Monday, December 31, 2012


Two strangers sharing an all-night wild phone conversation on New year’s eve in NY city. After a brief encounter at party, a random caller traveling in a car with his buddies after party calls an enigmatic and leave me alone kind of girl living alone in her hotel room. An all-night random phone call becomes sweet entertainment escape from mundane boredom for a while as both of them starts digging each others preferences about life, romance and relationships. They keep digging each other a while with topics of sex, fetish, religion or movie preferences and then slowly its getting in personal tone touching the chords of their past and haunted memories. The conversation brings something so personal hidden part out where limited validity of the adventure gives you freedom to be what you want to be without emotionally making things complicated unnecessarily. Anonymity is comforting and such situation may lead to an unlikely romance or something like that!

Writer-director Sudhish Kamath’s this experimental independent film is an interesting and sweet and minimalist rom-com to watch without fail.The film is shot in B&W split-screen naturally expressed by its two lead random callers Seema Rahmani and Manu Narayan. There’s not much happen to screen except watching the facial expressions of two callers in split-screen with a few intermittent scenes of their past and poking fun sppofing Bollywood’s Karan Johar romance. But what makes its interesting watch is the conversation itself without giving us a moment of boredom; surely a fine write up by Kamath and Shilpa Rathnam. If you like Woody Allen and ‘Before Sunrise’, surely this one is rom-com for you. 


MS. 45 (1981)

A shy, mute and fragile working class young girl in a garment designer’s shop was raped twice; first in Manhattan’s alley and then in her apartment. She managed to kill the second man with his own gun but the mental trauma brought bizarre paranoia to her. In order to get rid of rapist’s body, she first chops his body parts, stuffed it in plastic bags and one by one dumping it in town’s dustbin. With possession of her tormenter’s gun, she turned in a vigilante male hater and killer. The streets turned into killing spree and as the old neighborhood lady and her dog living next door to girl get suspicious; we witness the final shock in Halloween party.

Abel Ferrara’s this low budget psychological shocker reminds me two films- one is Swedish exploitation cult ‘Thriller- A Cruel Picture’ and another is De Palma’s ‘Carrie’. Ferrara’s exploitation film is furious and more violent in tone where mental trauma and paranoia of the rape victim turns into an uncontrollable blind rage-revenge. Ferrara managed to brought certain bizarre sequences with his trademark slow motion violence, eerie background score and most importantly the pace of the film with duration of less than one and half hour. There is a scene which seems like homage to ‘Taxi Driver’ before that shattering shooting spree climax. The film gained its momentum in video circuit much after its release and gained an underground cult status.
Recommend to catch the uncut version.  


Monday, December 24, 2012


From the director who gave us some of the memorable westerns like ‘True Grit’, this is not a hardboiled noir of its time but surely an interesting watch for several reasons. Henry Hathaway’s this partial noir has touch of documentary, investigative journalism and drama and what’s make it more interesting premise is that its based on fact file of miscarriage of justice of  a wrongly convicted man who got justice after eleven years due to the efforts made by a reporter. So after eleven years a case of a cop’s murder and its legal justice is challenged by an old lady’s classified ad. A skeptical reporter of a Chicago newspaper with his ambivalent stand checking the investigation and ran an exclusive stories to help find out the evidence. The case turns emotional for him on one hand and compulsive on other hand by his editor’s insistence to sell more copies. But as the story starts gaining the momentum, it challenges the authority.  There’s lot of pressure on press by legal powers of police and judiciary. The reporter has to try hard uncovering the evidence and check out the witness who falsely identified the innocent man in court and he’s running short of time.

Jimmy Stewart plays that persistent and cynical reporter McNeal here and he’s always decent man to watch in those classic phase of American cinema; surely a reason enough for me to watch the film. It’s interesting to witness how Hollywood exploited new technical advancement of its time as props in crime/noir films. Lie detector check and blow ups here plays significant role in investigation and its detailed explanation seems dated today, but an appropriate and advanced one at the time of its release. However I hate to watch man like Lee J. Cobb used so frivolously, Stewart surely played his part well.

