Tuesday, August 30, 2011

BRANDED TO KILL (Japanese) (1967)

Compared to many Masters and auteur filmmakers of Japanese cinema, perhaps the name of Seijun Suzuki is quite less heard or less explored. There’s a reason for it, he made entertainment over logic kind of B gangster genre pulp fiction in the most productive phase of his early career and then didn’t make a single film for a decade or so. But what makes his cinema an original and individual expression is his visual style and play with form of the genre, his combination of irreverent humor to dark nihilistic side of his characters is something to watch in terms of creativity. It’s not exaggeration if I called him Jean Luc Godard of Japanese cinema. His innovation in style is something which took B genre action potboiler to some other level.
Content wise ‘Branded to Kill’ is typical Yakuza/ action movie where guns and bullets, horny dames and urban professional gangster, passionate romance and climactic nemesis plays their routine parts…and one may think ‘what’s this all fuss about Suzuki!’ But in terms of form and style he’s something so unconventional and impressive one and perhaps a reference material for makers like John Woo, Jim Jarmusch, Quentin Tarantino and even Wong Kar Wai. His fractured narration, cutting and editing of images, out of the box camera angles, extreme close ups and frames which looks like modern-pop-art illusion. His fractured and fragmentary narration runs in noir touch where his lead man a.k.a No. 3 killer’s one failed mission and a passionate affair with a woman puts him into peril of another killer who’s stalking him and psychologically breaking him to his nemesis in almost later part of the film. At the same time he’s queer, playful and funny. i.e.-the gangster fetish for smell of boiled rice, his desperation to be No.1 and I just laugh out loudly watching ‘This is the way No.1 works...he tires you and then kills you’.
Recommended to those who want to explore the filmmakers who broke the conventional form of world cinema.

Monday, August 29, 2011


‘In my hometown where I was born…I left my heart there forlorn.’

What a movie! Stamped as overwhelming tragedy from beginning to end with its two hours forty nine minutes epical running time. It’s emotionally powerful, intensify the characters and uplift the melodrama and tragedy like Shakespeare’s classic tragedies where man’s predominant flaw responsible for his doom and also like Greek Masters where fate is responsible for tragedy. The film was made by Luchino Visconti, the torchbearer of Italian Neo Realistic cinema. However he kept the shades of neorealist cinema intact, it’s an idealistic film about a family consists of a widow mother and his four sons who came to city of Milan to make their fortune along with their fifth brother and soon one after other tragedy keep striking its notes and bringing the doom to such a fine family.

Visconti gave space to each brothers and the poor mother who till climax unaware about the doom and all the cast gave their consummate best to the film immaterial to their screen presence. But the three key figures of the film juxtaposed to one another are Rocco played by then so young Alain Delon. Simone played by Renato Salvatori and the whore named Nadia who becomes the reason of love and hate between two brothers. Rocco is represented as a saint, always forgiving and sacrificing for the sake of his ill fated brother Simone and family and Simone is the only brother who completely gone astray with emotions of jealousy and possessive love that he can’t resist and than he’s slowly trade into the path of alcohol, debt, rape and even murder.

Annie Girardot, as Nadia is the most brilliant performance of the film in my opinion. Being whore, she’s the outsider and outcast to the family, to the world and yet she is just irresistible figure who’s life torn apart by the jealousy of one brother and the brotherly love of another. She’s the real tragedy of the film. I can go on and on describing the best scenes of the film and there’s so many of them leaving their impact on memory for long time. The moral of the film was perhaps made clear in the climax where in the celebration the party of his boxing win Rocco expressed his wish to return his homeland and said to the youngest brother, ‘Remember Luca, ours is the land of the olive tree, the moon and rainbows.’ The final neorealist frames serves the metaphor of hope where the youngest brother Luca watching the photos of his admirable brother Rocco on newspapers hanging on street. Nino Rota’s evocative score is something to pay your ears in that final frame. It is said that Francis Ford Coppola was such a big fan of this film that he hired composer Nino Rota to score for his masterpiece ‘The Godfather’. But apart of that, the film is inspirational for many directors around the world.

Masterpiece that doesn't require ratings.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

LE DOULOS (French) (1962)

‘One must choose: die… or lie?’

