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.
Love.
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

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