Monday, May 30, 2011

BIUTIFUL (Spanish) (2010)

Javier Bardem is the man and he’s the real beauty of dark and tragic Biutiful. Once again he played a remarkable character not so easy to pull. Once again he made us feel the inner pangs and pain of man who’s dying in few months; this time he’s not at all willingly wanted it, rather he wants to survive. It’s one of his most intense and award deserving performance. Never ever in a single frame, I feel the struggle of an actor here; instead he carried it all like a lone wolf.

It’s an existential drama of an upright man who’s in deep crisis, socially, economically, emotionally and physically. Uxbal is a responsible man; he is not only caring and responsible father but also concerning man for his workers too. He doesn’t want to die and still he has few months to survive and settle the things for his kids. The world around him is so ugly and seedy that he trusts no one except himself to play the responsibility for his kids and still he doesn’t let his children or anyone know his suffering end. Every day of his struggling existence adds new challenges and responsibilities along with personal life crisis. His separated wife working as massage girl and doesn't mind sleeping with Uxbal’s elder selfish brother Tito. It’s unbearable ugly world for Uxbal; he’s personal tragedy runs parallel to tragedy of his family and others and still he manages to get money anyhow for his own and others too. The struggling slow journey of his redemption is compelling and moving one and for that all credit goes to intense act by Javier Bardem. He truly deserves Oscar for this than any Colin Firth of the world!

Along with personal tragedy of Uxbal, Inarritu portrayed the deglamorised and dark picture of Europe that becoming burgeoning ghetto of multicultural world. He showed the critical face of it. Chinese and African people working and surviving in seedy ghettoes in Spain exploited by men of their own nationality or becoming victims of police raids. It’s place where they are unwanted and still they’re struggling for life. Unlike his shifting and non linear drama of other films, this is simply straight narration of Inarritu and one of the most moving one. I can’t resist tears watching the scene where near to climax Uxbal embraced his daughter who now knew the hidden tragedy of dear daddy. Inarritu avoided background score, what we hear is just occasional abstract and impromptu sounds of various instruments. So far it’s most touchy film he has made till day.

Ratings-8/10

Saturday, May 28, 2011

PI (1998)

12: 45

Restate my assumptions:

One-Mathematics is the language of Nature.

Two- Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers.

Three-If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge.

Therefore, there are patterns everywhere in Nature.

Darren Aronofsky’s this stimulating and mindblowing debut and its unusual protagonist reminds me two other directors and their equally impressive debut films- one is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Following’ and the other is David Lynch’s pathbreaking masterpiece ‘Eraserhead’. Lynch’s surrealistic style is more attuned to mood and atmosphere here, though it’s less challenging and bizarre. One can classify it more than one genre- its sci-fi, and its brilliant psychological thriller concocted with dark, paranoia and claustrophobic set up. I’m so stoned with the form and content of film that in last 24 hours I watched it 3 times and enjoyed it in increasing proportions.

It’s about a Math prodigy named Maximillian Cohen who’s obsessed with making assumptions and hypothesis about order and patterns in numbers and working on finding patterns in stock market to Hebrew Bible. Up against his hypothesis and experimental finding of order and patterns, there’s counter antithesis by another old scientist and his mentor who worked on pi theory and claimed that there is no simple pattern or order; the universe is extremely complex and chaotic in its endless multiple patterns and possibilities just like that Japanese game on Go Board. Every prodigy has its own anomaly; Max is allergic staring to the sun, he’s suffering from severe migraine attacks and hooked to regular dose of his drug which dragged him into the world of hallucinations, discovery and a great loss.

Aronofsky’s experimental nerve for striking visuals is stamp of his own from this very first film. One may find a lot of stylistic parallel between his this debut and his next dark drama ‘Requiem for a Dream’. The rapid cuttings of montages, high contrast black and white images, immaculate visual and sound editing is mind-blowing treat to watch for any indie film lovers. It’s debut of Aronofky’s constant collaborator Clint Mansell too, who pushed the film to a different experience with his electronic psychedelic background score and sound mixing heightening the paranoiac psychological subjectivity of Max. The last half hour is sheer puzzle and mental exercise for the audience, cleverly disoriented and lost in shifting cycle of Max’s objective and subjective realism.

