Thursday, April 7, 2016

Son of Saul 2015

Evading the propriety of linking aesthicism with a film on the holocaust, it is undeniable that this is a work of art. The foulness has been best conveyed in  Pasolini's Salo 1979, Son of Saul is stunning from the first shot as we, the viewers, are parachuted to the centre of action as a fresh convoy with its  human "cargo" is being herded into the gas chamber. Immediately we are plunged into a world of paralyzed terror. Families with children holding fingers are quickly herded with smooth promises of work,  soup and bathing. The cinematic POV is that of Saul Auslander, a sondercommando. The first shot is hazy and out of focus crystallizing into the chaotic sounds  and visuals. It is a picture of chaos both in the environment and the mind of Saul. The machinery of the camp, itself a masterwork of satanic ingenuity, moves with brisk efficiency. More than anything the film is a masterly narrative of interwoven sounds: barking orders, shrieks, guns, dogs, clangs and thuds. The visuals are unclear and barely decipherable: it is the sounds that tell the hypnotic tale. It is a tonal poem.

The film is idealistic at core, as Saul, throughout the film, frenziedly searches for a rabbi to perform the last rites on the body of a teenage boy he has improbably chosen to believe is his son. He makes this his driving goal. This is what causes the glow of the spirit in this pit of degradation.This is what makes it the antithesis of the redemption less The Grey Zone which had the same scenario. This point the director declared emphatically in an interview.

The director is a mere 39, having experienced this strip of time through the loss of close family members. His mother told him her self experienced unsparing truth at the age of five, and, in his own words, the holocaust is genetically imprinted in him. The film is mesmeric, unlike anything I have seen. A masterpiece mature like Picasso's greatest painting. The subject deserves treatment more merciless like Pasoloini's Salo: 120 days of Sodom. Maybe it,s more about human triumph than about a death camp. Hope is more absolute than despair even in this worst of settings. After all the film is rightly titled after the son, not the father.

Director: Laszlos Nemes

Friday, October 30, 2015

Murder on the Orient Express (1974).....Trains

One of the unputdownable films I have seen. One of it's attractions is the cinematography of a thirties steam locomotive in all it's moods as it wends across Europe. It brings to mind other train sequences in films. A train is an image of power, irreversible change, romance and tragedy. A favorite has been Dr Zhivago's train shooting through the snows of Siberia in the 1900s. There is The Bridge on the Kwai, as the armoured train unloads its baggage of prisoners. Casablanca has a scene of parting on a rainy station during WW2, as romantic, doomed and rending as they come. One can't forget the suicide scene in the 1935 Garbo version of Karenina, as the train silently dissapears into the beyond after the last flicker of Anna's life. Schindler's List has some magnificent sequences. On Vincent Canby suggestion I'm looking forward to The Lady Vanishes. Trains stand for doom, rebirth, change. A steaming engine scores in visual beauty with its billows of smoke and steam and shovelled coal. Journeys used to take a long time and places too had a romance which is gone with abbreviated travel. A steam engine is a living breathing animal.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Battle of Algiers 1966

This is about the liberation of Algeria from French colonial rule of 130 years. Independence finally happened in 1962. The film is made in documentary style and gives a vivid, realistic, blood soaked panoramic view of this social movement of the late fifties. The conflict is minutely etched by placing a couple of well fleshed characters under the lens. We see the rising tidal wave of a poorly armed population against the relative might of the French. It is considered a classic on urban guerrilla war. The movement starts out in a small way, a hand full of determined individuals, gathering momentum as a large populace is embraced in its unstoppable flow. The urban landscape is eloquently captured, the marketplaces, the crowds, calm or surging. A very authentic film about history in the process of making.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Piku 2015

This movie is a first of a kind, Bollywood wise,at least for me, a bit out of touch with its current incarnations.. It is not a comedy, since its humor erupts naturally out of situations and is free of inanities. It puts under the microscope the life and problems of daily life which we all face like domestic help and gastritis.The script scintillates with a heady mixture of languages. It sparkles with wit and creativity. The movie script is built around a trip from Delhi to Kolkatta on an SUV, in which the panorama of landscape attractively unrolls. A sensitive portrayal of the upper middle class. Amitabh has another chance to express his theatrical genius while Deepika Padukone gives a masterly performance. This is the maturing of Bollywood and great things will come.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Midnight's Children 2012

This is possibly the best of Deepa Mehta's movies. Rushdie's novel is an inspired flight in which he expresses his own enrapturement with with the country of his birth, through this magical portrayal of the post independence period up to the time of writing. Deepa Mehta does justice to the poetic novel, a kind of Indian Kipling. Rushdie is a man of fusion of cultures with overflowing zest for life, and a sentimentality which is only possible for those at a nostalgic remove.