Tuesday, March 27, 2012

LETTER NEVER SENT (Russian) (1959)


There is something so introspective and evocative the way Russian filmmakers used visuals in their cinema. Mikhail Kalatozov’s this film begins with a splendid helicopter shot where we see four men landed up in the stream of river, shot slowly starts distancing showing us the size and scope of men as tiny amid indifferent wilderness of Siberian nature. A group of four geologists from Moscow set up their diamond expedition. Along with struggling journey we also follow their personal yearning as one man keep writing letters to her beloved, two lovers indulge sharing their togetherness and than a man who keeps following his instinct keeping logic and reasoning on backseat. After long struggle when they found the source of diamonds, a natural calamity strikes and what follows is one tragedy leading to another. It conveys human limitation and helplessness in the indifferent nature where everything turned as illusive as their ill luck. Not only diamonds but even love- something rarer than diamonds also proved as mirage for all of them!     

The backbone of this film is its visually stunning B&W camera work by Sergei Urusevsky; the same genius who shot Kalatozov’s earlier masterpiece ‘The Cranes are Flying’. The man brilliantly captured the remote Siberian land and river streams in its entire bleak wilderness. One can see the authenticity in those flaming frames of forest followed by rain and finally a deadly chilling snow fall. Along with earlier mentioned beginning helicopter shot, the film bears stamp of innovative wide shots, evocative close ups and daring ground shots; surely a reference material for American Cinema.

Friday, March 23, 2012

THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST (2002)


‘Maybe my films are not masterpieces, but they are the documents of their time. That’s enough for me. Masterpieces I can’t do- even though I try.’

Kaurismaki’s second film of his ‘Loser or Helsinki Trilogy’ is not only the best of the trilogy but also one of career best. It has almost everything that you expect from Kaurismaki film- taciturn characters, working class milieu, dry humor and than it has something extra-  a sincere unadorned art of moving story telling like those adorable minimalist humanitarian documents of two great Masters- Ozu and Bresson. Amid all grim and unfavorable circumstance, it conveys the hope as some sort of inner strength to survive against all odds. The film is touching love story between two equally good at heart, noble lonely souls who are perhaps made for each other to survive in otherwise grim backdrop of crime and poverty.   

A man arrives in a city by train and within hours severely beaten by street hooligans. He gained consciousness but lost his memory. Helped by a working class couple, he started surviving his new life in a dingy container. He encounters a lonely, reticent social worker helping the poor working class people and soon formed a close bonding of love and affection with her. But his accidental involvement with crime and finally his past confronts with his struggling but content life.

Though it doesn’t have glamorous Hollywood stars, eye candy locales and hackneyed melodrama that audience love to see time and again; it has something so natural and effortlessly human in portrayal of two protagonists. The film focuses on basic goodness of human beings in larger scale. There’s not a single character which is absolutely dark here. For example even that bank robber old man later proved to be a helpless gentleman of his words; except those three street hooligans who get their due finally towards the climax.

Somewhere I read that greatness of the film lies in its scenes which stay with you for long even after the film is over. There are many such scenes in the film- some so sublime and controlled one like one when the man walks the lady her home for the first time and steals her kiss, some so ironical and funny at the same time like that babbling legal arguments between the lawyer and the cop in police station. The one surprisingly refined and memorable one was his encounter with his wife and a stranger. The film so movingly captures the human essence with the theme and plot of struggling identity and existence in pendulum as the film begins and once again when it comes near to its end.

Highly recommended one.

Ratings-8.5/10 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

LIGHTS IN THE DUSK (2006)


This is so far the most tragic Kaurismaki melodrama that I ended up watching. His common traits of the irreverent humor, sublime relations, a certain timelessness are absolutely absent in this film. We meet a typical working class protagonist working as a security guard and desiring for a company of dame in a bar. A femme fatale enters to his innocent world and uses him and soon dumps him with a plot of jewelry larceny that leads him towards one tragedy to another. The man is a sentimental fool who even though knowing the truth about her true face at later stage, keeps protecting her with accepting even the theft that hadn’t committed. What is more tragic is that even after serving a sentence in prison, he bears the bitter fruits from the sight of same dame.

