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.

 

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: Before Midnight

Before_Midnight_posterThe third installment of a movie trilogy with an interconnected story-line is invariably the worst one. From Godfather to Matrix, from Terminator to X-men film series: the result is unanimous (except may be Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy). Before Midnight, successfully breaks the chain, finishing as a film as dazzling, as engaging, as gorgeous as its two predecessors were. Both of its predecessors: Before sunrise and Before sunset were critically acclaimed sleeper hits, marking new territory of film making where the script does not have to be ‘dumbed down’ or made exotic or action packed to keep the viewers engrossed to the screen. In a way, Linklater did not have such a burden of delivering like this time since nobody expected anything out of the ordinary from those earlier films: almost made out of whim of a intellectual film-maker. But the positive reviews and critical acclaim that those two films accruing through the years rendered the job of Linklater harder, putting undue pressure upon him to make this third journey perfect: and to no one’s surprise he did deliver.

This time the story has progressed a  lot from the last time (in Before Sunset) where we were left in the apartment of Celine (Delpy) with Jesse (Hawke) missing his plane with the camera moving away leaving us in the plain of hope and uncertainty. This time we discovered that Jesse and Celine had been with each other more or less since that time, raising their twin daughters while at the same time trying to keep in touch with Jesse’s son from his earlier marriage. Celine and Jesse are not married but in a stable relation as a couple could be, currently spending their vacation in Greece. Unlike the other two films, here we are introduced to a lot of other characters at the initial part, most of them being fellow writers of Jesse and their family members who are also spending holiday at the house of an septuagenarian Greek writer and his grandson. The addition of these characters and their involvement in the random philosophizing of the couple that had been the forte of the entire film series is what broke the shackle of boredom and immediately reinforced the film on its own ground.

Later the film resorted to the form of its predecessor where two central characters are rambling through the streets of a small town, exchanging their views on life, self, love, existence, state of being and many other eternal subjects, enjoying the views around. Only these time they ended up spending their evening in a hotel room talking to each other. The conversations remained as engaging as ever but only became a bit more contesting and caustic owing to the friction of their living by each other constantly. The fear of Celine to be domesticated into an ordinary housewife and the concern of Jesse of failing as a father to his estranged son brought out in a magnificent way. The emotion between them are palpable even after all these years, reminding the viewers of the predecessor films on multiple occasions.

Two most critical junctures of the film: the emerging of Jesse from the airport after bidding his son goodbye and the finishing sequence where he is reading the fictitious letter to Celine from her future self are perhaps the ones that showed the indisputable strength of Linklater as a film maker. Watching the credits roll on, the audience cannot help but chant like Celine (while watching an ethereal sunset earlier): still there, still there, still there…. as if trying to hold on to the last pieces of profound impact the film series had left inside of them.

Film Review: Amour (2012)

220px-Amour-poster-frenchMichael Haneke‘s film Amour won almost all the awards there was to win around all the prestigious film festivals over the world and more: it actually made Hollywood consider it for the best picture category (though it lost to, surprise, surprise, not Lincoln, not Beast of the Southern Wild, not even Les Miserables, but to Argo).

Jokes apart; considering all the elements of film making, Amour is a diamond curved almost to perfection. It is the epitome of adept film-making by a seasoned master who, like Kieselwoski, took a rather simple, tender, homely plot and treated it to build a flawless paragon. In an age when budget for film-making is increasing within a wink of an eye, Haneke made a film almost indistinguishable from a stage drama completely shot within indoors and portrayed by a very few actors and actresses.

The story is a rather dull sounding yet miraculously captivating tale of an old couple trying to find their way in a life when one of the partners is ailing and trudging towards senselessness. Anne, an octogenarian piano teacher, lives with her husband. Their stale uneventful existence is queried when Anne suddenly suffers from a stroke. A surgery was performed but to no avail and her condition worsened as she suffered  from hemiplegia. The rest of the film is about how Anne is taken care by George who promised her not to send back to hospital or to any care center, his cold brush-off with their skeptic daughter, his struggle to hold on to the last traces of consciousness and sanity of his only companion. Like always, Haneke uses metaphors and allegories abundantly with minimalist music and charming cinematography to his aid. The simple tale is told simply, without adulterating with unnecessary complication. The serene yet cynic ending has a twist, just to the amount that was required and thus love between the two protagonists that throbbed throughout the film did not die away following the end of the last sequence.

Truly speaking Amour is the magnum opus of Haneke. Keeping in mind his earlier acclaimed works such as White ribbon or Cache, Amour would still outweigh any of them given its depth, its surreal ambiance, its dreamlike aura and the scathing passion that it communicates to its viewer without resorting to any melodramatic element.

