film and I must say the man created unusually unique and experimental form to the Indian cinema that leaves all the baggage of traditional grammar of filmmaking. From minimalist approach to unusual narration, detached characters use of camera (flat, still and freeze frames) the ethnic textures of Rajasthani colors (especially red and white) on screen, everything here is more of a personal statement than a normal cinema. The film is too original and avant garde in form for Indian cinema but for normal cinema viewers it’s too early and too difficult to appreciate and comprehend his art in a single viewing. However I found many stylistic resemblance of his film form with two French Masters Jean Luc Godard in exploiting many experimental stylistic devices and Robert Bresson for cent percent minimalist tone and using his actors just as detached non actors in the film. The film won him a National award for best direction. Eager to watch his other gems. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

IL POSTINO (Italian) (1994)


‘Poetry doesn’t belong to those who write it, but those who need it.’

An enchantingly beautiful cinema full of positivity vibes about life that offers a bit of everything- poetry, politics, romance, sublime friendship, subtle humor, religious puns, soothing background score, natural landscape visuals, touching performances and above all fine metaphors of life.  A fisherman’s son Mario has curious inclination towards life and external world than being fisherman like his hard working father. He’s quite learned man and so turned to a post man’s job at a remote Italian small town clad with beautiful landscape of mountain and seashore. Here arrives a world famous poet Pablo Neruda on exile due to his communist leanings. Mario has to serve as delivery post man to him and he’s curious to know the reason of poet’s huge female fan following. As the sublime friendship between the poet and him grows, he’s fascinated with the idea of being poet as he feels that poets are loved by women. Mario is man of imagination lacking talent but the delightful company of poet and his poetry helps him to see life in different perspective with use of metaphors about life around that helps him to win the heart of his sweetheart. The exile is over and the poet returns to his homeland. Years passed and the poet returns to find the man who writes him a most treasured poem. The sublime end touches anybody’s heart where we witness the greatest poet yearning for a lost poem of his life!

Il Postino is an simple and moving Italian film full of heart and soul at right places that keep spreading genuine smiles and emotions on your face without any sort of unnecessary melodrama or overtly complex characters. Massimo Troisi deserves a posthumous award for this swansong performance of his life. It is sad to know that the man needs a heart surgery during the shoot of the film but his priority was towards finishing the film. It is tragedy that he passed away due to heart attack immediately after the shooting of the film is completed. I must say this is one of the most breathing natural act I’ve seen in Italian cinema; with his honest face and body language devoid of any direct or indirect screen presence consciousness he literally brought the naïve and innocent heart of postman so naturally on the screen. Philippe Noiret as poet Neruda is charismatic too and acted with so much ease.

At one point of the film, Mario simply said to Neruda, ‘This whole world is a metaphor for something else.’ So true!

Ratings-10/10 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

GANDU (Bengali) (2010)



In one of the interview I watched on you tube few months back, India’s budding new wave filmmaker Anurag Kashyap told the interviewer that the whole world has already explored the cinema and scaled new heights that our cinema has never dreamt of and we have yet not even started exploring it! The serious question is whether conventional entertainment loving cinema going people of India is mature enough to see and accept this! Even if answer is yes and no in uneven votes, the next question is does the men presiding the chairs of Indian censor board let pass this experimental phase of Indian cinemas to the audience in this so called freedom of expression nation without their preconceived notions of being moral Gestapo of  Indian art!

Here comes a striking and ground breaking Bengali film which pushes the boundaries of typical conventional Indian cinema. It scales new heights with its exploding sensory experience for any typical Indian cinemagoers. It’s cinema of extremes with transgressive and subversive stuff where ‘the form’ not the content has higher hand.  Director Qaushik Mukherjee a.k.a. Q almost made a film with his auteur stamp where from direction to camera work, editing to music he maintained his artistic control of the whole film. Though one may find the few sparks of Aronofsky’s ‘Requiem for a Dream’ or socially shocking cinema of Gasper Noe in his cinematic style,  undoubtedly he’s the new Indian filmmaker to watch in coming time in terms of creative, technical and stylistic innovations for Indian cinema, I hope that it will be same for the content too! 


