Thursday, September 30, 2010

CIFF 2010, Days 1-7

Oh the sunlight. Beautiful sunlight. All summer long instead of a clear blue sky & sunshine, my lovely city got nothing but dark gloomy rain packed cloudy skies. So finally after a 3 month delay, summer has arrived. And she has decided to oust the traditional chilly winds that greet CIFF every year. As a result, the good weather has certainly made it fun to watch films and made for a pleasant stroll in between the different venues.

The films at the 11th Calgary International Film Festival have been very very good. 7 days and 16 films later, I have only seen one misfire. That's a pretty good rate.

Filmi list so far

Score: A Hockey Musical (2010, Canada, Michael McGowan)
The Illusionist (2010, UK/France, Sylvain Chomet)
Freetime Machos (2009, Finland/Germany, Mika Ronkainen)
Armadillo (2010, Denmark, Janus Metz Pedersen)
Secret Reunion (2010, South Korea, Jang Hun)
Heartbeats (2010, Canada, Xavier Dolan)
The Happy Poet (2010, USA, Paul Gordon)
A Screaming Man (2010, Chad/Belgium/France, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
Nora's Will (2008, Mexico, Mariana Chenillo)
The Sentimental Engine Slayer (2010, Mexico/USA, Omar Rodriguez Lopez)
Small Town Murder Songs (2010, Canada, Ed Gass-Donnelly)
Certified Copy (2010, France/Iran/Italy, Abbas Kiarostami)
Curling (2010, Canada, Denis Côté)
Incendies (2010, Canada, Denis Villeneuve)
A Simple Rhythm (2010, Canada, Tess Girard)
Rec 2 (2009, Spain, Jaume Balagueró/Paco Plaza)

Oh Canada!

Denis Villeneuve's Incendies is a beautifully crafted film that packs a mighty emotional punch. The film unfolds in multiple chapters, with each chapter profiling the principle characters and uncovering a smaller piece of the puzzle. As a result, the viewer arrives at the final destination more or less the same time as the two main characters in the film. The film starts and ends in Canada but the rest of the film dives deep into the Middle East and is the kind of cinema that Canada needs more of, films that use second generation Canadian characters as a launching pad to explore their complex cultural background.

Xavier Dolan's second feature Heartbeats is playful, funny and manages to neatly tuck in cute cinematic homages especially to the French New Wave. It is remarkable that someone so young can make such good films but Dolan is a national treasure.

Denis Côté has gone with the bold choice to give Curling a cold chilly look. As a result, it takes a while to warm up to the material but once one gets past the cold exterior, then one can admire the film's tale of a father's resolve to raise his daugther away from society. In a way, Curling is a cousin of the Greek film Dogtooth in showing how incorrect parental decisions can alter a child’s life. The father in Curling makes the decision to not send his daughter to school because he fears that she would be corrupted by other kids. As a result, his 12 year old girl is out of touch with everyday reality and a bit weak in basic math. The girl’s need for human contact is highlighted in one key sequence where she comes across a pair of frozen dead bodies in the wilderness. The daughter does not tell her father about the bodies but goes to visit the corpses day after day as it is the only contact she has with someone other than her father. Like his daughter, the father himself is lonely and needs human contact. Eventually the father realizes his mistake of isolating both himself and his child but he goes about making changes in small fragments. The snowy visuals are a constant in the film but as the movie progresses, rays of sunshine start to filter in, highlighting that even in an isolated Canadian town, winter will eventually come to an end.

Small Town Murder Songs uses the power of music to elevate a simple story into a grander tale about redemption and rebirth. The opening gala film Score: A Hockey Music is pure fun, packed with a few surprizing but welcome Canadian cameos.

There are still a few other worthy Canadian titles that I have yet to see and I have already praised the wonderful Taylor's Way which has 2 upcoming shows in the festival.

Overall, the Canadian film category has been very strong this year.

Best films

Picking one best film is a tough choice from the plenty of great titles seen but so far, Kiarostami's Certified Copy and Chomet's The Illusionist are front runners with Incendies not too far behind.

Kiarostami is on top of his game in the witty dialogue driven Certified Copy. Aptly descibed as "a Tuscan Before Sunset" in the film's write-up, the movie is also a beautiful variation on Guerín's In the City of Sylvia. In Guerín's film, there is no dialogue between the male and female leads and a distance is maintained between the two as the male follows the female. There are some scenes in Certified Copy where the two characters maintain their distance but most of the film is about the two walking side by side engaged in passionate discussion about relationships and marriage. One can imagine the dialogue in Kiarostami's film would be exactly what would have taken place had the characters in In the City of Sylvia talked to each other. Certified Copy is brilliantly acted and the direction is perfect in showing us either the Tuscan beauty or Juliette Binoche's charming face at the right moments.

A Screaming Man is a quiet powerful film that highlights the tough emotional decisions that occur in a state of constant war. Nora's Will is a wonderful film that manages to generate plenty of laughs despite starting with an act of suicide. Armadillo is a no holds barred film that literally gets in the line of fire to bring us an unfiltered look at the day to day dangers that greet Danish soldiers on their Afghan mission.

Worst film

No contest for this category. The worst film so far, clearly by 100 miles, is Rec 2. This horrible sequel undoes all the good work that went into the first film Rec which was a smart and edgy film. Rec 2 is covered from the perspective of three cameras. The first camera heads into the apartment building moments after the first film ends. Yet this first camera provides nothing but video game like shots of bullets and possessed demons running around trying to bite anyone in site. Yawn. The second camera tries to provide footage from a different angle but is clearly present to extend the wafer thin story. After the second camera's battery dies, we get the crucial third camera, which requires the necessary night vision feature to generate some final moments of tension. When all is said and done, this mess of a story is still not concluded which leaves the door open (ha ha) for a possible third film.

More films...

The last few days have some great films on tap. Of course, top of my list is Uncle Boonmee. The big question will be how many more films I can eat up. Thanks to a few additional screenings, there is the possibility of watching 7 movies again on the final Saturday. But this time around, I am not keen to take up the challenge. After watching 7 films in 2009, I decided that experiment was just a once in a lifetime attempt. Although this time around, the running time of the 7 films is shorter than the 2009 bunch, meaning, a person would end up spending 10.5 hours watching 7 films, and not the 12+ hours I spent last year.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CIFF 2010, viewing list

Every year at CIFF, I have failed to catch all the films that I had originally planned to see. The reasons have been usually one of the following:

-- The film was sold out.
-- The print did not arrive (although this has not happened for the last 4 years).
-- A friend gave a recommendation for another film leading me to switch titles.
-- Exhaustion.

The fatigue factor comes into play quite a bit because I attend the weekday evening shows after putting in a full 8-9 hour workday. So watching 2-3 films after a busy workday usually means I end up skipping at least one day in the middle of the festival to recover.

So this time around I have decided to have a two tier list to ensure I can at least catch my top titles (Liga 1) and attend other films depending on my level of sanity.

