Saturday, June 30, 2012

FISH TANK (2009)

Sometimes I’m just surprised to see how certain non film actors brilliantly shape out the characters with raw energy and instinctive urge to make us drawn towards the protagonist than all those top star actors. This 15 years old girl named Mia was one of that impressive debut of Katie Jarvis where attitude and conflict is the poetry on screen. As per IMDB trivia she was offered the role by a casting director while being spotted on having fight with her boyfriend on railway station. That turns out as perfect decision to portray an existential angst of a girl of this age.

The film was made by a woman filmmaker named Andrea Arnold who won Oscar for short film ‘Wasp’. Haven’t seen her other films I must say I’m impressed the way she portrayed the film with grim, dark and edgy account of existential despair and hopelessness focusing us to the unlikely ugly and bitchy realistic view of British working class family; where on face value nobody cares damn about anyone. There is absence of father and the mom is more like a tart who keeps verbally abusing her elder daughter. The poor kid sister too is under the shadow of her mom and didn’t mind abusing her elder sibling. Mia is15 years old girl thrown away from school and spending her days aimlessly wearing rebel aggression on her inner and external body language. Family life is absolutely crumbling world for her; the only hope of her life lies in her solitary self expressions of dancing moves to hip hop beats.

The film is shot beautifully keeping the POV of Mia in central to all. It’s fine and sensitive portrayal of an individual who’s growing young amid hopeless world around. Her struggle for identity, hope, love and the inner conflict are reflected so damn well with attitude of anger and instinctive and unconventional non feminine expressions by Jarvis. Her mother’s new boyfriend (played with restraint by Michael Fassbender) brought a flash of hope to Mia’s life but that too becomes illusory. Apart of getting her identity recognized in contest and an urge to free that chained horse is something meaningful to her. I was expecting some sort of heavy tragedy towards the end but the film ended like an independent cinema should and that’s the beauty about it. That shot of free balloon flying higher and higher aimlessly without any  fixed direction conveys a lot. The film manages to won number of awards, including prestigious BAFTA award and Jury Prize at Cannes. Surely an impressive film to recommend for all indie film lovers.

Ratings- 8/10 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Though prior to the release of this film John Woo had completed one full decade as action director; but it is with this film he made his creative breakthrough that not only redefines action genre but also brought him to the attention of Hollywood. After Peckinpah, here is a successor who depicts violence on screen as poetry with stylistic traits that derived from Jean Pierre Melville. Though presence of two other lead actors, the film rocketed the career of Chow Yun Fat into Hong Kong cinema’s superstar. Stylistically Woo represented him as Alain Delon’s Melville roles and Fat has done marvelous job here; both in action and emotions.

Great action films keep you hooked to the sequences on screen and that’s the biggest USP of cinema of Woo. The sequence of Fat hiding guns in flowerpots with romancing a girl, shooting out the traitor gang and shot on leg is something I love to watch time and again, same can be said about rollicking climax. The film has potboiler plot depicting drama between brothers on opposite sides of law, camaraderie between two friends, romance, struggle and emotions all coiled up into the genre of action but then Woo maintains certain amount of charm in telling of story with fast pace, absolutely brilliant action sequences and style that oozing impressive for makers like Tarantino. Woo used Fat brilliantly in many of his other films, especially ‘Hard Boiled’ and ‘The Killers’ but this one is absolutely belongs to him. Bollywood Director Sanjay Gupta in his debut film made a complete rip off of the film titled ‘Aatish’ starring Sanjay Dutt and Aditya Pancholi and keep on making his plagiarized action factory copying Tarnatino, Oliver Stone and Park Chan Wook.

One of the best action film of all-time.


Sunday, June 17, 2012


After long time I ended up watching something that made me wonder why on earth being a film buff I avoided something so mind-blowing from years. ‘The Manchurian candidate’ made by John Frankenheimer, is one hell of the most smartest and engaging thriller, perhaps more intensifying than the best that Hitchcock had ever made. It’s rare to find such a brilliant combination of personal and collective nightmare and political and psychological thrill in a single film done so brilliantly as in this masterpiece. Based upon a novel by Richard Condon and scripted by George Axelrod, the film is undoubtedly one of the most complex and intriguing political thriller ever made in Hollywood on the subject of cold war. But here is a psychologically subservient subplot too fixed between the protagonist son and his politically active mother.A strange recurring nightmare disturbing a bunch of soldiers returned from Korean war. Something is so fishy about the man who’s awarded Medal of Honor from the president of United States otherwise what is it that collectively disturbing the fellow officers on patrol. Here is a ticking cold war assignment triggered on psychological association with pack of cards, game of solitaire and the queen of diamonds, how brilliant!  