Gandu is good for nothing directionless frustrated young loser who’s wannabe rapper. He hates his mother, hates living in home and steals money from the man whom he hates the most. He’s an outcast who’s passing his days in streets, trying drugs, watching porn and masturbates in his room, dwell into voyeuristic pleasure in cyber cafe and above all roaming with his Bruce Lee obsessed street buddy named Rickshaw. As for the first film, Q has not let a stone unturned throwing the audience in the what is called ‘taboo’ for Indian film. The profanity of language, explicit sexual scenes are in abundance. Kudos to all cast who dared to do something like this for Indian screen! Much appreciated ‘Delhi Belly’ seems kid and more commercial one compared to this one. Oh and though I don’t know Bengali, I just loved its awesome and unique soundtrack, surely a bomb for your ears in terms of lyrics!

Few days ago I’ve seen another striking film made with shoe string budget but full of  brilliant creative ideas named ‘Ink Lab’ and though there’s more anti-national and objectionable material in uncut versions of Indian commercial cinema, censor board found the film too anti-national and unsocial.  Thanks to the age of internet and torrents that makes cinema free from the clutches of so called moral police of Indian censor board in the nation of freedom of speech and expressions. The film was extremely opposed by Mumbai Police and denied to show in Naya Cinema Festival leaving the audience frustrated.Here’s what Q retorted with anger, “I don’t think Indians even deserve to watch ‘Gandu’. If we don’t have a channel of distribution, why would ‘Gandu’ need a Censor certificate in any case? If we get a film with cuts, it’s not the version that people want to watch either way. That apart, even with cuts, we will not get theaters to screen the movie. So, what’s the point?”

Ratings-7/10 

Monday, November 28, 2011

THE DEBT (2010)


After a long time an edge on the seat espionage thriller by Hollywood. Three Mossad agents were on mission to abduct a diabolic Nazi surgeon doctor Vogel in Berlin and bring him to Israel to put him on trial. They managed to kidnap him but things took different turn than onwards. After almost two decades of the mission’s accomplishment, things starts turning different way from where they left the truth. As one agent committed suicide and another on wheelchair, it’s Rachel who has to set things in order. Director John Madden grippingly unfolds the plot and story in past and present and weaves a suspense around it and at the same time maintained the emotional and relationship tension and drama between the trio.

Jessica Chastain is a fine talent and she has similar characteristics of Natalie Portman; both in look and act and she maintained brilliant internal tension of young Rachel with that diabolic and emotionally manipulative devil doctor. Helen Mirren is a kind of actress who’s aging so gracefully with her brilliant acts. Though she is in main lead here, she doesn’t have much screen presence as aged Rachel and yet she maintained her character with all respect. It would be much better if Surgeon Vogel’s heinous crimes were explained in more elaborative way and there would be tenser climax! Nevertheless not a letdown one for any thriller lovers.

Recommended watch.

Ratings-7/10

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

BURN! (1969)



‘It is better to know where to go and not know how than it is to know how to go and not know where.’

‘If a man gives you freedom, it is not freedom. Freedom is something you, you alone must undertake.’

Starring Marlon Brando in one of his most underrated and remarkable role, Italian director Pontecorvo’s this film is a strong statement than just a cinema of pleasure. Though the film is part fictitious, it has enough sparks of political and historical text that probes questions about western imperialism and their selfish exploitation of the natives. America, Australia or Mexico white men exploited the natives and their lands while filling their countries’ coffers with gold and money. In the name of progress the power has been curbing and rewriting not only history but the progress and civilization too as per their suitable tastes for the time immemorial. The man who made a masterpiece like ‘The Battle of Algiers’ documented and narrated the film from start to end without being judgmental to any race and yet finely managed to balance the weight to both struggling black revolutionaries and the ambitious and powerful white colonizers.   

