Friday, September 28, 2012

L’ENFER (French) (1994)

The high point of Chabrole’s this film is Emmanuelle Beart as one of the most tantalizing lady of Chabrol cinema. The film is once again trading on his widely repeated theme of jealousy and here he showed us the extreme height of madness associated with it. It is one man’s suspicious journey about her wife’s infidelity leading him towards delusional paranoia of no return. She’s young and irresistibly beautiful enough for any man's gaze and Chabrol captured her sex appeal so desirably strong that anybody having her kind of wife suffers from certain amount of insecurity.

The film becomes too repetitive in psychological & physical torture in the later half as the man’s doubt grows out of proportion making his and his wife’s life absolutely hell. The film ends without an end, left us with ambiguity between state of illusion and disillusion. It lacks his trademark thrill element and strong characterization but it has a strongly aesthetic camera work and above all what’s more aesthetic than watching oozing and infectious charm of French dame named Emmanuelle Beart. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

WEDDING IN BLOOD (French) (1973)

No other filmmaker gave us the flavor of infidelity better than Chabrol with company of his muse Stephane Audran. Unlike similiar affair of ‘The Unfaithful Wife’, here both the infidel partners keep on cheating their marital partners. Their relationship grew out of unsatisfactory sexual urge as the man has sick bed ridden wife and the lady has cold husband who often remained occupied with his career. Chabrol portrayed one of the most sexually charged couple on screen here where wilderness and passionate physical hunger runs high whenever we see the Stephane Audran and Michel Piccoli in their intimate private moments.Behind the affair runs crime that begets another. Gradually one by one both of them get themselves free from partners by killing them. & it’s perfect crime where one looks suicide & the other an accident.

Using prop of infidelity Chabrol represented the satire on microcosm of French bourgeoisie society’s masked immorality. There’re quite a scene where Audran and Piccoli under physical bewilderness indulge in love making in the museum where beer cork popping up with splash on vintage frames on wall. We see the husband who don’t mind her wife is having an affair with his political partner as long the fellow satisfy his political needs and ambition.  Once again Audran is just superb here, watching her body language I wonder is there any other actress who maintained sophistication and elegance on screen even though she’s infidel bitch! Like any of Chabrol film it demands patience in the beginning from its audience, provided that it gives you gripping, intriguing thrill and drama leading to potent finale.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

LE BOUCHER (French) (1970)

“Desire when they lost their savage qualities becomes aspirations.”

There is beast in all of us but it’s too ambiguous to interpret and analyze it from surface layer; one has to watch and if possible re-watch this French masterpiece to witness and ponder the subtlety behind it. Regarded as one of the best Chabrol, the film allowed to merge two genres that conventionally exclude each other- it's a love story with a serial killer. The film brought two most unlikely courting couple on screen. Paul is a sadist butcher cum serial killer. He is either psychologically tormented by tragedy of war or by her unfulfilled sexual frustration. Helen is a single and repressed school headmistress trying to recuperate her lost love in company of children. Set in provincial French town,a trademark Chabrol, the film juxtaposed the psychology of crime and love between these two lead characters and it’s a thing to witness how Chabrol brilliantly maintained psychological ambiguity of both lead characters in many scenes. This subtle and fascinating account of psychological thriller is also moving love story of two lonely souls to ponder about. It begins and burns slow like any of Chabrolian flavor and established itself with more firm ground that starts intriguing you after half an hour inside the film and it changes the whole perception towards its climax just like any of his best films. That end with zoomed blinking red light of elevator is something just unforgettable!

Having watched many of Chabrol films, I must say this with conviction that he’s is one of that director who borrowed the props from Hitchcock and than surpasses him by giving them not only his original touch but also changing the whole perspective and perception of psychological thrill-drama. No, it’s not typical whodunit crime thrill to look forward in his films, but something beyond that trait and that is the fuming untold internal drama of the characters that makes watching his films a treat. Infact, this is one of that Chabrol film that demands a repeat watch for this and many other sheer reasons including brilliant chemistry between his default screen and real life muse Stephane Audran and Jean Yanne, who played another terrific topnotch performance in Chabrol’s ‘This Man Must Die’. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

KSHAY (2012)

I’ll not feel apologetic, if I claim that I ended up watching India’s best film ever made on psychological obsession. Independent cinemas in India do not evolve much or perhaps it didn't reach it's due audience due to possible struggling and financial hurdles but this film created ripples around various Film Festivals of emerging Asian cinema. Considering the debut film, I must say writer, director & co-producer Karan Gour deserve standing ovation for this; one can witness his brilliance in more than one facet of film making here. With low budget, minimalist approach & arresting B&W cinematography he created something so unusual that’s hard to achieve even if somebody had used all the available resources of biggest production houses.