One of the most exploding French noir and arguably one of the best Jean Pierre Melville film with mind-blowing double cross, multiple characters and their inscrutable and double face personas. So many intriguing things happen on screen in the first forty five minutes. We’re introduced to multiple characters, their double faces, lies and than we witness murder, burglary, an informer calling from public booth, shoot out on street and smart police interrogation blackmailing the key suspects. For the next hour, Melville kept us engaged and hooked to the screen with unimaginable twists and turns in company of French matinee idol Jean Pierre Belmondo and he’s playing real smart ass to watch by all means. Till its striking climax and the last frame the film keeps us hooked to thrill.

Melville brilliantly played game with the audience with shifting the narration between two lead players and by cleverly hiding the other side of the plot, characters and their motives. Melville films are technically flawless and distinctively stylistic and surely this one is no exception. B&W camera work, taut editing and that highlight single shot where camera panned up to 360 degree are just classic.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

BOB LE FLAMBEUR (French) (1955)

“Before the New Wave, before Godard, Truffaut and Chabrol, before Belmondo flicked the cigarette into his mouth in one smooth motion and walked the streets of Paris like a Hollywood gangster, there was Bob.” –Roger Ebert
There’s no exaggeration when the same Ebert said in his ‘Great Movies’, “Modern heist movie was invented in Paris in 1955 by Jules Dassin with ‘Rififi’ and Jean Pierre Melville with ‘Bob Le Flambeur’. Melville pioneered the French noir cinema with this film and continued making some of the matchless noirs throughout his career. Melville brought moody, stylistically elegant touch to gangster genre. He carved a niche in matter of style and impression and made the gangsters and criminals meticulous and distinctively stoic but professional masters. They know their tasks and at the same time oozing magnetic charm on screen. Bob played by the silver hair Rogen Duchesne is a kind of gambler anybody love to dream! Though carried away often by his gambling stints and luck playing he kept visiting card tables, racing, night clubs playing waltz until the ultimate bait of casino safe heist worth millions. The meticulous planning and rehearsal of the heist followed with quite improbable but surprise twist in the climax.

What’s Greg Tolland to Orson Welles, Henri Decae is to Melville. His brilliant B&W camerawork and shot selections are undoubtedly things to witness here. The real location shots prominent in the opening and the first half surely impressed even Master like Godard. Decae was the man of indelible impressive frames of French New Wave cinematography with films like ‘The 400 Blows’ and ‘Le Samourai’. The waltz, piano and vibraphone background score runs throughout the film which is quite strange to witness in Melville films as generally in his color films the use of music remained so minimalist.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

THE SICILLIAN CLAN (French) (1969)

Nothing can beat the style and thrill of French noirs. Director Henri Verneuil’s this taut, captivating crime thriller boast of brilliant casting lead by three consummate performers of French Cinema- the legendary Jean Gabin as Sicillian gang boss, the indelible and magnetic charmer Alain Delon and Lino Ventura as smart but queer trying-to-quit smoking cop. It begins with Delon’s arrest for bank robbery and soon followed by his classic escape sequence from moving van. Equally noticeable is the cop surveillance and engaging tension of jewel heist on flight’s take off and landing. The film reminds me Melville’s ‘Le Cercle Rouge’, another brilliant noir starring the icy-blue eye man. Ennio Morricone’s memorable score and Henri Decae’s color camerawork are another feathers on the cap.
Highly recommended for crime/noir fans.

SAMURAI REBELLION (Japanese) (1967)

Masaki Kobayashi’s Samurai cinema is less about sword action and more about humanitarian drama. His unflinching exploration to the disgraceful dark side of Japanese history and traditions in his Samurai epic ‘Hara-kiri’ portrayed grim and depressing picture of 17th century Japan where thousands of samurais were deprived from means of livelihood and an innocent and devoted samurai was led to commit compulsive hara-kiri by the tyrant rulers of his own clan.
In the same vein, ‘Samurai Rebellion’ explored another dark chapter of 18th century where a devoted family man’s spirit and patience is challenged by cruelty of his own clan’s double faced feudal heads. Inhumanity, rigid conformity of conduct and abuse of power pushed the man to voice his rebel and like the history of rebel it’s once again crumbled by the powerful authorities. Kobayashi’s insistence for structured rectilinear frames is something so unique both in ‘Harakiri’ and this one. Toshiro Mifune as Isaburo represented another of his memorable role moving towards ripe age and he’s finely supported by Tatsuya Nakadai. Though I liked ‘Hara-kiri’ better, this one too is recommended watch for all those who wanted to explore more of Kobayashi or to those who’re simply Mifune fans.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A MAN ESCAPED (French) (1956)

‘The image must exclude the idea of image.’

