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Sunday, October 30, 2005

End of the month wrap-up.

Two completely different movies but I want to put them together because I believe there is one thread that ties them -- desire and lust. In the first movie, that thread is desire. And in the second movie’s case, it is lust. The males in both movies act based on desire and lust respectively and in the end their actions lead to destruction.


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.

3-Iron

Bin-jip (3-Iron, written and directed by Ki-duk Kim): Rating 9/10

There is a natural beauty to all of Ki-duk Kim’s films be it The Isle, Bad Guy and Spring, Summer…On the surface 3-Iron is a simple story – a young man breaks into people’s homes when they are away on vacation and spends a few hours or a night there, taking a shower, eating food or doing his laundry but never stealing anything. One day, he comes across a beautiful yet abused wife and falls for her. He decides to save her from her cruel husband. But things go wrong and the young man is thrown in prison and the wife is returned to the husband. In prison, the young man learns the art of becoming invisible by making his movements quick and devoid of any noise. He returns to the ‘real’ world to set things right again and reunite with his love.

The movie hardly contains any dialogue and it rightly does not need to. The visual images speak volumes that you forget you need dialogue. In fact, so much is conveyed by the actor’s expressions, the things they do and the way they react, that having dialogue would have ruined all the silence. Like the three movies mentioned above, I really liked this one.

2009: Lost Memories, The Office, FIFA Fever

2009: Lost Memories (directed by Si-myung Lee): Rating 6.0/10

The movie starts off with a failed assassination attempt in 1909 Harbin, China. But that failure leads to an alternate future in which Japan allied with the US to win World War II; a future in which WWII ended when atomic bombs were instead dropped on Berlin in 1945 and Japan took hold of Manchuria and Korea never got freedom. Fast forward to Japanese run Seoul in 2009 and to an incident where some terrorists hold innocent people hostage in a museum. The Japanese Police force, headed by two JBI agents, rescue the hostages and kill the terrorists. But not before one of the terrorists shouts to one of the Japanese cop of Korean origin that their group is trying to fight for an independent Korea. Sakamoto (Dong-Kun Jang) has always considered himself Japanese. But he is reminded of his Korean blood and chooses to examine his life and past. His exploration of the past helps him uncover the truth about his father and his own recurring visions of a woman. However, his probing comes at a price – he is suspended from the case and loses his friendship with his friend and police partner.

The first half of the movie is not bad but the second half ends up being too predictable. The acting is ok, nothing really stands out. The script has shades of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, a book about an alternate future in which America had lost the WWII to Germany and Japan. Overall, not that bad of a movie but not that great either.

The Office (Season Two of the British Comedy Series): Rating 9/10

I liked the first season of The Office but I have to admit, it was a bit difficult to watch. Now the reason it was difficult was because the comedy was so real, that it made one uncomfortable. I was reminded of Larry David’s antics in Curb Your Enthusiasm, a hilarious comedy but painful to watch because you know the main character, Larry David, is going to keep doing stupid embarrassing things. Likewise in The Office the main character, David Brent, (played to perfection by co-writer and co-director, Ricky Gervais) is so annoying, so clueless and so conceited that you are sometimes embarrassed to watch because you know he is going to say something stupid, do something even more idiotic. And on the same token, here lies the beauty of the show – it shows things so real, that they end up being funny.

With season One successfully out of the way, I finally got around to watching Season Two. And I truly enjoyed Season Two a lot more. Maybe it was because I knew what to expect from the characters. I knew what each character is like and how they have behaved, so I could enjoy what they were going through. The first two episodes (out of the total 6) are probably a bit uncomfortable because you could see the mishaps in advance, but nonetheless, it is well worth watching.

FIFA Fever (documentary celebrating 100 years of FIFA from 1904 – 2004): Rating 7/10

In celebration of 100 years of FIFA (federation of international football association), a two disc DVD was released which highlighted some of the best moments from all the soccer world cups from 1930 – 2002. Sounds like a great idea. But I was hugely disappointed with this DVD collection. This two DVD disc contains a lot of the memorable goals, saves, upsets, controversial moments and other aspects from the World Cups but it is all laid out in a very dull boring manner. A look at the beautiful game deserved a better treatment. Now, I believe the chapters are laid out such that they can be sold as tv episodes in 2006 but still, I was let down. The disc also gives some coverage to other FIFA tournaments as the Women’s World Cup, Futsal and the youth championships.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Chocolate