Ratings-9/10

Sunday, May 22, 2011

CAPE FEAR (1962)

J. Lee Thompson’s this first and original version is brilliant tense filled thriller with an unforgettable face of the villain. He is Max Caddy. 8 years ago Sam Bowden, an attorney witnessed against Caddy for his crime in court. Now he’s back from prison with sole aim to threaten Sam and his family. The face of fear is terrifying and just inescapable.

From his very entry from the film’s opening titles, Robert Mitchum made us feel the chilling tension on screen. His cold-blooded act of ex-convict Max Caddy overwhelmed almost everything in the entire film. Gregory Peck seems so kid to him. Watch his ‘don’t give a damn’ body language and expressions clad in panama hat and a cigar in hand here; quite a learning material even for actors like De Niro in Scorsese’s version. However De Niro played his method act so well; Mitch is just irreplaceable in this original one. He needs no biblical tattoos over his body, bloodshed and violence- props of Scorsese territory and still he made us felt the terror till his very end. Must say that he’s the villain to watch and it’s surely one of his most remarkable roles, along with ‘The Night of a Hunter’ and ‘Out of the Past.’ Hitchcock loyal, Bernard Herrmann’s jarring score surmounted the thrill so exceptionally well that Scorsese repeated him in his remake too along with Elmer Bernstein. The film has brilliant B&W camera work and editing too. The climax on river and houseboat is real tour de force.

Watch it for Mitchy- the bitchy, the villain you won’t forget so easily.

Ratings-8/10

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

BROKEN FLOWERS (2005)

“To me, ‘independent’ means staying independent from your work being dictated to, or formed by, some concept of a marketplace…’Independent’ means being artistically free.”

- Jim Jarmusch

Here’s an interesting premise of a middle aged ‘don’t disturb, leave me alone’ type of single man. He prefers remain idle at home- watching B&W classics on TV, listening music and barge on neighborhood family during the day to get a readymade cup of coffee, dinner and cigarettes. He gets a strange surprise of his life…it’s very personal, it’s mystery and it’s question of immediate attention need to be solved. So one fine morning there arrives a type written letter from one of his multiple girlfriends 20 years ago. The letter reveals the most personal truth of his life that he’s the father of her 19 years old son. The mysterious letter is left with no address and no name of sender. His detective fiction crazy neighborhood buddy insists him to make a list of her ex girlfriends and next he comes with all the addresses and a strategic plan and the schedule of trip. Don is supposed to visit his ex girlfriends’ homes with pink flowers. So starts the journey to rewitness his romances and dames and search for clues to unravel mystery of his hypothetical son!

Like many of his performances Bill Murray is simply irreplaceable here. Here is another example of his natural and effortless act; an interesting and pensive character study of mid age single who’s symbolic Don Juan of Lord Byron. His ex dames are played by Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton and Julie Delpy along with several other young chicks to grab attention!

It’s Slow, moody, queer, light and surprisingly funny at times. Jarmusch fans may find his trademark nonchalant approach and collage work where thin plot pushes the film to exploit his artistic expressions. His signature touch of road movie accompanied by fine background score; an integral part of Jarmusch films. His observation of American salad bowl American culture expressed in profession and lives of his various ex girlfriends.

Ratings-7.5/10

WHISPER OF THE HEART (Japanese) (1995)

‘There’s beautiful crystal in all of us and only true love can empower us to find it.’

A sweet and touching gem of animation by Studio Ghibli. It takes us to the age of innocent and unselfish love and its longing, the unspoken emotions of heart; truly the whisper of heart. Shizuku, a bookworm school girl finds out from library book cards that a boy named Amasawa had read all the books she has been reading. She curiously yearns to meet the boy. One day following a cat she finds the wonderful house of rare artifacts managed by an old man. Surprisingly she meets the boy here and it changes her course of life along with the boy.

