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Day 7 at the CIFF


Yup it has been a week, a great week I should say. Getting away from the daily rut and stress and witnessing some of the finest films the year has given us. It is coming to an end tomorrow. What I will miss the most until next year other than the watching part is writing about them. I have made a strict regimen for myself and I must say I am loving it! Watch four movies a day, come back and write about them. Anyway, today has been no different. Four Great Films, and 3 Amazing films from Cannes. Here goes:

Rock the Casbah

rock the casabh

In countries such as Israel where military service is mandatory, soldiers deal with metaphorical battles more than the actual ones. When I say metaphorical, I am referring to a battle with oneself, emotional introspection and coping with it.  Directed by Yariv Horowitz, this tale about a group of soldiers on the Gaza border is mostly a personal film deals with complex themes almost incidentally. It is almost like Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket with regard to style and narrative. It is a little film about some big issues. Deriving sly humour from tragic culture clashes between the Arabs and the Israelis, it strikes remarkable balance between both perspectives. With an ensemble cast, it gets almost everything right, almost poetic.

The Past

the past

I don’t know much about Iran films apart from Jafar Pahani and a couple of Abbas Kiarostami films. After watching Le passé(The Past), I am convinced Asghar Farhadi is spearheading Iran to becoming a superpower in World Cinema. Similar to his previous film, the Oscar winning A Separation, this film too deals with relationships, guilt, doing the right thing and moral choices. And I must mention, it probably has one of the finest last shots in film history ever. It leaves you haunted. This ins definitely one of the best films of the year and I am running out of superlatives to praise this film. This is probably how good relationship dramas are ever going to get. Brilliant twists and suspenses, it just doesn’t get any better than this.

The Great Beauty

the great beauty

I am a stranger when it comes to the neorealism of Italian films. Yes, I have seen the classics, apart from that I have no knowledge of Italian Cinema. I would have missed this one too had it not been for all the hype around it. Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty is a remarkable case study of all things cultural and rich. The director is often being compared to Fredico Felleni, and I could see why. He deals with passion through the intellect often juggling between the Past and the Present, contemporary and non-contemporary, sacred and profane. The lust and gorgeous imagery of the beautiful Rome is what attracts the audience the most. It often plays out like a character and it’s effect in people’s lives. I

lo Ilo

ilo ilo

Anthony Chen directed Ilo Ilo is more than just a comedy in a period setting. This Camera d’Or winning film is a Singaporean Comedy-Drama brims with Love Heartbreak all filled with the kind of Humour you would never see in a Hollywood film. It centres on an almost inseparable bond between a 10 year old boy and his Filipino maid/Nanny.  The director gets it spot-on with his depiction of middle class issues and racial tension. He makes the characters so accessible that you can’t help but find warmth underneath all of them. This little gem is probably one of the best films you will watch from around the world. It will leave you invariably moved with a lump in your throat.

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Day 6 at the CIFF


Back to the 4 a day routine after yesterday’ s slip up. What satisfies me the most is that I have moved a step higher, from preacher to practicer. Yes those were metaphors for me watching all the films I have recco’d . Here is the link if you haven’t seen it.

 Club Sandwich

club sandwich

Fernando Eimbcke’s coming-of-age tales are one in a million, nobody else can make em like him. His films about teenagers are filled with intimacy and attention to detail is near perfection that it makes your turn around because it reminds you of all the things you might have done as a teenager. His latest outing, Club Sandwich is another pea from the same pod. It is filled with you-miss-if-you-blink kind of funny scenes and the humour comes from the unsaid rather than whatever is said. It turns from a comedy to a raw portrait of learning to grow up and mature.

What they don’t talk about when they talk about love

what they don't talk about when they don't talk about love

Your first encounter with love is something you will always remember even if you forget the ones that come after. Love at first sight told through the eyes of blind teenagers is a remarkable challenge. Mouly Surya’s What they don’t talk about when they talk about love’ is a film with a too long title and some brilliant set pieces. When love stories about visually impaired people are made, they usually resort to a tear-jerker. But that is exactly what WTDTAWTTAL never reverts too.In the end, it is a moving cinematic and music composition that wobbles towards a perfect ending.

