As every year, it’s the time of the year when film lovers across Mumbai rejoice, thanks to MAMI. This year we were looking forward to MAMI, with enthusiasm as Jio MAMI 2015 was supposed to get bigger and better. As usual our authors who attended MAMI share their thoughts about the movies they watched.
Here’s an account of the movies watched during days 1 & 2 of the festival.
Risk Of Acid Rain
Manouchehr – a sixty year old un-married male sets out to find his old friend Khosrow who lives in Tehran. Through this simple premise, Sanaeeha creates a poignant portrayal of loneliness and discovering oneself. The search of his missing friend leads him to befriending two much younger individuals who help him rediscover himself and bring some spark into his otherwise dull and dreary life. Sanaeeha makes an impressive debut with this film which has been banned in its home country for depicting some taboo topics including homosexuality.
An exiled assassin (Shu Qi) must choose between love or duty when she receives orders to kill a man (Chang Chen) from her past. Given the interesting premise and a Cannes win for Best Director for Hou-Hsiao Hsein, we were really excited to watch it. But a body beautiful always does not make for a good soul. Similarly a festival does not guarantee a great film. The film has some great visuals, remarkably able direction and a wonderful production design. But a very lethargic pace and the inability to keep audiences engaged or telling a story that hardly makes a point makes this a tedious and underwhelming watch. Surely, we would want to know what made the Cannes jury award the film a prestigious win for the best director.
Dialogue free cinema can become boring after a while if the story isn’t really going anywhere. An office executive enrolls for a self defense cum offense course with a bunch of other ordinary joes. Virtually the only dialogue in the film are the instructions spoken out by the instructors. That and of course homilies from a Book of Disasters (most likely imaginary) that appear on screen every ten minutes or so. All the training is apparently to prepare the participants for the ongoing apocalypse. This minimalistic film did not really work for me.
Tim Roth in the central role plays a nurse who gets too involved with his patients. So much so that the family of one even sues him for sexual harassment. The unflinching camera uncomfortably stays for a long time on Roth as he cleans the patients’ naked, frail bodies. Roth (and director Michel Franco) have created a complex character whose motives just fall below the radar of suspicion. The movie ends with a terrific reverse tracking shot. Story wise its abrupt, yet jolts you out of your seat.
Room is a combination of two story threads with great potential – the first one about beginning life while under a windowless incarceration and the second one about coming to terms with the real world when free. The weak script fails to do justice to both of them. In the end you have a half baked movie where the second half seems to stretch for a good half more than whats good for it. Brie Larson, despite her best efforts, isnt in the same form as Short Term 12. A few sub plots show promise but are not fully explored.
G The Wanton Heart
G originates from the Sanskrit word “jiv” denoting a living organism. Sheesh! Nevertheless this is a fairly interesting debut
by Rahul Dahiya. It its use of the Haryanvi dialect and rural locations the film is authentic. But while making its point about wanton lust and honour killings, its bizarrely crude in its treatment. Plus ever so often there is no narrative flow, it jumps from one scene to another seemingly unconnected scene. Yet, for some reason I am not able to pin down, it has you involved. The cast consists of amateurs who do a fair job. Watchable out of curiosity.
The descent of a man into madness…..is the descent of the viewer into frustration. Long, dimly lit takes made worse by a bad projection and excessive verbosity make this film popular amongst rabid film fest goers…to catch up on their sleep. The synopses in the festival catalogue describes it thus “A village schoolteacher embarks on a mind altering journey whose implications even he cannot fully comprehend.” Then how can the audience? Aadish Keluskar’s feature debut.
Song of the Horned Owl
This is the second Manju Borah film I have seen and again I feel that her actors do not so much as act but read out a scripted dialogue. The militant movement in North East India and its impact on locals is a grave theme but Borah’s treatment of it is superficial. You are subjected to scene after scene of mediocrity. No wonder it had a steady stream of people leaving after the first half hour onwards.
It would be easy to dismiss Raam Reddy’s directorial debut as slapstick. Slapstick it may be but its also so much more. Its a beautifully observed and written account of the dramedy that unfolds in the lives of three subsequent generations of a family upon the passing away of the eldest first generation. From even before the screen flickers to light, the film has you smiling. What I found particularly impressive was that all the hooha does not end on a forced poignant note. It maintains it good natured spirit right till the end.
Montparnasse 19 ( Les Amants de Montparnasse) 1958 Dir- Jacques Becker
We all love a good human drama. Montparnasse is based on celebrated painter Modigliani who died at a young age and was celebrated across the globe after he was dead. The film traces his final years, his relationship with his muse Beatrice Hastings and his wife Jeanne Hébuterne.What makes the film even more surreal is the fact that Gérard Philipe who plays Modigilani died at the same age of 36. The film chronciles the journey of an artist who was never given his due when he was alive and had to face humiliation and censorship. This visually stunning film aided with perfect cast still stands the test of Time.
By Sidney Lumet 2015 Dir- Nancy Buirski
This docu on the works by legendary director Sidney Lumet is amazing. The only person who has been interviewed here is the subject himself (Sidney Lumet). What could have been boring and an ego boosting act in hands of other director,turns out to be quite engaging in the hands of Nancy Buirski. Sidney Lumet’s wit and sarcasm make this documentary entertaining and fun to watch.