The film is another touching example of Japanese shojo manga creativity and wonderful imagination. Director Yoshifumi Kondo has worked with many of Miyazaki films and Miyazaki himself declared him his successor to Studio Ghibli but unfortunately Kondo’s untimely death enabled him to made only single film. One can clearly see the inspiration of both titans of Japanese animation-the art of story telling and visual beauty from Hayao Miyazaki and emotional depth of Isao Takahata, the man who gave the most moving piece of animation-‘Grave of Fireflies’. So along with emotional highs and lows of the girl and the boy we have a mysterious cat, a divided pair of toys and a beautiful clock when striking 12 shows the unrequited love between king and princess and John Denver classic ‘Country Road’ turned into satirically funny ‘Concrete Road’.

Ratings-7.5/10

Sunday, May 15, 2011

SWEET AND LOWDOWN (1999)

We don’t know much about him but Jazz music aficionados of 1930’s regarded him as the second greatest guitar player in the world next to Django Reinhardt. The reason why Emmet Ray, a little known jazz guitarist flourished briefly in 1930s didn’t become famous as other Jazz artists of it’s time lies in his sheer weirdness and unprofessional approach. He loved playing either for live audience or for self rather than recording it to made copied by some dumb amateurs. Great artists are impulsive and have whims and fancies of their own. So Emmet was occasional kleptomaniac, he had fascination of watching trains, he fancied about getting entry on show with crescent moon, he loves shooting rats and above all he lived with a mute girlfriend named Hattie. Though she’s genuinely sweet person, he ended up marrying with Blanche who after few years ended up with an affair with a gangster. Nevertheless Emmet's first and last love remained for his guitar only. Any woman would be second to his music. He never feel pain leaving any of his woman, such was the ego of genius.

Written and directed by Woody Allen, it’s light, funny, sweet, romantic, artistic and wonderfully restraint bio-pic made but what’s more beautiful about film is fantastic jazz guitar strumming running throughout the movie; absolutely soothing to your ears. Kudos to the Maestro. Narrated in his routine punctured documentary style based on loosely available records, it takes us to have few glances of Emmet’s life in 30’s American setting. Its fun watching Sean Penn as Emmet, one of his most amiable acts ever, its fine surprise for his fans too. Worth to mention fine supporting act of Samantha Morton as sweet mute Hattie.

Ratings-7/10

Saturday, May 14, 2011

THE HAUNTING (1963)

The Producer & Director who gave us one of the greatest musical ‘West Side Story’ also gave a chilling and brilliant psychological horror, the same year Hitchcock made his the most anomaly ‘The Birds’. Great film-critic Pauline Kael called it, ‘elegantly sinister scare movie’. It opens briefing us the 80 years enigmatic and deadly history of haunted hill house. Next a curious anthropologist arrives to haunted house for the psychic and paranormal research and starts investigating the abnormal truths. Accompanying him are three ensemble companions who some or other how have strange inclinations towards supernatural stuff and work as stimulants to the plot, especially abnormal Eleanor (played memorably by Julie Harris) who’s suffering from inherent guilt conscious psyche about her mother and guided by a strange hallucinatory spell.

Those who love classic B&W noirs will surely enjoy watching the sinister interior spell of the haunted house. Use of canted frames, reflective mirrors, long staircases, statuettes and labyrinthine rooms with odd and pounding doors add enigma and thrill to any viewers. The staircase sequence is really tour de force and as breathtakingly tense filled and as unexpectedly shocking as some of Hitchcock’s best. Robert Wise managed to bring the scary stuff without using any of today’s conventional gimmicks, no ghosts, no zombies, no torture, no bloodshed. Only unsolved mystery with brilliant use of camera movement, lighting, editing and sound recording.

Highly recommended to all classic lovers and fans of psychological horror/thrillers.

Ratings-8/10

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

GRAND ILLUSION (French) (1937)

‘For a commoner, dying in a war is tragedy. But for you and me, it’s a good way out.’

