Film Review: A separation

A_SeparationAny modern day sincere film-viewer cannot but be a fan of intricate neo-realist Iranian dramas. The way the pioneer film-makers like Kiorostami or modern masters like Majidi or Panahi or Fahadi captures intricate drama in the celluloid is not only worth watching but savouring to its last bit. A separation, is a complex drama as well, unlayering the story of through baring different characters  in a magnanimous yet minimalist way.

The film opens with a scene of appeal for separation between the parents of a 11 year old girl whose mother don’t see a future of her daughter and her family in the country, while her father clinges on to whatever he has: his octogenarian invalid father, his meagre existence in an apartment and a regular day job, and his daughter. Somehow the psychology of the middle-class of the entire nation, torn between the wish to flee away and the will to stay and fight, is alluded in a single opening sequence.

The story unfolds more, to involve other characters as he hires a working class guy  to look after his father, only to find his wife to come to his apartment to fill up for him. Thereon, things turn to more complexity, more tragedy, more  commotion and intricacy with incidents precipitating over each other. To the credit of the director, never for once did he try to work with the dichotomy of protagonist and antagonist. Refraining from daubing characters into particular negative or positive light is something not only strengthened this film, but also put the motion into a very fine tune. The inner turmoil of each character is not only palpable throughout the film, but also the strength and weakness of every character, their vulnerability and reciprocity is something almost oozes out of the screen with each turn of camera.

The performance of each actors and actresses is top notch, like you expect in most of these Iranian films which usually heavily really upon the virtuosity of the actors and actresses and they never let the director down. A separation was no exception. The use of child actors in crucial roles is something almost indigenous to Iranian masters and this film is no different in that respect either. So to conclude, I would say that this gem of a film is a must watch, especially for those who cannot live without the works of Iranian masters.

 

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Film Review: Footnote

Footnote_(poster_art)The intricacy of the father-son relation meets the bitterness of a self-obsessed unrecognized genius: this is what the highly critically acclaimed film “Footnote” comprises. Among myriad of comedic moment of the film, the darkness of ambivalence, the reticent love and affection and the vociferated wrath, all are co-mingled with a touch of distant indifference and that was turned the work from a intense drama set in the world of academics, to a relatable humane effort.

While one cannot fail to notice that the story is full of oxymoronic elements: such as the exposure of rivalry and acerbity amid the pristine-looking whitehead academicians, the envy of the father to his son’s success who to the contrary upholds him as his inspiration; the private disdain confronts the publicly showing affection of the son, never finding the recognition of his own father while the world approves of him; all in all the film is there to stay with its viewer, not to prove a point, not to ram it home with intense drama, but as a bitter-sweet taste that does not go away.

Film Review: The wave (Die Welle, 2008)

Diewelle_poster

The engineering of consent for an autocratic regime amid the apparently chaotic cohort is an intriguing subject visited and revisited by the artists and story-tellers all throughout the twentieth century. Is there a servile aspect in our character ready to obey a sinister idea and a vain promise? Is there a masochistic side we share that is ever-so glutton for punishment? The wave touches all of these and more.

Rainer, a high school teacher is assigned to teach a class about autocracy.  He agreed with sincere discontent as he feels the subject to be away from him as much as it can. Still he makes a sincere effort to make his students, a bunch of unruly teenagers apparently miles away from believing anything, let alone authoritarianism, to understand the core concept through a week-long social experiment: forming a group called The Wave. With his charisma and openness, Rainer brings the idea of autocracy into light, using the classical tools that any tyrannical leader uses: asking to be better than a fictitious other (here the anarchism class taught by a fellow teacher), urging to stand together and invoke awe into the heart of others through that unity, feel to be a part of a whole larger than one individual, find a common purpose and work for it. In some strange away, the youngsters of a very affluent society, apparently dissociated from any ideological tenets, feel drawn to the entire fiasco, as in someway they are ravenous for finding a meaning of their otiose existence. The events of the film gradually descends into much more baleful affair, leaving us with awe and disdain, vainglory and disgrace.

The most important feature of The wave is its narrative of an anarchist harbouring a side famished for power that he himself was unaware of. It is what makes the film from a mere insight into the human psyche to a soul-searching mirror for all of us.

Film Review: Chop shop

215px-ChopShop_poster3Ramin Bahrani tells us the story of an America that is excluded and marginalised, an America that lives on the fringes of well-being barely surviving with its handful of resources, an America that does not ridicule the American dream but rather mournfully observes the affluence that pushed it away. Chop shop is the story of that Americatn underbelly, seedy, sordid and gritty.

The twelve year old Alejandro works at the repair shop of New York. Occasionally he has to work as a street hawker or in a ‘chop shop’ (Chop shop is a workshop where a vehicle, often stolen, is dismantled and sold in parts). His sister Izzy works on as a food supplier from a van while at night secretly sells her body in order to earn enough money to rid themselves off the poverty by trying to realize their mutual dream: to own a food supply van.

