Friday, August 31, 2012

THIS MAN MUST DIE (French) (1969)

‘The beast must die. But the man too. One and the other must die.’

Tonight I ended up watching one of the best and rare revenge films ever seen. No it’s not anything like those hackneyed formulaic thrill and action that we witnessed umpteen times. Instead of unfolding usual lines of revenge film genre, the film brought dark and yet sensible and poetic juxtaposition of crime and drama helmed so maturely like those absorbing classical Greek tragedies as it reaches towards the end. Here’s a film which questions the very notion of revenge and justice. So far this is one of the best Chabrol film without an iota of doubt.

It begins with a reckless car drive and an accident that killed a young boy. The father of the boy aiming the revenge became so obsessed with finding the man and making him pay no easy way. It’s not easy task and so he keeps meddling for the clues and links and his own hypothesis. Finally by chance he discovers the man named Paul responsible for killing his son but in order to get to the real criminal, he has to play a role of a lover. When he encounters Paul, he’s just shocked to see his brutal beast like attitude towards his family members. That tense filled dinner table scene is brilliantly executed introducing us the monstrous lousy man in form of Paul. The story takes absolutely different turn from that moment and reaching towards something that you haven’t imagined. Saying anything further about the plot is crime.

Like most of Chabrol films, it has fine performances from the cast, especially the two man playing cat and mouse opposite each other, Michael Duchaussoy and Jean Yanne. The way Chabrol used diary as prop in perspective and mise en scene grabs attention that serves as ambivalence about the death of Paul before it was cleared in the end. It’s so grippingly and intriguingly managed by Chabrol. 

Must see is the understatement here

Thursday, August 30, 2012

VIOLETTE NOZIERE (French) (1978)

‘I don't try to sympathize with my characters, I just try to empathize with them to try understand them. If i sympathize with my characters, I would make idealized romantic characters out of them, which i don't do. I just do normal characters who are not so sympathetic but just the way they are. I think I do this in films that are made in shape of question and not an answer. They just try to make a very open statement and it is down to anyone's subjectivity to find his own answer to that... Acting is nothing but a way of living out one’s insanity.’   - Isabelle Huppert

With watching every next Chabrol films, I’m convinced that Isabelle Huppert one of the brilliant French actress who played some of the most unusual characters on screen and this is one of her gem of performance. The film is based on controversial scandalous true crime story that shocked the France in 1930 with headline like “An 18 years old girl poisoned her parents.” Living disenchanted from her parents teenage Violette lies, cheat, steal money from her parents and lives double life. At night she becomes a secret whore who sleeps with multiple partners. She’s suffering from venereal disease and fall in love with a wrong guy who’s after her money than love.

Character study of this sort demands two strong things- a stellar performance from lead actor and its rendering of narration. And Chabrol got both things here so perfectly. What is intriguing here is the way Chabrol represented the character of Violette with short rushes of flashback as nightmare. It’s complex narrative manages to make the audience wonder what’s true and what’s lie about her allegation regarding her father molesting her. It represented on screen one of the most brilliant representation of teenage psychosis. There’s quite a resemblance of Madam Bovary in her character, as she’s dreams for right man and ending up as wrong one with a despicable crime.

The film features two inseparable dames of Chabrol cinema together as mother and daughter. His personal muse Stephane Audron is here pitted against absolutely talented discovery Isabelle Huppert. And as Audran is getting old, Huppert who played the lead here in her first collaboration with Master gave one of her best act of lifetime. Gradually she became a perfect replacement to portray those unusual shrewd and strong woman characters of Chabrol films. Huppert won best actress award at Cannes for bringing on screen an absolutely vulnerable and fragile persona of woman on screen who committed homicide at home. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

LES BICHES (French) (1968)

Just like most of French New Wave auteurs, it’s not content but form and the individual style that matters in Chabrol’s cinema. This erotic and sensuous ‘Menage a trois’ is slow and moody psychological study of its two alter ego bourgeoisie dames. It’s a chance meeting on Paris bridge that brought the instinctual relations between two dames- a rich bitch Frederique and a street artist with queer name Why. The rich one took her to her lavish home and they are happy enjoying each other’s company. Conflict occur with the entry of a man named Paul who dated and slept with Why. Frederique tried to spy them and the very next morning she went to see Paul. The chemistry keeps playing shifting sexual tension between the trio for the rest of the film.