Jean Renoir’s this touchstone anti-war masterpiece is not just the father of all POW films but much more than it. It represents the profound truth of humanity with unsettling irony on human conditioning. Set on the background of First World War it focuses on camaraderie between German occupied French POW soldiers and their escape plans and attempts. Along with satire on war and its futility, it’s also conceit on humanity and its conditioning, class distinctions, pipe dreams and human existence. And at the same time its breathing human story about friendship with adversary, love and bonding, duty and faith, trust and hope, and above all the grand illusion among all- the life itself.

Renoir without showing atrocity of battle on a single scene straightly focuses the tale on characters and human drama. The first half of the film is quite light hearted one, with introduction of characters and their fun and their futile escape attempt whereas the second half is quite serious note with an escape with a personal tragedy but ended with beautiful hope and humanitarian vision. The film has brilliant cast and memorable performances- whether it’s Jean Gabin as Lt. Marechal or Pierre Fresnay and Marcel Dalio. But the most striking one and unavoidable one is performed by Eric von Stroheim’s as German POW officer von Rauffenstein whose presence is felt even in very limited scenes. It has all the things that proclaimed it as great film including striking dialogues, fine B&W camerawork and memorable characters. No wonder why Woody Allen often quoted as the greatest film ever made.

It’s what ‘Casablanca’ to Hollywood and ‘The Bicycle Thieves’ to Italian cinema.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

THE GOOD THE BAD THE WEIRD (Korean) (2008)

‘If you chase something to get something, something else will come chasing you. Life is about chasing and being chased. There is no escape.’

A map of treasure and three men’s hunt for it. Include bounty hunters, bandits and Japanese army into this exciting chase journey. Set on Manchurian landscape, Director Kim Jee Woon’s this oriental western is high on testosterone for its rollicking action and absolutely awesome entertainer. Not only in its title but in execution too, one may notice his homage to Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood. It’s stylish and has mixed flavor of east- west action; so along with guns and exciting train action sequence it has machineguns and tanks to knives for finger chopping jobs. Along with horse chase it has motorcycle and jeep chase too. And along with ongoing action it has equal moments of fun too.

This is my third Kim Jee Won film and without doubts it’s the most entertaining one of his career. I must say that he’s fine versatile Korean filmmaker to look forward. His films not remained confined to single genre or characteristics like many of his contemporary Korean filmmakers; rather he proved his mettle on various genres. His films have pitch perfect editing, brilliant camera work and unique style of it’s own. It won’t let you down from the beginning to end. Byung Hun is an inseparable part of Woon films but the most fun part comes from the weird.

Its guaranteed entertainment for anytime… Go catch it.

Ratings-8/10

RABBIT HOLE (2010)

Though Portman swept the popular and critics votes and won Best actress Oscar for ‘Black Swan’ this year, Nicole Kidman also equally deserve it for playing one of her most natural act in ‘Rabbit Hole’ as Becca, a mother who lost her only child in car accident seeking strange solace in a teenage boy that responsible for the accident. Unlike her emotional hubby she doesn’t like visiting church or joining group to share her personal loss. Faith and God works as emotional washbasin or comfort for many but not for her. ‘God is a sadistic Prick’, in her own words. Kidman brought to screen a poignant, sentimental and mysterious female character with so much restraint minus her glamorized appeal.

The film is based on drama by the same name and focuses a staggering insight on personal loss and vacuum in a relationship between couple played by Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. The film is slow, emotional but not over manipulative, melodramatic or dragging one. Along with Kidman, the other actor of serious notice is played by Dianne Wiest, a brilliant actress to watch. Recommended for all who like to watch one of most mature act by a beautiful actress who's aging and growing with her talent.

Ratings-7/10

Friday, May 6, 2011

BROKEN EMBRACES (Spanish) (2009)

‘Movies have to be finished, even blindfolded…’

A blind film director living strangely with two names and he has past untold to his son. A strange accident brought both of them together and he starts telling him a story of his own. How his passionate film-making treaded him to a passionate affair with his heroine and how an insecure man destroyed both his great love and his most beloved film.