Liga 1 -- 9 titles

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010, Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Valhalla Rising (2009, Denmark, Nicolas Winding Refn)
Rec 2 (2009, Spain, Jaume Balagueró/Paco Plaza)
Certified Copy (2010, France/Iran/Italy, Abbas Kiarostami)
Heartbeats (2010, Canada, Xavier Dolan)
The Light Thief (2010, Kyrgyzstan co-production, Aktan Abdykalykov)
Snow and Ashes (2010, Canada, Charles-Olivier Michaud)
The Illusionist (2010, United Kingdom, Sylvain Chomet)
Armadillo (2010, Denmark, Janus Metz)

Although already I know I won't make all the above films as The Light Thief will play at the same time as Snow and Ashes, meaning I will have to choose between one of these features. But seeing Uncle Boonmee.. is an absolute necessity!!!

Liga 2 -- 10 titles

A Screaming Man (2010, France, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
I Am Not Your Friend (2009, Hungary, György Pálfi)
Secret Reunion (2010, South Korea, Jang Hun)
Curling (2010, Canada, Denis Côté)
Incendies (2010, Canada, Denis Villeneuve)
A Film Unfinished (2009, Germany/Israel, Yael Hersonski)
Freetime Machos (2009, Finland/Germany, Mika Ronkainen)
The Happy Poet (2010, United States, Paul Gordon)
A Place Called Los Pereyra (2009, Canada, Andrés Livov-Macklin)
Nora's Will (2008, Mexico, Mariana Chenillo)

Another goal this year is to ensure I see one film on all the 10 days, something I have never been able to accomplish.

Monday, September 20, 2010

TIFF 2010

My first ever visit to tiff was a completely enjoyable experience. Even though the trip was only for 4 days, I managed to view a respectable number of films and caught up with friends and family while enjoying Toronto's many wonderful cafes, bookstores and food joints.

Film x 8

Gorbaciòf: The Cashier who Liked Gambling (2010, Italy, Stefano Incerti)
Guest (2010, Spain, José Luis Guerín)
Red Nights (2009, Hong Kong/France, Julien Carbon/Laurent Courtiaud)
The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman (2010, China co-production, Wuershan)
Essential Killing (2010, Poland co-production, Jerzy Skolimowski)
Viva Riva! (2010, Congo co-production, Djo Munga)
Block-C (1994, Turkey, Zeki Demirkubuz)
Oki’s Movie (2010, South Korea, Hong Sang-soo)

Fatigue was a big reason in why I had to halt my tally at only 8 films.

I arrived in Toronto on Thursday afternoon with no sleep after an early morning flight. I still managed to make my first film, the 3 pm showing of Gorbaciòf, less than 2 hours after landing at the airport. The day only got longer after that as I managed to see 3 more films, including the midnight feature The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman. I got back to the hotel around 2:30 am Friday but was awake at 7:30 am in order to make my 9 am show of Essential Killing. I only saw 3 films on Friday as I had plans to meet with family for dinner on Friday night.

However, I was drained after seeing 7 films with less than 6 hours sleep over a 2 day period. So I decided to skip seeing any films on Saturday and only saw one more show on Sunday morning.


The Seattle based coffee chain that dominates downtown Vancouver and Calgary is also omnipresent in downtown Toronto, especially near all the film festival venues. But with a little bit of effort, I managed to find some excellent cafes and avoid the big chain altogether.

Dark Horse Espresso
Green Beanery
Coffee Culture

Books, Comics

Another goal on this trip was to finally visit all the bookstores on my shortlist.

Of Swallows, their deeds and the Winter below
Book City
World's Biggest Bookstore -- I was not aware that this was owned by Chapters/Indigo but the diverse selection of books/DVD set it apart from the regular Chapters/Indigo stores.
The Beguiling -- Girish describes this comic book store perfectly:

"If you're an indie comics aficionado, leave your credit card at home and take a budgeted amount of cash. You've been warned. "

It is indeed quite easy to spend money here. I came across some amazing stuff such as an anthology of Swedish comics, Independent Canadian & American titles, Italian comics and some Japanese titles that I have wanted for a while. I had to force myself to leave the store before I spent too much money.

Food & Beer

One of my fondest memories from a previous trip to Toronto almost a decade ago was going to Marche in downtown for some amazing food. So I was quite eager to visit it again. I am absolutely delighted to say that the food is still quite incredible.

Beer Markt came highly recommended because of the huge number of beers they serve (100+). The selection is indeed very impressive and I came across a very good stout (Dragon Stout from Jamaica) that I had never heard of previously.

More films? Sure

There is no time for film withdrawal to set in because CIFF starts in a few days. Atleast the prospect of seeing some great films slightly offsets the negative sentiment of constant rain and a bit of snow that is already gathering on the city streets.

2010: Film Log

Total number of films seen: 432

This total includes 430 feature length fiction & docs plus the first season of 24 and The IT Crowd.

Features -- includes films (fiction & docs) over a length of 60 minutes.

