Saturday, November 24, 2012

Indian Metro Cities , stereotyped

When it comes to their attitudes towards the wheels of economy , the four metro cities of India (namely Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata & Mumbai) continue to vindicate the stereotypical descriptions of them.

Chennai:    Manufactures the Wheels of economy

Delhi    :     Changes the Wheels of economy when it suits them.

Kolkata :    Halts the Wheels of economy

Mumbai :    Oils the Wheels of economy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dust- Review of a film by Julio.H.Cordon

Guatemala is a country that has been torn by civil war that had lasted nearly 4 decades ending in 1996. The median age of the country is 20 years. Yes, 20 years. Hundreds of  thousands of people from the opposition, rebel group URNG and the Mayans were tortured or subject to "forced disappearance" or "scorched-earth warfare" in the rural areas. The civil war has thus left behind a nation that is largely orphaned & traumatized for life.

The story of Dust is themed around Juan, a travelling missionary singer in his village , whose father disappeared during the civil war. But the search by Juan and his mother, Delfina continues and Juan is troubled by dark visions of torture and death at night. Juan had attempted suicide a number of times but refused to talk about them when interviewed by an urban  couple ,Ignacio & Alejandra, for their documentary film on missing people. Ignacio & his father too had faced torture at the hands of the military with his father getting arrested but who was later released; an indicator of their influences, maybe. In the village, Juan thinks that his bus-driver neighbor had snitched on his father and harbors a desire to talk to him , to ask him whether its true and thus follows him constantly , dirties his bus with poo and messes around with his son. Instead the bus-driver ,one day, thrashes Juan out of his wits. Juan sensing opportunity takes his revenge by killing his son and setting fire to the bus by setting up a situation. Juan is then seen moving over to the highlands with his mother & family to set up a new home while Igancio's & Alejandra's  film-making is cancelled. The movie then ends abruptly.

One is not sure what prompted the movie maker , Julio Henandez Cordon , to write a screen-play that is as hazy as its casual .Where the characters are neither sketched out nor do they assume any sort of responsible relevance to the drama. Of course, there would be an underlying fear for not making overt political statements in a country such as his but that does not necessarily stop a director from sketching out his own drama. Its almost as if the movie had no boundaries. Characters & scenes just came in and out or stayed behind. Who among the audience really cared at the end of it  ? The movie is shot in DCP and the light was the darkest that I saw in this few days. But some of the long-shots of the grasslands and terrains were shot with a steady hand and looked enticing as the characters moved into or out of the frame. Overall, watching Dust wasn't necessarily a good  way to end this festival. But so be it.

JAS rating : 2 out of 10

ছবি ও ছড়াতেঃ৪ স্ট্যাচু

মাছ ধরবে মাঝ নদীতে
   তাই জাল বুনছে আজই,
তারি মাঝে গল্প চলে
  এরা পদ্মা নদীর মাঝি।

ছিলিম হাতে, মনের কথা
  বলতে এরা মশগুল ,
সুখ দুঃখের নানা গল্প গাথা
কিন্তু, নট নড়ন চড়ন একচুল।

ভাবছো বুঝি, কি করে হয়
   জ্যান্ত মানুষ নিথর ?
(পুজা কমিটি গুনে দিয়েছে ভাড়া,
গতি নেই কোনো স্ট্যাচু হওয়া ছাড়া)
 পলক হীন সদা সর্ব সময়
 এরা নাট্য দলের কর্মী বর।

(বিঃ দ্রঃ -   সল্টলেকে  একটি ব্লকের ২০১২ সালের দুর্গা পুজোর বিশেষ আকর্ষণ ছিল রবি ঠাকুরের 'হাট' কবিতার দৃশ্যপট প্রদর্শন , মানব স্ট্যাচুর সাহায্যে ।)


Friday, November 16, 2012

38 witnesses - Review of a film by Lucas Belvaux

38 witnesses is a French movie based on Didier Decoin's novel on the murder of Ketty Genovese in 1964. It portrays faithfully the concept of Genovese syndrome or Bystander effect that basically states that in an emergency the probability that a bystander will provide help is inversely proportional to their numbers. There were apparently 38 people in the neighborhood who were aware partly or wholly that Ketty Genovese was getting murdered at 3 a.m in the night but nobody had come forward to take any responsibility to provide help. I guess the bystander effect will have an impact in a society  where human lives are valued . In India it's unnatural if every such emergency doesn't display the same effect because dying homeless people , accident victims here remain unattended   both by the bystanders and by the authorities whether they are the police or the hospital doctors.