An average recommendation for Stewart fans and noir lovers.


Sunday, December 23, 2012


I was so desperate to watch the film after finishing Truman Capote’s brilliant crime novel based on real and controversial Clutter family murder case of Kansas. Capote’s detailed reconstruction of the horrible motiveless homicide crime by two young men and its aftermath is a chilling and gripping account touching multiple themes of crimes, psychology and punishment unraveling relevant American nightmare that keeps shocking reality in one or another form time to time. The book is indeed a topnotch work mixing Capote’s journalistic skill and imaginative power. The film adaptation made by Richard Brook came just two years after its publication and it maintains faithfulness to the original without missing any underlying gaps in significant incident or narration until two full hours and then they compressed the novel’s other half short within fifteen minutes. Though the film used documentary like narration to give it required justice in the later half. There maybe reasons for this and most easy to guess is to maintain the cinematic pace and attention of the common audience. The film also rid away with convicts past and family life except moments of a few memory scenes of Perry. The original novel gave it the whole new dimension which the film misses terribly. But then I won’t say its injustice to the original as cinematic medium has its own exploiting limitations and power.

The film has perfectly etched out characters especially the two guys who played Perry and Dick; Robert Blake and Scott Wilson. Brooks shot the film at all original locations to give it authentic feel including the Clutter house and even actual court room and gallows. Conrad Hall’s stunning B&W camera reminds me Hollywood’s classic B&W noirs and there are number of scenes which leave the impact of man’s experimental talents of visual legacy. The last scene where prior to moving to gallows Perry summing up his life, the rain drops on window reflected on his face like tears gave it altogether poetic feel. Quincy Jones background score is an added attraction.

This is the real chapter of American nightmare and indeed a mandatory watch for all crime film fans.

Ratings- 8/10 

Monday, December 17, 2012

CAESAR MUST DIE (Italian) (2012)

One of the best films of the year is also the best drama. Just think about a theatrical play of Bard’s classic ‘Julius Caesar’ performed by long term sentenced or lifetime prisoners and convicts. Yes, this is not recreating something; this is hybrid film made with real life prisoners; all played by actual inmates and that builds the intensity of drama to different level. Shifting between flashback and present, black & white and color, Taviani Brothers’ this film’s highlight lies in the performances of those real prisoners.

The film opens and ends in color on stage performance and in the middle we see an interesting audition round, selection and rehearsal sessions in a group and individual. The cast brought stellar and passionate performances of Brutus, Cassius and Caesar and Anthony; all key players of classic play. Salvatore Striano as Brutus is surely the man to watch. The film is less than one and half hours duration and there’s not a moment of drag. The play runs more in rehearsal sessions than stage and that’s something which gives it an interesting and different feel. It ends with stage enacting of final scene and audience’s ovation but the punch comes in the film’s final moment where going back to their barrack the man utters most beautiful line of the film, you got to find it on your own to know what I mean.

So folks, if you done away with this year’s much lauded ‘Amour’ and ‘Holy Motors’, this is surely a must watch of the year. The film won Golden Bear at Berlin Film Festival and an entry of Italy for Best Foreign Language film in upcoming Oscar.

Ratings- 9/10    

Saturday, December 15, 2012


One of the most outrageously funny animation I’ve ever seen. The film is regarded as avant garde animation and almost gained a cult status for both its experimental content and form considered controversial at the time of its release due to adult and sexually offensive X rated content. The film is the brainchild of underground comic strip artist Robert Crumb and independent screenplay writer-director Ralph Bakshi. It begins with 1960s happy time heavy time and it pokes fun at bourgeois, pulp loving, hedonist American type society of period touching contemporary topics of street life of youth, counter culture, street protests, racial crisis, rise of black power, pot smoking joints, free sex with outrageous black humor. Fritz is the anthropomorphic bachelor cat who considers himself cool running after private fun. Characters are dark, weird, nonsense and horny who constantly abusing, smoking weed, farting, and scratching their crotch. The film became one of the most successful independent animation of all-time. However Crumb didn’t like the final product for so many reasons including showing repressed horniness to sexual content. He also filed a suit to remove his name from its film credits. 