Katyn (2007, Poland, Andrzej Wajda)
The Legacy (2008, Georgia/France, Géla Babluani/Temur Babluani)
Tum Mile (2009, India, Kunal Deshmukh)
Quantum of Solace (2008, UK/USA, Marc Forster)
Lemon Tree (2008, Israel co-production, Eran Riklis)
Rio Bravo (1959, USA, Howard Hawks)
Four Christmases (2008, USA, Seth Gordon)
Sans Soleil (1983, France, Chris Marker)
Rumba (2008, France/Belgium, D. Abel/F. Gordon/B. Romy)
Adoration (2008, Canada, Atom Egoyan)
Cuba: An African Odyssey (2007, France, Jihan El-Tahri)
The Cove (2009, USA, Louie Psihoyos)
Maradona (2008, France/Spain, Emir Kusturica)
California Dreaming (2007, Romania, Cristian Nemescu)
Adanggaman (2000, Ivory Coast co-production, Roger Gnoan M'Bala)
Sherlock Homes (2009, UK/USA, Guy Ritchie)
Celia (1989, Australia, Ann Turner)
The Secret in Their Eyes (2009, Argentina/Spain, Juan José Campanella)
City of God (2002, Brazil/France, Fernando Meirelles/Kátia Lund)
An Education (2009, UK, Lone Scherfig)
The Hangover (2009, USA/Germany, Todd Phillips)
Amsterdam (2009, Holland, Ivo van Hove)
Sun Spots (2009, China, Heng Yang)
A Tale of a Naughty Girl (2002, India, Buddhadev Dasgupta)
My Name is Khan (2010, India, Karan Johar)
Zombieland (2009, USA, Ruben Fleischer)
The Blind Side (2009, USA, John Lee Hancock)
Transformers 2 (2009, USA, Michael Bay)
The Misfortunates (2009, Belgium/Holland, Felix Van Groeningen)
Departures (2008, Japan, Yôjirô Takita)
Rann (2010, India, Ram Gopal Varma)
Siddharth: The Prisoner (2008, India, Pryas Gupta)
The Man’s Woman and other Stories (2009, India, Amit Dutta)
L’Intrus (2004, France, Claire Denis)
Beautiful (2008, South Korea, Jae-Hong Jeon)
Nollywood Babylon (2008, Canada, Ben & Samir):
Without Shame (2005, Nigeria, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen)
Hunger (2008, UK, Steve McQueen)
Moon (2009, UK, Duncan Jones)
Julia (2009, USA co-production, Erick Zonca)
Food, Inc (2008, USA, Robert Kenner)
Bright Star (2009, Australia/UK/France, Jane Campion)
Liverpool (2008, Argentina, Lisandro Alonso)
Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge (2010, India, Ashwani Dheer)
Road, Movie (2009, India, Dev Benegal)
Karthik Calling Karthik (2009, India, Vijay Lalwani)
Bluebeard (2009, France, Catherine Breillat)
How I killed a Saint (2006, Macedonia co-production, Teona Strugar Mitevska)
Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922, Germany, Fritz Lang)
Before I Forget (2007, France, Jacques Nolot)
War and Peace (2001, India, Anand Patwardhan)
Eccentrics of a Blond Haired Girl (2009, Portugal, Manuel Oliviera)
A Trip to the Country (2000, Cameroon, Jean-Marie Teno)
Ishqiya (2010, India, Abhishek Chaubey)
Alice in Wonderland (2010, USA, Tim Burton)
Night at the Museum 2 (2009, USA/Canada, Shawn Levy)
G.I Joe (2009, USA, Czech Republic, Stephen Sommers)
The Invention of Lying (2009, USA, Ricky Gervais/Matthew Robinson)
El Porvenir (2008, Honduras, Oscar Estrada)
X Men Origins: Wolverine (2009, USA, Gavin Hood)
9 (2009, USA, Shane Acker)
Ossos (1997, Portugal, Pedro Costa)
In Vanda’s Room (2001, Portugal, Pedro Costa)
Shutter Island (2010, USA, Martin Scorsese)
Ordinary People (2009, Serbia co-production, Vladimir Perisic)
Like you know it All (2009, South Korea, Hong Sang-Soo)
Vaho (2009, Mexico, Alejandro Gerber Bicecci)
Merentau (2009, Indonesia, G.H Evans)
Green Zone (2010, USA, Paul Greengrass)
The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2009, Serbia, Mladen Djordjevic)
The Window (2009, India, Buddhadev Dasgupta)
Armored (2009, USA, Nimród Antal)
Manuel De Ribera (2010, Chile, Pablo Carrera/Christopher Murray)
Avenida Brasilia Formosa (2009, Brazil, Gabriel Mascaro)
The Man Beyond the Bridge (2009, India, Laxmikant Shetgaonkar)
El Pasante (2010, Argentina, Clara Picasso)
Ocean of an Old Man (2008, India, Rajesh Shera)
El Camino du punto (2010, Argentina, Sebastián Díaz Morales)
Milk of Sorrow (2009, Peru/Spain, Claudia Llosa)
Night and Fog (2009, Hong Kong, Ann Hui)
Pelada (2010, multiple, Boughen/Fergusson/Oxenham/White)
Between Two Worlds (2009, Sri Lanka, Vimukthi Jayasundara)
Cold Water of the Sea (2009, Costa Rica/France, Paz Fabrega)
Bioscope (2008, India, K.M. Madhusudhanan)
Maya Bazaar (2009, India, Joydeep Ghosh)
via Darjeeling (2008, India, Arindam Nandy)
Mama (2010, Russia, Yelena Renard/Nicolay Renard)
Once Upon a Proleterian (2009, China/UK, Xiaolu Guo)
The Burning Plain (2008, USA/Argentina, Guillermo Arriaga)
Mundane History (2009, Thailand, Anocha Suwichakornpong)
Manilla Skies (2009, Philippines/USA,Raymond Red)
Woman without a Piano (2009, Spain, Javier Rebollo)
A Summer Family (2010, Japan, Iwana Masaki)

Football Stories (2002, Chile, Andres Wood)
Summer Hours (2009, France, Oliver Assasyas)
Chance Pe Dance (2010, India, Ken Ghosh)
Avatar (2009, USA, James Cameron)
Broken Embraces (2009, Spain, Pedro Almodovar)
Lorna’s Silence (2009, Belgium co-production, J-P/Luc Dardenne)
Where the Wild Things Are (2009, USA/Germany, Spike Jonze)
Bummer Summer (2010, USA, Zach Weintraub)
Puzzle (2009, Argentina/France, Natalia Smirnoff)
Monogamy (2010, USA, Dana Adam Shapiro)
The Robber (2010, Austria/Germany, Benjamin Heisenberg)
Firefly (2009, Japan, Naomi Kawase)
Paatshala (2010, India, Milind Ukey)
A Crude Awakening (2006, Switzerland/Germany, B.Gelpke/R.McCormack/R.Caduff)
Almost Two Brothers (2004, Brazil co-production, Lúcia Murat)
Iron Man 2 (2010, USA, Jon Favreau)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010, USA/UK, Banksy)
Susa (2010, Georgia, Rusudan Pirveli)
Here and There (2009, Serbia/USA/Germany, Darko Lungulov)
50 Dead Men Walking (2008, Canada, UK, Kari Skogland)
She, a Chinese (2009, UK/France/Germany, Xiaolu Guo)
Spirit of the Beehive (1973, Spain, Víctor Erice)
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009, UK/Canada, Terry Gilliam)
Schedazde Tell me a Story (2009, Egypt, Yousry Nasrallah)
Gigante (2009, Uruguay co-production, Adrián Biniez)
Black Sheep (2006, New Zealand, Jonathan King)
Orbis Pictus (1997, Slovakia, Martin Sulík)
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009, USA, Wes Anderson)
Oxhide (2005, China, Jiayin Liu)
Los Labios (2010, Argentina, Iván Fund/Santiago Loza)
Norberto Arpenas Tarde (2010, Uruguay/Argentina, Daniel Helder)
Louise-Michel (2008, France, Gustave de Kervern/Benoît Delépine)
Brothers (2009, USA, Jim Sheridan)
Without Shame 2 (2005, Nigeria, Lancelot)
Air Doll (2009, Japan, Hirokazu Koreeda)
The Family Tree (2010, France, Olivier Ducastel/Jacques Martineau)
Teen Patti (2010, India, Leena Yadav)
U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (2005, South Africa, Mark Dornford-May)
The Daughter of Keltoum (2001, Algeria co-production, Mehdi Charef)
Flame & Citron (2008, Denmark co-production, Ole Christian Madsen)
The Perfect Picture (2009, Ghana, Shirley Frimpong-Manso)
Colossal Youth (2006, Portugal, Pedro Costa)
Ballast (2008, USA, Lance Hammer)