Unlike his other films this is out and out melodrama that leads towards tragedy. Compared to his other films, so far this is the only film which fails to appeal or move me.  I find it too weak in many forms- its stretching melodrama that doesn’t make its mark like other films, there’re lot of things that remained improbable and it left unexplained for the reasons best known to Kaurismaki; even Kaurismaki’s otherwise wonderful use of  soundtrack seems too average to encapsulate the mood. I would rate it as only Kaurismaki film which either fail to impress me or maybe I fail to appreciate it! 

Ratings- 6/10 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

DRIFTING CLOUDS (1996)


‘Life is short and miserable. Be merry while you can.’

What a sublime, warm and compassionate portrayal of love and perseverance against all odds! Time is taking the hard test of a working class married couple- a tram driver husband and a head waitress wife. Soon both of them lose their jobs and struggling days and nights to get survive and earn their bread and butter in unfavorable situations one after another. Not only they lost their jobs, but home, life insurance, all their savings of life one after another and still amid all rough times; finally the last gamble of their life starts working with a positive note. Kaurismaki kept the flame of hope burning with the positive end here. It’s ultimately film about triumph of human spirit against all odds of insurmountable time.

In the 1990s, Finland was passing through a severe economic crisis; recession hit hard and around million people lost their jobs. How could a sensitive filmmaker remain untouched! “If I didn’t make a film about unemployment now I wouldn’t have a nerve to look at my face in the mirror’, said Kaurismaki and thus born this first installment of his famous ‘Loser Trilogy’ or ‘Finland Trilogy’, which is regarded as significant cinema of his career. And so compared to many of his earlier part comic-drama, the tone here is more serious and the film lean more towards those Neo Realist melodramas. But Kaurismaki maintained it as unexploited and refined cinema as possible and the credit for it goes to one of his by default graceful actress of most of his cinema- Kati Outinen. Her decent, honest and genuine face reflects a ton even with her muted expressions in films after film. There’s two scenes which reflects her refined natural performance- the one where she shares her inner grief of working in some shitty restaurant joint to her husband on couch lying on his shoulder and another one where she stands next to her lost son’s photograph and lost in melancholy unspoken.

Ratings-7.5/10 

Monday, March 19, 2012

TAKE CARE OF YOUR SCARF, TATIANA (1994)


‘I have two methods. If I have a screenplay, I follow it. If I don’t, I improvise. Nobody else improvises- not the cameraman or the actors. Just me.’     - Aki Kaurismaki

On surface level there’s not much of plot or screenplay in this Kaurismaki’s Road and Rock & Roll odyssey about two social misfit middle age Finns who while making their escape attempt from routine fix in Cadillac aided with adjustable electric coffee maker and stereo player with lot of vinyl records encounter two hitchhiker Russian ladies. What we follow throughout the film is unlikely odd couples sharing the journey in car, restaurants, hotel rooms and still none of the male respond to women. It seems that they are in some sort of limbo! Valto drinks coffee like water and Reno compulsive vodka guzzler. Though ladies attempted to break the ice, they remain indifferent in their approach. Near to end of the journey surprisingly Reno decides to stay with one of the Russian lady in foreign land and the other surprisingly gets back to scratch zero from where the film begin.

What makes it irritating to watch is the height of both males’ irresponsive approach towards ladies. Is it possible for human to remain so much indifferent while sharing so much proximity? But at the same time it also points out that does the difficulty with expressing feelings indicate their absence? Though they seem so unromantic, non emotional and taciturn, desire is something as evasive and as omnipresent! One has to watch this film very closely especially towards its last fifteen minutes where it forms one couple and other towards unspoken melodrama. Perhaps symbolically it represents two birds; one get its partner and fly away towards the land beyond vast sea, the other prisoner of it’s nest returns home as he’s helpless of his own cocooned cluster.