It’s said that Bresson made fourteen films during his career and every one of them is nothing less than masterpiece. What separates Bresson from all other Masters of world cinema is his absolute minimalist approach to the filmmaking where cinema becomes something so interior movement guided purely by the images and by his models. He called his non professional actors ‘models’ and these models are so detached from their expressions, style or acting in conventional sense. For Bresson sets and actors or theatricality is nothing but an absolute artificiality. Throughout his life he treated image in his films as soul of filmmaking and it’s so pure that even though his quite rigid untraditional baggage of filmmaking, it creates something so divine on screen that’s hard to forget.
‘A Man Escaped’ is so far my fourth Bresson film and if I’m not mistaking it’s his most accessible film for any viewers immaterial of artistic or common taste and perhaps his most positive film as far the end is concerned. Oops I revealed the secret…anyway that is made quite clear in the title itself! Bresson made it very clear in the very first frame of the film even before we see the image that-‘This is true story. I’ve told it as happened, unadorned.’ And he truly represented it so unadorned; abstained from all traditional filmmaking grammar.

I just love the way Bresson selected the faces of his models, Francois Letterrier here is an inscrutable and impassive man from the very first frame and even while looking at his face nobody can grasp what’s happening in his mind. We witness his first futile attempt to escape from car as the film opens. He was severely beaten and abstained from food for couple of days, and he's under solitary confinement and constant inspection and still his courage and spirit to escape remains as firm and solid as rock. Alone in his cell, he kept doing his work, slowly and steadily chipping his way to freedom.
With what alacrity or meticulous detailing the film showed us the man’s attempt, planning to escape and its execution in climax! It reminds me Dassin’s that unparalleled heist sequence of ‘Rififi’. He’s under constant threat of getting caught and being executed just like other cell mates and yet he kept intact the flame of his hope and spirit alive. There is always leitmotif of overt symbolism in most of Bresson films whether religious, political and existential dimensions and one may interpret it in varied texts here but apart of all, the film is so simple and heart-warming one for even for his common theme of the man’s freedom and redemption of human soul.
After seeing this film Jean-Luc Godard said that ‘Bresson is to French cinema what Mozart is to German music and Dostoevsky to Russian Literature’.
Need I rate something like this!

Monday, August 22, 2011


‘I don’t remember if I started drinking because my wife left me or my wife left me ‘cause I started drinking!’
On the surface ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ is a cliché film about Ben, an alcoholic who came to Las Vegas to drink himself till death and Sera, a street hooker whose crumbling existence and loneliness paved a way to share company of this equally lonely man. Why Ben is drinking to such self destructive way is kept deliberately an enigma in the film. Though we got a clue in a scene where under drunken state he messed up at casino joint. Its difficult to say who’s angel to whom in their screwed up existence as both of them mutually accepted each other for who they’re and they don’t expect each other to change. But out of that cliché comes a soul stirring film which is like celebrating sadness or witnessing an opera. There are three men who deserves applaud for breaking that cliché- the lead pair of Nicolas Cage and Elisabeth Shue and the director, screenplay writer and composer of an intoxicating jazz score for the film- Mike Figgis.
When we talk about method actors of Hollywood, most of the time we ended up with Brando, Pacino, De’Niro or Nicholson; and here is the actor who did serious research for his alcoholic addicted role. Cage said, ‘(Pablo Picasso) said that art is lie that tells the truth. What if you just want to tell the truth and not lie about it?’ To play his role of alcoholic, he went to Dublin for two weeks drinking binge for this role, he drank alcohol to the limit and got a friend who videotaped his body language and behavior, so that he could study the footage later. The number of awards showered upon Nicolas Cage for his performance in this film, including Oscar and Golden Globe trophies for Best actor are all deserving ones without a doubt.
Elisabeth Shue’s act of prostitute is something so graceful that even besides her skimpy clothes, skin show, she maintained her character with uncorrupt soul. She’s smart street hooker who knows how to perform the exact fantasy to his customers for few hours to get the bucks she wants and yet her existence was trapped by a paranoiac and exploitative pimp who sexually and physically abuse her. Much of her internal reality and subtle relationship with Ben is expressed through monologues on close ups. Her act is equally award deserving one and she won Golden Globe trophy too, however Oscar went to another deserving nominee Susan Sarandon for 'Dead Man Walking'.
Yet ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ is not the best film about a severe alcoholic addiction that brought the protagonist to self doom; one has to watch that in Billy Wilder’s one of the most underrated classic ‘The Lost Weekend’. But even though it’s so special film because in the history of Hollywood there’s nobody who dared and performed the alcoholic act to this level and this height as Nicolas Cage and because David Lynch referred Cage as ‘jazz musician of acting’.Period.
Ratings- 8.5/10