Film Review: Trust (2010)

TrustDavid Schwimmer tries his hand on direction and comes up with a film laden with strong performances and gravid story-telling. Sure, he made some British comedy as his directorial debut that perhaps even he doesn’t remember anymore; but with Trust Schwimmer genuinely entered the realm of film making.

Trust could have been reduced into another mindless Hollywood production on child-abuse, the subject that with or without its nuances, had been pictured in the recent past so many times that it seems to have redefined the scene of the so-called teen movies. Trust, certainly, a film with subtleties, portraying the insecurities, anhedonia and afflictions of not just the central character played by Liana Liberato to perfection, but also of her parents, her friends and the society that observes her with guilt and ambivalence.

Clive Owen puts in one of his usual robust performances adding a certain flair to the film without which it would have died out to be a shocker without the drama. Clive adds the drama to the flick with more than adequate aid from Liana and together, with a hint of melodrama, they took the film to a different layer.

The ending scene is truly remarkable since it ascertained that the film does not fall in the same trap of dehumanizing the perpetrator as earlier films like The Winter’s bone. For that Schwimmer deserves a special mention.

 

Film Review: Excision

If novelty and shock-value is set as a bench mark for the greatness of a film, Excision is definitely a great one, but unfortunately a film is expected to be much more than that.

The film Excision cannot decide if it is going to be a dark comedy or a horror films and in that indecisiveness lies the strength or weakness of the film. I am never really much of a fan of a typical ‘genre’ movie Hollywood often regurgitates as a factory product and hence, for me Excision is definitely worth watching, but I must admit that the film may not suit everyone’s stomach.

Excision_posterThe Director evidently stole a page from the books of Passolini when he described the vivid horrid erotic dreams of a sociopathic teen-ager girl who is the central character of the film. Her position as a social pariah and her venture to reject the world back at her own expense is something touches many hearts. Had the character been penned more sympathetically, it would have been a better watch for the most, but the script-writer was hell-bent to create characters that are very hard to like or love. Whatever emotional attachments one may feel with the central character is shattered in the final bizarre scene which somehow reminded me of the novel (and the film) “We need to talk about Kevin”.

There are some brilliant sequences in the film: apart from the disturbing sexual dreams and practices shown, the candid confessions made by the girl, the stubborn stupidity of her mother, the emasculated father, the orthodox society around everything created a world of its own. But then again the film is not an attack on conservative America, at least not intentionally, though a few scenes, such as the dim-witted reverend’s psychoanalysis, the mother describing Afro-Americans as generally a straying populace, the school-principal worshipping George Bush and Ronald Regan, may make one wonder if the psychosexual disturbance and angst described in the protagonist is but the reaction to that orthodoxy and zealotry.

The film’s resolution to be a difficult watch and to remain unlikable is something not often seen. Perhaps that’s why it would remain a very distinct work amid the generic products of horror.

Lyrical ballad in the face of decimation; Film Review: Perfect Sense

Perfect_Sense Sometimes a film struck us as a bolt of lightning. It is hard to discern what makes these films special: perhaps a few strong performances, perhaps the eloquent script, perhaps a director who almost inadvertently produced a magnum opus. The film Perfect Sense is the summation of all of them and perhaps even more.

The story is set in the present or near future when an epidemic of an unnamed disease starts to spread rapidly yet silently through the entire populace of the world: thus turning into pandemic. Eva Green, playing one of the protagonists, an epidemiologist, can do nothing but watch silently that the world immersing into senselessness. An emotional catharsis of any kind followed by loss of a particular sensory perception is the form of the disease: the smell is the first sense to go followed by an abrupt feat of grief. The disease seemed innocuous enough not be taken seriously: but the other senses soon follow. Next to go is taste followed by an attack of manic guilt and gluttony; then hearing followed by an impulse of hate speech and violent behaviour. And at the finality of the film the vision is to depart, leaving the screen dark, with the two protagonists seeking each other, finding each other, ending up in each others arms. The portrayal of human struggle to continuously cope up with the gradually befalling annihilation is so magnificent that it leaves one breathless. Ewan McGregor, cast in the part of a cook, trying to find the way to come in terms with his personal demons as well as the new professional crisis performed superbly. Eva Green, in her usual withdrawn way, sets another strong performance of the likes of the films such as ‘Crack’ or ‘Womb’. Her husky voice, taking the viewers through the events on voice-over, mingled with a great back-ground score brings the mood the director wanted to depict: the sense of fatalism.

In fact the entire film, with the unlikelihood of a sci-fi movie, is actually dipped into the Christian myth of sin and sense of guilt, trying to evade the demons, personal, multitudinous and otherwise and failing, and accepting finally, succumbing in a fatalistic way, finding love and self and an immense joy of being alive. The film, even under the hood of its fatalistic overture, celebrates life and that will keep it memorable for a long time.