Chocolate (mis-directed by Vivek Agnihotri): Rating Very Bad

Everyone stand up and applaud! Yet another new hip director makes his debut by ripping off an excellent Hollywood film, The Usual Suspects. For some bizarre reason, the story is set in London. And as usual the location has nothing to do with the story. The only reason for the foreign locale is the wow factor. Ofcourse, one must give credit where credit is due – Attar Singh Saini has beautifully captured the grey winter shades of London. And the music by Pritam Chakraborty is just wonderful. Ofcourse, the music videos don’t fully do justice to the music but that is another issue.

Vivek Agnihotri and Rohit Malhotra have tried to make a wee bit different story from the Hollywood version but by trying to capture the surprise ending, the two of them have left a lot of loop holes in the story. The original myth story of Keyser Söze is moved to Afghanistan and satan is called Murtaza Arzai (wrong spelling I believe) and the scenes of Arzai’s flashbacks show some class. But Agnihotri has messed everything else up.

And this movie once again proves that the Bollywood film industry is dominated by horny men who are obsessed with sex. Did the producer ask for the needless raunchy scenes or did the director feel they added some mass appeal to the movie? And getting a actresses to dress skimpy does not mean she will look appealing. The acting is terrible, except Arshad Warsi. Anil Kapoor is wasted and Irfan Khan’s role is just reduced to dullness. So many problems with this movie!

Last Life in the Universe, Mago

Last Life in the Universe (directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang):

Let’s get the obvious out of the way – this movie is beautifully shot! But when the cinematographer is Christopher Doyle, you don’t expect any less. The aussie born Doyle has been responsible for the visual beauty of films such as 2046, Dumplings (Fruit Chan’s movie in Three..Extremes), Hero, Chunking Express. And in Last Life.., the movie feels cool, pure and clean. Which is in fact the opposite of what we really should be feeling. Okay, the main character (Kenji) is very organized and keeps his apartment clean but he feels anything but that. He wants to commit suicide so he tries to hang himself. However, his attempt is thwarted by his brother’s visit. During his next suicide attempt (shooting himself), his brother shows up again. This time his brother has brought a fellow Yakuza, Takashi Miike. And when it’s Miike involved, we sort of expect what happens next. Bang Bang. The brother is dead. Kenji survives by killing the Yakuza. Shocked, bewildered, Kenji decides to head out to a bridge to kill himself by jumping off. A teenage girl who has had a fight with her sister over her flirting with men (one of the men she was flirting with was Kenji’s brother, which is the reason why Kenji’s brother was killed) ends up walking on the bridge. She sees Kenji and calls out to him from the other side. Their eyes meet for a few seconds before a car crashes into her. Kenji goes to visit her in the hospital but she does not survive. Kenji then forms a bond with the girl’s sister who is a completely different person from Kenji. Opposites attract? Yes, slowly but surely. Meanwhile, the Yakuza are on Kenji’s trail to avenge the murder of their colleague. A Japanese man in Bangkok, a local Thai woman! Confused, alienated, lost!

A visually gorgeous movie which is never dull despite its relaxed pace!

Mago (2002 movie directed by Hyeon-il Kang):

The movie opens with a shot of countless frogs on the road. Think Magnolia. And then a car (or cars) drives over the frogs. Blood all over. Cut to next shot. A man sitting on his computer, agonizing over the illusionary woman, Mago, that he has been chasing all his life. Who is Mago? She is the creator of the universe, the mother! What follows next are numerous shots of naked women taking place in Paradise, Eden. For a while I tried following this movie but eventually, I grew weary. A very abstract movie which tries to show how man’s destructive force towards nature and the planet have led to its decline. But there are more ways to get ones point across as opposed to having narrative while showing naked women on the screen. There a lot of good ideas here but they didn’t work in this format.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ginger and Cinnamon, Raja

Ginger and Cinnamon (directed by Daniele Luchetti): Rating 8/10

Normally I am not a big fan of movies which ooze with sugar and syrup. But every now and then, I enjoy such efforts. This Italian movie (original title: Dillo con parole mie) is a sort of coming age movie set in Greece. 14 year old Megghy does not want to go on her girl guides camping tour. Instead she wants to go Ios, the Greek Island of love where she wants to lose her virginity. So she tricks her aunt, Stefania, to take her to Ios. The aunt on the other hand has recently broken up with her boyfriend, Andrea. As chance would have it, Andrea is on the same island as well. And Megghy falls for Andrea and believes him to be the one. Stefania is unaware of all of this and tries to give her niece men advice. Meanwhile, on an island full of horny backpackers and tourists, who are either drinking, swimming, making out or doing ‘it’, something has to give. The movie is not that bad although it does drag on near the end. I suppose some sugar everything now and then is not that harmful. As Stefania keeps repeating in the movie ‘Chocolate makes you lose weight’.