Bruno (2009, USA, Larry Charles)
Let Each One go Where He May (2009, USA/Suriname, Ben Russell)
Sebbe (2010, Sweden, Babak Najafi)
Hunting & Zn (2010, Holland, Sander Burger)
R (2010, Denmark, Tobias Lindholm/Michael Noer)
Crab Trap (2009, Colombia/France, Oscar Ruiz Navia)
Kosmos (2010, Turkey/Bulgaria, Reha Erdem)
Kill the referee (2009, Belgium, Y.Hinant/E.Cardot/L.Delphine)
Four Lions (2010, UK, Christopher Morris)
The Bad Lieutenant (2009, USA, Werner Herzog)
Fame (2009, USA, Kevin Tancharoen)
Putty Hill (2010, USA, Matthew Porterfield)
Buried Land (2010, USA/Bosnia/UK, S.Eastwood/G.Alan Rhodes)
The Road (2009, USA, John Hillcoat)
Cold Souls (2009, USA/France, Sophie Barthes)
Open (2010, USA, Jake Yuzna)
Empire of Silver (2009, China/Taiwan/Hong Kong, Christina Yao)
Every Day (2010, USA, Richard Levine)
American Grindhouse (2010, USA, Elijah Drenner)
In the Pit (2006, Mexico, Juan Carlos Rulfo)
Goal-II Living the Dream (2007, UK, Jaume Collet-Serra)
Kurbaan (2009, India, Renzil D'Silva)
The Yes Men Fix the World (2009, UK/USA/France, Andy B./Mike B./Kurt E.)
La France (2007, France, Serge Bozon)
The Corrupted (2010, Canada, John Klappstein/Knighten Richman)
Lucky Life (2010, USA, Lee Isaac Chung)
Win/Win (2010, Holland, Jaap van Heusden)
Little Baby Jesus of Flandr (2010, Belgium, Gust Van Den Berghe)
Fish Story (2009, Japan, Yoshihiro Nakamura)
Raavan (2010, India, Mani Ratnam)
A Useful Life (2010, Uruguay, Federico Veiroj)
Predators (2010, USA, Nimrod Antal)
Kinatay (2009, Philippines, Brillante Mendoza)
When We Leave (2010, Germany/Turkey, Feo Aladag)
Taylor’s Way (2009, Canada, Rene Barr)
From Paris with Love (2010, France, Pierre Morel)
The Messenger (2009, USA, Oren Moverman)
Rubber (2010, France, Quentin Dupieux)
Inception (2010, USA/UK, Christopher Nolan)
Woman on Fire Looks for Water (2009, Malaysia/South Korea, Woo Ming Jin)
The Tiger Factory (2010, Malaysia/Japan, Woo Ming Jin)
The Men who Stare at Goats (2009, USA/UK, Grant Heslov)
Invictus (2009, USA, Clint Eastwood)
Rajneeti (2010, India, Prakash Jha)
Run FatBoy Run (2007, UK, David Schwimmer)
Edge of Darkness (2010, UK/USA, Martin Campbell)
HaHaHa (2010, South Korea, Hong Sang-soo)
Paris (2008, France, Cédric Klapisch)
Lola (2009, Philippines, Brillante Mendoza)
October (2010, Peru, Daniel Vega/Diego Vega)
At World’s End (2009, Denmark, Tomas Villum Jensen)
Gallants (2009, Hong Kong, Clement Sze-Kit Cheng/Chi-kin Kwok)
You are all captains (2010, Spain, Oliver Laxe)
C'est déjà l'été (2010, Holland/Belgium, Martijn Maria Smits)
The Great Indian Butterfly (2010, India, Sarthak Dasgupta)
Road to Sangam (2010, India, Amit Rai)
Beeswax (2009, USA, Andrew Bujalski)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009, Denmark co-production, Niels Arden Oplev)
Hot Tub Time Machine (2010, USA, Steve Pink)
The Bounty Hunter (2010, USA, Andy Tennant)
The Informant! (2009, USA, Steven Soderbergh)

In the Realm of the Senses (1976, Japan, Nagisa Ôshima)
Samurai Rebellion (1967, Japan, Masaki Kobayashi)
Tokyo Olympiad (1965, Japan, Kon Ichikawa)
Drag me to Hell (2009, USA, Sam Raimi)
Sukiyaki Western Django (2007, Japan, Takashi Miike)
The Last House on the Left (2009, USA, Dennis Iliadis)
Natarang (2010, India,Ravi Jadhav)
Salt (2010, USA, Phillip Noyce)
Good Morning(1959, Japan, Yasujirô Ozu)
Walkabout (1971, UK, Nicolas Roeg)
The Only Son (1936, Japan, Yasujirô Ozu)
The Ghost Writer (2010, France/Germany/UK,Roman Polanski)
How to Train Your Dragon (2010, USA, Dean DeBlois/Chris Sanders)
Cop Out (2010, USA, Kevin Smith)
The Losers (2010, USA, Sylvain White)
The Last Station (2009, Germany/Russia/UK, Michael Hoffman)
Bakumatsu Taiyoden (1957, Japan, Yuzo Kawashima)
Harishchandrachi Factory (2009, India, Paresh Mokashi)
Me Shivajiraje Bhosale Boltoy (2009, India, Santosh Manjrekar)
Cure (1997, Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Capitalism: A love Story (2009, USA, Michael Moore)
It’s Complicated (2009, USA, Nancy Meyers)
Ajami (2009, Israel/Germany, Scandar Copti/Yaron Shani)
There was a Father (1942, Japan, Yasujirô Ozu)
The American (2010, USA, Anton Corbijn)
Love in the City (1953, Italy, various)
Splice (2010, Canada co-production, Vincenzo Natali)
Madagascar (2005, USA, Eric Darnell/Tom McGrath)
Finding Nemo (2006, USA, Andrew Stanton/Lee Unkrich)
The Expendables (2010, USA, Sylvester Stallone)
The Lineup (1958, USA, Don Siegel)
The Big Heat (1953, USA, Fritz Lang)
Restrepo (2010, USA, Tim Hetherington/Sebastian Junger)
Sex and the City 2 (2010, USA, Michael Patrick King)
The Sniper (1952, USA, Edward Dmytryk)
Machete (2010, USA, Ethan Maniquis/Robert Rodriguez)
Tales of Ugetsu (1953, Japan, Kenji Mizoguchi)
Murder by Contract (1958, USA, Irving Lerner)
A Single Man (2009, USA, Tom Ford)
24 Season One (2001, USA, multiple)
Peepli Live (2010, India, Anusha Rizvi)
5 Against the House (1955, USA, Phil Karlson)
Thanks Maa (2010, India, Irfan Kamal)
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, UK/USA/Germany, Paul W.S. Anderson)
The Killer Inside Me (2010, USA/UK/Canada/Sweden, Michael Winterbottom)
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009, UK, J Blakeson)
Jennifer’s Body (2009, USA, Karyn Kusama)
Garam Hawa (1973, M.S. Sathyu)
The A-Team (2010, USA, Joe Carnahan)
Nine (2009, USA/Italy, Rob Marshall)
Fish Tank (2009, UK/Holland, Andrea Arnold)
Gorbaciòf (2010, Italy, Stefano Incerti)
Guest (2010, Spain, José Luis Guerín)
Red Nights (2009, Hong Kong/France, Julien Carbon/Laurent Courtiaud)
The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman (2010, China co-production, Wuershan)
Essential Killing (2010, Poland co-production, Jerzy Skolimowski)
Viva Riva! (2010, Congo co-production, Djo Munga)
Block-C (1994, Turkey, Zeki Demirkubuz)
Oki’s Movie (2010, South Korea, Hong Sang-soo)
Udaan (2010, India, Vikramaditya Motwane)
Red Alert (2009, India, Anant Mahadevan)
Score: A Hockey Musical (2010, Canada, Michael McGowan)
The Illusionist (2010, UK/France, Sylvain Chomet)
Freetime Machos (2009, Finland/Germany, Mika Ronkainen)
Armadillo (2010, Denmark, Janus Metz Pedersen)
Secret Reunion (2010, South Korea, Jang Hun)
Heartbeats (2010, Canada, Xavier Dolan)
The Happy Poet (2010, USA, Paul Gordon)
A Screaming Man (2010, Chad/Belgium/France, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
Steam of Life (2010, Finland, Joonas Berghäll/Mika Hotakainen)
Nora's Will (2008, Mexico, Mariana Chenillo)
The Sentimental Engine Slayer (2010, Mexico/USA, Omar Rodriguez Lopez)
The House of Suh (2010, USA, Iris Shim)
Small Town Murder Songs (2010, Canada, Ed Gass-Donnelly)
Certified Copy (2010, France/Iran/Italy, Abbas Kiarostami)
Curling (2010, Canada, Denis Côté)
Incendies (2010, Canada, Denis Villeneuve)
A Simple Rhythm (2010, Canada, Tess Girard)
Rec 2 (2009, Spain, Jaume Balagueró/Paco Plaza)
Faith, Fraud & Minimum Wage (2010, Canada, George Mihalka)
A Film Unfinished (2010, Israel/Germany, Yael Hersonski)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010, Thailand co-production, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
I Spit on Your Grave (2010, USA, Steven R. Monroe)
Red White & Blue (2010, USA, Simon Rumley)
A Place Called Los Pereyra (2009, Canada/Argentina, Andrés Livov-Macklin)
Journey’s End (2010, Canada, Jean-François Caissy)
Valhalla Rising (2010, Denmark/UK, Nicolas Winding Refn)
The Last Rites of Ransom Pride (2010, Canada, Tiller Russell)
Mutant Girls Squad (2010, Japan, Noboru Iguchi/Yoshihiro Nishimura/Tak Sakaguchi)