The film opens in a remote Caribbean island called Queimada, ruled, burnt and exploited for three centuries by Portuguese colonizers. Here comes a provocative suave diplomatic English man named William Walker with British military plan and campaign to spread revolution solely motivated by financial and political gain. Most of the black and mulatto slaves are serving in sugar plantations are severely exploited under Portuguese colonizers. Walker pushed a courageous black rebel named Jose Dolores into a leader and made him General after overthrowing the authority. But soon the white men show their real skins. Ten years passed and now Walker returns to island with a new mission, this time as a facilitator between major sugar company and established Government and the only eyesore is rebellion Jose. The power made revolutionaries as instrument for their own means and annihilate them when he no longer serves them; the scapegoat and martyr here is Jose Dolores.     


There’s real American freebooter man named William Walker, who made private unauthorized expeditions to control the Latin American colonies and become Nicaraguan president in mid 19th century and soon executed by American military. However the director here took many liberty in portraying historical facts and characterization here and made him a British middleman wanted to end foreign domination and establish free trade in Portuguese colony.

The film ends so strikingly. Near to end, selfish and guilt ridden white man fails and frustrates to understand why the rebel is deliberately love to die even though he provides him freedom and than next to the death of him we see the rebel begets another rebel! A black slave begging for the white man’s bag and than stabs him   as he's going to join the ship to England.

Aah...What else i can say about Marlon Brando. His effortless method act on screen brought to screen a suave white diplomat in all flesh and blood. This is one more shining example of his best performed roles without a doubt.

Ratings- 8.5/10 

Monday, November 21, 2011

ZELIG (1983)



‘If you are not in the mood for my obsessions, than you may not be in the mood for my film.’

Surprisingly altogether different and yet wonderful film made by Woody Allen. The film is a mock documentary about a fictional phenomenon man set in 1920s and 30s. He's a bizarre human chameleon  who transforms himself into different personalities. The great intellectual American writers such as Saul Bellow, Susan Santog, Irwing Howe saying things about this enigmatic strange man named Leonard Zelig who created such diverse impressions playing shifting personalities everywhere he moved.

Unlike his early mock documentary ‘Take Money and Run’, this is not just comedy but a film made with certain serious intents. Undoubtedly this is one of the brilliant writing and maybe prelude to Woody’s wonderful film ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ where fantasy and reality interweaves into one. Here the protagonist is suffering from psychological delusional reality about himself; personally he’s nobody and non existential loner who wanted to seek attention and favors. Behind his identity disorder he’s the man with an extreme urge for social security and acceptance. ‘Wanting only to be liked, he distorted himself beyond measure,’ wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald about Zelig.

Those who’ve seen David Lynch’s ‘The Elephant Man’ find queer resemblance here. The performing freak who’s seeking to be loved and cared by society and not mocked. It’s only Zelig’s psychological doctor played by Woody’s better half and wonderful actress Mia Farrow who devotedly cares, loves and cures her patient that became the curiosity of the age. Soon after his cure, he was claimed as immoral man or criminal for things he had done prior to cured state. It is the same society who found him too amusing earlier now found him humiliating and again found him adorable after his aviation stunt ruining Hitler’s speech? Now who’s the real chameleon here?

The film is not all that serious, there’re few moments of fun too but not off the hook! Especially the scene where under hyptonotic trance Zelig confessed things to his beloved doctor or addressing to the public. Narrated in third person voice over narrative, the film is as authentic as documentary should be. The production and other technical detailing of the film’s periodic setting are just pitch perfect and Woody’s favorite cameraman Gordon Willis captured the tone of 20s and 30s B&W silent montage and stock footage so authentically and gracefully with fine details. With surprising restraint Woody kept himself as Zelig, almost excluding himself from whatever amount of personal traits and stocks that made him famous icon on screen.