I just love the way Chabrol portrays his characters with certain kind of enigma and moody charm while maintaining slow brooding internal conflict and he did justice in most of his films. He photographed it like a sensuous ethereal poetry without showing any explicit nudity even though the subject is too demanding. Jealousy and obsession play its tune amid sensuous tension between almost all of five characters, including those two annoying idiotic men doing all sorts of morbid and irritating act to molest the beautiful new comer Why. But primarily it’s focused between the rivalry of two dames played with aplomb chemistry by Chabrol’s real and reel life muse Stephane Audran and extremely beautiful Jaqueline Sassard.. Young and dashing Jean Louis Trintignant serves as catalyst here. I just love Audran in Chabrol films, she’s what Anna Karina to Godard’s cinema.

There are many memorable scenes I can’t wipe out easily even after finishing the film. Especially that poker game scene or the brilliant scene where the trio is in intoxication, the man is narrating a tale about wisdom seeker, the record is playing same operatic music and they started embracing one another…we immediately sense the brooding instinctive tension leading towards tragedy in the climax. 

JUSTE AVANTE LA NUIT (French) (1971)

‘This story must be buried.’

In how many films do we see a criminal suffering from guilt obsession of murder so terribly that he confesses everything without any sort of external pressure or obligation and then the offended man pardons him instantly not in one case but two; most closest relationships of life. It heightens the psychological guilt of the protagonist urging to get punishment. It may be accidental or chance surprise murder but the guilt is something that is focused at its naked core here. This is a meditation on guilt.

A young wife was strangled on bed as the film opens; slowly we come to know that she’s married woman and an infidel dwelled in multiple liaisons. And we know the man who killed her. He is an upper class bourgeois and responsible family guy. He is being considered as timid by his colleague and who’ve never indulged in any sort of crime much before he entrapped with the lady who happens to be his closest friend’s wife.

This is my third Chabrol film and so far he never failed to impress me with his treatment and character projection however cliché the plot is. The way he builds a tension with slow and calm intensity is something you won’t find in many mature filmmakers’ cinema. Infact it was not murder mystery at all to give you momentary excitement in form of entertainment but something which a few filmmakers has touched upon. It is an intensifying drama and tragedy built on its protagonist’s obsessive guilt consciousness. Though slow in pace it maintains fine equilibrium of seriousness between tension and drama and an absolutely invigorating play between the morbid sadistic desire and masochistic affair. In one word this is Chabrol’s open love letter to the guilt consciousness and remorse. Surely one of the finest of Chabrol and something that is mandatory to all serious cinema lovers. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

FRANTIC (1988)

Compared to Roman Polanski’s brilliant films this mystery may seem too average; but I can’t deny that it’s an absorbing thriller that falters in the second half stretched in certain unnecessary objective. What I love is the pace of the film, it begins too slow, builds a tension but than fumbles towards routine chase sequences. Harrison Ford plays an American doctor visiting Paris with his wife to attend a seminar & they rented a hotel room to stay. Within few moments the wife disappears from the room as the man is having shower. The city turns hostile for him as he neither knows French nor having enough proof to convince cops that it was abduction. He starts making his own investigation through certain links especially his wife’s exchanged bag at airport. The rest is punk drug culture, espionage & crime rivalry.

Polanski finely used the bag as prop of intriguing mise en scene especially that brilliant messy scene on the roof top where Ford is trying to break into the house with a bag hard to handle. I loved the first half better & it has many exciting Hitchcockian elements. Though I’m not much into Ford, I like his performance here. Ennio Morricone’s background score is not his best one but it creates a thrilling tempo to the film. It’s worth watching once if you’re thriller lover or Polanski fan.  

Saturday, August 18, 2012

UZAK (Turkish) (2002)

One needs patience with surrendering all those preconceived notions mainstream cinema fed to the senses to feel the transcendental quality of certain cinema. Names of Masters like Tarkovsky & Bresson flashes immediately to mind for discovering feelings to image but here I’m sharing an experience of cinema of a modern Turkish filmmaker named Nuri Bilge Ceylan. One need to watch at least one of his film to check what a mature artistic insight & wavelength he’s blessed with! The film won him not only Grand Prize but also France Culture award for Best Cineaste of the year at Cannes. The Best Actor awards to both actors was added bonus.