A Brand New Life (2009, France/South Korea, Ounie Lecomte)
I Am Not Your Friend (2009, Hungary, György Pálfi)
The Light Thief (2010, Kyrgyzstan co-production, Aktan Abdykalykov)
New Low (2010, USA, Adam Bowers)
Komal Gandhar (1961, India, Ritwik Ghatak)
Subarnarekha (1965, India, Ritwik Ghatak)
Nagarik (1952, India, Ritwik Ghatak)
Fengming: A Chinese Memoir (2007, China, Wang Bing)
Aisha (2010, India, Rajshree Ojha)
West of the Tracks: part I Rust (2003, China, Wang Bing)
Alpha and Omega (2010, USA/India, Anthony Bell/Ben Gluck)
Tokyo Gore Police (2008, Japan, Yoshihiro Nishimura)
The Machine Girl (2008, Japan, Noboru Iguchi)
West of the Tracks: part II Remnants (2003, China, Wang Bing)
Crime and Punishment (2007, China, Zhao Liang)
West of the Tracks: part III Rail (2003, China, Wang Bing)
Harry Brown (2010, UK, Daniel Barber)
Date Night (2010, USA, Shawn Levy)
Gunless (2010, Canada, William Phillips)
The Maid (2009, Chile/Mexico, Sebastián Silva)
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010, USA, Oliver Stone)
Secret of the Grain (2007, France, Abdellatif Kechiche)
Solitary Man (2009, USA, Brian Koppelman/David Levien )
La Chinoise (1967, France, Jean-Luc Godard)
Greenberg (2010, USA, Noah Baumbach)
Prince of Persia (2010, USA, Mike Newell)
Kick-Ass (2010, USA, Matthew Vaughn)
Le Petit Soldat (1963, France, Jean-Luc Godard)
Uski Roti (1970, India, Mani Kaul)
Striker (2010, India, Chandan Arora)
Sivaji (2007, India, S. Shankar)
Detective (1985, France, Jean-Luc Godard)
Love, Sex Aur Dhoka (2010, India, Dibakar Banerjee)
Un Femme di Femme (1961, France, Jean-Luc Godard)
My Life to Live (1962, France, Jean-Luc Godard)
The Social Network (2010, USA, David Fincher)
Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (2010, India, Milan Luthria)
The Book of Eli (2010, USA, the Hughes brothers)
Couples Retreat (2009, USA, Peter Billingsley)

Sweetgrass (2009, USA/UK/France, Ilisa Barbash/Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
Pierrot Le Fou (1965, France, Jean-Luc Godard)
Following (1998, UK, Christopher Nolan)
Fubar II (2010, Canada, Michael Dowse)
Topkapi (1964, USA, Jules Dassin)
You Think You're the Prettiest, But You Are the Sluttiest (2008, Chile, José Manuel Sandoval)

