Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Spielberg, 2011, 107m

It is a delight to find the great little adventure seeker resurrected from the vaults of memory, this time as a three dimensional film, complete with his retinue of Haddock, Thompsons, Snowy. The backdrops of sea, desert and exotic lands are assembled with abandonment. Tintin, Haddock and the dog are the most convincingly human. The Thompsons are presented as charming marionettes. The character of Tintin has been assembled to add another dimension while preserving the earnest, upright and intrepid persona that we knew once upon a time.  The pace of the film is somewhat hectic compared to the leisurely adventures of the comic series. A highly enjoyable film.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


2011, Scorcese, 126m

Warm as a christmas carol, this  story about a pair of lovable children is a dickensian painting come to life. The film has a dreamlike, fairytale quality. Not least of the attractions is the wonderful acting. The liquid human face with its melting  expressions is another. The film features an automaton which is more human than humans.

An orphan boy with a genius for repairing clockwork gadgets is being  hounded by a wonderfully characterized policeman. The imagery of clockworks and rotating wheels and meshes of gears pervades the film pehaps as a metaphor for life. Scorcese is a renowned conservator of film and he esconces his own passion for the medium by narrating the history of cinema through the life of one of it's forgotten pioneers, Georges Melier.

The film itself is a complex piece of clockwork and is cinema for cinema's sake and certainly grabs your attention for its span. And surely 3D works fine here because if there is one thing in the universe that is three dimensional, it is a railway station!

A rich gourmet feast of cinema specially for sensitive children and adults.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Iron Lady

2011, 108m, Meryl Streep

The subject matter of a film is as important as how well it is made, and often determines the viewing decision. This is a biopic about Margaret Thatcher which thoroughly brings to life the persona of this evolved and charismatic individual of character. It gives us a glimpse of the events and tumultuous times when she was in office and also an insight into the system of governance and quality of leadership which has been responsible for the power, influence and achievements of this small country. Meryl Streep, with her monumental talent, has captred her subject in all dimensions, from spirit to mannerism. Cinematically, there may be elements of simplisticism, but cinema, like books, is a medium of education, as much as a pure art form, and this was time usefully spent.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


2011, 100m

This is a superbly crafted, tightly wound, mobster film replete with violence delivered with finesse and decorated with adequate amount of gore. As Francis Ford Cappola said with reference to his Godfather series, murder is such an unpleasant thing that it must be presented in an unusual form to make it interesting. This film may be an accelerated progeny of that illustrious and revered mother of the gangster genre. The cinematography is state of art, with the glittering panoramic spread of a nocturnal metropolis as the dazzling back drop. A roller coaster of a movie.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Rapture

1991, 100m

The term "Rapture" in Biblical terms refers to the predicted end of the world and the re-appearance of Christ. Sharon is an American woman trying to discover herself through a life of dissipation and pleasure. Then she becomes part of a cult group to whom the imminence of Rapture is being revealed through a shared dream. She is commanded to proceed to the desert along with her daughter where she is to encounter the maker en route to heaven. But things do not exactly turn out as per schedule. Stern questions about faith turn up and the swift momentum of the film sputters to an inconclusive end, neither raising nor answering any deep questions. The film ends on a note of bleak despair, supernatural intervention notwithstanding. Its more relevant in its depiction of the hazards of fundamentalism.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Artist

2011, Michel Hazanavicius, 96m

A silent film made in 2012! This is a multi-faceted gem of a black and white film. It is a beautifully crafted chronicle of the thirties when movies became talkies. At the same time it is a humane and sentimental drama which tugs at the strings of emotion. It even has tiny super dog. If one goes by the dictum that what matters is how a film goes about doing what its about, one would have to concede full marks. Perhaps it is about the pangs of change (in this case film technology) as the film triumphantly erupts into sound in the last scenes. The film is among the contenders for the best film Oscar which is what prompted me to see it. It is a made as though in a bygone era but with all the benefits of evolution of the state of the art. The film is a wonder, a curiosity, and if one may dare use the word, a masterpiece.

A O Scott's review

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Apostle

1997, Robert Duvall (dir), 128m

An apostle by definition is an envoy, an ambassador. His job is to speak out on behalf of his master, not to hold his tongue. Robert Duvall in this movie is the irrepressible messenger, who seems born for the profession of a pastor. Garrulous, poetic, passionate, above all a peerless showman, he also has a violent streak, which at times gets the better of him. This is a character study, reminiscent of Zorba the Greek. Incidentally, it gives us a vivid picture of the swinging Christendom that is certain quarters of the US.

Duvall, of Godfather and Apocalypse Now fame, gives an unforgettable performance, in this film which smells of the earth that is the common people, the heady mixture of black and white that is America, and Christian faith, shorn of theology or dogma, in rural pristine vigor.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Higher Ground

2011, 2 hours, Vera Varmiga (dir)

This is a lucid film about the life of an American family steeped in the Christian faith. The family is embedded in a community which mutually sustains and encourages the belief system. The beliefs they hold seem to make their lives more meaningful, bearable and satisfying by being moored in something. On the other hand they invite obvious ridicule and revulsion from another section of the community as "predatory religious nuts". Another viewpoint sees the life of faith as here portrayed as being sterile and bereft of aesthetic and human dimensions. The whole portrait is of a lukewarm and fossilized approach, which can only be sustained by huge contortions of logic, with the mere fruit of a nice feeling. Corrine, the heroine, is torn between different viewpoints, whereas her chance acquaintance Liam represents the viewpoint of a sensitive secular person who has no powerful compulsions to belief. A vivid picture of Christianity in the modern world in quarters where it is taken seriously. At least it manages to express a human being's inherent spiritual and philosophical needs. It is a fair multi-dimensional and ambivalent portrait, swinging between satire and admiration, with faith scoring the last word as a primary human need.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


2009, 90m, France, Jessica Hausner (dir), Sylvia Testud (as Christine)

Lourdes, a town of picturesque beauty on the mountainous French Spanish border, is the site of the attributed repeated visitations by the Virgin Mary to a peasant girl, in the nineteenth century. Sixty miraculous cures have been officially recognized by the Church among the millions who visit this place of pilgrimage and tourism. This film involves us in the Lourdes experience through young Christine, afflicted with incurable multiple sclerosis. She does miraculously rise from her wheelchair, but will it last? Or maybe it is one of the documented rare cases of temporary remission? The phenomenon is examined from the faith, skeptical, medical and clergical viewpoints, giving us a cross section of views, wisely avoiding conclusions.

The term Lourdes Effect has been coined by a philosopher, which states that the powers that be reveal themselves if at all in less than unambiguous terms. If they did, faith would be unnecessary, putting the cart in front of the horse. The precious commodity of faith is not served platter full by God. The film repeatedly states the religious viewpoint that after all its the spirit that primarily needs to be healed, and it is this healing if it occurs which is the true miracle. (Not to speak of psycho-somatic phenomenon).

Meanwhile this is a restrained film which weaves a slow spell with its lavish visuals, musical score (which uses Schubert's Ave Maria and the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor), the mournful procession of wheelchairs, people who have come with different or no expectations, for rest or for recreation. It is an intelligent if not profound movie, inclining, quite naturally, towards skepticism. The lead role has been performed with exquisite delicacy. Christine is courageous, intelligent and skeptical who only seeks the joys of normal life: work, friendship, health, a family. The cure barely touches the core of her life, beyond child like joy, and a nagging apprehension.

Toccata and Fugue