The film is personification of obsession in form (big sculpting idol of Goddess Lakshmi) and it’s fuelled by intangible desire hard to get rid of. A simple middle class young house wife encounters an idol of Goddess Lakshmi and instantly wanted to buy it. Since the cost is too expensive and out of her budget, she decided to buy it as soon as she settle down with some money. However her life is tangible and she has to juggle with limited resources. The seed of obsession for idol gets enough fuel by personal tragedy and middle class neighbor’s indication of faith to heal all problems. The thought soon becomes so deadly obsession leading towards an inevitable dark nightmare like personal tragedy.

The film has stamp of brilliance all over in its intriguing narration, visual projections and well nuanced natural act by both lead players showing the obsessive perspective. The film wouldn’t be same without Rasika Dugal and Alekh Sangal. The claustrophobic set up of apartment room and B&W images instantly reminds me Polanski’s ‘Repulsion’. However the personal psychological neurosis and tragedy of the film lies in obsession of thought, the film also remotely projected the alienation and exploitation that the city breed to lower middle class. That triangular stone keep reflecting throughout the film is projected like some jinx object and it creates some sort of surreal effect with company of sound and visuals. Maybe the next time I see Lakshimiji around, it’ll immediately remind me of this film…such was intensity of the film!

Highly recommended is understatement in this case. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012


My introduction to Ermanno Olmi’s cinema is an experience that is as sublime and as contemplative to put in words as watching my first Tarkovsky (Andrei Rublev) or my first Angelopoulos (Landscape in the Mist). Olmi portrayed it with salt of serious honesty that I’ve to bow my head. Claimed by many critics, the film is his ‘Mastepiece’ and it deservingly won the honour of Grand prize at Cannes.     

The film is placid idyllic portrait of countryside Italian farmer family’s life and survival on shared farmstead in Lombardy at the end of century. Shot in natural light and location with refined minimalist approach, the film is devoid of any sort of artificiality. It bears nearly three hours long length. The pace of the film is slow and its essential to give its audience a close room for thought to set themselves in time and space of those idyllic and yet busy communal life of peasants focusing a single family. We see what the family does for survival in short shots where each member adjusting with set way of life full of dignified labour with embracing honesty. The portrayal is so serene, sublime and almost poetic!

Several stories emerge out of details- a father cutting down a wooden tree to make shoes for his son, a grandfather along with a little girl planting and reaping the tomatoes much before the season, courtship and wedding of modest young couple and adapting of orphan infant. There’s so much poise and tranquility in narration with elegance in disposition of frames free from stress or emotion or any other conventional cinematic manipulation. There is struggle for every family member. For example- a twelve year old has to earn something as they don’t have enough to live on. There’s a question whether two daughters stay with them or send to church orphanage. On dinner table, the mother takes serious opinion from an elder son who’s just fourteen or fifteen years old and earning for family and his opinion and responsibility sounds so mature and concerning to his age! How they rear their children and animals alike and how the children grow mature too early to their age is something so introspective to ponder. Infact in how many films, we see the faith in prayers in such internal and integral way! That prayer to save the dying cow is spiritual high of the film. It’s director’s point to to show positive role of religious faith in peasant’s lives. 

The way Olmi used the world and portrayal of children in the film demands altogether new topic of discussion. The grandfather is the most amusing character and not only for children but for other family members too, that scary story demanded everybody’s attention.Bach’s western classical harmony is used as background score and it adds the depth and texture to its timelessness. The natural sound whether an infant’s cry, chirping of birds or distant church bell constantly gives us feeling of close proximity to its surrounding.    

It’s insult to call this just a film, as its something like this that establish cinema to much higher ground than mere depiction of art or aesthetics as collective art;  it’s a document of meditation on nature and humanity.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


‘Vampires are lucky, they can feed on others. We gotta eat away at ourselves.’