Parviz

parviz

This tale of failed manhood is driven entirely by only one character, Parviz. This titular character played by Levon Haftman gives us a performance you would have ever seen. The film goes about telling us this tale of this one colourful character and going deep into the mind of this unconventional human being. It is not the plot that catches the eye but how the director goes about telling this tale. Majid Barzegar’s Parviz is a psychological drama featuring some amazing characters and some even better filmmaking that will make your jaw drop.

Night Market Hero

Night market Hero

This film was part of the Taiwanese retrospective at the CIFF. Frankly speaking, I have never seen a Taiwanese film before this one. And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. Night Market Hero, directed by Tien-Lun Yeh is a celebration of the Taiwanese culture and it has it’s heart in the right place. It is set in a fictional market place. From what i have read, these markets are seen in a lot of films from Taiwan. These markets are supposed to be bustling with energy and the same energy is seen in this film also. But unfortunately, this energy wears off once the plot thickens. In a film like this where the Market is a central character, the energy is needed and that is why the film does’t work. From what I have heard, the streets of Taipei can be wandered around for hours together. But this film doesn’t do justice to this fact. It does not work as a cinematic substitute for what i have stated above.

6 Days up. Here are Day 1,2,3,4 and 5.

Day 5 at the CIFF


Could do only 3 movies today thanks to BITWC’s 3 hour running time. By the time Blue is the Warmest Colour got over, I was exhausted both emotionally and physically and was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it to the next screening on time. Should get back to my 4 a day routine from tomorrow.

Barefoot to Goa

barefoot to goa
Barefoot to Goa is one of those rare gems which will never get a wide release. Consider yourself lucky if you get to watch this brilliantly crafted road movie which tells us a heartbreaking tale in an almost docu-drama style narrative. Praveen Morchhale’s directorial debut nuanced with the right amount of fun and script. It works as a documentary underlining the contrast between rural and urban India.

The Cleaner

The Cleaner
Right from the first frame of The Cleaner, the tone and and the pace of the film is set. Events don’t move very fast but nonetheless it requires your full attention. This Peruvian set scifi drama is a depressing film. By depressing I mean it is a very dark film. But that doesn’t stop you from enjoying the film’s pleasures with it’s attempt at satire and sombre. The pace is so glacial that it will turn you off. It is otherwise a very bold attempt at a character study that requires your full attention.

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue is the Warmest Color

Finally. Finally. The Palm D’Or winning film directed by Abdellatif Kechiche has finally been watched. And I must say, it has lived up to all the hype. It is filmmaking at it’s best. Passionate with no regard for classic storytelling, it is an intimate epic with eye-popping visuals and some of the year’s best performances. I did expect it to exceed my expectations but its a very long film and by the end of it, you will definitely feel as wrung out as it’s characters but I must say, its a near perfect film!

I will keep replugging it over and over again. Here is my Day 1, 2, 3 and 4 journals.

Day 4 at the CIFF


Another Day at a film festival and you get 4 new movies. Thats the beauty of a film festival. Here is my account for Day 4.

A Touch of Sin

a touch of sin

Just like every other country, China too makes a lot of films about their people and only a few about the country. Iran is an exception here where most of its films is made under the social and cultural context. Zhangke Jia’s A Touch of Sin is one of those rare films where the critique focus is on the country rather than it’s people. A violent and in no way subtle, this movie is far more passionate about the message it delivers than anything you wold’ve seen. A Bloody violent film with the country’s Economic status in it’s background. What more do you Want?

The Future

li futuro

A David Lynch sort of film with no narrative restrictions whatsoever. It doesn’t fit into any genre nor does the amount of surrealism really live up to it’s plot. Alicia Scherson’s The Future is the kind of  movie where the mood and the general atmospheric setting trumps everything else. It one is one of those rare films where the plot is always two steps ahead of you. It does have it’s inconsistencies though but nothing that should stop it from living up to its playful and soulful premise.