38 witnesses is set in Le Havre, a French port where a murder of a 20 year old screaming woman in the dead of the night bring forward absolutely no one in the neighborhood who can testify as witnesses till a ship-pilot ,Pierre(played by Yvan Attal)  can no longer bear the dilemma  of carrying on with the burden of lie to his fiancee Louise (played by Sophie Quinton) and testifies with the authorities  knowing fully well that their relationship may suffer because of  his act. The authorities having had no lead on the murder so far decide to ignore Pierre's testimony since the District Attorney fears that a media-led trial on the 38 witnesses will rock them as well as the society besides the humongous work on prosecuting 38 people. But a leak from inside alerts the investigative reporter Sylvie(played by Nicole Garcia) and she publishes the article on the collective callousness & cowardice of 38 people. This changes the lives of Pierre and Louise forever.
Lucas Belvaux, the director has made 5 films before including a famed trilogy. Hence his story telling doesn't have any pretenses or exaggeration. The cinematography is nice since almost a quarter of the movie shows the dock & the blue sea although I'm not sure why repeated shots of container cranes moving up and down the docks filled up the movie excepting probably to show Pierre's escape into a noisy world in the day. The performances by the cast are authentic and restrained and the director remains non-judgmental on the correlation between selfishness and cowardice in an increasingly commerce-driven society.I am now convinced that DG Beta cameras have an associated problem with brightness since this is the 3rd movie that is showing up as less bright. The sound is mediocre throughout the movie . Overall the movie is fine. Its excellent in parts specially the crime-reenactment scene as well as the conflict between Sylvie and Louise.

JAS rating : 5 out of 10 

ছবি ও ছড়াতে:৩ ঘরে বাইরে

জানলা দিয়ে পিছলে পড়ে
          এক চিলতে আলো
    মনটা ছিল ভারী মুষড়ে
  এখন লাগছে ভীষণ ভালো।

            বদ্ধ মনের রুদ্ধ ঘরে
 আমাদের সদাই আনাগোনা
বোকা বাক্সে দুনিয়াটা ঘোরে
   যেন চোখ থাকতেও কানা।

     ঘাট হয়েছে, ঘরেই থাকো
          গিয়ে কি হবে বাইরে?
 তবে জানলাটা  খোলা রেখো;
  যেটা দখিনে, বাইরের ঘরে।


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Time of My Life -Review of a film by Nic Balthazar

Although 'death of the protagonist' continues to be the underlying theme of all the movies that I've chosen to watch in 18 KIFF , technically today's flick moves from Cancer to Multiple Scleroses. But the subject that the director Nic Balthazar chooses to explore in depth from the perspective of Mario Verstraete  (played brilliantly by Koen De Graeve) & his family an friends is that of Euthanasia.
Among the three fundamental rights available to any human being on earth  there's only one right , the 'Right to Mate (and marry)' that he/she can alter at will, legally speaking. The other two rights namely the 'Right to Birth'   and the 'Right to Death' are not under his/her control, literally and legally. On the contrary there are additional legal provisions available to the expectant mother to terminate the right to birth of the unborn child through 'abortion.' And there are laws that prevent anyone from taking his/her life that criminalizes the act of not only the person concerned but also of the doctor that assists. Socially too the stigma is a large one. Who has not heard of 'Dr. Death?'  Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who championed the rights of terminally-ill patients to die with physician's assistance, was imprisoned for 8 years for assisting personally 130 such people to die. Euthanasia is legal in Netherlands and Belgium and in some states of USA.