However compared to this, I enjoyed its sequel titled as ‘The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat’ which released two years after the success of its predecessor and directed by Robert Taylor. It represents seventies phase. The film is quite different in treatment since neither Crumb nor Bakshi was involved with it. Here the bachelor Fritz of earlier part is married now and has a kid. His nagging wife bashing him and he’s imagining different lives and most of them turned out as wild fun. That space shuttle sex with reporter lady and Hitler fun is just amazing. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

SUMMER WITH MONIKA (Swedish) (1953)

A mature and grounded tale of young love belongs to working class milieu of Stockholm. Two working class lovers becomes a rebel leaving their family and jobs to get in each other’s company in an idyllic summer on small boat and beaches of various destinations around the sea. The time they share is passionate, carefree and independent one but it was an escape from reality. The girl became pregnant and summer is ending. Soon they return to their conditioned social reality and passionate romance fades into oblivion facing hard reality. They married underage and with a child to rear the role of responsibility starts showing true colors. The man is playing his responsibility meddling with job, study and family responsibility but the woman is immature and expecting the early happy go lucky carefree time. She was unsatisfied with life and yearning for new excitement out of boring home life and untimely responsibility of mother. The temporary romantic escape soon shifts into biting reality and tragedy.

Bergman’s this film is surely one of the best of his earlier career and it represents the face of working class urban realism where romance is a temporary escape from their predestined social reality. Just like sparing time in films and dreaming fantasy of screen for few hours. The film is Bergman’s love letter to Harriet Anderson, his muse then and the film captures perhaps her most memorable, intimate and erotic screen presence in form of Monika. Bergman served her as the face of urban rebel model of 1950s who refuse to conform to societal and familial norms. She’s more driven by instincts and impulse rather than mundane social role and responsibility. She looks so captivating in many of frames. If ‘Summer Interlude’ is Bergman’s breakthrough in aesthetic style, ‘Summer with Monika’ is its full blooded effort with his cinematographer Gunnar Fischer.  What makes Bergman unique artist of all other contemporary is his elegant portrayal of women on screen exploring refined and sublime personas. Harriet Anderson represented here like a sensuous poetry yet her nudity is explored aesthetically. Even her fall of grace in later part evokes certain kind of ambiguity and poetic grace in that beautiful static close up. Ah and then there’s another close up which is heartbreaking one and this time it’s a man and a mirror of reality and an attempt to smile.

An absolute Bergman classic.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

SUMMER INTERLUDE (1951) (Swedish)

Exploring my second Bergman film is the one belongs to his early phase of career. With this film Bergman stamped his original impression that brought him special notice. The film is visual elegy about love and it’s lost. There’s elegance oozing in every frame in this romantic melodrama. The essence and tenderness of those bygone silent classic reflects through innocence of romance between an emotional fool and smart pretty ballerina. The story was told through flashback and present with fine poise, atmospheric tuning between sight and sound. It represents innocence and charm of romance follows up by lost youth and purged memories. The melodramatic seriousness of drama also covers some playful notes in romantic part too.

Perhaps it represents the face of youthful spirit of bloom in form of graceful Maj-Britt Nelson playing Marie. There’re myriad expressions covered in close ups with mirror reflection, quite a fine prop used a number of times in later films to serve a wall or double face between real and conceived image. Marie built a wall around her after sudden strike of personal tragedy. Having seen just two films it’s invalid to built certain amount of notion but Bergman left certain characters with ambiguity of human instinct. In ‘The Virgin spring’, it’s Ingeri, the jealous maid, in case of this one it’s Marie’s uncle who left me hard to make an opinion about intentions. However that rubbing of masked make up is quite symbolic frame, somehow I feel the happy ending part sudden and over imposed one where the character or plot doesn’t show us enough role playing of transformation.

