Ma mère (directed by Christophe Honoré): Rating 6/10
How do I rate this movie? The technical aspects of the movie are good but the movie is predictable, cold and emotionless. Or atleast I felt cold while watching it. Now I have seen some shocking movies before (Ryu Murakami’s Tokyo Decadence comes to mind), but nothing in this movie shocked me. Be it the incestuous scene between mother and son, the mother and son sharing a same lover, or some of the S&M bondage episodes. I watched it all unflinchingly, all the time wondering where this movie was really going.
The story: The son heads to the Canary Islands to visit his parents. Not on good terms with his father, the son shares a friendship with the mother. The father leaves on a trip shortly and dies. The mother (Isabelle Huppert) is not sad about her husband’s death and tells her son that she has not been good mother or a good wife. The son wants to hear none of that, he adores his mother. The mother can’t give up her wild partying ways which include sleeping with women (or even men), excessive drinking, forcing others to perform S&M while she watches, etc. In order to help her son cope with his boredom on the desert island, she gets him involved in her wild world. When she feels things have gone too far, she leaves. But not before, she asks a girl to look after the son. The son gets involved with the blond girl. The mother returns and is jealous. And well, the Oedipal theme is completed at the end of the movie.
Huppert looks like she is extending her role from 1998’s School of Flesh. The son is played by Louis Garrel who worked on this movie after The Dreamers. In Bertolucci’s over-rated movie, Garrel likes to fool around with his sister. And he seems to have taken things one step further in Ma mère. My problem is not the incest, it is the way the movie flows. There is one scene of richness when the winds kick up on the remote lonely deserts of the Canary Islands. But that is about it. The movie is lifeless other than that. In the DVD, there is an alternate ending. The order of one of the scenes is different in the alternate ending than in the final cut. I think, for a change, the alternate ending sequence would have been better. But even that would not have uplifted this dull movie.
Matrubhoomi (written and directed by Manish Jha): Rating 9/10
A nation without women? The title should really read ‘a village without women’. But I can understand director Manish Jha’s motive in labeling it as a nation without women. In the olden times, when a baby girl was born into a village, the men were not happy; they wanted a son, so they killed the baby girl. So after such continued traditions, a future arises when a series of villages are left with a unique situation – no more women around; no young girls or any adult women exist. Heck, there are no older women around either (not sure how that happened? Script oversight?). So the men are horny. Some pleasure themselves by watching poor quality porn, others relieve themselves in the barn and others watch a man dressed as a woman performing a nautanki show. Somehow the men find a way to continue living. When a priest comes across a girl by chance, he approaches the girl’s father for getting her married to his good friend. The good friend wants to marry the eldest of his 5 sons to the girl but the girl’s father objects, he rather have his daughter marry the decent looking youngest son as opposed to the eldest thug. After some monetary negotiations, the girl’s father agrees to get his daughter married to all 5 sons.
With the exception of the youngest brother (Sooraj played by Sushant Singh), the remaining brothers treat the girl (Kalki played by Tulip Joshi) as an object of sexual fulfillment. So they each take their turn humping her, getting her to do the house chores while not even bothering to talk to her. Meanwhile Sooraj is hated by his brothers because Kalki actually smiles and laughs with him and is cold with the others. So out of jealously, they kill Sooraj. This sparks off a series of incidents which leads to violence erupting in the village. There a lot of issues Manish Jha has presented in a excellent manner. On one level his movie is an angry look at the stupid behaviour of men and how narrow minded men can be. On another level, the movie examines how men justify their anger and ill behaviour because of women. Initially, when there were no women around, the men found a way to get along. They despised each other but they managed to not kill each other. But even the mere mention of a woman aroused anger, jealousy in the men. And when a woman was found, well each man acted as per his upbringing. It is so easy to blame one’s problems on another target. In a lot of cases, men find it easier to blame women for their problems rather than acknowledging that the problem is them itself. Same goes for the men in this movie. Most of them are uneducated morons. But yet they feel themselves superior to a woman. Lust is what drives them.
I think the last comment is most relevant. Modern Bollywood movies are still fueled by lust and almost all the young film-makers pack their movie with vulgar sexual images. The so called family film-maker like Karan Johar has shown more cleavage and ass shots in his movie than older film-makers. Overall, Jha has put together an interesting and well made movie.