After exploring Kaurismaki’s cinema from almost a week, I must say 'Akiland' is something so un-Hollywood. There are a few directors who successfully achieve the objective of cinema while following experimental and playing with medium by Jean Luc Godard and refined minimalist approach of Bresson. Kaurismaki’s minimalist approach not only remains limited to direction, acting, visuals or production but also in term of film duration. For example this film which is less than one hour long. Till day I’ve seen eight of Kaurismaki films and so far none of them extends the running time of one hour thirty minutes.

This is kind of film, which starts growing after one more viewing.

Ratings-7.5/10 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

LENINGRAD COWBOYS GO AMERICA (1989)


‘Go to America. Over there, they swallow any kind of crap.’

So advised the rich financer to the manager of the Russian folk band full of eccentrics with weird long quiffy hairstyle and elongated pointy shoes, calling themselves as Leningrad Cowboys. So these out-of-work one band stuck in Siberia, decide to head west to make fortune. They take along with them the freezing dead body of one of their band mate too! Another surprise of the packet is a mute bald village idiot who follows them from hometown to their last joint in foreign land. The manager of the band is shrewd guy forcing the band members to learn English and Rock & Roll and the character was played by Kaurismaki’s loyal lead actor Matti Pellonpaa. He sets arranging their gigs from local US bars to wedding party and handles (rather exploits) their money. He eats in restaurants and emptying the umpteen numbers of beer cans while band mates either get occasional single fruit from supermarket. Though they try pleasing the audience, the final words they heard from everywhere are- ‘Get lost and never come back.’ The entry of a distant relative as lead singer ultimately gets them heard first round of applause but it is performing at wedding in Mexico, the band hit the top ten Mexico!

This is Kaurismaki at his outrageously entertaining best with the film which is queer elemental mixture of episodic road movie, rock & roll male odyssey and hilarious adventure trip all in running time of one hour and fifteen minutes. The American journey is not full of eye-friendly or post card picture one; Kaurismaki showed us the industrial and mechanical America full of factories and industrial units on country roadsides.

Fun can’t be more outrageous than this! Eager to see his sequel too!

Ratings-7.5/10 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

CALAMARI UNION (1985)


‘Let’s take taxi, Frank’
‘You got any money, Frank?’
‘No…have you got any?’
‘No.’
‘OK…let’s take taxi.’
‘Right.’

During my Masters study, the syllabus of American literature prescribed two brilliant American plays- one was Tennessee Williams’ famous ‘A Street Car Named Desire’. But it was the second one which appealed me more and that was ‘An Iceman Cometh’ by Eugene O’Neill. The play is about number of loser characters passing their time in a bar while sharing their drinks throughout the play and they are waiting for their friend Harry Hope who’ll come one day and help them to pay their debts. Who is Harry? A ‘Hope’ as his later name suggests, a death or just a pipedream! Well, Kaurismaki’s this experimental absurd cult film suddenly reminds me of that existential drama.

The film begins with an absurd premise where a  group of men, all named Frank formed a union with single aim to run away from their home town Helsinki to a place on the other side of the city called Eira. The mock and fragmentary plot lead us towards meaningless journey where all those dark Ray Ban clad Franks roaming in different directions of the city to reach their strange desire of freedom just like characters in bar of O’Neill’s play. On one hand it’s an absolutely unconventional and unexpectedly absurdist  film where characters can be anywhere- riding on a bonnet of car, sleeping in a public phone booth or on the road, jumps from tree and can do anything unexpected or anything possible. And it was irreverent Kaurismaki fun to watch and much of it come from their common name Frank, including that odd English speaking one Frank who keep on mocking ‘Are you talkin’ to me!’ But at the same time there are several meaningful observations of the characters that made us think again about the film towards serious tone.

Kaurismaki in one of interview said that it was one of the lousiest film he ended up making while being either heavily drunk or under hangover. Perhaps, that’s the reason why it becomes so absolutely unexpectedly funny cult one for his audience!