Raja (written and directed by Jacques Doillon): Rating 9/10

Oh what complicated lives we lead! On top of that we make our relationships even more complicated. One can easily dismiss this movie as an old man trying to screw a younger woman. But it is much more complicated than that. The movie brings in the angle of slavery, imperialism, sex, power, money and survival into the mix. As a result, no conversation is that straight forward, no intention is that clear. Fred is a white French man living in Marrakesh. Raja is a young Moroccan woman working in his garden. Fred instantly likes Raja and wants her. He does not hide his approaches either. The two elderly women cooks and house help advice Fred to stay away from Raja. But Fred does not listen. He gives Raja a full time job in the house. Meanwhile Raja is thrilled – she freely takes gifts from Fred and the extra money she gets keeps her boyfriend happy. Raja’s brother is not happy with the arrangement – he wants Raja to get married to a policeman who will keep her happy and away from trouble. But when Fred meets the brother, he proposes something completely different – he tells Raja’s brother that he will pay for her marriage not to the policeman but to her boyfriend instead, provided the couple stay at his house. Huh? This is a slow movie which takes its time but it is also interesting because of the issues it brings about. Did the western imperialist powers behave in a similar way to the native women they met? Did they feel they can take anyone they like, use them and move onto the next woman? They knew money was a major bargaining tool they had, so they abused its power. On the other hand, women like Raja needed the money to sustain their family. So in turn the women used the men for their benefit. In the movie, Raja is as cunning as Neve Campbell in When Will I be Loved, but unlike Campbell’s character, Raja is more vulnerable.

Also, this movie is another example of festival foreign movies which are better enjoyed in the confines of one’s home as opposed to a movie theatre.

Buddy, Viva Laldjérie

1) Buddy (directed by Morten Tyldum, written by Lars Gudmestad): Rating 7/10

This 2003 Norwegian movie is a light hearted well meaning film. Kris and Geir are two billboard poster hangers who live the good life. Well according to them that is. They find ways to make their jobs exciting, either by jumping off buildings or doing some crazy stunts while Kris records everything on his digital camera. Kris’s blond girlfriend does not appreciate of his lifestyle. She wants him to do something with his life (think High Fidelity). She also wants him to take their relationship a bit more seriously. So when she gives him the keys to her apartment, well Kris is taken aback. On the advice of his best friend, Geir, Kris returns the keys back. Well the blond then dumps Kris and dates her boss. Kris is devastated but finds himself falling for the cute brunette who is their new room-mate (the three buddies Kris, Geir and Stin Inge share one apartment). At the same time, Kris becomes famous after his digital tapes are found by a TV exec who wants to make a reality show about Kris and his friends, sort of like a video diary. The show is a hit and the blond wants to be back with Kris. But Kris likes the brunette. And Kris does not have much time to make up his mind. Because the brunette is leaving the country to sail around the world with a male ‘friend’! The movie is much more entertaining than I am making it sound. But ofcourse it is predictable. None the less, a sugar coated movie that addresses two universal truths:

a) Sure blonds might be pretty to look at but at the end of the day a man will truly love a cute and caring woman (most likely a brunette, my apologies to all the cute and caring blondes out there).
b) men will always have a soft spot for the football (soccer, ofcourse) team they supported as a child.