'Time of My Life' talks about the true story of Mario, an ambitious young man planning to make his career in politics, who was the face of the debate in Belgium before the senate & lower chamber of Parliament passed the euthanasia related bill in 2002 and Mario was one of the first to use the law. The pain and suffering from multiple scleroses had progressively increased from the  date of its diagnosis in 1995 to his death in 2002 . MS is a disease that attacks the brain and the central nervous system and Mario gradually lost control of his limbs, eyes, bowel movements and was petrified that he'll lose his brain's too making him a complete vegetable,  a notion that he couldn't even bear with. Mario's close doctor friend Thomas (played by Geert Van Lamperberg) was aghast at the idea right from the start and finally had to be excluded from the panel by Mario himself when he set about planning for the final day with other doctors. Lynn (played by Lotte Pinoy), the common childhood love-interest of both Mario and Thomas,  helps him find love , peace and happiness for the last time in his life through a sensual kiss near  a campfire that was brilliantly portrayed.
This is Nic Balthazar's second movie but he handles the controversy very sensitively, looking at it from the point of view of the long-term terminally-ill , whose rights to expression are normally the first to be subjugated during such an illness by the law, families & friends.  But whether it's the DG Beta camera or whether Nic wanted to shoot with low-light conditions,(since  the movie appears dark a lot of times specially in the indoor scenes), I do not know. But when one is looking for more light to be thrown on such a subject, one expects that literally too without the incremental melodrama that the film has got meshed in some scenes, a bit too often. Overall its a very thought-provoking film .

JAS  rating : 6 out of 10

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Love in the time of cancer- (Double Film reviews at the 18th International Film Festival in Kolkata)

Illuminated gate at the 18th KIFF , EZCC Kolkata

Diwali day was a double dhamaka at the 18th International Film Festival in Kolkata. Two movies back to back. Both movies are themed around , what else but love? It's reported that the two competing Bollywood releases on this day are also centralized on the same theme.
Does true love exist? Are  love and lies both sides of the same coin? Does love goad one to sacrifice his/her  life? Does love inspire one to greater heights? Universal questions that are still answered in myriad lyrical ways by film directors all over the world.
The directors of two movies that I saw today had one more common element besides love . Cancer. One movie was about dealing with the truth of cancer  while the other dealt with deceptions and lies regarding cancer. Both movies had great stories and for sure the organizers of 18th KIFF deserve kudos for this Diwali Dhamaka.

Coming of Age - Review of a film by Sabine Hiebler & Gerhard Ertl 

Shot in HD Cam, this movie by Austrian film-makers is a case study in clarity. Clarity in picture, compositions, story-telling, sound and sensitivity. This is a story of two octogenarians , Bruno & Rose who meet and fall in love. Rose has recently been diagnosed with cancer and her doctor had given her six months. She comes back to her apartment to find that it has been given on rent by her overzealous niece who quickly jumped the gun when it came to her aunt's life. Under such circumstances Bruno comes across Rose, homeless and helpless on the streets and Bruno, like a caring human being looks after her for the day. The story of love takes both of them to different paths. As Rose's condition worsens , Bruno makes it up to her with more and more zest in the life. To the extent that Bruno separates from his wife of 50 years and whisks away Rose from her nursing-cum-retirement  home to his new apartment , furnishes it fully , bathes, feeds, looks after her, drives away the medical attendant  and even have pot one night with their friend. Recent research suggest that love does switch off the brain near the frontal lobes or in more general terms what it means is that love switches off  thinking. Its one of the primitive animal instincts of survival.

Coming of age scores high in cinematography of Wolfgang Thaler, Gerhard Hannak' sets  and some excellent   performances by both the protagonists, Karl Merkatz as Bruno and Christine Ostermayer as Rose. This is the second movie of  the team of directors, Sabine Hiebler & Gerhard Ertl , who are bothwell known as producers of experimental films. Coming of Age is an award winning film that  everyone including ones associated with geriatric care will find uplifting and fulfilling.

JAS rating : 8 out of 10

The Last step - Review of a film by Ali Mosaffa

Iranian filmmakers have been praised for their lyrical abstractions of human stories for a long time now. International festivals rarely miss Iranian entries among the Asian filmmakers. So its no use pontificating over the quality of Iranian films and their beautiful Persian casts. But what one feels has not changed much is the struggle film makers make with quality of their equipment.  This movie is shot in Beta SP and comes as hazy in many shots specially the skate-board roll on the streets of Tehran. If Coming of Age was a case study in clarity, this is one on clumsy translucence.