Don Jon

don jon

He is a brilliant actor and an Internet sensation. But that is not enough for Joseph Gordon Levitt. His directorial debut, Don Jon stars himself and Scarlett Johansson. It does to porn what to shame did to sex. It looks at the surface level of things. It is definitely a broad ethnic comedy. But nothing is clever about the way the narrative. It is a fun romp with a few laughs here and there. Other than that, it is crude and repetitive and single minded even for a comedy, let alone a character study.

The Amazing Catfish

the amazing catfish

Mexico’s Cinema is usually filled with crime and contempt. Duo Claudia Sainte-Luce’s directorial debut The Amazing Catfish comes as a a refreshing and welcome change to the country’s image. Filled with quirky humour and drama all the way, this is a family movie in every sense of the word. The story of Claudia and her family isn’t without it’s flaws. But what I found really satisfying was the duo’s aversion towards melodrama. The emotional punch was still there though. One of the few pleasant surprises of the year.

My accounts from Day 1, 2 and 3.

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Day 3 at the CIFF


Wish it was possible to watch more than 4 movies a day. Thats why we have torrents. I need to come up with better introductions, I am running out of ideas. So many coming of age stories and character study. They don’t make those action films anymore do they?

Anyway here is my not-so-detailed account of my Day 3 at the Chennai International Film Festival.

Cheap Thrills

Cheap thrills

A tale about a night going wrong isn’t pretty original. But put it in a social context and add a bit of gross out gory images, you have got yourself a fine film. That is exactly what E.L.Catz’s Cheap Thrills is. It is a comedy that has a visceral understanding of the survival instinct under it. It is a tale of morality, money and friendships. It is so convincing that it hits your right where it hurts.

Like Father, Like Son

Like-Father-Like-Son

Father Son relationship tales, and  coming of age stories aren’t unknown. But what about when it comes to choosing between two sons thanks to baby switching at birth? Thats where the twist comes in. Like Father, Like Son, directed by Japanese Hirokazu Koreeda is a warm and easy film that teaches you about how raising a child means first you have got to embrace how complicated it can be.

Suzanne

SUZANNE

The French make wonderful coming of age films. We saw fine examples of this trait in this year’s Blue is the Warmest Colour and Young & Beautiful. Another fine example of this skill is Katell Quillévéré’s Suazanne. This is not a coming-of-age per se, but it takes us through a 25 year journey of the protagonist’s life. It is an ambitious attempt with a few inconsistencies. A selfish film about a selfish character.

Six Acts

Six Acts

Another coming-of-age tale about a girl. We’ve seen a lot of these this year. This time from Israel(NOT FRANCE). Directed by Jonathan Gurfinkel, Six Acts is a story about a high school teenager who is determined to improve her social status, hooking up with the most popular boys to do so. Yes, it goes all wrong. Owing a lot of sexual favours, she goes into a downward spiral with no coming back. It works at an observatory level at best. It fails as a tale of morality and instead gives us a crash course on Sexual Ethics.

Here are the links to the list of films I watched on Day 1 and 2

Day 2 at the CIFF


Here is an account of my Day 2 at the Chennai International Film Festival. Thanks to Chennai’s Traffic, I couldn’t make the Don Jon Screening on time. Instead I caught this lovely Turkish comedy Love Me. So no regrets for not leaving early.

90 minutes

90 minutes

Directed by Eva Sørhaug, 90 minutes is a psychological study of three men. It is not a conventional psychological thriller but it makes a study about three men in three unrelated stories. What did not work for me was the lack of depth. The stories were too feeble and it lacked subtext. Some really good performances and a half decent narrative, makes this a decent watch.

Young & Beautiful

young and beautiful

Directed by Francois Ozon, Young and Beautiful is a tale of an adolescent girl and her experiments with her sexuality and how it changes over 4 seasons, each being nuanced by a song. Marine Vactch’s portrayal of the lead protagonist is stunning and the film is just an indepth character study that will not add up.

Love Me

Husband Wife Director Duo, Maryna Gorbach | Mehmet Bahadir E’s sophomore romantic comedy, Love Me starts out like any other Hollywood romcom but travels into unchartered territory that borders on socio-cultural issues with an ending you wouldn’t have seen coming.Turkish-Ukrainian man-and-wife team Maryna Er Gorbach and Mehmet Bahadir Er use the romcom formula to tackle cultural crossover as well as social issues.