Needless to say must watch for all Woody admirers.

Ratings-8/10 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

HANA-BI (Japanese) (1997)


A distinct and unusual style and form of narration- editing pervades in the film. Mute or slow motion violence punctures the screen while narrating a fragmentary plot about a sincere cop whose wife is going to die soon due to cancer. He got loan money from notorious Japanese criminal syndicate ‘Yakuza’ and the goons keep on messing his life with threats. Meanwhile a mid age colleague cop gets shot on job and now his life on wheelchair is drawing surreal drawings…some beautiful…some suicidal!

What is the most beautiful about this otherwise ordinary film is the way director and actor Takeshi Kitano used the form to say something so ordinary in extraordinary way on the screen. Rarely do we see the combination of violence and visual aesthetics runs hand in hand like poetry on screen. Those creative surrealistic paintings that his colleague cop made are absolutely treat to your eyes. The real artist behind them is none other than Kitano himself who made most of them when he was on hospital bed as paralytic patient for short term after meeting a severe accident. The soothing and emotive background score is another evocative part of the film and Kitano made us feel the sublime joy and melancholy of husband and wife in their wandering moments of togetherness in the lap of nature, far away from madding crowd! The end is something so dark and yet so graceful; this happens rare in cinema.

So far my most impressive Kitano film.

Ratings-7/10  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

THE SWORD OF DOOM (Japanese) (1966)

‘The sword is the soul. Study the soul to study the sword.’
Undoubtedly one of the classic violent Japanese masterpiece ever made. Kihachi Okamoto deserves the position Japanese Sam Peckinpah! He brought to screen the antagonist to watch from the very beginning to the very end. From basket hat clad stranger who finishes an old man praying on mountain pass to the irrepressible swordsmen on brutal killing spree, Ryunosuke is one hell of gifted but cruel swordsman I’ve ever seen on Samurai cinema.

Unlike moralizing cinema Kurosawa, Okamoto captured the film almost like nihilistic violent ballet. Here is an outcast man who kills without purpose and he enjoys it. The dazzling camerawork of Hiroshi Murai brilliantly captured the striking swords action with the chilling dead calm muteness of sound serves as tension motif. The long bloodiest duel in the climax brilliantly captured incredible light and shadow. 


Forget the legendary Toshiro Mifune (though he’s present here)…it’s Tatsuya Nakadai who’s man to watch here; with a slaying sword, that bloody wry smile and nihilistic body language he brought  Ryunosuke as the villain not to miss. His unchallenged sword remains doom for others and finally for himself. I must say this is one of the brilliant villain acts I’ve ever seen in Japanese cinema. The bloody mayhem in the climax is one of the most fierce and violent one to witness. Ryunosuke’s uncontrolled evil soul symbolizes his sword and the climax where he’s destroying the shack followed by massacring the group of swordsmen is something as strikingly and impressive moment as the final of Kurosawa’s ‘Throne of Blood’.

Ratings-9/10 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

THE GREAT SILENCE (1968)


Sergio Corbucci made some of the finest B genre revenge spaghetti westerns and along with ‘Django’, this is my second Corbucci film which I enjoyed even better than the first one. It’s quite early to say watching just two of Corbucci films but I must say this is perhaps the best of Corbucci! The film stars Jean-Louis Trintignanat as silent stranger who is the fastest gun with a personal vendetta. He is hired hand to avenge justice by a young widow in the godforsaken land of outlaws, bandits and bounty hunters running on killing spree. The other man to watch is cunning and sadistic evil bounty hunter named Loco played brilliantly by Klaus Kinski.  

Quite rare and unusual to western, the setting of the film is snow-clad frozen west land called Snow hill. Ennio Morricone’s haunting distinctive score, Trintignant’s muteness, Kinski’s ruthless evil company, enough action and killings and above all that tension filled cold blooded mayhem and massacre in the climax leading to shocking end…it all works damn well on screen and treat for any western fans. Quentin Tarantino rated it as one of his personal favorite western too.

