Friday, July 29, 2011

TOKYO SONATA (Japanese) (2008)

Exploring my third Kiyoshi Kurosawa film this week and this one is 180 degree different from his crime and horror masterpieces. It is cent percent simple and moving film and a window to the world of a common Japanese bourgeois family. A mid age man working as an administrative director lost his job at downsizing company. He’s a responsible family man and sole bread earner for his family consists of two children and a wife. Though he’s struggling to get a new job, he keeps on pretending to go office everyday. He hasn’t informed his wife about it and still manages to give her monthly house expense.
Kiyoshi managed to make an emotionally warm and intense family cinema pushed by character driven drama of four characters belong to a single disintegrated family. And all of them are protagonists in their own ways- a jobless authoritarian patriarch trying to be deceptive about his shame and frustration, a school going boy struggling to learn piano & his directionless elder brother struggling to set his future volunteering for US military, the wife & mother who though knowing everything and both ends keeps on making up the family…and than a young piano teacher who’s getting divorce. Acting by all the cast is anything less or above the normal or natural. The film takes unexpected turns into the lives of three family members in the last forty minutes until we heard sonorous and healing piano played by the boy that touches the souls of audience as some divine emotional purgation.
Must watch is understatement!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

PULSE (Japanese) (2001)

‘Ghosts won’t kill people because that would just make more ghosts. Instead they will try to make people immortal, by quietly trapping them in their own loneliness.’
What is more horror than the inner vacuum of human? My second Kiyoshi Kurosawa film and the man left me shocked and surprised to see how he’s redefining the cinema of horror to altogether different direction. He said in one of his interview, “Film for me is a medium point between a fictional story and reality. You start with a genre, which is fiction, and gradually move towards reality. Somewhere in between you find the film.”
On surface ‘Pulse’ a.k.a. ‘Kairo’ shows you, the young men haunted by distorted and blurry images of ghosts either on screens of their computer, television or cell phone. The frustrated victims disappear or committing suicides. But behind that bizarre horror, the film is an allegory of the world where indifferent technology rather than connects, breeds alienation and solitary existential trauma to us. Kiyoshi gave us a direct clue which is an allegory in form of a miniature model of world where a programming simulation running on computer screen- where if two dots get too close, they die, but if they get too far apart, they’re drawn closer. Do people really connect through indifferent technological mediums of communication or reflects their solitary and secluded existence?
Kiyoshi removed the thin layer of the world where ghost is reality; the ghost is no one but disturbing reality of human loneliness! What’s that ‘forbidden room?’ Is it the death…loneliness…human mind or the indifferent world? Kiyoshi brought unnatural bleakness to the city of Tokyo through his camera and shot selections where the cold isolation of death and loneliness maintains the deliberate use of darkness with low key lighting throughout the film making us felt the inner emptiness of characters.
One of the highly recommended horror films…especially for those who sneer their noses calling ‘horror’ just B or C genre? Is it really…with films like this?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

CURE (Japanese) (1997)

Case- a series of brutal murders
Modus operandi- arteries cut with carved ‘x’ mark on neck
Reason and motivation for killing- unknown
My first Kiyoshi Kurosawa film and the man has brilliantly played an ambivalent game with amnesia and hypnotism that churns out an impulsive crime drama. After a long time it quench my thirst of watching an unforgettable psychological thriller. The drama that started with two opposite characters slowly distorting the thin line between sanity and insanity. Here’s a cop so lost in the case that his life became a misery and a convict with complex trait of memory loss who psychologically incites the minds of others to commit murders. What’s inside the head of the criminal? Is there a reason or just pure irrationality?
Kiyoshi provokes the audience to think hard just like the convict who asks the questions and like to hear from others under the spell of hypnotism and it’s this thing that excludes him from other filmmakers of this genre. The camera moves so slow, sometimes focusing on things for long like metaphor and it has fine cutting and editing of images too. As the film progressing it’s make you think whether you’re really watching a crime thriller or something else! There’s are films that begins like a crime film but not ends like it and ‘Cure’ is undoubtedly the thought provoking film that belongs to that category.
Desperate to watch other films by the same director!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