2) Viva Laldjérie (written any directed by Nadir Moknèche): Rating 8/10

2004 was a stellar year for Lubna Azabal. Not only was she in the amazing Exils, she also starred in this interesting French-Algerian movie. Lubna plays Goucem, a modern Algerian woman who is trying to life a normal life while being surrounded by age old cultural stereotypes. She works in a photo shop by day and is a party girl by night. In between her flings with men she picks up, she is trying to hold a relationship with a married man. Will the married man ever embrace Goucem officially? Despite what others tell her, Goucem would like to believe she will move from being just a mistress to being a respected married woman. Meanwhile, Goucem’s open minded mother Papicha has her own set of problems. A former belly dancer, Papicha has to endure the fickle minded mentality surrounding her. And the third woman shown in this movie is Goucem’s neighbour, Fifi, a prostitute, who while being a necessity for certain men is also a source of their anger and disgust.

The movie is not that long but I felt it went on and on. On one hand I was lost in the story but on the other hand, nothing in the movie made me compelled to continue watching. Lubna is a very good actress though – her facial expressions and her beauty match the mood she is trying to convey.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Proof

Proof (directed by John Madden, based on a play by David Auburn): Rating 7/10

What happens when genius finally fades? A man who has a lot of intelligent ideas suddenly finds himself writing gibberish! Yes in most cases, old age is responsible. And in other cases, it is just a loss of the inner spark that drives a person. Proof tackles the question of mathematical genius, on how it develops, how it inspires and how it fades away. It is based on a play and I am sure that is where its strength is. As a movie, I didn’t feel it worked. It went on a single motion and never really lifted itself up. Yeah this is a good movie but nothing here grabbed me and made me care. Pi was brilliant. But that sought to explore another side of the math equation. In the end, Proof seems to be drag on a bit too long, even though the movie is around the 90 minute mark (99 minutes to be exact).

That being said, both the actresses are very good. Gwyneth Paltrow plays her role so well that you actually begin to believe she is losing her mind. Hope Davis is excellent as Paltrow’s sister – someone who has nothing in common with her sibling and is more organized and focused. And Anthony Hopkins is good as usual, which is one expects of him. Jake Gyllenhaal seems to be settling in Hollywood now. He had an average role in this movie but his bigger roles in Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead await. Ofcourse, Donnie Darko was still one of his best roles.

Like A History of Violence, I don’t believe this movie should have been shown in multiplexes. Yes I know the big theatres are trying to diversify but really a movie like Proof is not the way to do it.

Trio of Movies: Head-On, Hop, Inch'Allah Dimanche


1) Head-On (2004 movie written and directed by Fatih Akin): Rating 9.5/10

A drunk German/Turkish man slams his car into a wall. The experts believe he wanted to kill himself. So he is sent to an institution. There he meets a Turkish woman. The Turkish woman is there because she had attempted to kill herself as well. Seeing the newly admitted man is Turkish as well, she proposes marriage. Why? Because she needs to escape from her parents clutches. And her traditional parents won’t agree unless the groom is Turkish. But it won’t be a real marriage. They would fake it and live like room-mates. The man does not agree. But after a horrific attempt to kill herself, the man gives in and agrees to marry the woman. Their marriage is unusual and so is the honeymoon. The woman having been liberated goes around enjoying her new freedom – clubbing, drinking and screwing as many men as she can. After her repeated late night outs, her room-mate husband eventually gets jealous -- he is falling in love with her. But things take a turn for the worse and the man finds lands up in jail. The woman leaves Germany to return to Istanbul where her life takes yet another turn. Finally the man turns up in Turkey to seek out the love of this life. What happens next?

An interesting and well made movie! Both actors are very good. But the star of the movie has to be Sibel Kekilli who plays her role superbly – you can see her character transform through various stages in the movie.

2) Hop (2002 movie directed by Dominique Standaert): Rating 9/10

Who knew watching a soccer game could be worth so much trouble? Well it becomes even more difficult if you have to steal cable from your neighbour to watch the game! Justin and his father sit down to enjoy Belgium’s Euro 200 run. But Justin has stolen the signal from his neighbour’s cable and as a result, his neighbour’s game reception is very poor. So when the neighbour finds out that his cable signal is being hijacked, he is not happy. Needless to say, Justin and his dad don’t finish watching the game -- they are too busy running for their lives. As a result, they get separated. Justin’s dad is arrested and faces deportation. So Justin has to come up with a way to get his father back. Lucky for Justin, he lands up at the door of a revolutionary.

This is a charming light hearted movie which manages to tackle the serious issues in an easy going manner. Yes the script is a bit contrived but I really liked this sincere effort.

