15th Mumbai Film Festival Diary: Day 3

Continuing our coverage of the 15th Mumbai Film Festival, 2013 here’s an account of the films watched during day 3 of the event. (Check out coverage of Day 1 & Day 2 as well)

The Act of Killing

The Act Of KillingAfter a military coup in Indonesia in 1965, paramilitary troops rounded up who they accused of being communists and massacred them. The toll reached 1 million. A few perpetrators are still alive and scot free. Director Joshua Oppenheimer gives them an opportunity to re-enact their brutality in a film based on facts. They are delighted for they wear their killings like Olympic badges. The film made is of course more Ed Wood than Scorsese but it exposes the total lack of remorse the killers felt while carrying out their dastardly acts. After a point the documentary does not bring fresh ideas to the table and stops being as engrossing as it is towards the beginning. But to take a good hard look at cold blooded killers, it’s worth the watch.

Monologue (Maunraag)

MaunraagEver got the feeling that a director is lost in his own thoughts and that he forgets to realise how his film will be perceived by the audience? Monologue is a prime example. Four characters talk about ideas, vocalize thoughts, vent their frustration, drop names and discuss other abstract things that do not transcend the screen and reach you. Vaibhav Abnave has shot the movie like a filmed play but not everything that works on stage successfully transcribes on to the screen. The synopsis tells me that its based on the works of Mahesh Elkunchwar. A disservice to him I’d say. 15 minutes of this and I was already singing my zopraag.

Young and Beautiful

Young and BeautifulA selection from the official competition section from Cannes and boy, did it deserve to be there! Marine Vacth, a 17 year old moonlights as a prostitute for extra cash. Until one wealthy client asks her to be his regular. From this point on I thought I knew where things were going but was wrong everytime. Vacth brings out the melancholy of her character through her performance. Another winner by director François Ozon.

Diego Star

diego-star-posterWhat works for Diego Star are its silences. There is no background score to accentuate the emotions. Just a simple story of a wronged African on a ship and a single mother with whom he has been put up with by the shipping company. There are no big dramatic moments, and no happy ending but you identify with the silent pain the characters feel. Beautifully done, directed by Frederick Pelletier.

The Immigrant

The ImmigrantAfter all the hype surrounding James Gray’s feature, it turned out to be a ho hum effort. The listless screenplay co written by Gray himself gets no support from the actors who could have played their parts in their sleep. Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix are surely expected to do much more. Maybe its Gray who keeps the film so patchy that his performers cannot realise its complete potential. Cotillard is a Polish immigrant in pre WWII USA along with her sister. The sister has tuberculosis and is bundled off to an infirmary. So Cotillard ends up whoring herself to bribe the authorities. In this one line I may have revealed the entire plot right up to the last scene. Its that flimsy.

Fandry

FandryA one sided love story between a Dalit teenager and upper-caste girl? This might sound like a typical storyline, but it is a very special film. Ideally this film deserves a 10, 000 words review. But due to hectic schedule of MFF, it is difficult to write a love letter to Nagraj Manjule, the director of Fandry. First good thing, there is no unwanted sympathy for a dalit boy. He sketched it as a  human as anybody, just like any village teenager. The character actually is very similar to the boy’s character from Nagraj’s national award winning short film Pistulya . Second good thing, it is a light film, with lots of heartwarming emotions despite its volatile content. It makes you love the characters even more. And at the same it never makes fun of them  It infuses realism. It makes characters more real and we develop empathy with them. And beautiful written dialogues adds more to it. Further, it makes a profound social statement,  without actually saying it explicitly. The scene where the pig, is carried in front of the wall, where Ambedkar , Phule and other dalit leaders are painted, is a strong social statement in itself. It is up to you to choose what to make out of it. And finally another highlight is the ending of the film, it is always better to end on high note, rather than to start brightly and nosedive badly. Fandry certainly is one of the best Indian films made in the last decade, it has classic, written all over it. Salute.

The Liberator

The LiberatorThis is Simon Bolivar’s biopic, a man who was South America’s George Washington. He is one of the greatest revolutionary of all time. who single handedly brought an end to the South American reign of Spanish empire. Actually even though it is very well made , its screenplay should have been more taut and its run time should have been longer. Simon Bolivar led a big life, a life full of tragedy, adventures, bravery and love. And the filmmakers attempt to capture every thing in two hours actually makes the film look like a history channel documentary. Then again it is very difficult to not like this film, mainly because the persona of Simon Bolivar and Edgar Ramirez’s performance.

Viridiana

Viridiana-PosterOne of the most celebrated films of 20th century, this film is directed by Luis Buñuel. The film traces the life of Viridiana who is about to take her vows, visits her uncle on the orders of her mother superior. If you think, this is a film which is about church or religion, then you are wrong, this is much more than that as it is a commentary on life and basic human nature. This was my first Luis Buñuel film, I was left in awe over his mastery of cinema.

Golden Slumbers

golden-slumbers-posterThis interesting, innovative documentary pays tribute to one of the most loved art form of our times, cinema. This is directed by Davy Chou,  grandson of Vann Chan, who was a prolific Cambodian producer in the 60’s and 70’s. Cambodia it seems had produced 400 films from 1960 to 1975 which were heavily influenced by Bollywood Cinema, they also had song and dance format in their films. Khymer Rogue destroyed all these 400 films, all that remains are songs used in the films. Davy Chou, with thehelp of old radio spots, lobby photos and narration by directors who directed thesefilms tries to recreate a history which has been lost, and boy he does succeed in it. Heartwarming and soul stirring, this documentary is a must watch.

