May 31, 2017

Cannes in Andheri Film Festival 2017

As the world's most reputed film festival unfolded over the last couple of weeks in Cannes, I conducted my own personal film festival, like previous years. I curated films that have won awards at Cannes over the last few decades and watched nine movies as part of this one-man film festival:

  • Crimson Gold (2003/ Iran/ Jafar Panahi) Winner of Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. The film is a crime drama involving a pizza delivery man who increasingly gets attracted to the idea of quick money.
  • Songs from the Second Floor (2000/ Sweden/ Roy Andersson) Winner of Jury Prize in the Main Competition category. This film is the first of the 'Living Trilogy' of exceptionally original comedies, followed by 'You, the Living' and 'A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence'.
  • Gate of Hell (1953/ Japan/ Teinosuke Kinugasa) Winner of the Grand Prix, the top prize at that year's festival. It went on to win an Oscar for Costume Design and another Honorary Foreign Language Oscar. A period samurai story of obsessive love, reminded me of our very own 'Darr'!
  • Scarecrow (1973/ USA/ Jerry Schatzberg) Winner of Palme d'Or and OCIC Award at Cannes. Discovering this movie was a big surprise. No one talks about this one, although it is so good at so many levels. It is a road-movie as a sailor and a con-man forge a beautiful friendship on their way back home.
  • Fitzcarraldo (1982/ West Germany/ Werner Herzog) Winner of Best Director. Inspired by the true story of an Irish adventurer and his endeavors in South America, this film has an imposing scale and an incredible tale to tell. 
  • If.... (1969/ UK/ Lindsay Anderson) Winner of Palme d'Or. This British comedy-drama shows us the ridiculous tradition at play while running an apparently prestigious boys boarding school. Frequently jumping from color to b&w, with several surrealistic sequences and an explosive climax, I could figure why this film must have garnered acclaim. However, it was kind of tough for me to watch it.
  • Post Tenebras Lux (2012/ Mexico-France/ Carlos Reygdas) Winner of Best Director. A film like this is essential to complete your movie experience. A slow-paced drama with some sequences so bizarre you don't even care if it had any meaning. But with brilliant cinematography, and natural effective performances, you know this is something special. For me, just the opening sequence was worth anything, and the shocker at the end that I won't tell you about made it really memorable.
  • The Sugarland Express (1974/ USA/ Steven Spielberg) Winner of Best Screenplay. One of the lesser know Spielberg movies, its screenplay was co-written by Matthew Robbins, who wrote 'Saat Khoon Maaf' and 'Rangoon' with Vishal Bhardwaj. The movie is on the lines of 'Bonnie and Clyde' but has more comedic elements involving a massive chase of a crime couple, based on true incidents. 
  • The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005/ Romania/ Cristi Puiu) Winner of Un Certain Regard Award. Perhaps the perfect movie to close the festival. A drama set over a few hours of a night, it works almost like a thriller in the closing half an hour. And it looks so real it is hard to believe it is a movie.

May 07, 2017

Horror Feast

Over the last few weeks I have watched horror films of all kinds. It is interesting how this genre is not limited to stories where a spirit attacks or possesses humans, and antagonists of different kinds can create similar emotional impact, a catharsis of sorts, as evident by the following movies I watched recently:
  • The Cabin in the Woods (2012/ USA) by Drew Goddard: An exaggerated celebration of the genre, this is one of the most audaciously original genre movies I have seen. Super fun. You should be extremely open-minded when you sit for this. I almost recommended it as a must-watch-before-you-die.
  • What We Do in the Shadows (2014/ New Zealand) by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi: This is a horror mockumentary. And is really, really funny. Anyone should watch and enjoy it, even those who don't like to be scared. It is again more a tribute to the genre than something that will scare you.
  • The Host (2006/ South Korea) by Bong Joon-ho: No supernatural here, but an animal, a monster created by man's apathy toward nature. It is a typical creature horror extravaganza and has nothing subtle or artistic about it. But can be fun for most.
  • Inside (2007/ France) by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo: This is a movie I'll certainly not recommend to anyone. Do not watch it. If you are a woman, definitely stay away. Here again, the threat does not come from a spirit, but a brutal home invasion. You think you've seen gore. See this. Or better, do not see this.
  • The Invitation (2015/ USA) by Karyn Kusama: This movie, set over a dinner at one location, is more of a mystery-thriller than horror. But the experience is horrifying for sure. It does not really answer all questions its plot raises, but does hint at ritualistic human sacrifice, kind-of-satan-worship and things like that, done in a modern urban context.
  • Suspiria (1977/ Italy) by Dario Argento: Everything about this movie is loud. Colors. Sound. Score. Performances. It may look like a B-grade witch-movie, but its aesthetic choices are impressive and impactful. No wonder it is considered an influential film of the genre.
  • Trouble Every Day (2001/ France) by Claire Denis: A bizarre and surrealistic take on the vampire sub-genre, this film again manages to put the blame on humans and humans alone. Do not look for plot here. There is one and in the end you will have a sense of a story. But most story-elements remain unexplained. It also has some really disturbing sequences you may want to stay away from. And it is directed by one of the most reputed female directors of our time.

May 01, 2017

Great Screenwriters #1: Ben Hecht (1894-1964)

Despite having watched thousands of great movies and discovering and reading about several film-makers from around the world, my knowledge of screenwriters and their respective filmographies remains non-existent. This series is an attempt to correct this.

BEN HECHT (1894-1964)

Six Oscar nominations. Two wins.

Ben Hecht contributed as a writer to several legendary American classics. His contribution ranged from working as a story-writer, screenplay-writer, and a contributing writer including several uncredited work.

Movies I have watched: Scarface (1932), Nothing Sacred (1937), Gunga Din (1939), Stagecoach (1939), Wuthering Heights (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Rope (1948) and Strangers on a Train (1951).

Notable movies I should watch: Underworld (1927), The Front Page (1931), Viva Villa! (1934), Twentieth Century (1934), The Scoundrel (1935), Angels Over Broadway (1940), Kiss of Death (1947), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) and Monkey Business (1952).