Highly recommended to all western fans.

Ratings-8/10 

NANOOK OF THE NORTH (1922)


The first documentary film ever made in the history of the cinema! Maybe adventurous drifter Robert Flaherty didn’t know that this silent B&W document would become timeless landmark in the history of motion pictures and he bestowed as ‘the father of documentary filmmaking’. The making of this film had passed through utter hardships and ill fate of wrecking the cruising boat and subzero temperature. Not only that while editing his first shot film he dropped the cigarette ash and burned the whole print of the film. He ventured once again to explore north of Arctic and shot the film focused on a Eskimo family helmed by man named Nanook. Much of this is already explained in the beginning preface of the film by Flaherty.

The film portrays the detailing insight into the daily life of the chief hunter named Nanook and his family surviving against all odds and hostile nature and still managed to live fearless, lovable and happy-go-lucky life. The journey of slow clad region documented few memorable images- how without bait Nanook caught fish with agile precision of mere stick and harpoon, the walrus and the seal hunt, the making of igloo walls with ice slabs and the transparent ice window to reflect the light along with some light moments Nanook spared with his kid teaching hunting lessons with ice toy animals. The film is special since it heralded the realistic documentary filmmaking movement in cinema. 

DIAMONDS OF THE NIGHT (Czech) (1964)


Jan Nemec’s this film is one of the most original and exceptionally experimental cinema I’ve seen in a long run. The film has almost negligible plot about two young boys who managed to escape from a moving train of Nazi concentration. They keep on moving in woods saving their existence from threat of bullets until they meet their nemesis in form of old and almost retired motley crowd of gunmen. The confused open ending is rare exception with two alternatives offered by the filmmaker.

The escape journey of the protagonist boys is constantly punctured by frequent and repeatedly interrupted by baffling images of their memory or mental vibrations and both of these intercuts runs parallel and this is the most intriguing and unusual part of the film. The struggling stream of consciousness of the boy in front of strange lady is the mind-blowing moment of the entire film.


The film bears absolutely unconventional treatment in the form with baffling narration focusing the mind rather than action, intercuts and repetitive editing, camera work shot with shaky handheld, random and overexposed shots in natural light and ambiguous ending. The film is heavily abstained from verbal dialogues or explanations; even the two protagonists did utter just a few negligible lines to each other. The uncompromised pure minimalist approach bears much resemblance to Bresson films and it has satire and striking images that reminds me of Bunuel films especially the surreal frames showing the ants on human body and the old man enjoying booze and company in front of boys facing wall with hands up!

Recommended to all those who love to explore truly the experimental or avant-garde European cinema.

Ratings-8.5/10 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931)


Cash or his heart, one or the other!
Ha Ha, I’ll bring you both!

It was a year of great classics…Chaplin’s ‘City Light’, Fritz Lang’s ‘M’ and two horror masterpieces ‘Frankenstein’ and ‘Dracula’. Adding to these entries is William Wellman’s ‘The Public Enemy’ portraying the rise and fall of notorious 1920’s Chicago gangster Tom Powers played by James Cagney in his career launching role. Tom and his fellow Matt Doyle grows and rise from small time working class burglar kids to big mobsters with the notorious company raising from Putty Nose to Paddy Ryan and Nails Nathan stealing things to selling blackmarket booze in prohibition era.  

The film has lot of clichés and melodramatic trademark rift between two brothers on opposite sides of law with a dear mother in between but there’s humanizing factor too and there’re number of memorable moments all comes from Cagney. From hitting grapefruit to his girlfriend on dining table, machine gun attack outside Paddy’s home, being hit and stumbling Tom in rain uttering ‘I ain’t so tough’ and collapsing in the gutter and the final frames where he returns to his home for all awaited family. Cagney brought to screen the pure energy of attitudinal tough guy with his dominating presence in each and every scene and that’s kind of reference for all screen’s upcoming tough boy hoodlums.