Writer, director Pedro Almodovar’s last released film is complex yet intense and passionate drama about a hushed love affair, an artistic movie making and a hidden truth attached to both. He used brilliant voyeuristic edge to it, where a Peeping Tom records everything on his voyeuristic camera. It is visually as beautiful and as artistic as you expect from European cinema and Almodovar has beautifully used resplendent primary colors- whether it’s setting, dress, background or landscapes.

But the big reason to watch is irresistibly beautiful Penelope Cruz who so long remains Almodovar’s cinematic muse and I must say that she is evolving as one of the wonderful actress to look forward with rare combination of beauty and talent. It left me quite unsatisfied in vague and sudden ending but maybe that’s how artistic films are…ended blindfolded when you expect them more.

Ratings-8/10

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I SAW THE DEVIL (Korean) (2010)

‘You can’t become monster to fight against monster.’

Unspeakable devil meets unimaginable bloody vengeance. The lines between good and bad are blurred where dealing with the revenge to one monster another man becomes another monster. Korean cinema’s preoccupation and extreme obsession with vengeance and violence themes are scaling new heights in depiction of unmatchable gore and violence. Here is another brilliant thriller and violently shocking film to watch from happening Korean cinema. It begins with a shocking opening- a solitary road at night – light snow fall- a young girl driving a car- flat tyre- a stranger came to help just as she is calling her lover- a moment of suspicion and the horror of I saw the Devil. Remember the kidnap victim of Dae-su of ‘Oldboy’! Min-sik Choi is back again and this time as the heinous & pervert serial killer that even put the devil to shame. Gyeongchul Jang is undoubtedly the most horrible psychopathic serial killers I have ever seen on screen. He’s unimaginable pervert who enjoys killing pretty young girls anywhere.

And we think it’s only Takashi Miike who’re unchallenged in their signature sadistic torture- gore, gross bloodshed and extreme graphic violence showing chopping and ripping the body parts. Director Kim Jee Woon brought the shocking vengeance thriller which begins with shocking murder of a pregnant young girl and within an hour her vendetta stricken fiancĂ© encountered the killer face to face but he didn't kill him as he promised to her beloved to give 1000 per cent more pain to the person who killed her. Now this turned him into an obsessed revenge maniac.

Movie is pulled through repeated cycle of hunting game where chase and torture, catch and release continues until the balance is shifted when the killer came to know about the bugging capsule inserted into his body to track him and then it’s two monsters unleashed to its penultimate climax. The film is two and half hours long but there’s not a moment where excitement and thrill loses its intensity. Two thumbs up for Min-sik Choi’s act, brilliant cinematography and crisp editing and direction. Watching his ‘A Bittersweet Life’ and now ‘I saw the Devil’, I must say that Kim Jee Woon is another Korean director to watch in the line of Park Chan Wook.

Watch it if you can bear over the top violence.

Ratings- 8/10

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (1994)

‘True artists create their own moral universe.’

Its universal misfortune that no truly great artist has ever been appreciated in his lifetime but what’s more misfortune for artist is getting all the laurels and appreciation which he doesn’t deserve. Here is a story of a struggling play writer who doesn’t find any producer for his artistic tragedy on first place and then he gets an Italian gangster to produce his drama to fulfill a promise to his horribly dumb talent girlfriend dreaming an acting career. Close contrast to her is an arrogant old Broadway actress still basking in her fading stage glory and a lieutenant suffering from gluttony to play lead parts. So how this poor writer turned debut director cutting on his artistic compromise would meddle with this irritatingly stupid actress to get his farce on stage along with his popping romantic affair with Broadway star?

Crime and art, both of these things remain passion and obsession for Woody Allen and he gave us some of the finest films of his career juxtaposing these two things together. With full marks to his brilliant screenplay co-written by Douglas Mcgrath and direction excluding his act, he brought a wonderful farcical comedy to poke fun at this art-crime nexus. Many at the times it questioned the status of an artist- “Do you love me as an artist or as a man?” is constantly asked question in the film. The most genuine fun and irony pointed another question here- Who’s the real artist? Is he the writer or that intruding goon cum bodyguard named Cheech who almost rewriting the acts to give the drama altogether different direction? Maybe true artist has to sacrifice his humanity for the sake of his passion for art. John Cusack played Woody’s alter ego so amusingly but I think it would have been better if Woody himself had played that part with his signature expressions. Dianne Wiest is irreplaceable and her act truly deserved Oscar for theatrical on and off stage affair. The rest of cast is just brilliant in their performances.