Abel Ferrara’s ‘Bad Lieutenant’ is shocking, disturbing and uncompromising piece of personal cinema about a cop without a name. His rough, bleak and messy existence is purveyance of self destruction and absolute anarchy around. He’s the cop gambling heavy bets, he’s corrupt, he’s thief, he’s hooked junkie and alcoholic, he’s the sinner. He’s in mess of no returned and stuck to a big fix when he constantly failing to pay betting debts to loan shark and doubling it to recover and ending up to lose further. He doesn’t mind taking physical advantage of young girls on duty or stealing from department store and yet on verge of his self destruction he encounters a rape case of nun which draws him towards the redemption.

If Nicholas Cage had played one of unsurpassable doomed alcoholic method act in ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ than this is the unsurpassable doomed junkie method act you’ve ever seen in form of Harvey Keitel. Undoubtedly this is one of his absolutely stunning and uncompromising performance. Watch his body language, expressions and temperament in almost each and every scenes, I must say this is one hell of method act. There’s many scenes that can’t wipe out just due to Keitel’s intensity of performance.

The film bears strong religious perspective of sin, confession, repentance in the later half. I haven’t seen other films of Ferrara and it’s hard to say whether this is his film, since Keitel’s performance overshadows everything. I don’t recollect the name but one of fellow cinephile told me to watch Ferrara version when I praised Herzog’s take on it starring Cage.  With full respect to Werner Herzog, I must say that ‘Bad Lieutenant’ is belong to Harvey Keitel only. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

THE MAN FROM NOWHERE (Korean) (2010)

From almost a last decade or so Korean cinema has been honing their skill in crime thrillers with so much consistency, prowess and intensity. They’re not only redefining the action-crime-thriller genre from long but also bringing out a cool action hero too. It’s time for Hollywood to learn a thing or two about how to make a taut slick thriller from them. Here is another gripping thriller with enigmatic and detached young man as lead who has a hidden track record and a tragedy. He’s pawnshop owner who’s sharing sublime emotional bonding with his neighbor’s small daughter who’s too innocent and yet too mature for her age. She names their union as ‘pawnshop creek and garbage’. Drug trafficking between two rival gangs led to the daughter and mother’s abduction. As the girl is the only hope or innocence left of his otherwise reclusive and tormented life, the kidnapping leads to his involvement in the engaging plot in order to protect her. It’s too late for him to realize that he’s used as mean to end the gang rivalry.

The rest is fast paced slick action thriller with everything on platter that one expects from Korean cinema- homicide, gang rivalry, violence, double cross, drug trafficking, organ trade where our lone hero is dangling between sniffing cops and gangster mob men. There isn’t a moment of dullness; it’s taut and edge on the seat entertainment with electrifying action including that brilliantly executed knife fight sequence. Jeong-beom Lee a new promising entry in the block of notable contemporary Korean directors ranging from Bong Joon Ho, Park Chan Wook & Kim Jee Woon and am looking forward to him in coming time. Same can be said about the man in lead- Bin Won. Remember the retarded son in Bong Joon Ho’s ‘Mother’.  

Recommended for all thriller & Korean cinema fans. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

BELLISSIMA (Italian) (1951)

‘Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.’ - Jean Luc Godard.

Here’s another gold of Italian cinema which shows us the desperation of common working class to be on silver screen with all natural or cultivated talents, to get a chance for fame, recognition with hopes and dreams of success to realize a fragmentary illusion of the celluloid. Today from cinema the direction is shifted to television where in the name of talent hunt and reality shows, the dream merchants are filling their coffers with shattered dreams of contestants belong to middle class milieu. That desperation for five minutes of fame proves an insulting lesson for many and yet we see the flock of them in next season. And like that climax I too become so angry when by chance I witness those good for nothing judges mocking and poking fun at contestants on face to make it more gruesome!

Bellissima in Italian means ‘very beautiful’ and it refers to the beloved daughter of desperate working class mother who wanted to make her five year little modestly talented daughter an actress. She runs for screen test telling her false age, burning her money to teach her acting lessons and grooming and dressing and staking everything she had including her hard earned amount to get her selected for the film. The heart wrenching frustration turned as illusion in the climax. But the realization of it comes much before in that key scene where the lady is editing screen tests films for final selection and the desperate mom wanted to see her daughter’s film suddenly recognized the lady’s face and claimed to watch her performance as an actress in one of the film. It’s hard to digest a fact for a mother that she’s no longer an actress but working on editing as they hired her once or twice as she was the type they needed then. It raised her hopes and dream to be an actress who gradually cost her fiancĂ© and job. The mom eager to see her daughter’s screen test was finally led to projector room and along with her, we witness the poetic image followed by cry and laughter. I don’t want to ruin that experience by describing it any further. But it’s not end, even after that the film takes different turn to make it more positive end and that is the heart of the film.

