Continuing with our coverage of the recently concluded 16th Mumbai Film Festival, here is an update of the films watched by us on days 6 & 7 of the festival.
The Pulsating Mindscape
There’s a question about a long-dead man, and three little kids use the genetics they learnt in school to figure it out. Anyone who reads that and isn’t interested is somewhat alien to me. The film itself is very badly made and can be a pain to sit through but is full to the brim with emotional and intellectual honesty – which leads one to want to give the director a nice hug.
Roman mythology plays out in the modern world, and various gods narrate it to young Europa who has run away from an abusive father. While mostly engaging and well-shot, this film nevertheless feels entirely pointless. Definitely the makers had a reason to make it, but this reason doesn’t manifest on screen.
I Am Not Him
The concept is intriguing. A woman whose husband has been thrown in jail starts an affair with his lookalike. Gradually he begins to step into the husband’s shoes in more ways than one. As the film progresses, even more intrigue is piled on until finally your logical brain rejects the concept. Over reliance by the script on coincidences and an intentionally lazy pace bring the film directed by Tayfun Pirselimoglu down by several notches.
The Blue Room
Actor – director Mathieu Amalric’s The Blue Room shuttles back and forth between the affair he has had and scenes in a courtroom for the fatal consequences it has led to. The stage is set for a terrific ending which never comes. No big reveal, no twist in the tail and quite an anti-climax eventually.
Clouds of Sils Maria
Oliver Assayas’ latest is what one would condescendingly describe as a “talkie film”, a film where for a larger part, actors just talk. But dont let that put you off. If the conversation is interesting and the actors make is worth your while, it can be as fascinating as your regular thriller. Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart are upto the task. Binoche is an ageing actress who is now being offered the role of the elder lesbian lover when she had played the younger one 20 years ago. It’s kind of like Michael Caine in Sleuth’s remake. Stewart is her assistant. The generation gap and ensuing change in view points is beautifully brought out through dialogue.
Black Coal, Thin Ice (Bai Ri Yan Huo)
Winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, the film is set in Northern China and the story shifts from 1999 to 2004. Black Coal, Thin Ice talks of a detective who is on the trail of a series of murders which happen in 1999. The investigation is resumed 5 years later when identical murders begin all over again. A dark thriller, the film has some really standout moments which stay with you well after the film is over but personally I found the film a tad too underwhelming. The film meanders a little too much for comfort and does not have the grittiness that one would have ideally expected.
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto)
Elio Petri’s 1970 Italian crime drama has gone on to become a classic of sorts over the years. Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Film,it also won both the FIPRESCI Award and the Grand Prize at Cannes as well. The head of the homicide department in a sudden fit of rage kills his girlfriend. He goes on to leave deliberate clues at the murder site, while at the same time going on to get promoted and move on to another department. Narrated in non-linear fashion, the film sees a standout performance from Giara Maria Volonte. It was indeed a pleasure to watch the restored version of this classic at MAMI this year.
Next to Her (At li layla)
Asaf Korman’s Israeli film is a lovely relationship drama centered around 2 sisters, 27 year old Rachel and her 24 year old mentally challenged sister, Gabby. Rachel works as a security guard at a school and also takes care of her sister. Her whole life revolves around her job and Gabby when she finds love in the form of her colleague, Zohar. This is a film handled with a lot of sensitivity which works in favour of the film as it tackles an interesting premise.
Perariyathavar (Names Unknown)
Dr.Biju’s Perariyathavar first got noticed when it won 2 National Awards this year, for Best Actor (Suraj Venjaramoodu) and Best Film on Environment Conservation/Preservation. The film talks about a widowed man who lives with his only son and works as a scavenger. On most days he is accompanied during his work by his son. Chami is his friend and colleague,belonging to a tribal community. Together they represent the marginalized sections of the society,whom no one else cares for. A well made film on a very sensitive and important topic, the film is quite engaging and boasts of some good performances as well.
Chaitanya Tamhane’s debut film is not just a Marathi film but a true blue Mumbai film as it represents the spirit of the city quite well. The only Indian film in the International Competition section at MAMI this year, Court is the winner of 2 awards at Venice Film Festival this year (Best Debut Film and Best Film under the ‘Horizons’ section). Court takes a look at the Indian Judicial system in realistic fashion with the help of a particular case which involves a folk singer being tried for abetment to suicide of a sewage cleaner, and drawing inferences from the key characters involved in dealing with the case. The film is filled with adequate humorous moments, but in a natural flow altogether. Considering that the film has a cast which comprises of mainly new faces, majority of them being non actors, Court is quite a good debut by Chaitanya Tamhane.
