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 clich├ęs 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