Megamind (2010, USA, Tom McGrath)
Rabia (2006, Chile, Oscar Cárdenas)
The Naked City (1948, USA, Jules Dassin)
Phaedra (1962, France/Greece/USA, Jules Dassin)
Agora (2009, Spain, Alejandro Amenábar)
This Movie is Broken (2009, Canada, Bruce McDonald)
Tales From the Golden Age (2009, Romania/France, multiple)
Curious George (2006, USA, Matthew O'Callaghan)
The Law (1959, Italy/France, Jules Dassin)
Bob The Gambler (1962, France, Jean-Pierre Melville)
Get Him to the Greek (2010, USA, Nicholas Stoller)
Endhiran -- Robot (2010, India, S. Shankar)
Lafangey Parindey (2010, India, Pradeep Sarkar)
Léon Morin, prêtre (1961, France, Jean-Pierre Melville)
Le doulos (1962, France, Jean-Pierre Melville)
The Skin Game (1931, UK, Alfred Hitchcock)
Dabangg (2010, India, Abhinav Kashyap)
Irma Vep (1996, France, Olivier Assayas)
The Ways of Wine (2010, Argentina, Nicolas Carreras)
Revolucion (2010, Mexico, multiple)
Carlos (2010, France, Olivier Assayas)
Father of My Children (2009, France/Germany, Mia Hansen-Løve)
Un Flic (1962, France, Jean-Pierre Melville)
Unstoppable (2010, USA, Tony Scott)
Shrek (2001, USA, Andrew Adamson/Vicky Jenson)
Le deuxième souffle (1966, France, Jean-Pierre Melville)
Babies (2010, France, Thomas Balmès)
Burma VJ (2009, Denmark co-production, Anders Østergaard)
Action Replayy (2010, India, Vipul Amrutlal Shah)
Le samouraï (1967, France, Jean-Pierre Melville)
Toy Story 2 (1999, USA, John Lasseter/Ash Brannon/Lee Unkrich)
O Sangue (1989, Portugal, Pedro Costa)
Inside Job (2010, USA, Charles Ferguson)
Waste Land (2010, Brazil/USA, Luck Walker)
Madagascar 2 (2008, USA, Eric Darnell/Tom McGrath)
I Hate Luv Storys (2010, India, Punit Malhotra)
Rakht Charitra (2010, India, Ram Gopal Varma)
Tony Manero (2008, Chile/Brazil, Pablo Larraín)
Videocracy (2009, Sweden/Denmark/UK/Finland, Erik Gandini)
The Town (2010, USA, Ben Affleck)
Exam (2009, UK, Stuart Hazeldine)
Guzaarish (2010, India, Sanjay Leela Bhansali)
Blackmail (1929, UK, Alfred Hitchcock)
The IT Crowd: Season One (2006, UK, Graham Linehan)
Emotional Atyachar (2010, India, Akshay Shere)
Horton Hears a Who! (2008, USA, Jimmy Hayward/Steve Martino)
Winter’s Bone (2010, USA, Debra Granik)
Band Baaja Baaraat (2010, India, Maneesh Sharma)
Mother (2009, South Korea, Joon-ho Bong)
Beer Wars (2009, USA, Anat Baron)
Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010, USA/UK/Canada, Edgar Wright)
Tahaan (2008, India, Santosh Sivan)
Aakarosh (2010, India, Priyadarshan)
Vincere (2009, Italy/France, Marco Bellocchio)
Black Swan (2010, USA, Darren Aronofsky)
127 Hours (2010, UK/USA, Danny Boyle)
Fair Game (2010, USA/UAE, Doug Liman)
Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010, Finland co-production, Jalmari Helander)
Eat Pray Love (2010, USA, Ryan Murphy)
The Kids Are All Right (2010, USA, Lisa Cholodenko)
The Fighter (2010, USA, David O. Russell)
Champagne (1928, UK, Alfred Hitchcock)
Despicable Me (2010, USA, Pierre Coffin/Chris Renaud)
The Manxman (1929, UK, Alfred Hitchcock)
Juno and the Paycock (1930, UK, Alfred Hitchcock)
True Grit (2010, USA, Coen brothers)
Toy Story 3 (2010, USA, Lee Unkrich)
Pusher (1996, Denmark, Nicolas Winding Refn)
Pusher II (2004, Denmark, Nicolas Winding Refn)
Pusher III (2005, Denmark, Nicolas Winding Refn)
Barah Aana (2009, India, Raja Menon)
Mesrine I: Killer Instinct (2008, France/Canada/Italy, Jean-François Richet)
TRON: Legacy (2010, USA, Joseph Kosinski)
Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu (2010, India, Makrand Deshpande)
Phas Gaye Re Obama (2010, India, Subhash Kapoor)
Shrek Forever After (2010, USA, Mike Mitchell)
Mesrine 2: Public Enemy #1 (2008, France/Canada, Jean-François Richet)
Benny and Babloo (2010, India, Yunus Sajawal)
Art & Copy (2009, USA, Doug Pray)
The Last Airbender (2010, USA, M. Night Shyamalan)
Aashayein (2010, India, Nagesh Kukunoor)
Metropolis (1927, Germany, Fritz Lang): restored version
Daratt (2006, Chad co-production, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)

Shorts -- films (fiction & docs) under 60 minutes running time

North Korea: A Day in the Life (2004, Holland, Pieter Fleury, 48 min)
Packing (2009, Iran/Germany, Behrooz Karamizade)
Lost Monument (2009, Greece, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, 27 min)
Yellow Dogs (2009, Switzerland, Marianne Thivillier/Mathias Montavon)
The Chicken Rice Mystery (2008, Malaysia, Edmund Yeo, 18 min)
Love Suicides (2009, Malaysia, Edmund Yeo, 13 min)
Junko’s Shamisen (2010, Canada, Sol Friedman, 10 min)
Kingyo (2009, Japan, Edmund Yeo, 25 min)
A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (2009, Thailand co-production, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 17 min)
Petropolis (2009, Canada, Peter Mettler, 43 min)
Patriotism (1966, Japan, Yukio Mishima, 30 min)
Land Without Bread (1933, Spain, Luis Buñuel)
The Time Machine (2010, USA, Mark Kendall, 12 min)
Allons-y ! Alonzo ! (2009, France, Camille Moulin-Dupré, 8 min)
I Will Not Be Your Friend (2009, Hungary, György Pálfi, 13 min)
Phantoms of Nabua (2009, Thailand co-production, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 11 min)
Tarrafal (2007, Portugal, Pedro Costa)
Rabbit Hunters (2007, South Korea/France, Pedro Costa)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Calgary International Film Festival 2010, preview II

Taylor's Way

A quite incredible film that effortlessly switches gears between three different genres with considerable ease. The opening 15 minutes appear to be familiar territory (girl in a bad relationship is picked up by a guy at a bar) but then the film transforms into a road journey/self-discovery story which navigates the beautiful British Columbia countryside. Yet, amid the beauty and tranquility signs of darkness start to slowly filter through. However, the meaning of these signs is only revealed in the film's final moments. A must see film!


Soccer is called the beautiful game. Now, that beauty may be hard to find on a professional or international game pitch but it does exist. Proof of that genuine beauty is provided courtesy of an American college duo who hit the road to play pick-up games in various countries. Their journey takes them to unlikely destinations such as a Bolivian prison, a slum in Kenya, a roof-top in Japan, a playing field in Iran and the streets of China. The end result is a magnificent documentary that highlights why the world loves this game and how the real passion of the game exists on the streets amid everyday people. Professional soccer players, their managers and FIFA should be forced to watch this film and lower their heads in shame. Because the ugliness of the World Cup and its negative play (4-5-1/5-5-0 tactics, dives, fouls) is ruining the game yet uglier the game gets, the more money these professional players make.


An engaging Indian film that demonstrates the hypnotic effect that cinema has on people. Some of the film’s strongest scenes are those where there is no dialogue and the beautiful haunting images (such as the recurring dream of a dead body washed ashore) flood the screen. The film is set in 1921 India when cinema was largely unknown in the country. So we witness villagers seeing cinema for the first time and observe how their views are shaped – some consider the device as ungodly while others are entranced by the images. And we even get to meet a character (Diwakaran) whose love for the new medium leads him to neglect everything around him and only focus on cinema. In fact, Diwakaran probably depicts the actions of the first cinephile in Indian history.

Cinema is such an integral part of modern Indian life that it is hard to imagine Indian society without movies. So it is fascinating to watch a film which shows how love for cinema started to make its way through Indian life.

At World's End

This humorous Danish film is a throwback to the 1980’s style of action/adventure comedies. In a way, it is refreshing to see an old fashioned film about adventure in an exotic land told with humor and a bit of political incorrectness. The actress Birgitte Sorensen steals the show and it wouldn't be a surprize to see her land bigger profile roles in the future.