3) Inch'Allah Dimanche (written and directed by Yamina Benguigui): Rating 10/10

Perfection! That is the best word to describe this amazing movie which tackles the issue of immigration. In 1974 the French Government allowed the country’s Algerian workforce to bring their families to France. That resulted into a lot of Algerian women and children leaving their homeland to head to a different world. Adjusting to a new culture and country is never easy. And the task is made even more difficult when you have someone trying to shove old values down your throat. That is the problem that Zouina (played beautifully by Fejria Deliba) faces when she has to live with her husband and her traditional Algerian mother-in-law in France. The husband was living alone in France and does not seem to change his thinking or way of life after his mother, wife and children arrive in the country. In fact, he is too busy working to be bothered by household issues. In the meantime, the mother-in-law is trying to suffocate the wife with Algerian values without paying heed to the French surroundings. I know this may sound clichéd, but it is done so well. Unlike poor stereo-typed American-Indian movies which attacked the traditional parents, this movie strives to realistically show things as they are.

A History of Violence

A History of Violence (directed by David Cronenberg): Rating 8/10

Hmm, a difficult movie to judge! I had huge expectations of this movie, which is a reason I think I felt a wee bit letdown. Anyway, onto the story... For the sake of not giving away a lot, the movie can be broken down into a couple of levels: a western on one hand, and a mob movie on the other.

Western: A man with no name comes to a small town. He starts a family and lives a peaceful life. One day two bad men come to his café and threaten the staff. The Man with no name leaps to the rescue and shoots the two bad men. He becomes a town hero. But then one day, three men in black suits come visit him. One of them who has a scarred eye and face seems to insist on knowing the town hero. He claims that the Man with no name has a name after all. Hmm. Could it be true? Is there something more to this than meets the eye?

Mob Movie: So can the Man with no name be who the mob people say he is? The mob element conveniently forms the second half of the movie.

And on top of these visible levels is another level – survival. Yes the very question of survival of the fittest. This is what the movie is about in the end. Whoever has the power will prevail. And whoever has the gun will win. A Canadian director has directed a very American movie indeed. Yes in some cases, violence is the only means to a solution. But what if there was no mob element in the movie? How would things have turned up? We won’t know the answer to that because the movie is based on a graphic novel, meaning it was already tied to the story. For me I would have loved to see a darker movie and not something which was reduced to clichés because of the mob. And I thought William Hurt (he makes an appearance near the end) was terrible. I don’t think there should have been humor in this movie but there is. Maybe it was a way to sell the movie to multiplexes. But Mystic River has also played in these same theatres, so has 21 Grams. One of my problems with Dogville was the mob element in that movie. But the fact is that Dogville and History of Violence are in the end dictated by the mob elements – things turn up the way they do because of the mob. But I wish these movies had taken a different route. Things turn up the way they do because of people’s action. Using the mob simply lends an easy avenue to explain everything, it makes everything more acceptable. And at the end of the day, having a gun only blurs the line between thought and action. The movie goes back to the question that was asked in Bowling for Columbine regarding gun violence – are people safe because they have guns? Because no matter what, the bad guys will always have guns. So the good guys must have guns too.

Yes everyone should apparently have guns. We can then go around solving all problems like in the days of the Wild West. Yup. A History of Violence, Indeed!!!!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

2005 CIFF Wrap Up

Compared to last year’s festival, I only saw 14 movies this year. However, I skipped 3 complete days (either through choice or other commitments) so essentially I only saw the 14 movies over 7 days, which means an average of 2 movies per day. And last year, I saw 18 movies over 9 days (skipping only one day), so once again, an average of 2 movies per day.

Well in between the festival, I took time out for 2 offbeat movies which I include below. The 2 movies were part of a proposed SIFF, Sachin International Film Festival :)

Well on with the list:

1) Day 1, Friday, Sept 23:

The much awaited Water made its debut at a packed gala presentation but I opted for the less packed Amu. Shonali Bose wrote and directed this flick about the 1984 killing of Sikhs in Delhi following Indra Gandhi’s assassination. The story revolves around Kaju (played perfectly by Konkana Sen Sharma) visiting Delhi after a long stay in America. She is fascinated by India and wants to get in touch with her roots. But slowly, she uncovers more about her past than she had imagined. A well made movie which I quite liked.


