Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ordet (The Word) 1955 CF Dreyer

This is a stately, solemn, beautiful film about Christian faith, set in Holland. In essence, it is about the drift of religion from its roots in the course of time. We have the picture of splintering of religion into schools, and ritualism, when its original purpose, as well as power, is lost in a mist of oblivion. The movie maintains its grip through a solid plot as well as beautiful direction and photography of an erstwhile Dutch society in an orderly agrarian background: barns, horse carriages, corn fields, antiquated telephones, automobiles and medical practice. Revolving around weighty questions of life and death, it ends with a powerful, illuminating climax. To quote a review: It uncoils, when it moves at all, like a majestic snail.
Old Review

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Distant Thunder

The Bengal Famine of 1943 took a toll of 2 to 5 millions. It was caused by diversion of food supplies due to war needs in SE Asia. The present film is a masterpiece of understatement. The camera telescopes on the lives of a village and scrutinizes the lives of a few characters. Ray is incapable of losing the human focus and we see the schoolmaster and his beautiful wife sucked into desperation by the scarcities. Not only is it about a society in the grip of famine but the stranglehold of hunger and the sinking human spirit. To quote Vincent Canby, it is like seeing it all from a satellite, and observing both the curvature of the earth and the play of tiny insects.

Old Review


This is a drama of two women. Rudderless and tossed on the powerful waves of life, they struggle to find some mooring: the elder, an actress, takes on a decision of total silence; the younger, her nurse. manages from situation to situation. The film is a series of kaleidoscopic black and white images,of interiors, lamp-lit, or seascapes, stunning in their geometric simplicity. Sven Nyqvist has nowhere else been this good. A curtain wafting in the evening breeze, a bus departing on a deserted road fringing the sea, the grains of the skin. This is a short, satisfying film, and a thing of beauty doesn't need deciphering.
Old review

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sardar 1993

This riveting biopic portrays the events leading to independence and partition. Excellent direction, competent acting and the inherent interest in this historical drama make this a learning experience worth the investment of nearly three hours.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nishant 1975 Benegal

A schoolmaster's wife is abducted and  held captive by the sons of a feudal landlord, in Telangana countryside, in the earlier part of previous century. The story culminates in a small  uprising of the villagers leading to the destruction of the landlord's family.  Perhaps the strongest performance is by Amrish Puri, as the villainous landlord. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Bose the Forgotten Hero Benegal 2004

This is atypical Benegal, though one senses the confident directorial touch through long patches. It is three and a half hours long, and one's patience is finally exhausted, specially in the battle scenes in the last hour: which is to say that ones curiosity to learn about this less told history sustains interest sufficiently to sail to the end. This may best be described as a Bollywood epic, and the initial two thirds is enjoyable, liberally peppered with ribaldry and humor, not to mention sentimentality of the tear jerking type. Romance also finds a niche. But I certainly come out with a clear outline picture of the events narrated as well as sketches of the personalities involved. It is no mean achievement to have conceived and made this movie. Rahman's beautiful score is a not the least of attractions.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Particle Fever 2013

The LHC (large hadron collides) is a monumental machine built over 20 years at a cost of five billion dollars to further results about the structure of matter. Though the subject is far too advanced for anyone but specialists, the movie conveys the excitement and passion of scientific research, as well as its collaborative nature at its present stage of development, involving thousands of people. The LHC is claimed to involve team work on a scale comparable to the pyramids.

The present film describes experiments to confirm the existence and mass of the Higgs Boson, a subatomic particle crucial for the advance of studies related to the nature of the universe (the elusive particle is also nick named "god particle" in the media, making professionals squirm). The film ends in the triumphant confirmation of its existence in 2012. Its mass, speculated between 115 and 140 proton masses, would determine which of two theories about the cosmos are tenable. A lighter mass would favor "super symmetry" whereas a higher one would favor "multiverses". The latter would spell a bleak future for the field, a roadblock dreaded by its practitioners. But then the LHC comes out with a joyful value of 125 or so, favoring neither theory, leaving the field of research wide open.

A highly informative, nicely filmed, documentary.

"The things which have absolutely no value for survival are the very things that make us human."

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Making of the Mahatma 1996 Shyam Benegal

Between Attenborough's and Benegal's biopics there is little to choose: they are complementary. Both are excellent and very different. Attenborough's has an epic sweep through English eyes: Benegal's is more intimate and very human. It deals with the years in S Africa till he left for the larger canvas of India., The film gives an authentic portrayal of the many decisive turning points of the years in Africa. Rajit Kapur and Pallavi Joshi are outstanding in lead roles. Benegal is a director with a sure touch for the Indian psyche, and the expanse of vision to portray historical events. This is seen not only in his feature films but also in his miniseries.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

King: A Filmed Record... Montgomery to Memphis 1970

This authentic documentary based on raw footage shorn of commentary brings alive the the concluding decade of King's life. We see the surging demonstrators confronting the armed and rabidly racist authorities. The picture emerges of a morally inspired leader of great power of communication who is able to inspire peoples of diverse skin colors into action, even to the extent of risking life. This film is a great educational experience. An interesting feature was his mobilisation of the power of music in unifying people using some of the great voices that decorate this era.