Sunday, August 21, 2011


‘You are what you love, not what loves you.’
Call it creative despair or writer’s block but sometimes nothingness becomes your material; maybe it gives you more time to self scrutinize yourself! Fellini made one of his masterpieces out of it; though complicated and deconstructive the film still remains one of the most personal expressions of himself as an artist. America’s one of the gifted screenplay writer, Charlie Kaufman tried to do something like that here. The film is too personal and self reflectional of Kaufman as an artist. There’s no wonder why the protagonist of the film here named as Charlie Kaufman and he’s screenplay writer suffering from creative block while adapting the script of the book about orchid flowers. He’s quite confused about its screen adaptation as the book has no story or plot. His personal repressed self and self locked existence led him to writer’s block. He’s constantly failing to meet deadlines and suck himself into the life of the lady who wrote the book. Compared to that his brother Donald, who’s living with him and attempting screenplay writing with the footsteps of his brother, completed writing one of the attention grabbling debut.
Now how can you create something unusual or out of the box from nothing? There’s a scene where Charlie’s wannabe screenplay writer brother Donald took him to attend seminar on principles of screenplay writing to solve his creative block. Charlie seeks an advice from the man named Frank Mckee…listen the question and an embarrassing and insulting reply on stage and than pay your ears to the personal meeting just after the seminar is declared over. Charlie waits for the man and than both discussed the problem. There lies the fine clue of the film about art and the detached self of an artist. But is it possible to create an original art without self expression? How can he remain detached to the project without personal expressions and yet bring originality? There's constant thrust between reality outside and reality inside which is your true identity! Kaufman is clever man and he turned out the screenplay ready with a personal and accidental tragedy but by deliberately using both Voice Over and ‘dues ex machina’ (any active agent who appears unexpectedly to solve and insoluble difficulty); both strictly denied by Mckee, the usual code of screenplay writing. Maybe to create something unusual, you need to break the usual notions guided to you!
It’s brilliant and well constructed screenplay…so fresh, so original with equally brilliant screen execution and direction…the team of Kaufman & Spike Jonze brought another film, hard to avoid for the lovers of unusual Hollywood. Compared to Kaufman’s other two popular films 'The Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind' and Being John Malkowich', this one quite straightly narrated, less complicated and least ambiguous screenplay and yet it has finely internalized the character journey. But beyond that what is absolutely high point of the film is the double acts of twin brothers Donald and Charlie Kaufman, absolutely juxtaposed to each other and yet with so subtly characteristically restrained performed by Nicholas Cage. He truly deserved award for this one. Both Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper finely supported their parts as well.
Highly recommended to those who still haven’t seen it.

RED SUN (1971)

Well, do we need a reason to watch Charles Bronson, Toshiro Mifune, Alain Delon and sizzling Ursula Andress altogether in this west meets east or western meets samurai film! The film was made by Terrence Young, the director of Bond classics such as ‘Dr. No’ and ‘To Russia With Love’ and he kept intact the entertainment with ingredients of action, fun and even showing you the assets of Ursula undress!
It begins with train robbery and double cross followed by the hunt for the man named Gauche who stole the treasure and a valuable gold samurai sword. There are moments of entertaining fun between chemistry of juxtaposed westerner Bronson and samurai Mifune. For Delon, it’s less meaty role and lesser in terms of screen presence. Not essential one for western afficianados, but no harm watching once for Mifune fans as the man remained committed to his profession even in this commercial Hollywood.

Friday, August 19, 2011

DEEP RED (1975)