Ratings-7.5/10 

Friday, March 16, 2012

HAMLET GOES BUSINESS (1987)


“Songs, they keep changing with the passing years…time takes so much away. But will we ever change? And where it will take us the coming day?”

One of absolutely worthy to watch modern adaptation of Bard’s greatest tragedy. Aki Kaurismaki’s take on Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ is both creative and sardonic one in tone aiming dark satire on corporate greed and materialistic madness. Shot in expressionistic black and white chiaroscuro, it immediately gives it mood of classic Hollywood noirs. Kaurismaki potrayed modern day Hamlet as businessman’s directionless son who’s using computer, toning his body in gym, bugging his father’s murderer and desiring to seduce Ophelia. Avenge of his father is in his mind but he’s mentally, emotionally and sexually depressed loser who doesn’t know what to do! He kills his boredom by listening popular punk rock and reading comics. Kaurismaki maintained the plot and all other significant characters, scenes with errors that leading towards tragedy. But above all it’s his taking liberty in the end with that brilliantly twisted ending that points the mad frenzy of power and greed culminating to ironical working class poetic justice that makes it stand apart from all other adaptations.

Ratings-7/10 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

I HIRED A CONTRACT KILLER (1990)


As said in my earlier post, I’m trying to patch up with those log due cinema of Kaurismaki and this is another unexpectedly surprise treat for me offering the cocktail where drama blends with comedy. With every next film, the experience of watching Kaurismaki film is just exquisite one and I can’t get over the hangover for next couple of days I suppose. Like an independent auteur he took full control of his work with not only direction and production but also writing and editing this film too. The film is director’s only English language film set and shot in London showing us the neglected deglamorised face of the working class city. Perhaps it’s Kaurismaki’s shortest feature film with the length of just one hour fifteen minutes time.

After fifteen years of service a French service man was fired from job without any reason from Queen’s Waterworks Department. Tired and loner, the man wanted to end his life immediately. But after several unsuccessful suicide experiments in his apartment he headed towards a secret syndicate to hire a contract killer…just to get rid of himself! Quite a strange and bizarre…isn’t it? Next we see the moments of dry black humor where while sharing drinks the bunch of contract killers are giving him unwanted fatherly advice to live and survive quoting him the book of bible. To avoid the boredom of waiting for his self appointed killer, he went to nearest pub to have tea since he doesn’t drink. The bartender refused him offering tea and the fellow ended up with shots of alcohol, a pack of cigarettes and surprising company of a dame that gives him second thoughts. What happens next is interesting and surprising thing to notice on screen! 

The influence of Jean Luc Godard and other French New Wave Masters in noticeable in Kaurismaki’s works but than he has his own touch separating his cinema in exclusive category which is as inside and as outside the parameters of artistic cinema. It has minimal dialogues, fine use of mise en scenes and a protagonist with dead pan expression, can’t believe this is the same Jean Pierre Leaud, the darling of Godard-Truffaut films! Oh and I must say, Aki’s cinema bears a stamp of it’s own in matter of background score that permeates throughout his cinema just like the cinema of Wong Kar Wai and Jim Jarsmusch. It plays some of the classic blues and rock numbers here, infact it begins with one of all-time classic Blues number- ‘I need your love so bad’.

Watch it ASAP.  

Ratings-8/10   

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LE HAVRE (2011)


What I love the most about Kaurismaki films is the way he used his actors in detached Bressonian canon of ‘models’. They never overreact or dramatize in their performance or expressions reflecting their state of mind, social condition or survival struggle. I wonder how Kaurismaki so brilliantly got it delivered effortlessly in most of his films that on screen all of them look like some sort of figures belong to trans state- calm and yet conscious! In this latest offering, the world is quite hostile and indifferent and yet hopefully unpredictable around its two central characters. One is an old working class shoe polish man and another is an African boy landed up as illegal immigrant in a remote French town.