THE QUIET FAMILY (Korean) (1998)

The debut film of Kim Ji-Woon, writer-director who never disappoints me in any of his films I’ve seen so far. A mountain lodge and six strange host family members. The hitchhikers, who visit the lodge to rest once, never return out of it. Suicide? Murder? Accident or Blunder? Or cocktail of everything! One may know the answer to that as the movie progress further but guests keep coming and as a part of immediate action, the family members have to bury the dead bodies as regular routine and shifting them from one place to another.
The treatment of the film is dark and funny reminding me Coen Bros films where disposal of dead bodies brought the characters into altogether different mess. The film has two leading men of Korean cinema- Kang-ho Song and awesome Min-sik Choi in a queer role. The last half an hour is pure delight where dark drama runs in full bloom multiplying dead bodies so unpredictably.

Monday, July 18, 2011

CHOP SHOP (2007)

‘I don’t want to go to a film that people say is optimistic and hopeful when nothing in that movie resembles the world I’m living in. That doesn’t make me optimistic and hopeful, that makes me depressed.’ -Ramin Bahrani
My first film of this Iranian-American independent filmmaker who just like those master humanitarians of Italian Neo-realism school, made a non-escapist artistic cinema that made you feel deep for the characters played so naturally by the non professional actors. Just like De Sica films, its shot on real locations, centered on characters of working class. No it’s not glamour of New York City; rather it’s opposite and unseen and yet everyday part of routine seedy side of city which is the hub of automobile garage, scrap yard and garbage bins scattered all around.
The film focuses on POV of a twelve year old child laborer named ‘Ale’. He works in garage, sells candies, chocolates and pirated DVDs and works hard from morning to evening to get his dream van and set up his independent business along with her teenage sister. With no emotive background score and utmost minimalist approach Bahrani showed us the character centered drama where particular social, familial, economic forces and culture shapes the identity of a character and it is absolutely a thing to watch here by all means. Its heartbreaking moments to witness how Ale’s relation with his sister collapses followed by his dram van and yet Bahrani kept open the positive spirit in the final few frames.
Eager to watch ‘Goodbye Solo’ and ‘Man Push Cart’made by the same director.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Recollecting the memory of watching this film years ago in Golden Television years of Delhi Doordarshan. In those days films made by NFDC and parallel filmmakers were quite frequent on Saturday after primetime serials. In those days there’s no option of switching channels as satellite television invasion was not so common in every home. As far as I can remember the movie brought my attention then due to the presence of the man who made the first suave carrot eating detective ‘Karamchand’ well and famous in form of television serial but as film got over, it made me so sad. For years I hunt around to search the film…finally ending up with poor digital format copy dubbed from VCR print.
The film was written, directed by Tapan Sinha and as clarifies in the end titles, it was based on a true life of a doctor who committed suicide few years back; though the subject of research was different. The film has one of the most under noticed brilliant act by Pankaj Kapoor as Dr. Dipankar Roy, a government doctor/scientist completely lost and absorbed in research on vaccine for leprosy. For years he kept on experiments on mice in his small homemade lab. Finally he got success on it and at the same time he found interesting finding about possibility of curing human sterility. Soon the news spread to media and he has to make ready his papers to submit the government health department. His success and outspoken and short temper attitude brought jealousy to the nexus of good for nothing Government Director of Health and interfering Gynecologists lobby calling his research a publicity stunt and hoax. As its universal history of mankind that whenever either in science or arts any genius had made invention and experiments, the silly society initially rejected and cursed their achievements. The Doctor was transferred to remote to village and he has to finish his research papers within stipulated time. Next he has to face an inquiry committee consists of men who are termites of society.
One has to watch this film to know what a gem of actor Pankaj Kapoor is! I would rate his act here as one of the first-rate in Hindi films and he brought to screen both normal and abnormal sides of his character. He is an intense, unsocial rational man of pure science burning midnight oil to complete his work, devoid of any publicity and ultimately a talented man broke down by the mediocre basterds of the country! It’s shame and unfortunate of our country that Government and bureaucracy never gave due credit to its own genius scholars until foreign recognized and awarded their original achievements. The film has fine supporting acts by Shabana Azmi as concerning wife along with young and talented Irrfan Khan as a reporter of thinking generation.
Highly Recommended watch.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