My fourth Dario Argento film and I must say that this one is absolutely masterpiece by the auteur. Anybody who haven’t seen any Argento film, should begin their journey from this one and I’m sure he’ll suck to the master of slasher horror. It’s an absolutely nail biting thriller Argento made much before his much acclaimed ‘Suspiria’. He made a film where mystery, thrill and horror coiled into one to give you edge on the seat experience from start to finish.
An expert lady gifted with mind reading gets perverted sensations in return during a conference on parapsychology. Soon she became victim of killer’s slashing knife. A jazz piano player strolling on the road at late night witnessed the slashing and crashing scene at window; a typical trait of Argento films. During investigation he meets a possessive lady journalist but soon he goes on his own way to lead the case where he gets entangled in intriguing links about the missing painting, a children tune played on recorder and above all a suspicious man in a brown coat. Sometimes what you actually see and what you imagine get mixed in your memory like a cocktail from which you can no longer distinguish the flavor from another. Now that’s what Argento reflected in his debut film, but here played same stuff so brilliantly, it keeps the audience off guard with the witness’s version of truth, until he recalls the clue of memory in the chilling climax.
The plot, editing, background score, camera work and editing are just pitch perfect here. The pervasive use of red color in objects, lighting and background, the slashing of throats, the eerie extreme close ups, witchcraft, the haunted mansion; Argento didn’t give you moments to relax here. David Hemmings who played the lead as photographer in Antonioni’s masterpiece ‘Blow Up’, played quite similar role as a pianist who in pursuit to know the truth puts his own life into peril. Advice to watch an uncut/the director's cut edition with running time of 126 minutes and do watch it at night with earphone/headphone if possible or else you miss something!
One of absolutely best by Argento…so excited to explore more of him.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Dario Argento’s ‘Phenomenon’ a.k.a. 'Creepers' begins with his trademark haunting background sound and atmospheric setting of natural landscape, waterfall, a girl who missed the bus and murder. Cut and we see an entomologist studying the patterns of insects leading to the homicide investigation with the help of his pet chimp. Cut and a teenage girl with unusual power to communicate with insects adjusting in a hostel room with a partner. Next is nightmare, sleep walking, and personality disorder that leading to the mystery of psychopathic killer who conserves the body parts of his victims.
Using insects and larvae as props of degenerative horror, Argento combined the elements of fantasy and paranormal stuff to present his trademark horror. It reminds me of De Palma’s underrated supernatural teen horror film ‘Carrie’. The climax is absolutely bizarre show…the revealing face of deceased boy standing in a corner, the pool of degenerated larvae and body parts, the flies and the bloodshed. It’s just awesome and the kind that we expect from Argento; however what is annoying is the use of loud heavy metal sound with vocals in certain scenes. It’s second film of young Jennifer Connelly and it’s quite a thing to know from trivia that a part of her finger bitten up by chimp in the final scene at the end of the film, soon she ws rushed to the hospital to re-attach the finger. Recommended one for all horror/thriller lovers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

DAYS OF BEING WILD (Cantonese) (1990)

‘I’ve heard that there was a kind of bird with no legs. It could fly and only fly…when it got tired, it slept in the wind. This kind of bird only lands once…that was the time it died.’
Whenever I finish watching any of Wong Kar Wai film, the intoxication of visuals, the momentary treatment of time and the unforgettable sublime loneliness of characters linger on senses for a long time. Now that’s what I love to call ‘a cinema of elegance’. His preoccupation with themes of isolation and longing with lovelorn outsiders suck the viewers to a different realm like metaphysical poetry. “One day, he pointed his watch and told me, he would remember me forever for that very minute. It was the nicest thing I’ve ever heard. But now when I look at a watch, I’ll tell myself, I’ve to forget this man from that very one minute,” said Maggie Cheung, who almost remains the destined muse of unrequited love in Wong’s visual poetic canvas of romance and melancholy. Maybe those who've truly loved somebody selflessly, would know the intensity of unspoken longing!

The fragmentary plot revolves around emotional dislocation and ambiguity of temporal relationships of love and hate between all six characters. Centre to all is an unpredictable loner Yuddy (played by Leslie Cheung) who’s wild and romantic outside, agitated and restless inside searching the root of his existence. His random and fragmentary emotional relationships and ill fate throughout the film makes and breaks almost all the characters he acquainted. Wong’s dealing with the element of actual time and screen time is so experimental. In certain frames time just pauses, runs with screen time or jumps to years in a flash! As usual the background score is treat to ears; soulful acoustic guitar strumming in case of this one. Camera doesn’t speak or shout but whispers in Wong’s films. Close and low angle shots in low key light keeps us so close and yet so detached to the melancholy, and longing of the characters. That blue tinted landscape in slow motion from passing train is something! There’s quite a similarity between his master stroke ‘In the Mood for Love’ and this one; as both of the films depicts and portrays 60’s Hong Kong in nostalgic frames with moments of unspoken personal emotions, desire and memory like no other.