Naji Abu Nowar’s tale talks of a Bedouin boy who experiences a desert adventure when he joins a British officer searching for a well on the eve of the 1916 Arab Revolt. Its a good subject chosen by the director for his debut film as the film is not only engaging but also visually very pleasing to the eyes. There’s a sense of thrill and adventure all through the film as we get to meet various types of characters in the film. The film in a way is also about the coming of age of the boy named Theeb (Arabic for wolf).
Kuttram Kadithal (The Punishment)
This is a forthcoming Tamil film to look forward to as it is yet to have its theatrical release. Kuttram Kadithal incidentally is also the only Tamil movie as part of this year’s Indian Panorama at IFFI. Debutant writer-director Bramma has chosen an important,sensitive & humane subject & handled it with care.Kudos to the producers for backing a film like this which has a whole host of new actors & technicians making their debut. This is a film that has a Pan Indian connection with regards to the theme and at the end the film leaves us with a lot of points to ponder over.
Thanal Thedunna Bhoomi (Earth Seeking Shades)
Mini Padma’s debut film sees the dialogues to be a mix of Malayalam and Paniya,a local dialect spoken by the adivasis in a particular hilly part of Kerala. The basic plot is about Seetha who along with her11-year-old brother Chennan travels to the city hoping for a safe delivery and returns with the corpse of her child. The film tries to squeeze in multiple problems faced by the tribals and their environment. But what should have ideally been a gripping tale somehow turns out to be quite flat and boring as the narrative never manages to arrest our attention.
Yann Demange’s film is set in Ireland of 1971 and focuses on a young British soldier who is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the streets of Belfast. Unable to tell friend from foe, and increasingly wary of his own comrades, the raw recruit must survive the night alone and find his way to safety through a disorientating, alien and deadly landscape.This is quite an engaging action-thriller with a realistic edge thanks to the premise, the characters and the art direction. We are literally transported to Belfast in 1971 in the midst of the film and that’s a victory for the director who has made a smooth transition from T.V to Cinema.
A 92 year old man decides that the time has come to bid good bye to all the important things in his life, including his girlfriend who is 55 years younger to him. The film depicts a beautiful portrayal of an old man who finds it difficult to perform even his daily chores in this old age. The slow depiction of things makes the audience initially restless. But as the film progresses, one is able to understand and relate to the protagonist’s plight as he readies himself to bid goodbye to things which have been the most important in his life. Devoid of melodrama and emotional manipulation, the film creates a emotionally endearing journey of a frail old man who is in the last days of his life.
A woman (Berenice Bejo) who works for an NGO forms a special relationship with a boy(Abdul Khalim Mamuitsiev) as he tries to survive in a war torn Chechnya. An updated remake of a 1946 film of the same name, The Search is a touching portrayal of a young boy trying to make sense of the Chechnya war. The film realistically portrays the atrocities inflicted upon the innocent Chechnya victims during the war. It also shows the brutal, barbaric and inhuman methods used by Russian army to train and brainwash its soldiers. After making a crowdpleasing film like The Artist , director Michel Hazanivicus makes a film that is a grim and stark reminder of the Chechnya conflict. The film however also depicts how goodness and hope triumphs over all the bad things in life. An endearing performance by Abdul Khalim Mamuitsiev is the highlight of The Search, which in our opinion is one of the best films to be screened this year at MAMI.
A 11 year old Chechnyan refugee (Ramasan) finds his life thrown out of gear when an old friend of his late father gets too close to his mother . Yet another film that deals with the Chechnyan conflict, Macondo tries to show the aftermath of the conflict through its protagonist Ramasan. Ramasan is a confused 11 yr old boy who while acting as the man of the family, is trying to come terms with his life that is changing faster than he thinks. It tries to capture the angst, insecurities, jealousies and other complexities prevailing in Ramasan’s mind. Macondo is made with a lot of sincerity and efficiency. However, a languid pace and a rather abrupt ending results in the film creating a lesser impact. Although one understand the point the film wants to convey through its ending, a more better culmination would have made this a much more effective film.
Dimensions is a compilation of several short film screened every year in The Mumbai Film Festival. The short films which are screened are handpicked by jury of the Mumbai film Festival. All the films focus on the city of Mumbai and are made by film makers who are of 25 years or below in age. Some of the good short films we saw this year at The Mumbai Film Festival are Bombay 70, Rumana Manzil, Mahanagari and Gilbert amongst others.