Norberto's Deadline

Norberto is drifting aimlessly in life until he finds his true love in theater. However, if it was not for theater, then it is likely possible that Norberto would morph into either a Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) or a Raúl Peralta (Tony Manero). It is to Daniel Hendler's credit that he allows us to closely observe Norberto in his moments of despair and misery so that we can better understand Norberto and comprehend how someone who is just one or two steps away from a complete breakdown can still find the courage to salvage their life.

Mundane History

Winner of a Tiger Award at Rotterdam, Mundane History is cut from the same cloth as one of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's films. Yet, Anocha Suwichakornpong is able to carve out an individual identity and demonstrate true talent in two mesmerizing sequences which break away from the 'mundane' everyday life scenes. The first sequence charts a journey all the way to the origins of the universe. And the second sequence charts events following the big bang towards a human birth and lands firmly in the main characters hospital room location, thereby putting the whole story into perspective. Patient viewers will be rewarded with a truly cinematic treasure.


Reha Erdem is certainly an intriguing filmmaker but at times he can be frustrating as well. While each of his last three films have improved their visual beauty, each successive work has had a slight dip in the story and character depiction. Times and Winds was a satisfying film where the cinematography was perfectly in sync with the coming of age tale while in My Only Sunshine the on-screen beauty overpowered the bleak tale. Now with his latest offering Kosmos, Reha Erdem has given us a delicious visual treat but the story is not as dark as the cinematography points to. There are hints of distrust about the magical healing powers of the outsider and a bit of cosmic interference (UFO) but the innocent love tale slightly halts the film's mesmerizing rhythm. Still, it deserves to be seen because it is one of the best shot films of the year.

The Famous and the Dead

Every now and then there appears a film that reminds everyone that there is more to Brazil than soccer, beaches, samba, favelas, poverty and crime. A few years ago, it was Heitor Dhalia's wonderfully bizarre Drained set in a warehouse that showed a Brazil devoid of these common symbols and now it is Esmir Filho's chance with The Famous and the Dead. There are no beaches to be seen in The Famous and the Dead and the film's depiction of suburban isolation and loneliness is more familiar material for American Indie cinema. Yet the setting of such themes in Brazil highlights how similar issues can take place in any part of the world, especially in a modern globally connected world where various social networking sites and blogs allow people to hide their true identities and assume another.

The film's chilly mood and atmosphere goes perfectly with the theme of death and suicide. In fact, in almost all scenes one can detect the presence of death hovering above the main character. The film also does a great job of integrating social networking sites, blogs, online videos within the story to highlight the main character's sense of isolation. Also, the transition from the web videos to regular footage is seamless. The end result is a work that is very much in tune with modern times, aspects that most current cinema seems to sidestep.

Note: The film's look and mood evokes the chilly winter conditions of Canada or Northern Europe. So in a way, the film is a perfect companion to the fall weather that greets CIFF every year:)

Family Tree

There have been quite a few films that have used a family gathering as a starting point to uncover a dark past about one of the family members (such as Celebration, Monsoon Wedding). So directors Olivier Duscastel and Jacques Martineau deserve a lot of praise for using this familiar template to make an intelligent and delicate film which manages to deliver an emotional punch. A son's funeral is the starting point for unwrapping a family secret that provides quite a shock when all is said and done. An incredibly moving film!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Calgary International Film Festival 2010, preview 1

The 2010 Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) kicks off in less than 2 weeks time. The film selections continue to grow in technical and artistic strength each year and this year the festival has some amazing films on display, with the Mavericks competition category showcasing some of the best films of the year. Last year, Mavericks contained some worthy films such as Karaoke (2009 Maverick winner), Be Calm and Count to Seven, Everyone Else and Fish Eyes but this year's selection is much stronger than the 2009 list.

Manuel di Ribera

This visually stunning film is a fascinating mix of Lisandro Alonso and Bela Tarr yet is completely original. The lonely journeys of Manuel, conducted with the aid of boats, has touches of Alonso (from both Los Muertos & Liverpool) while the mostly grayish/dark environment and the drunken locals' distrust of Manuel feels similar to Tarr's The Outsider and Satantango. Also, the film brilliantly plays with the concept of reality by having two almost similar scenes of an event incorporated into the film -- one real and one imagined. The audience is left to figure out what the reality is.

Note: The isolated Chilean island seems to echo the island in the third short of Andrés Wood's Historias de fútbol.

The Intern

Clara Picasso's sublime film cleverly uses a Buenos Aires hotel setting as a springboard to examine wider issues, such as male-female power games and the thin boundary that exists between private and public life. Not a single minute is wasted in the film's brisk 64 minutes. Almost at each 20 minute segment, the viewer has to track back to the previous segment to get a clue as to mystery or relationship tussle taking place on screen. The end result is an engaging film.


Stand by for the one of the most brutal and dark films of the year!! The tag 'dark film' is easily thrown around but in the case of R, the tag is entirely justified. The film makes last year's wonderful Un prophète look like a feel good happy film. Besides being completely savage, R is intelligent and that is demonstrated by a clever perspective shift two-thirds into the film which shows the similar hierarchies of two rival gangs.

The Robber

A highly entertaining yet intelligent film. This film is an example that an accessible film can be made without clichés or spoon feeding the audience. The two highs of running and robbing give Johann’s life meaning and it is clear these habits will eventually take a toll on his life. The entire film is defined by fast movement, shown by Johann's marathon runs or his perfectly timed car getaways. Remarkably, the story is not fiction and based on a real life character.

Hunting & Zn

This powerful Dutch film shows how a complicated relationship can be strained when lies and a pregnancy enters the equation. Like last year's brilliant Everyone Else, this film is bold enough to look at the nasty side that exists in all relationships and thereby causes the audience to get deeply involved with the film. As a warning, pregnant women or couples expecting a child might want to brace themselves for an emotionally challenging film.

You All Are Captains

This fascinating award winning black and white film demonstrates that even an improvised film needs a structure to make the work engaging. The film's first 20 minutes feature a filmmaker teaching school kids how to use a camera. The filmmaker has no script or goal in mind and a result, frustrates his students who are puzzled by the filmmaker's motives. After the kids complain, the filmmaker is replaced with another director who gives a structure thereby letting the film's brilliance shine through. The ending of the film in color puts the whole work into perspective including the first 20 minutes. A film and filmmaker to watch out for.

Lucky Life

Lee Isaac Chung deserves a lot of credit for making a poetic film that deals with cancer in such a tender manner that one never gets the sense of impending death that will take over one of the characters. The film is more concerned with mood than specific details as most of the conversations appear to be improvised and not scripted cinema, which adds to the film's fluid flow. The film has a very cool mood around it and when the characters meet each other, there are smiles and tender moments throughout reflecting the strong friendship that exists.

Cold Water of the Sea

This Tiger Award winning film (Rotterdam) adds an artistic layer on top of an accessible coming of age tale. The parallels between a young girl and woman is interestingly shown as the two characters form reflections of each other. The beautiful landscape of Costa Rica contrasts the internal struggles of the characters.