Movie Rating: 9/10

2) Day 2, Sat, Sept 24: 4 movies on tap

a) Il Conformista (restored 1970 print of Bernardo Bertolucci)

Based on Alberto Moravia’s novel, The Conformist is a movie about sex, politics and more politics. More importantly, delighted to have seen a 35 mm print of this film.

b) Turtles Can Fly (2004 Kurdish movie by Bahman Ghobadi): Rating 9/10

A joint production between Iraq and Iran, this movie is another example of the disappearing line documentary and fiction. Movies like this feel so real that well that you can’t believe it is indeed fiction. The movie is set on the Iraqi-Turkish border on the eve of American’s invasion of Iraq. What happens when people are forced to leave their homes? What drama occurs when people are made to wait like refugees on the border? One reason why the movie leaves such a lasting impression is because it is shown from the point of view of children. Children who are forced to work as mines gatherers; they are paid on how many mines they can find. Children who are forced to bear the scars of wars committed by men who can’t comprehend humanity! Anyway, this was a movie I watched without reading anything about it before hand. That is the best way to watch this powerful movie.

c) L’ Enfant (The Child directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne): Rating 10 / 10

This Cannes winner is vintage cinema verite. We watch the lives of Bruno and Sofia as they try to make ends meet while supporting their newborn child. Bruno is a con artist who spends money as fast as he gathers it. So saving money for their newborn child is an alien concept to him. But he makes mistakes, learns from them and the camera is there capturing every moment, watching him.

d) Cellar (written and directed by Ben Hickernell)

Two men wake up in a cellar. They realize they are former friends who have not kept in touch for a long time. The only other relevant items in the cellar are canned foods and a gun with a single bullet. Why are they there? It sounds like Saw, but it isn’t. The movie's pace is slower than Saw and slackens midway through the film. Still, a decent first time effort.

3) Day 3, Sunday, Sept 25:

Skipped the festival for various reasons. Instead watching two movies from my personal collection of movies gathered from overseas.

a) Le Festin De La Mante (The Praying Mantis directed by Marc Levie): Rating 8/10

A simple erotic movie with no bloated story line or un-necessary dialogues! In fact, the images speak for themselves. Considering I had never heard of this little movie from Belgium, watching it was quite a surprise indeed. Sylvia (Lou Broclain) is a woman who is possessed by an evil force. When the evil force takes over she needs to find a prey to satisfy her inner demons.

b) Imagining Argentina (2003 movie directed by Christopher Hampton):

A good movie about the ‘disapperance’ of people during Argentina’s dictatorship during the 1970’s and 80’s. The movie stars Antonio Banderas and Emma Thompson. One day Banderas comes home and his wife is not there. She was taken away. But as it turns out that Banderas has a gift to actually see people’s past and even the future. He is able to touch a person’s belonging and find out what happened to them. This way he helps other people learn the truth about their loved ones and even manages to find some clues to help locate his wife. For a movie that I had not heard of, this was decent.

4) Day 4, Monday, Sept 26: Back to the festival

a) Sidekick (directed by Blake Van de Graaf, written and funded by Michael Sparaga): Rating 7.5/10

A true Canadian independent movie! The film-makers were all there and were happy to see a well received reception of their movie’s World Premier. Made on a shoe-string budget, Sidekick is a charming story about a modern day super hero. Norman (Perry Mucci) lives an ordinary life. He is not taken seriously at work, and is laughed at. In his spare time, he lives in a comic book world. By chance, he notices a co-worker (Victor played by David Ingram) seems to possess extraordinary powers. So secretly he goes about spying on Victor and confirms his hunch. He wants to train Victor to fully realize his super powers and offers to become his sidekick. But little does he realize that Victor might not be the kind of super hero that wants to be trained. By independent Canadian movie standards, this is a very good effort which once again highlights the motto that “with great power comes great responsibility”.

b) Rhinoceros Eyes (Directed by Aaron Woodley): Rating 9/10

David Cronenberg’s nephew makes an impressive debut with this excellent effort. I noticed shades of Donnie Darko in this visually rich flick. Chep (Michael Pitt) works in a prop house. He works by himself in the back of the shop has no friends. His favourite pastime is to watch old Hollywood movies. The owner of the prop house and his friends are a class act (hilariously acted by all). When one day, a movie designer, Fran (Paige Turco) turns up looking for rare props, Chep falls in love. He will do anything to get the rare props she requires. Gradually his sense of reality disappears and the dark forces around him start to descend upon Chep.