The film is made by the precursor Master of Italian Neo-realism cinema, Luchino Visconti. Though this underrated gem of Neo-realist cinema belongs to post war Italy, it focused on the other side common working class life where the popular art of cinema started building pipedreams of shift their hard life to imaginary existence. One can clearly see the power of script here written by Neo-realist cinema’s most significant writer Cesare Zavattini who penned some of the unforgettable timeless documents for his long collaborator Vittorio De Sica. And it would be an insult if I forget to mention the ‘Mamma Roma’ of Italian cinema- the one and only Anna Magnani who nailed one of her best performance of the mother. Her body language, face expressions talks louder than anything in the film. She poured so much heart and soul in her performance that the film wouldn’t be the same without her presence. Period.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Much before Hollywood’s entertainer ‘Baby’s Day Out’, Indian cinema had made something much more higher than it. Writer, Director Chetan Anand’s this film shot and filmed in neo-realist approach is natural journey of a lost infant in the backdrop of 60’s urban Mumbai.

The film was a debut movie of Rajesh Khanna pairing with Indrani Banerjee. The hill station romance and private marriage in temple turned out as what’s typical hindi film situation where heroine returned to urban hero with a child in her womb. But keeping this formulaic part aside for a while one has to look forward for the rest of it where we witness the lost child let loose in the city. I must confess without exaggeration that I haven’t seen any other Indian film where an infant actor of mere fifteen months filmed so sensitively, so naturally and so beautifully keeping the realistic approach. Director Chetan Anand and Cinematographer Jaal Mistry deserve honor for this for portraying the subject so sensitively and artistically. One has to watch the beauty of certain scenes handles so well with hand held camera focused on child in the background of indifferent city. Baby Bunty is the real hero of the film and he performed so naturally on screen that you can’t resist being emotionally exploited. 

Any Chetan Anand film almost offered memorable nostalgic music and this is not an exception. Though for some inexplicable reason here he didn’t have his long collaborator Madan Mohan, the music composed by Khayyam and penned by Kaifi Azmi never felt us the lost of melodies and it features two of most melodious tracks he offered to Lata Mangeshkar- ‘Baharon mera jivan bhi sanwaro’ & ‘Mere Chanda mere nanhe’. Like to share the trivia that the film was India’s submitted entry in Best Foreign Language film category.

Here’s what Ketan Anand said about his father’s film at one of Kolkota Film Festival, “I feel Aakhri Khat was a greater achievement, not only for him, but also for Indian cinema. It was a masterpiece and my father started with a bare outline of a script and a 15-months old infant who he let loose in the city, following him with his camera. Even though, it seems a simple film, a true student of cinema will realize that it was actually a biting comment on the loss of innocence, in the new, fast growing material world.”

A DOUBLE TOUR (French) (1959)

Though critics shouted influence of Hitchcock in Chabrol cinema, here’s a wonder to check that a year prior to Hitchcock masterpiece ‘Psycho’, Chabrol portrayed the psychological thrill-drama of a mother obsessed young man committed a murder under insanity. Well, this one is quite early Chabrol, shot in color with Jean Paul Belmondo as lead. Compared to some of his brilliant films of seventies, this one is too average one but nevertheless recommended one for his admirers. The Film begins with a young dame exposing and playing provocative mischief from a window towards other working class men like gardener and milkman, similarly a voyeaur is peeping her through keyhole- bourgeois characters belong to a family under single roof with a strange entry of dame and a nasty young man- an affair started disrupting the marital life of a mid age couple- after slowly set the characters and plot of bourgeoisie drama, a sudden murder of lady takes the film towards different direction of crime

The film represents early and young Belmondo prior ‘Breathless’ and he’s as nasty as nasty can. His breakfast table scene with the lady of house is the scene dipped with humor. I just love the way French wave film-makers portrayed mirror and reflection in their frames in some of the key scenes and this one is certainly not an exception. Nothing much to say about Henri Decae’s camera work but what’s thing to watch here is the way Chabrol cleverly done the creative construction of narrative joining the normal sequences into jigsaw pieces. Together they touched multiple human vices ranging from obsession, jealousy, instinctive urge to anger and guilt.