The setting is once again a common Kaurismaki trait- a working class neighborhood colony where strong and long neighborhood bonding tried to help each other keeping their different cultural and racial identities on side. Along with the old man, they all served as protective umbrella in their mission to save the boy from sniffing cops and help him to reach his destination. The old man is also a struggler who is managing his life on meager income with a wife passing through a serious illness in hospital and a loyal dog as only family member. Perhaps, the arrival of boy gives his life a different direction or aim and excitement in his otherwise mundane routine life. The film becomes an interesting triangle after arrival of a suspicious cop encountering the old man so often.

As one of Kauismaki fan said, ‘He never disappoints’. So far this is my third Kaurismaki film and he’s growing director on my regular compulsive ‘hours of darkness’! His minimalist approach, low key performances, simple on surface and complex on other level plot with dry humor, visually rich frames and eclectic background score is like a sweet surprise to watch on screen. And I must say, this is one of the worth watching and engrossing film experience to witness. 

Ratings-8/10 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DIVORCE ITALIAN STYLE (Italian) (1961)


This is something as brilliant as watching some of Woody Allen’s finest comedies! I mentioned Woody because just like his films, the theme of extra marital affair and crime goes hand in hand here and besides this is the kind of screenplay we generally expect from genius like him. The film is a delightful black comedy about one man’s daring plan to give marriage a surprise ending! So here is a Sicilian man who’s  passionate desire to woo his pretty cousin makes him daydreaming about killing his nagging and too possessive wife. One of the famous case hearings of the town turned him towards hunching a smart plan to set a trap to get rid of his wife and start a fresh love life with her desirable dame!

Writer, Director Pietro Germi’s this refreshingly entertaining comedy won Oscar for Best Screenplay and yeah it’s really worthy and engaging one giving us fun, romance, intrigue and tension in equal proportions. As always Marcello Mastroianni is the man to watch by all means. This is the first time I’m watching him in such a seriously funny character and he’s again in class of his own, carrying his suave gentleman charm and brilliant performance on screen; so far the class actor who never disappointed me. There’re moments of sparkling fun of affairs all around in an aristocratic family- both son and father clandestinely watching the dame from same toilet window, daydreaming of killing his wife on various occasions, accidentally catching her sister and her fiancĂ© in private positions and the hubby’s premeditated plan and execution to get rid of his wife or that idiotic maid servant- they all sum up as the characters and moments of pure fun. And as it ends happily as per our expectations with final frames as naughty as the film itself!

Highly Recommended.

Ratings-8/10

Saturday, March 10, 2012

KAHAANI (2012)


Sometimes a clever chess player deliberately starts and plays his game with wrong moves to keep the opponent play blind folded as per his set plan and than he plays his natural fair-game giving a surprise check! Director Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahaani’ is clever and smart story telling which keep baffling and engaging the audience busy solving the jigsaw puzzle about a pregnant woman’s who came straight from London to Kolkata in search for her husband. The story entangled the viewers from beginning with sub plot of a metro accident and another similar looking character (double identity), shocked them with an unlikely contract killer, entrapping them by introducing various characters leading one clue to another and all these while keeping them traveling the city of many faces. And than all of sudden it removes the snake’s skin of its script towards an unpredictable end. Absolutely smart filmmaking with cleverly played tactics in narrating the story and projecting the publicity and promos to give the audience enough tense and thrill as film unfolds on screen.

Saying all this I won’t call it a flawless or intelligent filmmaking. While making an engaging suspense thriller one should not change the premise of narration so many times to manipulate the audience’s expectations quite frequently. Ghosh finally ended up doing and repeating that in the end under the pretentiously tangled and too improbable script. If we keep this views on side for a while, the film is absolute entertainer and taut mystery which gives you jolts in many moments. It’s altogether different experience watching the film with so many unknown actors except almost brilliant Vidya Balan, an actress who one after another keep playing various purely Indian shades of ‘the woman’, not ‘the babe’ or ‘the girl’. She’s irreplaceable here too and nearly flawless in her performance. With her choices I’m pretty sure she’s going to win several other National Awards. Among all the actors one who pulls the attention among others is Nawazuddin Siddiqui and after working in few films as small roles this is his first full fledged supporting role as IB Officer Khan.