And as for those who’ve seen Michael Mann’s ‘The Public Enemy’ starring Johnny Depp as Dillinger, let me tell you there’s neither connection nor comparison between two films; however I like Mann’s film partially, this is an absolute must watch for its classic appeal and the man named James Cagney.

Ratings-8/10 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY (1980)


Not as shocking and brutal and yet as striking one as other British classic gangster film ‘Get Carter’, ‘The Long Good Friday’ is an absolutely compelling watch for many reasons- John Mackenzie’s topnotch direction, edge on the seat taut editing, intriguing plot, distinctive background score and brilliant performances by almost all lead players.

The film has intriguing and puzzling beginning where lot of things happens unrelated until you witness the lead man Harold facing his volatile time. His ten years calm and unchallenged rule in London gets a threat at the time of his most ambitious business deal. The bomb blasts killing his near and dear ones one after another and there’s no lead available. He’s facing an unknown enemy when he’s trying to be a decent man and that once again opens up his gangster side. Bob Hoskins as Harold is tour de force act and as temperamental helpless casino owner cum mobster shifting to be a businessman he brought both suave and menacing sides of his character on screen. Helen Mirren as his smart young wife, Derek Thompson as Jeff, Eddie Constantine as American businessman and surprising debut cameo of Pierce Brosnan are things to watch.

The abattoir scene, Jeff and Harold’s final scene and the climax at night car race followed by the end where camera just recorded the facial expressions of Bob Hoskins is something I would like to watch again and again.

Ratings-8/10 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

ERIC CLAPTON: NOTHING BUT THE BLUES (1995) (Documentary)


One of the essential and beautiful documentary cum musical journey on Blues guitar Maestros made by Martin Scorsese who along with his brilliant cinema also made some of the fine documentaries on legendary artists of music. The film was made for PBS TV; and it’s an absolutely brilliant concert cum tribute by the acclaimed man of blues Eric Clapton paying tributes to all his inspirational great Blues legends like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Freddie King, Jimmy Rogers, Sonny Boy Williamson, Buck White. Clapton is heavily influenced from the legacy of these black Masters which he mentioned extensively in his autobiographical account also, which I managed to read a year back.

The modern blues and jazz movement started in the streets of Mississippi Delta where the different style of African-American black guitar players coined a subgenre called ‘Delta Blues’ and followed by the cities of Chicago, Memphis and Texas. The film managed to bring all those rare B&W footage with old black Masters of blues. And there is no better man than Clapton to pay tribute; he goes on playing goose bump guitar which is an absolutely mesmerizing experience for any of his fans, the man is something that made guitar proud of! The weeping guitar sounds that made Clapton stands apart of from other contemporary guitar players was all come from his heavily influenced style of three great Masters of Blues guitar- Robert Johnson; undoubtedly the king of that era followed by Muddy Waters and the great modern master B.B.King. He paid tribute here playing ‘Standin’ Round Crying’, ‘Crossroads’, ‘Malted Milk’, ‘Someday after a while’, ‘Reconsider Baby’, ‘Everyday I have the Blues’ and one of my favorite ‘Have you ever loved a woman’ with stunning riffs of personal improvisations that demands standing ovations for bringing the heavenly feel full of soul and passion!

Strongly recommended for all EC fans and for those who’s interested in Men’s music compared to Boys’ ;) 

Ratings-10/10  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

RED ROSE (1980)


If you love the nostalgic serenading romance of yesteryear's superstar Kaka aka Rajesh Khanna on screen or not, this one would be quite a surprise treat for you. Abstained from his popular romantic or melodramatic image, here he played unusual and abnormal role of his career as a misogynist man who loves to spare bed with his young dames and than murdering his preys. The film is well made psychological noir by writer, director Bharathi Raaja and it is remake of Tamil film ‘Sigappu Rojakkal’ made by the same director starring Kamal Hassan and Sridevi. Raja has almost treated the film with suspense and thrill. The camera angles, mise en scenes, montages, cutting and editing reminds you Master Hitchcock and the use of fluorescent colors and jarring background score reminds you Argento films.