Putty Hill

A unique and interactive film that blurs the line between documentary and fiction. The interactive aspect is executed by having the actors in the frame stop what they are doing and look towards the camera to answer questions by an unseen interviewer. And once they are done answering the questions, the camera steps back and films the action.

And finally, this year there is a Canadian entry in competition -- Snow and Ashes. It is a film that I am looking forward and is the only one that I have not previewed from the 10.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Indian Cinema Spotlight

In international waters Indian cinema’s flag is flown by Bollywood but that is an unfortunate situation because Bollywood is not representative of the rich Indian cinematic culture that exists outside the dream factories of Mumbai. Ofcourse, the problem is that one has to dig deep to uncover those precious Indian films that have been lovingly made away from Bollywood’s shadows. So my goal on a recent trip to India was to come back with some worthy finds. I am quite happy with my loot but I owe a great deal of thanks to my good friends Nitesh at Indian Auteur and Deepa at Film Impressions for helping me track down some of these films. Delhi and Mumbai are packed with many great spots to find Indian films but the trick is knowing someone to navigate the streets to get at these places. Both Nitesh and Deepa led me to places not listed on any website or a map and if weren’t for them, I would have easily walked by these places without giving it a second thought.

Master and Pupil

Uski Roti (1970, Mani Kaul)
Aadmi Ki Aurat Aur Anya Kahaniya (2009, Amit Dutta)

Mani Kaul is easily one of India’s shining auteurs yet his name is absent from most discussions about Indian cinema in North American cinephile circles. So I was delighted to come across his first feature Uski Roti and finally plug a gap in my viewing filmography.

Most people in India had not heard of Amit Dutta when his 2009 feature debut Aadmi Ki Aurat Aur Anya Kahaniya was selected at the Venice Film Festival. Almost a year later, his visually stunning feature is still largely unknown. His new film Nainsukh played at Venice this year and it will be interesting to see if either his new film or the 2009 feature will get a wider audience aside from a small cinephile circle in India or a select few film festivals.

A Marathi Double

Natarang (2010, Ravi Jadhav)
Harishchandrachi Factory (2009, Paresh Mokashi)

Atul Kulkarni is a versatile actor but unfortunately he has not had enough quality roles in recent Bollywood films. So it was interesting to hear the buzz for his role in a local hit Marathi film where he played the two diverse roles of a muscular hunk and an eunuch. The film sounded too good to pass up.

I have had my eye on Harishchandrachi Factory ever since it started making waves in Mumbai in the summer of 2009. Unfortunately, the film never got a proper release in Indian cities or North America for that matter until January/February of this year. The film’s release outside of Maharashtra was certainly aided after the film was selected as India’s official submission for the 2010 Academy Awards.

Two eye opening docs

Final Solution (2003, Rakesh Sharma)
War and Peace (2001, Anand Patwardhan)

I was bowled over by Rakesh Sharma’s insightful 4 hour documentary Final Solution when I first saw it almost 6 years ago. Sharma bravely uncovers the truth about the hatred that led to the Hindu-Muslim clashes in Gujarat 2002. It is a film that has stayed with me over the years and is something I always wanted to revisit.

Anand Patwardhan is also known for bravely taking his camera to locales where the Indian media rarely goes in search of the truth. Yet I had never been able to see any of his docs so I am glad to finally see one of his films.

Looking back, looking ahead

Garam Hawa (1973, M.S. Sathyu)
Road, Movie (2009, Dev Benegal)

2 Auteurs x 3

The Visitor (1991, Satyajit Ray)
Ganashatru (1990, Satyajit Ray)
Ghare-Baire (1984, Satyajit Ray)

Subarnarekha (1965, Ritwik Ghatak)
Komal Gandhar (1961, Ritwik Ghatak)
Nagarik (1952, Ritwik Ghatak)

Future Indian spotlights

I had no intention of having a regional spotlight but instead wanted to focus on some directors. As it turned out, South Indian cinema was absent from this list. So a future spotlight will focus exclusively on South Indian cinema and contain a blend of artistic and genre films.

Another future spotlight will only tackle the growing B-grade cinema that is once again making inroads in India. One could argue that B-grade Indian cinema never really went away but instead has now managed to attract more attention. Still, I am curious to visit this cinema to find out if any of the plots have changed over the course of the last few decades.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Buon Americano

The American (2010, USA, Anton Corbijn): 10/10

Over the years, I have seen some wonderful film posters in New Delhi, Mumbai, Madrid, Rotterdam, Paris & London but the only posters that I have come across in Canada have been run of the mill dull copies promoting the next commercial venture. Which is why I stopped in my tracks when I laid my eyes on The American's poster.

This stunning poster etched out a 1960's-70's time period with George Clooney appearing to be a James Bond like figure. A lone man, a hero?, dashing away with a gun in his hand away from the watchful eye of a woman (femme fatale?) in the background.

That was it. For the first time in my life, I made up my mind to watch a film based on a poster. The only other information I bothered to look up was the director's name. I avoided reading the story or seeing the trailer.

A gamble of sorts.

And remarkably, the gamble paid off nicely because The American is a beautiful, rewarding artful film. It is a film that allows us to calmly admire the Italian landscape and quietly observe Jack/Edward (Clooney) at work or during his moments of lovemaking to a beautiful Italian woman named Clara (Violante Placido). There is no needless dialogue to take us away from the events filling the frame and the expressions of the characters give enough clues as to their motives. No time is wasted in explaining Jack's background but there are enough clues presented to allow viewers to fill in their own version of a back story. Also, the film cleverly creates moments of tension with simple situations and a rich soundtrack.

Now, Jack is not a stranger to the cinematic screen after all. Variations of his lonely assassin for hire have graced cinema for decades be it in the form of a spy, an outlaw (say in a Sergio Leone film) or a criminal but the big difference that Anton Corbijn and writer Rowan Joffe have made is to remove bloodshed and explosive action sequences from the equation. As a result, the film is a polished and thoughtful work of art that is completely engaging.

Lonely men in Europe sitting in a cafe

The closest association to The American in my mind is Jim Jarmusch's wonderful The Limits of Control as the main characters in both films are assassins who travel across Europe, spend time enjoying a cup of coffee in a cafe and cross paths with interesting enticing women. The one big difference is that The Limits of Control has an element of humour around it whereas The American is a bit more serious although it does contain brief moments of lightness. Also, The Limits of Control presents the story in abstract clues that have to be put together whereas most details in The American are presented clearly as the story moves along.

Surpizingly both The Limits of Control and The American have been savaged by North American critics for being "pretentious art house films". Hmmm. Both films have long takes, little dialogue and no loud explosions. So are those enough reasons to dismiss these films? Hardly. And even the nudity in The American has gotten some complaints as it has been used as an excuse to further the film's European art-house label.

For me The American is one of the best films of the year. Yet, I have a feeling this film will be quietly ignored by most even though it can be found playing in a multiplex. But this is a film that deserves to be seen.