FAIL-SAFE (1964)

‘We’re setting up the war machine that acts faster than ability of men to control it.’
Here’s another brilliant and underrated film about war without war, made by the legendary Sydney Lumet, and it is the best American film ever made on the issue of ‘the cold war’. Coincidentally Kubrick’s masterpiece ‘Dr. Strangelove’ based on quite similar subject and plot also released the same year. Where the Kubrick film has satirical and funny punch, this one is an intense drama focusing moral dilemma of the unavoidable situation. The venue of tense filled drama is an emergency meeting about an unavoidable military mistake and the challenging threat is nuclear war with Russia. The rest is all gripping tense filled drama where multiple points of views of characters helming the power stimulates the drama forward… just in the lineage of Lumet’s masterpiece ’12 Angry Men’.
One may witness the signature of Lumet as the film opens with the surreal dream of dying bull. The tension and psychological pressure keeps playing with the helpless men at action. It has brilliant ensemble cast pitting against the unfortunate panic of immediate attention. Walter Matthau as communism biased Professor and Dan O’Harlihy as patriot General Black in moral dilemma are just brilliant. And than there’s the ace of all- Henry Fonda as US president in a claustrophobic setting with a translator and tension on line and he’s just matchless once again in Lumet film. There’s fine room for characters in most of Lumet films and this one is again classic example- i.e. watch the way he introduced all the lead characters unfurling their characteristic traits and personality with crisp dialogues here. The camera work and use of sound is flawless- especially that high pitch shrilling sound!

Friday, July 15, 2011

PURSUED (1947)

Director Raoul Walsh, who made brilliant gangster noir ‘White Heat’, made this western meets noir where drama was pushed more in quite a predictable plot that shifts between mystery, thrill and romance. The biggest letdown about the film is the climax and the denouement of suspense; the haunting memory of man in pair of shoes! But what is sheer treat watching this long unavailable film is the young and confident Robert Mitchum and fine B&W camerawork by James Wong Howe.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


A nice ‘take-a-break’ sort of different and unpredictably dark, funny and moody independent film, written-directed & acted by Zach Braff. Here is a kind of stoic young man suffering from momentary headaches due to compulsive drugs habit. He returns home for his mom’s funeral and encounters his childhood hometown pals and a company of sweet compulsive liar girl. The journey is hanging out with pals to weird places sharing moments that makes one open up about secrets of life. I just loved Natalie Portman’s character here; she’s so natural and special… as always! At times film turns too personal, emotional, but that’s alright. It has some of the most sublime moments to cherish for all indie film lovers. Loved the soundtrack of the film…as beautiful as the film itself!

TOKYO! (2008)