One of Woody’s best.

Ratings-8.5/10

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A BITTERSWEET LIFE (Korean) (2005)

Prologue-

One fine spring day a disciple looked at some branches blowing in the wind. He asked his master-“Master, are the branches moving or is it the wind?” Not even glancing to where his pupil is pointing the master smile and said- “That which moves is neither the branches nor the wind, it’s your heart and mind.”

Plot-

Kim Sunwoo is as sophisticated and dedicated young professional as any mob boss could wow for. His boss while being out for 3 days, needed his favor to watch his girlfriend who’s maybe having an affair with a young man. As he’s following and watching her every move, he’s facing messy dispute with another rival mob chief who starts bothering him too personally. Tension is rolling physically, psychologically and as the case of all human drama and action- emotionally. Sometime one mistake is enough to put you in deep mess and that’s what happens with him. His one emotionally weak moment becomes an open invitation to hell.

Epilogue-

One late autumn night, the disciple woke up crying. So the master asked disciple-“Did you have a nightmare?” “No,” said the disciple. “Did you have a sad dream?” asked Master. “No…I had a sweet dream”, said the disciple. “Then why are you crying so sadly”, said the master. The disciple answered quietly, while wiping his tears. “Because the dream I had can’t come true.”

Kudos to Korean cinema...the style, the violence, the action getting new dimension where props of bullets and bloodshed are not used just to portray gross entertainment but to give it altogether different dimension like a visual poetry of sheer art. The visual beauty they brought to their cinema is worthy to envy not just Hollywood but some of the European filmmaking too. Currently they’re having auteur of cinema like Kim Ki-duk, Park Woon Chak, Bong Joon-ho and I won’t exaggerate if I say that writer, director Kim Jee Woon’s this gangster noir with stylish and slick action is the learning material for Tarantino or John Woo. It starts on slowly built tension where mysterious and suave personality of Byung Hun Lee reminds me Alain Delon in Melville’s French noir ‘Le Samourai’. It’s slick, gripping and wonderfully violent with innovative camerawork in action. Watch the brilliant use of artificial lights in night shots where it brings some of extraordinary moments of bizarre action and violence you’ve ever seen on screen. And that too with soothing background score and awesome bloody climax to sweep your all attention.

Watch and you’ll feel why Peckinpah called ‘Violence is beauty.’ J

Ratings-8/10

Sunday, May 1, 2011

KIKI’S DELIVERY SERVICE (Japanese) (1989)

Miyazaki’s light hearted animation of his early career where plot, characters are less complex than his later ones. Its world where as soon as young witch turned 13, she's supposed to leave her home for training in a different city on full moon night. So a cute teenage girl named Kiki turned 13 and begins her first exciting flying trip to city on her magic broomstick accompanied by a black cat named jiji. Soon she started working in bakery as delivery girl providing air courier service. There’s no complex or bad characters instead they’re all human and helping Kiki when in distress, its simple plot where a loving Shojo growing to be a mature and confident girl. It’s only rain and wind that become impediment for sweet Kiki’s flying service until she lost her power all of sudden. Like any of art, magic too needs its original natural imagination to get flying wings, you know!

After seeing many of Miyazaki films so far I must say that his films remain so free from parental obligation. For teenage Kiki it’s break free journey where she explores metaphors of growing up. Thanks Disney for backing up this animation auteur, so that animation lovers of all over the world able to get the wonderfully dubbed English versions of most of his films. It’s my sixth Miyazaki film and I must say it’s so cute and universal in appeal to all ages. Animation never seems so dear, so warm and so touching as Miyazaki films. If Disney is regarded as the father of animation, Miyazaki is the man who gave different height to animation surpassing many and inspiring many. I wonder what would be my escape option for fantasy once I’ll finish watching all Miyazaki films!

Ratings-7.5/10