Monday, August 15, 2011

DESTINY OF A MAN (Russian) (1959)

Based on the short story by Mikhail Sholokhov, Director-actor Sergei Bondarchuk’s debut film ‘Destiny of Man’ a.k.a. ‘Fate of a Man’ is moving tale of a Russian carpenter Andrei Sokolov who falls in love with a beautiful orphan girl. He marries her and lives happily with her family of three kids until reality of second world war strikes him. He left his family to serve his motherland. On the front he was soon captured by Germans and turned into POW in Nazi concentration camp along with many others. His struggle to survive against tyranny and attempts to escape plays hide and seek with his fate and strong will to reunite his family. Luckily he escapes and returns to his native land to witness the ugly side of post war.
Shot in fine frozen and natural B&W camera, the film is noticeable for its Neorealist treatment, well restrained act and direction. Bondarchuk brilliantly captured the ruined buildings as documents of war and Andrei’s sublime relationship with orphan kid like those Neorealist Masters. It’s quite straight and simple film and yet one of the most moving antiwar document where humanity wins all the adversity of evil.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

KEY LARGO (1948)

‘Your head says one thing and your whole life says another. Your head always loses.’
Fifties was time of classic Hollywood noirs and who knew that art better than John Huston and the man of the decade- ‘Humphrey Bogart’. Here he’s accompanied on screen once again by his muse Lauren Bacall and the by default gangster of the era, Mr. Edward G Robinson, here playing the fireball Johnny Rocco.
A lonesome hotel on the harbor holds up by the gangster for the secret deal and caught by the stormy hurricane. Bogart played disillusioned world war soldier paying visit to the father and widow of the dead soldier. He’s the wise guy in the eyes of gangster Rocco. Though his head gave up willingness to fight, he’s the man who doesn’t change his tune. The film is more a trapped drama on single setting until we witness the climax on the boat. Excluding the performances, the film is quite average noir by the standards set by Huston himself, simply because it’s the same year he gave one of his masterpiece ‘The Treasure of the Sierra Madre’.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

JULIA’S EYES (Spanish) (2010)

The suicide attempt of a blind woman turns out as murder. Her twin sister along with her husband comes to attend the funeral. Her inclination and investigation to know the reason behind her suicide drags her to queer findings about her sister. She too has faltering vision that slowly turning her towards blindness. As she keeps on her investigation against her husband’s will, she realized that somebody is sneaking on her too.
It’s an engaging and taut mystery thriller with its twists and turns that don’t give much time to think in the first half. The point of view of the blind protagonist kept the element of intrigue intact but unfortunately the film loses its grip in the second half and becomes so predictable and mediocre affair like usual Hollywood potboiler. The revelation of the killer made me think that what made him pushing the drama so long and so far without a reason. Nevertheless it’s an entertaining film and no harm watching once for some of its surprising elements and POV shots.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


‘Horror is the future. And you can’t be afraid. You must push everything to the absolute limit or else life will be boring. The truth of horror is like a serpent always shedding its skin, always changing.’ – Dario Argento
An American writer in Italy witnessed a homicide on one late night in front of art gallery. He is helpless voyeur trapped between glass doors, what he see is a man with an overcoat and a struggling damsel stabbed with knife. The victim survives and the hero is told by the investigating cop that the attacker was the serial killer. While the police is doing its duty, the writer soon obsessed with the idea to know the truth; something that’s associated with the thing that doesn’t click to his brain.
The bizarre laughing voice on telephone, the mystical painting on the wall, the weird painter that keeps the cats for godforsaken reason…Dario Argento made his presence felt with this directorial debut almost treated in Hitchcockian thrilling tradition of ‘Psycho’. I recollect watching another brilliant admirer of the Master mentor, Brian De Palma who in his early career made some of the gripping thrillers without roping Hollywood stars. His ‘Sisters’, ‘Body Double’, ‘Blow Out’ are really exciting thrillers to watch. The chilling background score is trademark of Argento and though legendary Ennio Morricone done the job here, I missed the unusual and eerie score of his ‘Suspiria’.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

AS TEARS GO BY (Cantonese) (1988)