 

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Hobbit:The Desolation of Smaug


When Peter Jackson first announced Hobbit, a prequel to his overachieving Lord of the Rings trilogy, fanboys who jizz over everything he does, were overwhelmed. But a few skeptics such as myself couldn’t help but relate this announcement to George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels( do I need to say more). And to add to the skepticism, he was turning one book into three movies!

The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey which came out last year was the first in the trilogy. Like Lucas’ use of digital filmmaking in the Star War’s prequels, Peter Jackson too had a technology of his own to introduce, the HFR(High Frame rate). This meant the film was playing at 48 fps rather than the conventional 24fps which has been going on for centuries! That technology was met with a lot of mixed reviews, and personally I felt everything was on fast-forwards mode. But then again, who knows, I liked The Dark Knight Rises, maybe I am wrong about this too!

When watching the first part of the trilogy, a scene from Kevin Smith’s Clerks 2 came to mind. The one where a Star Wars fan and an LOTR fan ridicule each other and how their respective franchises are better than the other. In this particular scene, the Star Wars fan played by Jeff Anderson, one of the leads, mocks at how slow LOTR is. The only thing that happens in the 3 films is walking. I am sure even the most ardent Star Wars fan wouldn’t agree with that criticism. LOTR is an achievement on the grand scale which can never be overstated.

But this was the first thing that came to mind when watching An Unexpected Journey. It was pretty damn boring! Stretching one book into 3 movies is a big risk and the first part proved it right. At a soporific 170 minutes, it was moving at snail’s pace. The HFR did not seem to work either. In contrast, Hobbit:The Desolation of Smaug at 161 minutes, seems to be a sprint.

Yes, thats right! Middle earth has got it’s mojo back delivering a spectacle and taking us into an unchartered territory. It picks up where the last part left off. Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins along with the pack of Dwarves make their way to the lost kingdom Lonely Mountain. Having endured a lot of troubles in the first part, the travellers are in for a lot more this time. Yes, Gandalf disappears at the start of the film. There are a lot of familiar faces. Heart-throb Legolas, an Elven played by Orlando Bloom(The only character he plays every year) makes an appearance here too, shooting arrows and looking all deep, not smiling for a second. Tauriel is another Elven character who the readers of the book might not be familiar with. Played by Evangeline Lilly is a director’s creation to lighten up things. Yes a tale of romance in a LOTR movie. Love strikes this Elven and one of the less menacing looking dwarves. This romance is handled badly but it does lighten up the mood in an otherwise grim tale.

It is a reunion of sorts for Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch who voices the fire breathing Dragon, Smaug. Unlike Sauron who appears only in the last LOTR part, Smaug makes an appearance in the second part itself. Cumberbatch’s voice adds to the already terrifying looking dragon.

Yes it is a movie of it’s own but it also sets up the trilogy for a fine ending. There are once again a lot of busy, tackily choreographed battles that rely heavily on CGI more than anything else. But there are also intense scenes, most of which has Martin Freeman with a terrific screen presence, reminding us that there is more to Middle Earth than just these CGI filled battles.  It does suffer from the middle-act anomaly though. There are too many subplots which takes the narrative off course and distracts the viewer from focussing on the main adventures. With more characters and more subplots, the narrative does squander for sometime in the middle taking the intensity of the main adventure. But once it ties up all the ends and moves back to the real adventure, you are in for a treat. Sure, all studios offer big boring dumb spectacles, but this is an achievement which parades wonder before us. It gives us a visual spectacle only few cinematic creations will provide.

The 3D works great too. Shooting arrows, big bees and shape changing bears, this is how a blockbuster should be made. This action packed adventure benefits from a headier sense of forward momentum which is enhanced by the thrills the 3D provides.

Failing the first time out, Peter Jackson does justice to the source material this time out. Filled with a rousing action sequences and incredible visuals, the second part in this trilogy takes our adventures to an unchartered territory. The final tale in the trilogy will definitely be an epic finish thanks to the great build up the second one provides.

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