What’s most prominent part of the film is the way it unfolds the whole plot and narration to the audience intensifying the curiosity of what actually happen even though giving us enough clues repeatedly. The ambivalent or rather complicated characters juggling on screen with baffling plot progression and it comes with terrific performances of Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh. Angela Lansbury and Laurence Harvey, both brilliantly cast as mother and son too. One can see the influence of French New Wave clearly in the way camera is used here, especially that 360 degree pan moving around a lady’s garden club meeting inexplicably transforming into communist brainwashing leading towards a terrific nightmare. The film is absolutely powerful experience with gripping script, stunning camera work and taut edge on the seat editing within its two hours duration without a moment of dull affair; this film has everything with ace on its sleeve.

I must eschew rating film like this. 

Saturday, June 9, 2012


‘Sometime people who are never alone are the loneliest.’

Jim Wilson is an honest and tough cop working for eleven years in his service. His Achilles heal is his uncontrolled inner frustration and anger while dealing with criminals. Taking things easy is out of his character. Its dirty job and he’s the one taking it too personally, too psychologically as loner of his own world. Once his fellow officer warned him, “When I go home I don’t take this stuff with me, I leave it outside but the way you carry it around inside, you must like it. Maybe you think that’s make you good cop. The way you’re going, you won’t be good to anybody, not even yourself! Somebody had to tell you, to get anything out of this life; you gotta put something in it from the heart!’ It’s been two weeks since sergeant cop was murdered and his two suspected killers running free but as Wilson messing up with criminals his senior assigned him to investigate a murder case in far Siberia.

Nicholas Ray brilliantly entwined ambiguity of thrill and intensity of drama in the plot and execution where a loner cop playing volatile role between emotion and duty. He successfully transferred default dark city location of noir to snow clad icy peaks and hair pin bends. Both Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan delivered the characters torn between the worlds indifferent to them. Must to mention the thrilling score of Bernard Herrmann and gripping and well maintained pace in duration that runs less than one hour thirty minutes.

Recommended to all Noir fans.


Friday, June 8, 2012


What’s the good part is unlike other filmmakers Dibakar Banerjee in the very beginning of the film clearly gave credit to the original Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos and his politically striking novel Z, the basis of Costa Gavras’ award winning brilliant French film by the same name. And also unlike other scene to scene rip off version of Hindi blockbusters  Dibakar has not made just damn facsimile, he presented it in Indian milieu and altered what’s the most highlight part of the original- the end. His altered cold blooded punch of satire on face of current state of India comes finally when expectations of audience tolerated enough drama and chaos behind the ugly truth of corrupt political-corporate nexus turning a local suburban area named Bharatnagar into International Business Project (IBP). I agree that Dibakar justified the déjà vu ending to clarify the upper hand of power above all inquiry committee; now this itself is a irony of the whole affair but unfortunately that’s the only best part of the film I found in ‘Shanghai’.

But saying all this what I terribly missing in Bannerjee’s version either in comparison of ‘Z’ or not, is the crux of the original and that’s the thrill and tension part. I feel something is lost in the way Dibakar narrated the whole plot of the film with introducing almost all cards and characters on screen. The constantly shifting narration instead of make us feel tension throws more unnecessary drama. Besides it also fails to strike or provoke towards plot, characters or ruthless depiction of power. An activist professor opposing the authority’s new venture to turn housing colony into international business market murdered in front of police protection and public. A foreigner young lady and student of dead man pointing finger towards authority claiming a conspiracy, a blue filmmaker captured something off the hook footage which will blow the high commands of power, a sophisticated officer helming an inquiry under government control and lot of other characters playing the pawns of power. Throughout the first half instead of letting us feel the shocking chaos, volatile urgency, ruthless authoritarian face and fearless face of an upright man, it shows lot of drama and mild interpretation. Even in the second half the film falters a lot till it reaches towards quite unexpected end.

Though otherwise a brilliant actor Abhay Deol seems too weak and too controlled here; nothing much to say about the other cast lost in progression of events. There are few sparks in the film and the film managed to represent the unadorned raw face of Indian reality on screen in rushes but overall it didn’t give me intriguing or shocking feel as vehemently as I expected. I love to repeat Costa Gavras’ ‘Z’, which proclaimed loud and clear in its very opening ‘Any similarity to actual persons is deliberate’ and then without messing with any conventional gimmicks successfully keep stimulating from start to finish. That’s one hell of political thriller I’ve seen. That one is bomb, this one is sparkle.


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

HERBERT (Bengali) (2005)

‘Small fish of the bath tub goes to the big sea.’