Eventually, through their hardship they manage to gather enough bucks tho buy a dilapidated van from Ale’s friend Carlos’ uncle only to be informed later that the van is not fit for the purpose and would cost too much to fix. Enraged, he attacks Carlos in public, only to understand the futility of the whole scheme: their endeavours and their dreams, their struggles and their vain attempt of escaping, all are meant to feed another chop shop where every part of their soul is to be broken, shattered, dismantled and sold cheaply as a part of an exorbitant dream.

The way Bahrani approaches the nude and rude realism frame by frame is immensely laudable. One cannot help but observe the effects of the neorealist movement of Iranian masters in the work of this promising film-maker who is, certainly, going to provide many more gems in days to come.

 

Film Review: The Quiet American (2002)

220px-Quiet_americanThe best way to capture a Graham Green novel on the silver screen is perhaps to remain true to the writer. Phillip Noyce does exactly that to produce this excellent political thriller that Hollywood has produced in last decade.

Michael Caine plays the British war correspondent Thomas Fowler placed in Saigon in French ruled Indo-china. The battle for independence against the French colonialism is tearing the nation apart while the colonialists and the Communist regime from the southern part of the country is battling it out in the hinterlands of the unfortunate country. Fowler, the reluctant observer and commentator, meets an idealist American health worker Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) who befriends him and seems to be holding the naive idea that instead of colonial power or communist regime Vietnam needs a third force to rule itself. While Fowler grows fond of Pyle, a rift appears in between their relation when Pyle falls for Fowler’s lover. Knowing that Fowler is married and his obstinate wife is not willing to grant a divorce, his lover realises that there’s no future with him and she leaves with Pyle. While this affects Fowler personally and professionally, he tries to cope by immersing himself into his work which leads him to see clearly through the murky water of politics, the bigger forces playing under the hood of small crooks and the true face of the familiar ones around him. The story is not only how the things are ugly and gruesome underneath, but also how the macabre world compels one to take side. The film perfectly depicts what Green novel intended: the end of nook for a dispassionate observer in the modern world where everyone must take a position.

Taking a note of the adaptation of the novel in silver screen in 1958 and in 2002, one can see the evolution of Hollywood. The first installment of 1958 was a thinning of political undertones of the novel, rendering it a rather trite patriotic war drama. On the contrary, Noyce’s adaptation was as sinister and as breathtaking as Green’s novel truly is.

Film Review: Heartbeats (Les Amours Imaginaires)

Xavier_Dolan_HeartbeatsXavier Dolan is one of the most promising film-makers of recent time. With his first film I killed my mother he showed the prospect of turning out sincere dramatist on the silver screen. With his second outing as director, in Heartbeats or Les Amours Imaginaires, Dolan depicts another emotion laden drama of friendship and love and other tributaries of the quasi-amorous relations.

Francis and Marie, two friends, meets Nicolas in a party and both of them felt attracted to the charming young man whose sexuality is not evident. The film goes on telling us the story where both of them pursue Nicolas as his and her lover, trying to build an image of him within their own mind according to one’s own convenience. They find other partners for sexual gratification, thus baring the emotional bankruptcy in the age of easy promiscuity. The generation to which Dolan himself belongs, is a generation fatigued by making love without loving and thus it is portrayed not with indifference or with hostility, but with care, how this generation flails for love all the same. Perhaps this is the strongest trait of the film.

While making a film on a subject somewhat hackneyed by overuse by all the other directors over the years, Dolan remains true to his own strength of story-telling with tinge of experimental form. His use of humour is restrained and hence effective. The use of background music especially in a scene where Bach’s cello song was playing on the back, it truly elevated the film in totality. So Heartbeat should be watched not only to observe the signatures of a young promising film-maker on the silver-screen, but also to watch a very fresh take on a subject we all thought we have left behind.

Film Review: Manic

220px-Manic_FilmPosterSomehow Gordon-Levitt ends up bagging roles in films that are wonderfully scripted and engaging as hell. Manic is no different. It is a film about a bunch of teenagers committed to a psychiatric facility by their families and while most are trying in vain to deal with their problems, the protagonist, portrayed by Levitt is in denial of his afflictions. His problem with impulse control disorder is depicted not only through the jerky camera work or the gritty sequences but by the virtuous performance by Levitt himself who, even in those early days, were showing distinct promise.

The film is more or less woven around the central character: how he befriends his inmates, how he finds hostility and love in the incarceration, how his problem with his father and his abandonment issue haunts him and finally how he accepts his problem as an integral part of himself, not in a bleak giving up sense, but with the silent pledge to work through this. The only occasions the story veers somewhere else is to show the predicaments of Dr. Monroe (portrayed by Don Cheadle), the resident psychiatrist of the facility. The seasoned under-rated actor curved out another good performance as the psychiatrist and friend and guardian of the troubled young kids.

So does the film presents us with something groundbreaking? An affirmative no. But is Manic worth watching? Definitely.