It’s not exaggerating to say that the new wave of Hong Kong cinema started with advent of Wong Kar Wai. Attracting both mainstream and cult attention he brought dynamic changes with experimental and innovative approach in visual style and form of cinema. ‘As Tears Go By’ is the directorial debut of Wong and it’s one of the best Chinese gangster film ever made. The influence of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Mean Streets’ is visible but he created something which even the original should proud of.
His extraordinary visual quality of the film with use of primary color schemes especially blue, artistic play with fragmentary story line and spatial and temporal relationships, unusual use of camera angles, lighting and above all his signature stop motion frames makes cinema almost modern visual poetry. Along with popular trait of action oriented gangster film he mixed here a contemplative angle of subtle romance of unrequited longing and accidental but impossible relationship between anger on nose mobster and respiratory infected distant cousin. Must say, fine acts by Maggie Cheung and Andy Lau. The background score always remain a leitmotif of his characters sentiments, moods and melancholy; esp. the use of ‘Top Gun’ soundtrack ‘Take my breath away’ in this case.
In single line, the film is ‘Visual poetry of violence and romance and inevitable tragedy.’

Monday, August 8, 2011


‘It’s alive! It’s alive! … Now I know what it feels like to be God!’
From the very opening expressionistic shot to its gothic climax, Director James Whale’s adaptation of Marry Shelley’s classic is just invigorating version to replace on screen even after 80 years of it’s making. It’s tale of Henry Frankenstein, a crazy scientist who looks beyond and challenges the God by his experiment to create a live human being from stitching together the parts of dead bodies. His assistant stole a brain from medical college but accidentally returns with an abnormal brain. Frankenstein’s fiancée, her friend and an old scientist and the mentor of Frankenstein tries to dissuade him but who can stop man from his height of madness. The being turns into mute monster and soon set the Bavarian town into mayhem.
It broke ground in two ways-(the creator) an abnormal scientist who challenges the authority of God and (the creation) a monster who is not entirely evil. The film has length of one hour and seven minutes but it has scenes which remain long lasting to the memory- the grave robbing scene, the tower like laboratory on mountain hill, the experiment on dead body on thunder stormy night, the most touching and heartbreaking scene of the monster and little girl where he first imitated throwing flowers and than throwing the girl and the final confrontation scene between the creator and the creation; the film is absolutely classic horror tale ever adapted on screen. Along with ‘Dracula’ released the same year, this film not only established the genre of horror in Hollywood but also saved the struggling phase of Universal Pictures..but above all it made Boris Karloff, the most memorable monster (?) in human form.
One of the greatest American films ever made. Period.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

HARAKIRI (Japanese) (1962)

The samurai’s blade is his soul.
An ex-samurai warrior seeks to die performing hara-kiri after downfall of his Master’s clan and came to know about an intriguing tale of another ex-warrior who came to commit the same. Though hearing the grim tale, the samurai strongly determined to commit hara-kiri provided fulfillment of his last favor but his all three alternative favors are refused. So before committing hara-kiri, he started the life story that raises many questions about the humanity.
Director Masaki Kobayashi’s showed the grim and depressing phase of 17th century where thousands of samurais were deprived from means of livelihood and committed hara-kiri. It begins with elements of intrigue and unpredictability where narration intermittently shifting between flashback and present. And than it has mind-blowing climax. The only low side of the film is quite slow and lagging melodrama of the middle part. But that’s not the point, what is significant is that Kobayashi brought to screen the face of the samurai who’s helpless warrior hero in front of ruthless authority’s corrupt conscience. And what’s more disgraceful is that men at power failed to reflect upon even after listening the moving tale of one ex-warrior’s sacrifice and hara-kiri for family. If to go unwavering to one’s death is the way of the true samurai, than what’s code for the men at power who forced one to commit disgraceful disembowelment by bamboo sword!
The last half an hour of the film is just treat and that uplifts the whole film. With brilliant use of camera and stormy wind it creates haunting atmospheric tone to that sword duel before the unforgettable climax action. Tatsuya Nakadai, a fine actor who often repeated by Akira Kurosawa but suppressed under heavyweights like Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura in Kurosawa’s many films is the man to watch here and proves that he could be equal to Mifune if given a platform and chance.
Another Samurai masterpiece and classic from the land of rising sun.

