Friday, February 28, 2014

The Square****

Jehane Noujaim, 2013
A graphic portrayal of society in the midst of bloody political turmoil. Egypt in the last few years has been engulfed in popular movements where people by the millions have taken to the streets and been mowed down on occasions by bullets and tanks. The film paints a vivid picture of the world as it is: the primitiveness of political organisation, in which exploitation is a running thread; the rigidity of power structures, which seldom yield without blood shed. The director is Egyptian-American. This also brings home the power of cinema to shape people's thinking--how the world wide screening of this excellent film would have made the powerful squirm. Of course, egos are made of sterner stuff. Incidentally, Egypt continues to seethe.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Russian Ark ****

He is involved in a train accident and wakes up in the Hermitage Museum, in a previous century. The film is known for its single long shot of 90 minutes. The time traveler or ghost is conducted  by a scruffy gentleman, who alone can see and talk to him, through the museum and finally a palace where he mingles with the nobility, as he admires the splendors of royalty. The film has the rhythms of a dream and is a journey beyond the grave, giving a subtle poetic conjuration about the nature of life, death and the unknown country; the process of dissolution of the old and the emergence of the new. A beautiful film, deserving a revisit.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Moloch 1999 ***

A fictitious story about Hitler depicted as part of a small inner circle including his mistress. The group relaxes in a building in glorious alpine beauty. Hitler is shown as quite a gallant, courteous and considerate even to the domestic staff. We see Adi (as Eva Braun affectionately alludes to him) gamboling with his aides in the Bavarian sun, playing the fool, war forgotten or afar, very much a fuehrer in the tomfoolery and pranks. The companions maintain a carefully orchestrated deference, giving way to pent up feelings of tension behind his back. In spirit it is not far from Chaplin's film. This is a macabre film: funny, beautiful as cinema, scary because of the associations, ringing true to the complexities and paradoxes which is human nature, disturbing because of the history to which the film is a never recounted background. Even human monsters are human beings.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Kahaani 2012 *

Seeing a Hindi mainstream film after a long time. Seeing international cinema for many years to a point of satiation, one may feel feel something like nostalgia for the environs one lives in. It was relaxing to indulge in this slightly pretentious entertainer, which indicates that Bollywood remains Bollywood (where can we find another). Technical values have possibly changed for the modern. The pay off is in the sudden metamorphosis of Vidya Balan towards the end. What does remain is the camera man's capture of the aromas and sounds of an Indian city ( Kolkatta for a welcome change), one's own habitat. I felt glad not to have forsaken these, for where else can you get cut chai? Another high point is the beautiful Tagore song adaptation, fused in three languages, accompanying the end titles. In fact, this is what drew me to the film.
Ekla Cholo Re

Friday, February 7, 2014

Faust 2011 ***

Aleksandre Sokurov
This is different from Goethe's drama, though it freely draws on the basic plot, with remnants of the dialog. What is most appealing is the monochrome depiction of some sixteenth or seventeenth century urban Europe, giving a painterly feeling, not too different from Breughal's time and style. It creates nostalgia for primitive times, as they might have been. Narrow labyrinthine streets, bustling ill clad crowds, untouched woods, mean unshaven faces, weird laboratories. The devil is a senile misbegotten clown, (body parts in the wrong places), not the urbane man of the world created by Goethe. Hamlet is clear about everything, except where clarity cannot be. Faust lives in a hazy world, delving, unlike the Dane, without instead of within. Hamlet searches for the well springs of action. Faust only seeks enlightenment, a flash from above. Margaret loses her brother, Laertes a sister and father. A grave digging scene too, invaded by a pack of stray dogs. Hamlet is a genius in life, Faust a scholar. Hamlet consummates his life, Faust is merely admitted by grace. Goethe is no match for the Bard. A dismal, disturbing film.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Goethe's Faust

After many years, I finally read Part 1. It is simple and easy reading, if you are tuned to the stuff. It is a cosmic in scope and intent, as far as is given to mortal genius. The verse is scintillating and conversational, the devil himself a guy like someone down street, peppered with many sharp observations on daily life. The drama winds around the tragic travails of a young couple, in which the writer weaves the tapestry of the human life condition: grim, pathetic, unsparing as Lear. Hopefully, I may read the second part too. On my shelf is the 2011 Sakarov film as well as the older Mephisto. Also, a chance to revisit the twenties silent version. Life is short, art mere luxury.

The Wolf of Wall Street *

A far more shocking depiction of degradation and perversity was Salo (Pasolini). The differece is that salo was appropriate as a metaphor for the unspeakable horrors of totalitarianism WW2, which go beyond any boundaries of decorous restraint. The present movie seems a pointless depiction of men falling into the world of animals, using greed for money as an excuse. It merely panders to our lowest instincts, making an unnecessary song and dance about them