Three post modernist short stories like shorts made by Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon Ho with the city of Tokyo as setting. The shorts are poignantly satirical and strange combination of fantasy and funny. Gondry’s ‘Interior Design’ is impressive one; it begins with a young drifter couple struggling for identity, job and an apartment in the city and it turns out as bizarre experience where the girl turning into wooden chair observing the world around! Carax’s ‘Merde’ is about a strange man or creature from sewer who survives in underground sewage and talks only to a French lawyer. It’s the weakest one in my opinion. Bong’s ‘Shaking Tokyo’ is the most direct and too personal in tone, narrated in first person. It is about a queer man living secluded life in a perfectly organized home out. He’s been out of human contact and sunlight for eleven years and than a pizza delivery girl with abstract buttons on her body shakes his world upside down. The ending is modern poetry like most of Bong Joon films. I just love the Gondry and Bong’s attempts to portray the satirical face of human emotions in mundane metros.
Worth to watch once.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Don’t get duped by it’s above average Imdb ratings, the film is yet another proof of mediocre paranormal spooky entertainment that we all have watched up to our tolerance level. The plot is about a boy who became a victimised soul in a haunted house and so shifting the home won’t work for the family. So in order to get rid of the evil spirit, one has to do mumbo-jumbo. Who else than daddy dear to visit the other world to get his kid back. Oops, the dad too has his own ghost of past unknown! The film scored zilch in performances, Director James Wan, who made first ‘Saw’ kept the horror show running with loud background score, the lousy supernatral spirits but nothing works to rate it above average.

Quite a disappointing affair…strictly avoidable.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

MOTHER (Korean) (2009)

Another matchless brooding dark drama by Bong Joon Wo, portraying the impulsive and intimate relationship shared between a mother and a son. The film has one of the absolutely intense and brilliant acts of mother I’ve ever seen on screen. Bow down my head to the performance of Kim-Hye-Ja; so breathing natural. She’s the poignant poetry on screen. Bong called her ‘the spiritual mother of South Korea’. She is the widow mother too caring and possessive about her dumb and retarded son who was framed guilty for murder. The rest is how desperate mother can go to save her child. She has to find the real killer to save him.

Now the way Bong played juggling game with the retarded boy’s memory is both surprising and shocking in moments. He kept the mystery and thrill taut with element of Hitchcokian summersault and at the same time kept intact the fine intensity of dark human drama about crime and guilt; where height of possessive love breeds crime, no matter how sane or mature you’re! It has beautiful beginning and has unforgettable ending that gives me goose bump. How better the world would be if we’re able to remove those unwanted dark memories from our lives? What a poetic ending! It would be more appropriate to title it 'Memories of Murder', isn't it? High quality of cinematography and editing is almost taken for granted when you’re watching Korean cinema. It is educating to learn how personal in style and vision these Korean filmmakers are and still they keep intact their particular culture compared to crass commercialized Hollywood films.

Bong surely deserves salute but it's the character and the irreplaceable performance by Kim-Hye-Ja that deserves standing ovation.


Friday, July 1, 2011

MEMORIES OF MURDER (Korean) (2003)

“It’s like an obsession with me. I like putting these characters in impossible situations that they can’t deal with. That’s what makes powerful drama, when you’ve a superhero going for a mission, the outcome is too predictable. If you’ve seen my films, whether it’s these losers going against a serial killer or against a creature, it’s the same structure. I think through these characters I can differentiate myself from Hollywood genres. Korean audiences are very used to watching a Hollywood superhero. Now they want someone they can relate to.”

– Bong Joon Ho

I’m ending up watching one of the brilliant and emotionally uncompromising mystery thriller which forces the viewers to think hard about its genre. Though it’s a murder mystery based on South Korea’s most notorious killer, it plays off with all the traditional expectations of defined genre. It’s absolutely different experience for me where twists and turns of dark homicide case runs parallel to the two emotionally unsettling detectives juxtaposed to each other handling the puzzling homicide case. The setting is not your mundane city but a small town and the sin of crime is paddy field. And what’s more captivating is it’s subtext of moral and emotional struggle as its progresses further near climax.

After a decade or so, Korean cinema has set his own standards and made it’s own mark and identity against Hollywood blockbusters. Director Bong Joon Ho brought to screen another unforgettable experience. I just loved the way he played with irony, dark humor of human behavior and social morality. The man bloody well knows how to manipulate audience with ambiguity about character, situation and crime. He got full marks on cinematography too which itself is fine proof of narration in some of the scenes.

Kudos to Bong Joon Ho…I’m so desperate watch his ‘Mother’ and lesser known ‘Barking Dogs Never Bite’.