Apu Trilogy 1955 Dir- Satyajit Ray
There is no doubt that Apu Trilogy by India’s greatest director Satyajit Ray comprises of the best films India has ever made.I was waiting to revisit the restored version for the last 6 months. Must admit that the restoration work is superb and it was a pleasure to watch the trilogy on big screen again.
Tangerine 2015 Dir- Sean Baker
At the outset Tangerine is a buddy film with heartbreaks, love and desire for better life. The only difference here is that the lead characters are transgenders. The film has been shot on Iphone 5, but that apart the genius of Sean lies in making us like these misfits and showing us in the end that we all are same, however we may be different from outside or whatever may be our sexual orientation. Tangerine is a must watch.
Directed by Paolo Sorrentino,Youth is a good follow up act to his much appreciated film The Great Beauty (2013). Featuring a stellar line up of actors including Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, etc the film tries to strike a beautiful balance between youth and old age,as seen through the characters in the tale. While septuagenarian best friends Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) and Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) are on vacation in the Swiss Alps,their personal and professional lives witness some unexpected developments, throwing them and the people around them off guard. Youth is a pleasant film and a wonderful way to start this year’s Mumbai Film Festival.
Easily more audience friendly when compared to his previous 2 films which were shot secretly, This is Not a Film (2011) and Closed Curtain (2013), Jafar Panahi’s latest film features himself as he is seen driving a taxi through the streets of Tehran. Taxi is all about the various people that Jafar Panahi encounters on the way while driving his taxi and the conversations that follow. Winner of the Golden Bear and the FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin this year, the film stands as an example of life in contemporary Tehran Shot in docu-drama mode,Taxi is a delightful film indeed.
Srijit Mukherji’s Rajkahini opened in West Bengal during Durga Puja recently and will be releasing Nationally on November 6th. Once again Srijit comes up with an interesting premise, this time it is about a brothel caught in the India-East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) border,with the partition throwing the brothel and its inhabitants and the local Government representatives into a tough situation.Featuring a top line star cast,spearheaded by Rituparna Sengupta who plays the fiery Begum Jaan with a lot of style,this may not be Srijit’s best, but it is indeed a film which leaves a strong impact on you, long after you’ve seen it.
The opening film of this year’s festival, Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh has been in the news right from the time it was launched,especially considering the topic involved. Featuring Manoj Bajpai as Marathi professor Siras in Aligarh Muslim University who is suspended by the university all thanks to his homosexual relationship with a rickshawala,the film also has Rajkummar Rao playing a young journalist, Deepu Sebastian who feels that Professor Siras has been wronged by people around him. Manoj Bajpai delivers a knockout performance and is a treat to watch. Rajkummar Rao is good too, even managing to speak a few lines in Malayalam pretty well. Addressing a sensitive subject, Aligarh is a good film and Hansal Mehta proves that after Shahid he is capable of making hard hitting and relevant films, Aligarh being an example.
Ozhivu Divasathe Kali/An Off Day Game
Sanal Kumar Sasidharan made his debut as director with the recent crowd funded Malayalam indie film,Oraalppokkam and he is now ready with his second film, Ozhivu Divasathe Kali. Based on a popular story written by Unni.R, Sanal has gone on to adapt the story,making it more contemporary. Shot in true indie style and with most of the actors being amateurs and/or theatre artists, Ozhivu Divasathe Kali is a social commentary of sorts,examining topics currently prevailing in Kerala. Easily one of the better Indian films at MAMI this year, this one certainly appealed to me and to most of the audience who has seen it so far.
Chauthi Koot/The Fourth Dimension
Gurvinder Singh’s second Punjabi film has had an impressive festival run so far,including official selection at Cannes earlier this year. Based on 2 separate tales set in Punjab post Operation Bluestar, the film has impressive production design,transporting you right back to the 1980’s. The theme is relevant and the performances are credible indeed,but the film gets to be a little tedious at places and is a tad underwhelming eventually.
Currently the highest grossing film in China overall, Raman Hui’s 3D fantasy adventure film wonderfully combines live action and animation,giving us a cheesy yet engaging film. A film like this is a welcome departure of sorts sometimes, just to lighten the proceedings a bit. Incidentally the film was screened without subtitles due to some technical glitch.
Manu’s Mundrothuruth is a Malayalam film regarding which I had no idea as such so far. But sometimes you get up ending surprised by some films, this is one such film. The film is based in Munroe Island in Kerala and talks about an old man (Indrans) who lives in a bungalow on the island,along with a caretaker. In comes the grandson of the old man who apparently seems to be having some psychological problems,throwing their lives in disarray. This is certainly a film which works for a major part of the narrative.
Ever since its award at Sundance Prashant Pillai’s Umrika has been keenly awaited back in India. The film features an interesting premise, that of our fascination for America and all things American as seen through the eyes of 2 brothers,Ramakant (Suraj Sharma) and Uday (Prateik Babbar). Featuring some impressive performances,authentic production design and a good BGM, Umrika has quite a few moments which make you hold your attention. Certainly a film with International appeal,Umrika is an interesting film.
Jason Lei Howden makes his debut with this New Zealand based horror comedy. Featuring a cocktail of heavy metal music, death and gore, this is a true blue indie film with a liberal dose of bloodshed. Harmless fun of sorts, this is the kind of film that horror film lovers can surely try out for a change.