Though Bergman loathed Godard’s experimental form, in July 1958’s Cahiers du Cinema, Godard noted such about this Bergman classic. “There are five or six films in the history of the cinema which one wants to review simply by saying, ‘it’s most beautiful of films’. Because there can be no higher praise…I love Summer Interlude.”


Monday, December 3, 2012

THE VIRGIN SPRING (Swedish) (1960)

'Now I want to make it plain that The Virgin Spring must be regarded as aberration. It's touristic, a lousy imitation of Kurosawa.' - Ingmar Bergman  

Let me confess the fact first that this is my first Ingmar Bergman film. Why I haven’t seen a single Bergman film (like so many other Masters) till day is an inexplicable excuse! Anyway the film becomes indeed a rich experience for me and but I'm more happy since it broke my jinx of not watching a single Bergman film. Need I say I can’t resist watching his other masterpieces soon? Anyway let's get back to the film part now.  The film is set in medieval Sweden where a charming teenage daughter sent to church to deliver candles accompanied by a pregnant maid. The jealousy of one robs the innocence of the other. Karen was raped by wanton shepherds in her lone journey. The events that follow are shocking, contemplative and dipped with multiple emotions.

In its plot and theme the film interweaves multiple themes that questions morals, justice, vengeance, status of God and redemption. Though the film is moving one and loaded with religious sentiments. What makes it a timeless touch is powerful narration, spellbindingly beautiful camera work by Bergmn regular Sven Nykvist and refined acting by all lead players including towering Max von Sydow, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom & Birgitta Pettersson. It invokes a gamut of mixed feelings, it’s tragic, it’s spiritual, it’s brutal and yet it’s too poetic and sensible. The relevance of the film grows out of its fundamental drives of the characters within medieval framework and its so absorbing from the very first frame where we witness the inexplicable human instincts coming to play in one form or another. It is study of how strange the human nature is- the shameless brutality of shepherds, the jealous and guilt of Ingeri in contrast to innocence and purity of Karin, the urge of vengeance to redemption it’s indeed a human drama in its elemental spirit.  

Apart of Karin and his parents, the two most complex characters that seek the attention are two bystanders in front of victim-the pregnant and jealous maid of the house Ingeri and that wretched boy who becomes helpless while innocence was robbed. It was not only Karin but who lost her innocence in the forest; the boy too lost it after witnessing the cheap and shameless act driven by human instinct. Somehow I feel that Bergman made the character of Ingeri quite ambiguous one and left it’s guilt part unattended towards the climactic revenge and miracle end. 


Sunday, December 2, 2012


Not as dramatic as ‘Out of the Past’ and not as gritty as ‘Cape Fear’, this Robert Mitchum film has adventure, drama, thrill and romance on platter with the man to watch. It’s queer to know that Mitchum penned the screenplay based on one of real incident and the film was his home production. However Mitchum hired Arthur Ripley to direct and its interesting that his younger brother in the film played by his son James Mitchum was not original choice. Senior Mitchum wanted to have Elvis Priestly play the role but somehow things didn’t materialize due to Rock & Roll Master’s manager’s interruption for charging exorbitant sum.

The plot of the film revolves around the trade of hauling illegal non-tax paid whisky by men of Rillow valley. Luke Doolin is fast wheel transporter and smart supplier who manages to cut all hurdles. But sooner the trailing enforcement cops becomes a challenge with interruptive threat of an organized criminal named Kogan who gutted to mean business on his own terms. Luke is the one person who stands in the way and Kogan and  the ground becomes all too rough for Luke. We all await for final confrontation till the story takes different turn. Besides producing, writing the film, Mitchum has also played the lead part and the man had class of his own. His character here is hard headed & edgy on attitude who’s unstoppable by anybody. But it also shows emotional and concerning human side too, especially towards his young brother, parents and beloved. The car chase sequences seems too average from today’s standard but back then it was surely considered as edge n the seat.

Not the best of Mitchum but surely a worth watch for all his fans.