This is back to back second week where the directors who made impressive debuts and followed by certain forgettable films came back to form to entertain us. Last week it was Tigmanshu Dhulia who rejuvenated his spark in ‘Paan Singh Tomar’, this time it’s Ghosh who made one of cool entertainer of all-time ‘Jhankaar Beats’ returns with something so unimaginable from him!

Worthy to watch by all means.

Ratings- 7.5/10   

Thursday, March 8, 2012

PAAN SINGH TOMAR (2012)



"Beehad mein baaghi hote hei...dacait hote hain parliament mein."

Undoubtedly one of the breakthrough best film of this year. Though released without much publicity and marketing and with limited release, I’m sure it will surely and slowly gain its momentum with successful mouth publicity. The film is true and authentic bio-pic account about one of India’s unsung sports hero who later turned to be a rebel with a gun in his hand. Director Tigmanshu Dhulia made an impressive debut with ‘Haasil’, a film based on students’ politics and that film introduced one brilliant actor to the industry as Irrfan Khan. But much before his debut, the project of making this film was boiling in Tigmanshu’s head during the making of Shekhar Kapoor’s ‘Bandeet Queeen’, where he worked as Casting/assisting Director. For years he struggled with his strenuous research, years of shooting with many impediments including his main lead Irrfan’s accident and above all finding producer for funding such an unknown Indian athlete star-turned-dacoit tale. Thanks to UTV and Ronnie Screwvala for supporting and backing to make it happen.  

How a primary education learner villager belonged to valley of Chambal transformed from subedaar in army to 3000 meters International steeple chase athletic gold medalist and than post retirement turned towards taking law and gun in his hand is a tale need to be told. The man tried to seek justice with legal ways and we see his helplessness and frustrated anger at police station on screen. He would like to be remembered as a rebel who never surrendered and not just another dacoit of chambal. The film also hit the question about the shameful state and destiny of many of our unsung sports heroes like Tomar. Many of them died either penniless or with lack of medical attention; some of them are forced to sell their gold medals as explained in the end titles. Does an average Indian even know or recall the names of any other sports stars except Cricket is a big question? Some of the state and national stadiums are used as Ramleela maidan or as a venue for rich and famous politicians or businessman’s son’s/daughter’s wedding. Though lack of state support and amenities when these men achieved medals and shines country’s name, for how many years or months or days we keep them remember is a big question! How many of these stars shines through media or advertisement to earn extra green bucks selling colas and insurance. Few days ago headlines of all national dailies keeping regular updates of Yuvraj Singh’s cancer treatment, I wonder how many times they cover the shameful tragedies of other unsung heroes? There are many such questions in country’s collective consciousness that remained unanswered even today. 

                                 
The film is next to impossible without one of the ‘baap khan’ among all other Star Khans. This is the film which is absolutely on the shoulder of Irrfan Khan and once again he made an indelible impression on screen that will remain memorable for long. I must say this is one of his brilliant performance worthy enough to win National Award. It is quite unimaginable to think of any other actor here portraying various stages of Tomar’s life from 18 to 50 with so much breathing local human. Whether moments of fun, introspection, helplessness or frustration he maintained the character with so much detailing and authenticity that anybody connects with him so easily. And he’s finely supported by Mahie Gill, Rajendra Gupta, Vipin Sharma, Brijendra Kala, Zakir Hussain. 

What I loved most about the film apart of Irrfan’s striking performance is the way Tigmanshu brought the authenticity of Chambal with deglamorised original setting maintaining the realistic mood with moments of dark humor to the region where gun speaks louder than tongue and where chaos and lawlessness rules in the village. He showed striking reality of the region but also accentuated certain sequences with the aim to give the audience pure entertainment with moments of fun throughout the film till the climactic encounter and that's what makes it not just off beat cinema for urban multiplex audience but for all audience for all regions. Tishu maintained elements of sparkling fun with witty dialogues dipped in authentic local Bundeli dialect from almost all characters. In how many films we have fun like- ‘baap chalkave jam aur beta bandhe ghoonghroo.’  The first half is full of them where we see Paan Singh as army man and athlete is full of them with hilarious anecdotes about ice cream, lemon juice, spike shoes and running for food moments of fun. The film falters with clichĂ©s in the last half an hour but than the rest of the film served its purpose so brilliantly.