The English title of the film is ‘Distant’ and it is about encounter between two men: the unemployed young man Yusuf who leaves his hometown to seek a job in the city and his distant relative Mahmut, a mid age photographer. The film without feeding mainstream narration, quietly explores Mahmut’s self alienation. Yusuf on the other hand is a struggler didn’t getting a chance to find a job or a girl. His entry in Mahmut’s home intensifies the existential drama with somber mood. One can see the separation in space and relevance in everything whether approach, relationships, frames, characters, family life and above all emphasizing the space between its two non professional main leads; it’s poetry about the distant existential crisis the city brought to its dwellers. We witness the indifference & distant the city brought to the life where men are struggling between career, defunct family & relations, curbing down his dreams where a routine job ends up to get back to loneliness at home passed either in front of television set full of fifty or something channels offering nothing worthy to watch or clicking those inanimate objects in photographic frames.

In Ceylan’s films rather than dialogue driven story, viewers have to feel the image and sound.  No he didn’t use background music in his later films like ‘Climates’ & ‘Three Monkeys’ including this one yet how wonderfully he managed to get the resonance of natural sounds in its tranquility coalesced with sudden & irritating mechanical sound whether its car horn, alarm, routine moving train on tracks. A few countries look visually as stunning and rich as Turkey, especially the snow clad city and landmarks of Istanbul and Ceylan’s camera rather than portraying locales as tourist spots features the atmosphere that somehow connects to the characters & theme. Long shots are his signature style; most of his films begin with that. But he knows how to capture silence or still moment breathing with internal vibrations of mind like Tarkovsky, in fact he paid homage to Master where the man is shown watching ‘Stalker’ on TV.

Recommended to all cinephiles who’ve witnessed either one of Ceylan films or haven’t explored anything by him.

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Friday, August 17, 2012


Though there’s a lot of cliché, explicit content & loads of over the top crude and adult humor along with a plot inspired from Chaplin’s political satire masterpiece, I must confess that it’s a film which made me laugh out loudly after a long long time. The credit goes to multiple talented Sacha Baron Cohen who not only played real and fake double dictators of oppressed Republic of Wadia but also co-scripted & produced the film. As said much of the plot runs as kind of whack satire extracted from Chaplin's 'The Great Dictator' or Marx Bros. 'Duck Soup' with points poking fun at the oppressed autocracy of either Saddam or Gaddafi but Baron aimed more towards entertainment and fun than political satire. What I loved about the film is write up of some of the hilarious peppy lines… ‘They raped me in a very unprofessional way.’ Films like these don’t require a kind of review, so the only thing I like to say is ‘Watch and see how long can you resist your laughter.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

THE SON’S ROOM (Italian) (2001)

‘To live you have to die a little.’

Life is jigsaw puzzle of unwanted situations, unsettling truths but at the same time it’s a journey of struggle to shape that jigsaw pieces in a correct order to find the higher truth. Not all tragedy ends with such a sublime and life affirming note and it’s not a tragedy about war, holocaust or any collective collateral. It’s personal daily tragedy of any family where they accidentally lost the youngest member.Here’s a simple film without any larger than life canvas and though it portrays a trauma, it manages to convey a positive note with a sublime surprise. 

Giovanni is a psychotherapist with a family of wife and a young son and daughter. He encounters with different patients confessing their trivial and mundane affairs of minds and watching closely one may feel how the struggle of inner mind is related to anybody in higher or lower order. There are many scenes with irony and humor where patients’ confessions one or other way become confessions of the therapist. There’s fine bonding between the family members which breaks with a sudden accidental death of son while scuba diving. The loss brought feelings of guilt and cynicism towards life but a surprise came in form of letter addressed to his son. This leads them towards a life affirming journey without any preaching moral or so. The most touching parts of Nanni Moretti’s this acted-directed film are its natural performances, life-like characters and evocative background score. It may not be the best of Italian cinema but surely a worth watching film for all those who love to explore the ordinary and yet oblique side of life. The film manages to won Palme d’Or honour at Cannes in 2001.