A very layered, moving and brilliantly executed existential drama that drives us into the life and time of a dimwit outsider protagonist named queerly as Herbert; no it’s not explained as in case of  Gogol in Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’. He is dealing with business of conversing with dead souls and challenged by authority of rationalist society. He commits suicide opening a case of riddle for police to claim him as anti social element or a mere mad man swindling his clients. What we follow is not just a personal film of an individual but also a shifting phase of socio-cultural-political Bengal from 50s to 90s. Based on Nabrun Bhattacharya’s Sahitya Academy novel, the film moves constantly back and forth in its narrative tapestry and leads us towards the various phases of Herbert’s life. He is orphan and raised by his relative’s family; growing under the tyrannical and exploiting cousin, good for nothing street friends and his preferred personal space on terrace where he reads, writes obscure notes on spirits, fly kites, watch pigeons and his first infatuation crush along with the world altogether from the height. Slowly and steadily the time keeps shifting his life parallel to the city.

Director Suman Mukhopadhyay in his debut independent movie projected a metaphor of man and city hard to explain in words. It is tale of an obscure man with breathing humanity, it’s also tale of rebellion youth wasted on leftist ideology victimized on authoritarian bullets and it’s also tale of transformation of time and space that leads to nothing but pendulum. The footage of Eisenstein’s Odessa steps sequence (Battleship Potemkin) keep reflecting like ghost to Herbert; quite a metaphor of haunted memories of power shooting bullets from one generation to another irrespective of time, space or cause. It’s intriguing to witness Herbert’s parents like Brechtian detached models filming his life story as spirits. With passage of time and left with absence of all the loved ones absence, the unfortunate recluse take solace in company of booze and street friends to get rid away of his haunting surrealist memories. Yes, ghosts do exist not in the other world but in this world occupied in deep crevices of our minds just like Herbert in form of memories, in form of past and we can’t get rid of them with any sort of mumbo-jumbo. Though initially what seems loud Subhashish Mukhopadhyay’s act of Herbert is one hell of consistent brilliant method act I’ve seen in regional cinema, I must say the film wouldn’t be same without his performance. The film won National Award for Best Bengali film for presenting a refreshingly cinematic idiom in form of protagonist of this urban existential tragicomedy veers between the thin line of real and surreal.


PS- Close to this film but different in approach I would also like to recommend Reha Erdem’s Turkish film ‘Kosmos’ which I found equally impressive and moving account of an obscure man. 


What a pleasant and surprising entertainment from cinema of Bengal! Here’s a film which made point towards rising commercialization of land property at the cost of old heritage and yet Director Anik Datta in his debut film manages to bring hilarious comedy, drama and suspense with all commercial ingredients one demands from a routine entertainment along with constant satirical fun. Like most of the Indian metros and commercial capitals, Kolkata too is tuning into concrete jungle by real estate developers. The heritage buildings are taking shapes of shopping malls and multiplexes and amid all these the future of ghosts who have been living in these old houses are in peril.

The film begins with a commercial ad filmmaker turned director’s arrival to check locations of an old landlord’s old house. As he’s running short of idea how to wind up his script, he meets a stranger who narrates him certain interesting characters that led him and us towards a wonderful journey of story within story. Yes, it’s about ghosts and their future in pendulum but instead of making a routine spooky drama or supernatural humdrum, Datta’s script turned more humanitarian and hilariously funny. He successfully delivered the drama through fine ensemble cast. It’s wonderful script and screenplay with a tinge of certain commercial ingredients of song, dance, comedy and drama but what I love is the way he told the whole story managing the middle of the cinema, not pure art film and not just another crap in the name of entertainment. I just loved that interview of ghosts sequence; both social satire and comedy runs through each of the interview divided between candidate’s plight and reason of death and selection criteria for accept or reject. Ah and that wonderful Flaherty’s Nannok jumps out from Alaska to take shelter to ghost home due to global warming! It’s just hilarious fun I’ve seen in Indian film after a long time.    

And for those non Bengali viewers like me who enjoyed the spark of two Bengali actors in recent Hindi cinema ‘Kahaani’ will relish them here too. Parambrata Chatterjee is surely a promising young talent and ah once again Saswata Chatterjee (rememeber cold blooded killer Bob Bishwas) made me clap for his performance of one armed Kartik. Hope Bengali cinema wil keep entertaining the same way and yes, I’m looking forward for next of Mr. Datta.


Monday, June 4, 2012


‘I’m immortal, you punk! I’m Dillinger!’

For United States it was an era of 1930s and great depression but that didn’t exist for one man who proclaimed his name loud and clear every time he robbed the bank with his gang. FBI and American Press claimed him title of Public Enemy No.1. With more than two dozen bank robbery and twice escape from prison, John Herbert Dillinger was one of the most notorious and most wanted organized crime legend that America had ever seen and Hollywood keep repeating Dillinger bio-pic on screen from one or another sources. The latest was Michael Mann’s Johnny Depp- Christian Bale starrer ‘The Public Enemy’. I haven’t seen other films but Mann’s film clearly seems like misnomer affair compared to this John Milius’ striking crime biopic.