Three cheers for Irrfan, Tishu and UTV, hope you guys keep entertaining us like this way.

Ratings- 8.5/10 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

EDUCATING RITA (1983)


What a sweet, funny and delightful British film to watch with memorable performances! A cynic alcoholic English literature professor juxtaposed with a working class hairdresser student. He’s failed poet who has given up his life to booze and she’s determined to change herself by getting education. And more she loves to learn. The more he learns how to love. This is fine screenplay writing and so naturally enacted on screen by Michael Caine and Julie Walters. Both lead pair won Golden Globe and BAFTA film awards and got Academy nominations.

The film is light comedy adapted on screen from Willy Russell’s play and it has quite a similarity with G B Shaw’s popular play ‘Pygmalion’(adapted wonderfully as musical on screen as ‘My Fair Lady’) and highlighted the working class woman’s will to change herself by imparting education that gives her freedom and class distinction. It’s fine cocktail of some touching moments and some hilariously funny moments and both Caine and Walters so convincingly made them felt to the audience. There’s lot of wit and fun in dialogues too and some of them resembles like watching Woody Allen film.

A fine delightful watch for any given day.

Ratings- 7.5/10

Monday, March 5, 2012

ANGEL FACE (1952)


‘Never be the innocent bystander; that’s the guy that always gets hurt.’

The American Film Noir tradition brought to screen many of doomed romances and powerful femme fatales on screen but Director Otto Preminger’s this brilliant part noir part passionate drama is something extra to it. The film begins with a domestic emergency that sets three essential elements- plot, theme and character introduction. The emergency may be an accident or a murder plot to a mid age lady who happens to be the stepmother of a young girl. Her novelist father lost his professional touch after remarriage and the daughter is not much inclined towards her new mother. Enters an ambulance driver who’s also wannabe professional racer; his encounter with a young inscrutable dame ignited a passionate affair that leads to crime and court. The man is of strong conviction and one that not easy to dupe by any smart lady. ‘I’ve been slapped by dames before’, he said in his first encounter. What we see next is brilliantly crafted ambivalent relationships, a premeditated car accident, courtroom trial and a passionate affair to remember.

One may find crisp editing, control of direction and story telling in most of Otto Preminger films and this one of that gem that one shouldn’t missed. Just like his brilliant film ‘Anatomy of Murder’, Preminger brought fine detailing in that courtroom scenes with utter professional approach in investigation and cross investigation by lawyers. He brought an automobile expert with the whole inside of wrecked car to display and discuss in court. Overall he successfully nailed both the drama and noir by getting the finest performances from lead chemistry of Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons. Mitchum is the man to watch as always who knows bloody well how to wear that attitude of his own on screen and Simmons is the dame to watch by all means who seems a femme fatale in the beginning but ended up as passionate lover who’s having her own conviction and conscience struggling desperately to win the man till final frames. We know what would be the end and still we crave and hope that it wouldn’t be!

Ratings-8/10 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

PARAKH (1960)


The post master of Radhanagar who didn’t receive a single letter received a surprise letter that brings the sudden transformation of village’s few crooked and greedy souls- a temple priest, a feudal landlord, a rich contractor and a doctor. The letter was written by a famous businessman from town and he announced to donate a big amount for village’s welfare and he wanted to hand it over the money to the most upright and honest man of the village. As soon as it was declared, it becomes a race of transformation which brings social order and equality to village but it won’t last long. The only concerning man is a school master but the scheming syndicate of crooked quarter made him surrendered in the election race. But the man who declared the bounty is keeping his eyes on the village and he knows who’s genuine and who’s pretending.