Easily one of the best movies I have seen this year!

5) Day 5, Tuesday, Sept 27: Surprize.

After a lot of debating, I headed out to see The Syrian Bride and C.R.A.Z.Y. But due to print transport problems, The Syrian Bride didn’t make it to the country in time and was eventually rescheduled for Thursday at 4:15 pm. Instead I was treated to my second surprise of the festival.

a) Yes (directed by Sally Porter): Rating 9/10

I had wanted to see this movie but it was conflicting with other choices on Friday. Now I got to see this movie. And what a movie it is! The entire dialogue is in iambic pentameter, meaning it rhymes. At first, it seems a bit strange but once you get used to it, it flows easily. In the first frames we are introduced to the Cleaner (Shirley Henderson) who tells us about dirt particles and no matter how much we try, we can never be free of dirt. Then the movie dives into the lives of She (Joan Allen) and Anthony (Sam Neill) whose marriage is in trouble and they are only keeping up pretences. So Allen welcomes an affair with the charming seductive Lebanese man (Simon Abkarian). And the rest of the movie debates on the important questions – methaphysics, terrorism, love, racism, life and everything in between. All the while rhyming everything. Either one hates this movie or loves it. I for one, loved it!!!

b) C.R.A.Z.Y (directed by Jean-Marc Vallee): Rating 7/10

Winner of best Canadian feature at TIFF! A sold out show at CIFF and the audience loved it. However, I was disappointed. Yes this coming of age Quebec movie is good but it is nothing special. The movie charts the life of the Beaulieu family through three decades of changing time, different music and varied values. The title stands for the first letter of each of the 5 sons.

6) Day 6, Wednesday, Sept 28:

Another skipped day.

7) Day 7, Thursday, Sept 29:

a) Alles Auf Zucker! (Go for Zucker! Directed by Dani Levy): Rating 8/10

This movie beat out Downfall at the German movie awards in 2005. This is a well made light hearted movie about a class of German and Jewish cultures. A German man is forced to revisit his Jewish way of life in order to get a slice of his mother’s inheritance. Another condition of the will is that he has to make up with his brother, who lives a very traditional Jewish life. Funny overall.

b) Amarelo Manga (Mango Yellow, 2002 movie directed by Claudio Assis): Rating 7.5/10

A day in the life of Recife! I was introduced to this colourful Brazilian port city via Peter Robbs book, Death in Brazil. Even though this movie has nothing to do with the book, it presents an interesting set of characters. The movie starts and ends with the owner of Avenida Bar. Considering this is a first time effort shot on a budget of $250,000 dollars, it is a very commendable effort. We meet different people in this city and how messed up everything is in their life. After the half-way point, the movie loses its steam and gets plain boring. Nonetheless, a worthy effort.

8) Day 8, Friday, Sept 30:

a) Cache (Hidden directed by Michael Haneke): Rating 9.5/10

How does one describe this interesting movie? A simple movie on one level but manages to hide a lot underneath. One day a regular couple Anne and Georges (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil) receive a 2 hour tape showing their house happenings. Who made this tape? Why did this person mail them the tape? Whatever the reason, this is something which unnerves the couple. And then again, they get another tape showing them leaving the house. The second tape comes with a childish drawing of a boy coughing up blood. They are afraid, but decide not to tell their teenage son. The police can’t do anything. And then the tapes become even more interesting.

On one level this movie is a thriller. On another level, the movie is about the class levels (or even race) that exist in France today. And then there is my favourite third level – this movie is an existential movie about a person’s guilt and memories. What tape? Is there a tape?

b) The Warrior (2001 movie directed by Asif Kapadia): Rating 7/10

The movie is visually gorgeous, with the desert and snow caps highlighting the moods of the warrior. Irfan Khan’s expressions are perfect; they had to be as there is not much dialogue.

9) Day 9, Saturday, Oct 1:

Another missed day.

10) Day 10, Sunday, Oct 2:

Grizzly Man was sold out and the line up for Horloge Biologique was a bit long. So instead I opted for the movie with no lineup – Protocols of Zion. This Marc Levin directed documentary tackles the myth surrounding Jews and that day in September, 2001. A very well made movie which shows the lengths and trouble people will go in their blind hatred of others. Another surprise of the festival!

Rating 8/10