Warren Oates made indelible impression to me in one of my all-time favorite Peckinpah film ‘Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia’ and after watching him as Dillinger here, I must say he’s one who’s irreplaceable here too from start to finish. The film is narrated by cigar in mouth clad FBI officer Melvin Purvis, played brilliantly here by Ben Johnson. Purvis was G-man backed by J. Edgar Hoover, who proved nemesis for organized crime and after lot of struggle finally ended the rule of Dillinger & Co.

What is most striking feature of the film is its uninhibited display of on your face violence ranging from the first violent and messy bank robbery or that long and mind-blowing machine gun trotting action sequence trap at dawn set by Purvis or the climax at theatre are just as shatteringly brutal and violent as watching the climax of ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ or Peckinpah classics. The camera and production design captures the feel of 1930’s America in frames like those classic noirs of 40s and 50s. The dialogues are loud but punchy, the pace is what it should be one expects from film of this genre and the music is appropriately moody. Along with capturing violence and action, the film also used B&W photographic montages to give it documenting feel. But above all this is film about Dillinger and Purvis and Oates and Johnson are men to watch, Depp and Bale seems kids to them.

Mandatory for all crime and gangster film fans.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

VERTIGO (1958)

Its treat watching Hitchcock classic on digitally restored HD clarity of colors and sound. Almost eight years ago when I had watched ‘Vertigo’ first time on purchased VCD, the film didn’t appeal to me as strikingly as ‘Psycho’, ‘Rear Window’ or ‘Dial M for Murder’. I wondered how it did stand close second best movie behind ‘Citizen Kane’ in a 2002 poll of world’s greatest movies by Sight and Sound. Then I read that this is the Hitchcock classic that is an obsessed inspiration from filmmakers ranging from Truffaut to Scorsese to De Palma. So here’s what I find out on my second take of it.

A retired detective stuck with an accident and paralyzed by fear of heights, an intriguing new assignment from an old friend to stalk his obsessive and mysterious wife trying to commit suicide and the continuing enigma to bizarre plot full of twists and surprises. It’s haunting tale of deception, obsession and death and it’s absolutely classic more in terms of psychological complexity of its characters than plot. Hitchcock wonderfully played psychological hide and seek not only with complexity of plot of its two protagonists- a private eye suffering from acrophobia (fear of heights) and an enigmatic lady suffering with her jigsaw puzzle past and a desperate urge to suicide. We see an engrossing stalking, followed by romance, a suicide attempt than a real suicide and what follow is guilt and finally a cure for illness. One has to watch how wonderfully Hitchcock also used spirals in the film as props- spiral in the hair of the lady in portrait, curvy roads, historical old wooden tree and a staircase of tower.  

Hitchcock brilliantly played suspense filmmaker’s double cross to his audience. Beginning with an engrossing incident, than create a false premise and plot to intrigue and engage the audience’s psychology to solve the mystery with ambiguous and clever narration and than revealing the surprise twist to the other face of the plot. But here he did something extra, stretching the drama and plot even after revealing the suspense to let his audience drawn towards tale of psychological guilt mixed with obsessed romance that wonderfully summing up testing and curing the guilt consciousness of both protagonists on the screen with returning to that suicidal top of church tower.   

Perhaps none of Hitchcock films seems so visually vivid and colorful portraying cityscapes of San Francisco in ‘Vertigo’. His two ace men and long time collaborators of sound and vision- Robert Burks as the man behind the camera with brilliant, stylish and innovative camera effects and Bernard Herrmann as the man behind the score worked wonderfully to make it a true timeless Hitchcock.  

Friday, June 1, 2012


Much before Brian De Palma made two of his most popular and much admired gangster films; he made certain B genre Hitchcockian edge on the seat psychological thrillers. Having watched his quite underrated ‘Sisters’, ‘Blow Out’ and ‘Body Double’, I must say the man is just brilliant replacement of Master Hitchcock for a quite a time being. Though many of critics criticized and labeled him as ‘Hitchcock’s shadow’, De Palma left his own stamp in all these films. His highly stylistic use of camera especially mise en scene, expressionist shots and angles focusing voyeuristic and stalking camera work in those earlier films bears an absolutely grotesque De Palma beauty.

This is one of those underrated De Palma. He took the premise of ‘Obsession’ from one of his most favorite Hitchcock film ‘Vertigo’ but constructed the film with different and surprising twist in the tale with impulsive obsession of two individuals. Need I ruin the suspense by sharing the plot! This is perhaps one of most slow paced film De Palma ever made but still its captivating thriller and visually so rich with spell binding camera work and Bernard Herrmann’s brilliant background score is added bonus.

Worth a watch for any Hitchcock admirer.