The Last Step is a story of a love triangle. The oh-so-beautiful Leila Hatami performs as an actress who has just lost her husband (played by Ali Mosaffa)  and is unable to express herself in a mourning scene of her film-husband's death.She falls into a fit of laughter the moment her lines relating to her dead husband comes up. In her real life, her engineer husband with limited ambitions gets rubbed wrongly when a childhood doctor friend ,Dr.Amin,  who has just arrived from Germany  after 20 years to look after her Alzheimer-stricken mother, diagnoses Ali purposely with cancer just to watch his reaction. In his mind , he wanted Ali (who plays the husband) probably to suffer because Leila is/was also a love interest in his life. Ali wants now to wind up his life without being overbearing and focuses on buying back Leila's family house in the village since he learns from Leila that her  emotional reaction to a love song  sung by a patriarch  in a family reunion is linked to a dead lover in her village. But little does Ali know or suspect Leila's lies in this web of deceptions and in a dramatic twist of events, Ali dies . Not out of cancer but from a accidental knock on his head.

Ali Mosaffa is a competent director although this is his second feature film , one that he has made after 7 years. Ali's histrionic prowess is also well known. But I still feel if he had made the film linearly instead of zooming in and out of time scale, he'd still make as great an impact and with the capable  Leila Hatani (Ali's real life, engineer wife) to support her, his second feature film is definitely anything but his last step.

JAS rating: 7 out of 10

ছবি ও ছড়াতে:২ রোপওয়ে

আকাশে চলছে ভেসে , কাঁচে ঘর ঢাকা

বনবনিয়ে ঘুরছে পাশে, দড়ির ওপর চাকা।

সকাল বেলার শুভ্র আলো , দিগন্ত উজ্জ্বল

শূন্য থেকে লাগে ভালো , উপত্যকার ঢল ।

থাকা ভাল চুপটি করে

  এড়িয়ে প্রশ্ন আলাপীর ,

ঘর ফুটেছে , সবুজ ঢলে

নীল, হলুদ আর গোলাপির ।


Monday, November 12, 2012

From Seoul to Varanasi- Review of a film by Kyu-Hwan Jeon

Kyu-Hwan Jeon is a acclaimed South Korean film-maker whose town trilogies got very critical reviews. From Seoul to Varanasi is his fifth feature film that he has categorized under radical melodrama. 

This is the story of Ji Young, naive housewife of a well-to-publisher, Young Wu. Ji falls into a relationship with a radical Islamic, Kerim  and her life takes a dangerous turn as she follows the radical to Varanasi from Seoul. In Varanasi, the radicals bomb a restaurant frequented by foreigners and she is discovered on telly by Wu, her husband , when all along he knew that she was in some other Korean town. Wu was till this time leading a dual life because he was having an affair with one of the contracted women writers while Ji, his wife was looking out for "peace and quiet" in the yoga classes of Kerim's sister , Samira. The plot traces out the urban detachments of people in a relationship and the pitfalls they suffer because of the vulnerabilities that urban relationships have to endure under a cut-throat commercial eco system. And beneath this urban veneer of tranquility , lies  a beast that is ideologically  bent on destroying all that have been constructed painstakingly . One that can be easily and foolishly  perceived as righteous endeavor to bring peace. Ji apparently fell for that.

The plot is dramatic and the melodrama is restrained thanks  to some creative direction by Kyu and a superlative performance by the lead protagonist, Young Dong Hwan. The movie is shot in very low light reflecting the coldness of Seoul covered in snow as vehicles swish past the snow-covered roads. As a a contrast, Varanasi is depicted as very noisy and jostling. The credit for excellent cinematography goes to Jung Soon Choi, whose camera work both at the outdoors as well as the indoors reflect a quiet confidence in the subject matter being portrayed. The music by In-Yang Choi is beautiful specially during the intimate sex scenes with the writer. 

Kyu has an innate ability to tell a story that is global , dark and disruptive although his fascination for telling it non-linearly can be a bit jarring. Overall the second day went off better than the first and it was great to watch Kyu's film.

JAS rating: 6 out of 10

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Where the Road meets the sun- Review of a film by Mun Chee Yong

The 18th Kolkata International Film Festival started off from today at 12 different halls in the city. This time around Purbashree cinema hall ,which is under the Eastern Zonal Cultural Complex at Salt Lake, is screening 21 movies over 7 days  and that makes it easier for me to attend some of the movies. Today was the first but in my hurry I got tomorrow's ticket punched for today. After getting the punched ticket re-signed at  the ticket counter, watched   Mun Chee Yong's first feature film ,"Where the road meets the sun."