No other Hindi film as far as my cinema experience is concerned use the brassiere sans woman in the film like this film; it bears Indian censor board’s A certificate. The audience rejected the film at the box office being unhappy to see their idol star in such unsentimental act devoid of his trademark style romantic persona. Though I must say the film is bold and quite a way ahead of its time and undoubtedly Khanna gave one of his restrained act of his career; those who’ve seen both Tamil and Hindi versions praised Khanna’s act better than young Kamal. However Raja didn’t resist temptation to use Khanna’s two musical romantic tracks to give film quite relaxation from tension. The role of Sridevi is played here by Poonam Dhillon supported by actors like Om Shivpuri, Satyendra Kappu, Aruna Irani and Roopesh Kumar.

Ratings-7/10 

Friday, October 28, 2011

LE NOTTE BIANCHE (Italian) (1957)



‘My God, a whole moment of happiness! Is that too little for the whole of man’s life?’

I’ve re-read Dostoevsky’s ‘White Nights’ prior to watching this adaptation and even in second read it seems one of the most beautiful and sentimental love story about two drifted souls where sweet and wishful dreams of four nights punctured with reality’s break of dawn. The nameless dreamer of the story is a solitary young man lives in his own world of whims and fancies. This pensive man meets a sympathetic girl waiting for her lover night after night at canal railing on night. What follows are nights where two lonely hearts encounters each other and share their gloomy past to each other and becomes almost as desirable lovers. It ends with anguish for one and bliss for another…the romantic dreamy nights of rain, snow fall ends with break of dawn that shatters this fine romantic dream in the climax.

Luchino Visconti’s screen adaptation of the story is almost faithful and honest to the original one with minor changes of cinematic translation. The expressionistic B&W camera work so beautifully captured the setting of streets, the bridge, the mist, the night lights, the rain and the snow fall, Dostoyevsky’s regular setting of St. Petersburg here recreated with fantasy and reality hand in hand like an opera by Visconti and Nino Rota’s slow evocative score pushes it forward. Marcello Mastroianni as dreamer is as perfect and as effortlessly natural as always. The film is brilliant one compared to poor Bollywood adaptation ‘Saawariya’ made by Sanjay Leela Bhanshali; and I wonder whether he’s inspired from this film or the original story because it seems that he’s inspired from the first but credited the story in his version.

Visconti’s adaptation keeps the spirit of the story alive but still there’s no alternative to the original story as the philosophical underpinnings of the dreamer is missing in this screen version.

Ratings-7.5/10 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

THE SHOP ON MAIN STREET (Czech) (1965)



Most of the popular opinions on best holocaust films generally begins with either ‘Schindler’s List’ or ‘The Pianist’; here’s one of the quite lesser known masterpiece and moving humanitarian document from the cinema of Czechoslovakia that worthy enough to stamp with the most moving drama ever made on horror of holocaust. Its heartbreaking personal story of two juxtaposed protagonists set in the backdrop of small town who as film progresses slowly turning into bifurcating humanity under oppressive Fascist power of Second World War.

A jobless protagonist Tono is a carpenter trying to push his hard luck but otherwise very content and unaffected man from war. His nagging and ambitious wife pushing him to earn more money with little help of quite selfish brother-in-law who happens to be an army officer. Tono gets a permit letter to be the new manager of a shop on main street managed by an old Jewish widow who’s suffering from hearing problem. To narrate what happens further is insult to reveal for the film like this which not in a single frame unnecessarily pulled the drama, plot or story or heightens the melodrama and yet touches the true chords of our heart to give you an unforgettable experience that we expect from the great films. 