Friday, August 5, 2011


‘For me, every spectator is a potential filmmaker and, of course, without the spectator, the films would have no meaning, no reasons to be.’ – Victor Erice
‘Few films have had greater impact all over the world. But I would advice you not to take it seriously’, advised the man on screen to the audience. It’s 1940 and they’re showing James Whale’s ‘Frankenstein’ to the stunned audience in a small countryside village of Spain. However the advice did make the sense to mature audience, it did greater impact to the mind of six years old innocent and quiet Ana who went with her younger sister to watch the film in old ruined building used as cinema hall.
Director Victor Erice’s this debut film takes 20 minutes to establish and introduce the isolated existence of disintegrated family surviving under one roof. It involves the audience to observe without any preconceived notions. However most of the film is focused on the character of the youngest family member- Ana. She’s shy and innocent and at the same time so curious and serious about things. Opposite to her is the elder sibling Isabel who’s quite mature and smart. The parents are lost in their own detached world; the father absorbed his days in tending and exploring the beehive and the mother lost in her memories of distant lover to whom she writes letters. The closest to Ana is her elder sister Isabel who though helpful didn’t miss a chance to play with her innocent sister’s gullibility.

I haven’t seen such nuanced, contemplative and sublime portrayal of childhood fascination, impressions and its effects on child’s repressed mind in any of the films so far. The monster of the film unsettled Ana. When told by her sister that it’s spirit who can’t die, it made everlasting impression to inquisitive and innocent Ana. She started searching the spirit in the well and in the abandoned barn as directed by her sister until finally she starts talking to the spirit of wind under mysterious circumstance.
The film is absolutely a visual piece of art. Camera whether in still or moving gives us time to observe, frames so elusive and poetic that it made us feel and contemplate like painting. The minimalist approach and stillness of images remind me the purity of Bresson or Tarkovsky’s cinema. The image beautifully corresponds to it’s soothing background score. The film absolutely unforgettable experience for me and though it seems exaggerating I must say that I’m so suck into the film that I don’t think any other film will do impact to me for atleast few days.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

EL DORADO (1966)

John Wayne and Robert Mitchum in a western made by Howard Hawks…now that’s reason enough to spur classic lovers to watch this Technicolor saga of friendship and courage. Though there’s fine chemistry between these two legendary icons here supported by young James Caan; I’ve two complains to Mr. Hawks- Why did he chose such a pathetic role for brilliant talent like Robert Mitchum? Unfortunately Mitchum didn’t have much to perform on screen in this alcoholic lost in a love kind of loner sheriff JP battling against the dark side of Wild West. On the other hand Wayne is in usual crackling flavor- the man whose mouth is as firing as his gun.
Complain number two- why he made both the heroes crippled in certain ways and pushed the drama interrupting the rhythm and action of the film? The film is too straight and sober one, devoid of boiling conflict or awaiting confrontation, what we expect from western action entertainer. The same year released the film that stands as one of the most popular film of that genre making a nameless hero a new western legend. Need I tell the name of the film?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


‘Everything about you reminds me about you, except you.’
First thing first- after a long long time I laugh out loudly watching these timeless original comedians…who else than Marx Brothers! This one is quite toned down film of their career with interrupting song-dance-music journey as musicals ruled in those days and yet the Brothers delivered a package of fun with their capable best of it’s time. They are stowaways on ship, poking fun to snobbish society of that time- the plot, theme that repeated and improved in their most of the films.
It’s always treat watching the mind-blow chemistry between the legendary trio except the only letdown talent of Zeppo. There are quite memorable scenes that I love to watch time and again. i.e- signing of contract scene between Groucho & Chico or stuffing the room scene. It’s absolutely great writing and brilliant timing and rhythm between them that created unsurpassable magic on screen. Its true classic and nevertheless I’m not much into opera, I just love watching playful piano of Chico and Harpo playing harp. Harpo remains always a man to watch with his trademark silence, horn stick and childish mischievous attitude- an absolutely crackling fun to watch.

Monday, August 1, 2011

CASTAWAY ON THE MOON (Korean) (2009)

Though having improbable plot, slow pace and complex characters, here’s light, funny and intense film; a kind of allegory on mundane compartmentalized life in a city queerly connecting with plausible romance. A frustrated working class young man tries to commit suicide under debt. He jumps into the river and (un)fortunately ends up surviving on drifted life on small island where he can witness the city but not vice versa. Undoubtedly there’s quite a similarity between this and one of Tom Hanks most popular film ‘Cast Away’! But here is another protagonist living voluntarily chosen secluded life in her apartment home adjacent to river. She loves watching the moon at night and accidentally found that alien like survivor. Her voyeuristic tendencies gradually drive her to come out of her self-imposed confinement to the threatening world outside.
Though it has quite contrived ending, the narration and intention of director is so positive and promising, it has moments of irony crossing with intense and sublime emotions. It’s quite refreshing to witness film like this from Korean cinema where most of the modern films are preoccupied with crime, vengeance and bloodshed.