The story line revolves around the lives of four drifters in life. Takashi , a Japanese, escaping from a failed affair and a violent past. The second is Julio, a Mexican who buys his way into LA and works to send money home and get to LA his wife, to whom he lies constantly about his improving prospects. Guy  is a happy-go-*ucky British backpacker who's equally happy bumming off his father to fund his errant lifestyle and the fourth is Blake, the manager of the shady hotel that all the characters live in. And this manager has also a love-bruise to nurse having been separated from his wife.The plot never has much of its dramatic moments except for the violent death of Guy. This is the story of love-less immigrants where friendship develops over sharing extreme experiences whether in the past or present. Those moments of friendship are the only ones when the movie rises up in its exhibition. Otherwise its as listless as any other story of immigrants & stragglers in the land of the dreams.

Mun Che Yong does a good job with cinematography specially the frequent close-ups of the protagonists. The editing too is nice and smooth under Azhar Ismon. The music & sound  again doesn't have much to offer in a boring plot such as this. But the sets are nice , costumes great , the acting reasonably fine.
But the movie just doesn't either make one think or even move one. Mun Chee, a LSE graduate, would do well to economize on her portfolio and  stick to documentary and academic stuff.

JASRating : 3 out of 10.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ছবি ও ছড়াতেঃ১ রেট্রো

আমি কবে নষ্ট হয়ে  গেছি,                                                      

তবু বেঁচে  থাকাটাই সুখ। 

জীবন যুদ্ধে কবেই হেরেছি,

তবু লজ্জায় ঢাকিনি মুখ।

মনের   জঙে রঙ মেখে বসে আছি,

মাথাটাও আর মানেনা  কোন  আইন;

শুধু  তোমার মুখে দেখতে মিঠি হাসি

শক্তির  থেকে  ধার করেছি দুটি  লাইন।

Copyright: JAS 2012.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chittagong- Review of a film by Bedabrata Pyne

Chittagong is a story of essentially Surya Sen, a school-master who helped 50 young students of his class dream of a future , of a moment in the future, without the oppression of the omnipresent ruling British class. Its so much a Bengali story because it happened in Chittagong in undivided Bengal  and like other fringe armed struggles for freedom during the pre-independence period , the protagonists are hailed immortal for time immemorial. But the duration of  dominance over the British was very small  to have made any difference to the overall struggle for independence both at the government and at the ground level. The liberation of Chittagong on 18th April'1930 by this rag-tag but motivated army of school boys has more of a symbolic value, an educational and a pedagogic value that was characterised  so superbly in a  speech  by Surya Sen (played by Manoj Bajpayee)  at the courtyard of the Chittagong armoury immediately after the successful raid; that one almost forgot that untrained newcomer Bedabrata Pyne's Chittagong was actually made in Hindi, not Bengali.

Chittagong is unlike any other historical Indian film I've seen. Its authentic. It doesn't exaggerate emotions to thick melodrama. Its superbly edited by Alde Velasco  to maintain the pace of this action-drama. The picture carries a soft visual tone throughout and the music as well as the soundtrack is fantastic. The story doesn't revolve around Master'da and hence the movie-poster is a bit misleading. Rather it traces the transformation of a brilliant-but-timid 14 year old boy, Jhunku (played with passion by Delzad Hiwale) into an young revolutionary and much more. The sound mixing by Oscar awardee Resul Pookutty is brilliant without being overbearing . So much so that that even the sub-conversation in a group is so distinctly in the background. Eric Zimmerman excels in photography in absolute synergy with Bedabrata's direction.A chemistry that makes the tear drops, rolling down from Jhunku's innocent eyes, appear so touchingly real.
Bedabrata carries forward the tale of Jhunku beyond the fall of Chittagong and Jhunku's own 7-year prison-term in the Andaman cellular jail to a new phase in the agrarian history of Bengal. I wll leave it to the prospective viewer to explore.
But what the viewer can expect is  exemplary histrionic performances by all the members of the cast. Special mention must be made for Alexx o'Nell as DIG Johnson, Jaideep Ahlawat as Anant Singh, Anurag Arora as CID officer Salauddin,  Nawazuddin as Nirmal'da, Raj Kumar Yadav as Loknath Bal and the uniquely beautiful Vega Tamotia as Pritilata Wadedar.
A movie worth watching for all  the money that is charges and as I said before , I only wish the movie was made in Bengali.

JAS Rating: 8 out of 10