The film has absolutely great direction and the Directors-screenplay writers Jan Kadar, Elmos Klos and Ladislav Grosman deserves standing ovation. It has fine opening and maintained brilliantly the shades of Neorealist cinema; classic B&W camerawork where one can witness the brilliant use of mirrors and doors in images. It has few lighter moments too but what is most striking element to watch is the sublime relationship between the Tono and Mrs. Lautman. He is everyday common man whose conscience shifts between moral responsibility and guilt and she’s angelic old mother unaware about the horrors and living her last phase of her life with her shop, Sabbath and a stranger.  The drama and tension runs unexceptionally in last half an hour leading to tragic climax of disillusioned chaos between both of them. And this landmark film has two excellent and most naturally performed acts by Josef Kroner as Tono and Ida Kaminska as Mrs. Lautman is thing to envy even for the most professional and critically acclaimed actors of all-time; another strong reason to watch it before you die.

A cinema beyond ratings.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

GEORGE HARRISON: LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD (Documentary) (2011)


With their arrival they made both history and hysteria and created the creed for the generations of music lovers called ‘The Beatles Mania.’ The four Liverpool young boys were almost in their twenties and they achieved the name, fame, money and kind of celebrity status that any accomplished music talents of that time could dream and envy of! Made by one of the acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese, ‘Living in a Material World’ is one of the finest biographical and musical tributes of one of the genuine fellow Beatles and lead guitarist named George Harrison. Its epical documentary in two parts with length of three hours thirty minutes running time and it deserves that as it’s about The Beatles!

The film has loads of material for the Beatles fans- the unseen stage, shows and rehearsal personal footage, rare photographs and conversation sessions with George’s closest friends Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Brian Epstein, Yoko Ono, Director Terry Gilliam (with whom he produced ‘Life of Brian’) and it captured the ups and downs of his life as well as The Beatles. George was a catalyst and calm facilitator in the band between the dominant Paul and John who were so different in attitudes. The film documented the maniac hysteria towards the band and their music. It was time when music was religion and mad followers consider them equal to God which brought ire of media and Orthodox Church. George made and wrote some of the wonderful songs ‘Let it Be’, ‘While my guitar gently weeps’, ‘Here Comes the Sun’, ‘Something’ to name a few.


The most interesting part of the documentary is George’s personal Indian spiritual-cultural-musical connection, especially Sitar Maestro Pt. Ravishankar and mediation and mystical mentor Maharishi and ISKCON. It is treat to watch George crooning and strumming guitar and Sitar in company of doyens of Indian classical Music- Pt. Ravishankar, Ustad Allahrakha and Ustad Bismillah Khan. We see George sharing his committed views to Indian spirituality that turned him quite dismissive towards the materialistic things in the later part of his career post-Beatles. The experience of this reflected in their later albums of Beatles along with his solo album titled ‘All Things Must Pass’. There’s a point of time when George completely absorbed himself into abstract mysticism and meditation of his Indian spiritual encounter but at the same time there’s other mundane things that he’s attached too-especially the other three Beatles and the phenomena of their band. Somehow the intensity and individual talents of four guys confronted with one another that brought rift between them and one by one they started quitting after White album.


As I’ve read the autobiography of Clapton, I must say that among all interviewed men he seems too honest in his views about his closest friend in this documentary. Out of all four Beatles, Clapton admired him so much and mentioned him as one of the finest contemporary guitar player of its time. His amateur affair with George’s wife Pattie brought us one of the most soulful Clapton number ‘Layla’ but it was shocking surprise for genuine George; later Clapton married with her though he maintained friendship with him. Ringo is another genuine friend who remained concerning friend till his death. The only drawback of the film is last half an hour which is quite stretching one.

Worth watching stuff for any Beatles fans.

Ratings-8/10