Welcome Mr. Marshall

Welcome Mr.MarshallThis Spanish political satire is directed by Luis García Berlanga. The film revolves around a village which eagerly awaits the visit of American delegates and the dollars and gifts from mythical land of USA. The whole town gets into frenzy mode, waiting for the Americans to arrive, singing and dancing to welcome the Americans. In the end, when Americans arrive, things do not take place as the villagers have thought it would be.

Tokyo Story

Tokyo StoryAn elderly couple visit their children and grandchildren living in Tokyo but find that their children hardly have any time for them thus making them feel completely neglected. Directed by Yashujiro Ozu, Tokyo Story is a much acclaimed classic much like the other films of Ozu.

Tokyo Story talks about an issue which is so prevalent in our society. That of children neglecting the parents as they grow older. The disappointment and the neglect which the parents feel is depicted very subtly. The film never takes any sides and depicts the characters with shades of grey. This makes the film feel all the more true to life.  Because that is how people are in real life. No one is good or bad , we all are good or bad in equal measures with all our strengths and weaknesses.

Since the film is almost 9 decades old, therefore at times it feels a bit too simplistic. But it will surely leave a lump in your throat and make you ponder over the film, at least for a day or two. Little wonder that this film has acquired the status of a cult classic over the years.

Matterhorn

MatterhornWhen even on a Sunday one’s passion for cinema drives one to forgo sleep and make it for the 10 A.M show, there is always a silent prayer on your lips hoping that the day should start off on a good note and that’s what Matterhorn happened to turn out. This Dutch comedy film directed by Diederik Ebbinge is based in a small village where Fred lives a lonely life. He is a disciplined individual where he does things almost as if adhering to his own time table of sorts. A widower, Fred lives by his own principles and doesn’t hesitate to throw his only son out of the house when his principles are threatened. One day a stranger named Theo enters the village and into Fred’s life, completely upsetting the rhythm that Fred is used to. How Theo’s entry brings out changes in Fred’s life and ends up shaking his own principles is what this lovely film is all about. The film has wonderful characters, all of them well enacted and the film literally ends on a high. Such films are always more than welcome at festivals like the MFF.

Satyanweshi

Satyanweshi PosterRituparno Ghosh’s final film which unfortunately released just shortly after his death, sees him entering to the detective zone with his own version of a popular Byomkesh Bakshi story, Chorabali (quicksand). Saradindu Bandopadhyay’ s iconic character has made its way to various cinematic interpretations in the past and here filmmaker Sujoy Ghosh makes his acting debut as he plays Byomkesh in the film. A simple story involving a missing librarian working in the royal library of Balbanatpur , Byomkesh and his friend Ajit, the writer are invited by Himangshu (Indraneil Sengupta) for a hunting expedition, where they learn of the mystery and get involved. Satyanweshi has shades of the classic Rituparno in terms of capturing the period and style very precisely. The film also is a little old fashioned, probably deliberately to fall in sync with the iconic Byomkesh series. However Sujoy Ghosh as Byomkesh hardly gets to do much as Ajit, the desi Dr.Watson enjoys equal or more limelight. Arpita Chatterjee as Aloka, the royal lady leaves a strong impact. A good effort overall but not the ideal swansong for Rituparno. A more detailed review can be read here.

The Rocket

The RocketInspired by his own documentary- Bomb Harvest set in Laos, Australian filmmaker returned to Laos to make his first feature film, The Rocket. The film is Australia’s entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars 2014. Ahlo a 10 year old boy who is believed to bring bad luck, is blamed for a string of disasters. When his family loses their home and are forced to move, Ahlo meets the spirited orphan Kia and her eccentric uncle Purple: an ex-soldier who is now an alcoholic with a fetish for James Brown. Struggling to hang on to his father’s trust, Ahlo leads his family, Purple and Kia through a land scarred by war in search of a new home. As they reach a village which is about to host their annual Rocket Festival, Ahlo decides to build a giant explosive rocket and try to win the contest in a last attempt to prove he’s not cursed. What happens from thereon is what the rest of the film is all about. The film is a stunning tale of how war affected Laos is struggling for normalcy and sees optimism in the form of Ahlo and Kia. The characters are powerfully written and the actors do justice to it. The Rocket is easily one of the best films of this year’s MFF, definitely a recommended watch.

The Capital (Le Capital)

Le CapitalVeteran filmmaker Costa Gavras’s 2012 film The Capital (Le Capital) is a corporate thriller, set against the background of a large private bank. When a high flying executive is promoted as the CEO of the bank by people who feel they can manipulate him and retain control, he surprises one and all by assuming complete control of the bank and trying to run it in his style. Hostile take-overs, hedge funds, layoffs, investments, dead assets and more such financial terms and situations throw up all over the film, making it a treat for people who dig films like Margin Call or read books of authors like Ravi Subramanian. The Capital may not be the best of Costa Gavras, but its a riveting film which keeps you hooked till the end.

La jaula de oro

la-jaula-de-oroThis Mexican film directed by Diego Quemada-Diez, was screened at Cannes this year in the Un Certain Regard category where it won  A Certain Talent award for his directing work and the ensemble cast. The plot concerns immigration to the U.S.A, a problem regularly seen impacting Mexico and other Latin American countries. Here the film focuses on illegal immigrants – Juan, Sara and Samuel, three Guatemalan adolescents who fall into the hands of human traffickers, while on their dangerous journey to enter their dreamland. The film takes time to grow on you and has a documentary feel for most par of the film, probably a genuine need as seen by the director keeping the theme in mind. There are moments which appear a little abrupt but eventually as the film ends it makes you think hard about it and you end up with a lot of questions on your mind. Maybe this is a victory of sorts for the filmmaker.

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