Before watching the film, I didn’t expect much from this quite underrated Bimal Roy classic except Salilda’s four golden nugget compositions crooned by Lata Mangeshkar, two of them are personal favorites from long. But there’s so genuine and natural in Bimal Roy’s craft and his directorial command over the medium that he managed to bring something out of every known or than little known actors. Quite surprisingly the moral fable like story of the film is scripted by Roy’s favorite composer Salil Chaudhary. The only low point of the film is the misfit cast of Vasant Chaudhary, the man cast opposite refreshingly young and beautiful Sadhna who’s just in her twenties. She was much exploited as mystery lady clad with a white sari but here she looks something so breezy and full of life. Whether the songs such as ‘O Sajna Barkha Bahar’, ‘Mila hai kisike jhumka’ or the scenes, Roy represented her on screen as a poetry with his refined close-ups capturing her raw act, unglamorous look and refreshing expressions. But what’s surprise of the film is fine supporting acts from some of the brilliant character actors of their time. Both Motilal as post master’s assistant and Kanhaiyalal ( remember Sukhilala of ‘Mother India’) as the ear poisoning priest are two so natural performances of the film to notice and perhaps nobody can beat them in some of the roles they have done in the golden era of 50s and 60s Hindi cinema.

Soothing tunes, poetic visual frames and a genuine and lighter moral tale with fine character acts and a twist; need we demand more from this Bimal Roy B&W classic!

Friday, March 2, 2012

HUGO (2011)


First things first…This is something quite unexpected surprise from filmmaker like Martin Scorsese as far as plot, genre and story telling is concerned. Must say, the film undoubtedly one of the most embracing visual treat to watch on 3D big screen. It is almost splendid in all technical fronts- especially the spectacular production design and mesmerizing cinematography are worthy enough to win Oscar trophies without doubt. I don’t want to throw much light on plot and so repeat the end lines written by adventure loving Isabelle in her diary, “Once upon a time I met a boy named Hugo Cabret. He lived in a train station. Why did he live in a station? You might well ask. That’s really what this book is going to be about. It’s about how this singular young man searched so hard to find a secret message from his father and how that message lit his way…all the way home.”

Well, some of the hard core Scorsese fans wondered while watching it that why on earth Scorsese attempted something so routine fantasy from Hollywood high on CGI and technical divisions. But Scorsese made his point quite clear in the second half of the film where under the direct tribute to cinema’s almost forgotten pioneer of fantasy and illusion creator Georges Melies, he celebrated the innocence and magic of early silent cinema. It’s perhaps his tribute to the world of hours in the dark where magic and illusion corresponds something so unique experience to our senses. But above all it’s also film about saving the decaying inherited treasure of cinema and bringing them back to life. The gold that we lost, destroyed and ruined almost as dust L    

The constant highlight of the film is to fix things. Either it’s fixing that toy mouse, automaton man, broken memories and above all fixing that golden treasure of cinema against old odds. And perhaps Hollywood has produced a few filmmakers who’re really concerned about the film preservation and film restoration process immaterial of any language and any country. He’s the man who helped and funded to restore Ritwik Ghatak’s ‘Titash Ekti Nadir Naam’ to show it in Cannes few years back. As this film is clear reference to cinema’s almost forgotten French pioneer Georges Melies who introduced the fantasy, illusion to cinema in the initial stepping years. His creative ideas on editing, cutting and special tick effects brought a new vision for the filmmakers of next generation and they carry forward it with invention of new technology. His most of works destroyed and lost in First World War. It’s so shocking to know that army of his own country confiscated 400 of his short films and burned them to use the raw material to make the boot heel of the shoes! Thanks to the active film archives and technological advancements of the day that brought back to life some 200 or so films of this gifted artist of his time. One can watch many of original on youtube anyplace anytime. Thanks Marty for bringing our attention to this forgotten genius and pointing to the world the concern for this cinema’s historical archives in such a sugarcoated and visually sumptuous food for any ages.

Ratings-8/10