Films from a Festival
Festival FilmsLast week I attended the International Film festival that took place in Colombo. Organised, in association with the Okinawa International Movie Festival in Japan, this was the first time in Sri Lanka that an International film festival was held. About time. Especially for rare film buffs here with taste, like me, this was heaven sent. I only managed to watch eight of the many films on show, due to coinciding times, no repeats, the distance between cinemas, traffic, heat, exhaustion, dehydration, and TBA (To Be Announced) films; still on TBA; even though the film festival is long over; et al. So here is a brief write-up on each movie I got to watch, at the Film Festival last week. Of course, it’s pronounced ‘Phlim Pestival’ in local English (People here love to insult other accents, especially of my birth country, Europe and America, but they never see their own faults, just felt like giving them a taste of their own medicine, hence the tongue-in-cheek title).

Day 1, 3rd Sept
Killa (2014) – This Marathi Art house movie, from India, is about a prepubescent boy, who moves from the city of Pune to a small town, with his mother, after the death of his father, and due to his mothers transfer from her work. Just as he manages to settle down, make friends, and an incident at the Fort that destroys his trust in people, his mother gets another transfer to yet another location in India. Beautifully directed movie, by a previous cinematographer.
Post the movie there was a Q&A. After complementing the director, Avinash Arun, for the wonderful experience Killa was, I asked him the significance of the literal Fort (Killa), especially for the child (for I gathered the metaphorical meaning of the title), and what inspired Mr. Arun to make this movie. He answered just part of my question, saying it was his own childhood experience moving around the country with his mother. Thus I asked him whether it was autobiographical, he answered with a ‘Yes’, and then I asked him whether it was set some time in the past, maybe the 80’s (as I had guessed), and ‘Yes’ came the reply. My Rating 9/10.

Mauvais Sang (1986) – This French movie starring Michel Piccoli, Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant and Julie Delpy, was a pretty morbid, aesthetically, and visually, beautiful piece of drama, though not a great movie. Made at a time when AIDS was still relatively a new disease in the world, the movie is set in the near future at the time (lets say end of the 80’s), where a disease is killing off people having sex instead of making love, sex without any emotional attachment. An ageing American woman is after the serum, an antidote, to this new mysterious illness, and she hires two aging Frenchman, who recruit a young man, to get hold of this serum. A very slow paced movie, to be watched with a load of patience. Some beautiful reflections on various facial expressions and a study of human emotions. My Rating 8/10.

Il Deserto Rosso (1964) – Unlike the above two movies, which I watched in cinemas, Il Deserto Rosso, was shown that afternoon at the Goethe Institute, a German cultural centre here. Thus it was a DVD projected on to a screen. Il Deserto Rosso, is an excellent movie by the late great Michelangelo Antonio. The story is about a mentally ill woman, Giuliana (Monica Vitti) who tries to survive in the world of modern day eccentricities and existential uncertainty. Her loneliness and insecurity of life is exploited by Corrado Zeller (Richard Harris), a business associate of her husband, Ugo (Carlo Chionetti).
To start off the cinematography is beautiful, with a predominantly grey scale, the movie starts with the greyish dull background of the industrial country side, with a woman (Vitti) dressed in green coat walking towards the camera, with her child in a Mustard brown overcoat. I loved the Mustard and Green contrast to the foggy backdrop. If not for those two characters, one could have easily assumed the film was made in Black & White. Being Antonio’s first colour venture, he symbolically brings out the feeling of emotional and physical alienation, with the industrial wasteland and one lonely woman stuck in this hideous landscape, in such a beautiful country. With some brilliant camerawork and amazing cinematography, the bleakness of the visual picture adds to the beauty of the sadly neurotic tale in the movie.
One of the most beautifully tragic sequences is when her son (Valerio Bartoleschi) fakes a sudden paralysis, she assumes it’s polio. Once she discovers his cruelty of conning her, it only adds to her isolation in the modern industrial wasteland, not even being able to trust her own little child. Which makes her run straight from the frying pan into the arms of the fire, Corrado Zeller, who forces himself on her. In the end you wonder whether this mentally ill woman is the only morally sane person in this inhumane landscape.
Michelangelo Antonio is a genius at story telling and he takes his time to develop the plot. Excellent Italian movie. My Rating 10/10.

Day 2, 4th Sept
Apur Panchali (2013) – Apur Panchali is a true story, about the forgotten young actor, Subir Banerjee, who starred in the first instalment of Satyajit Ray’s famous Apu Trilogy, i.e. Pather Panchali (1955). Beautifully done biographical movie of how life imitates art, as if the Apu films were made for the little actor who starred in the first venture. This beautiful Bengali Art film from India is a pure cinematic enchantment with a high international standard. I love the inputs of the classic trilogy along with scenes from life of Subir Banerjee. The character is shown initially snubbing everyone who asks him whether he played Apu, who grows up to detest cinema and Ray. But by the end of the film we see the suffering man’s soft corner. Parambrata Chatterjee does a superb performance as the younger Subir Banerjee, as does Ardhendu Banerjee, as the older version. Loved it!! My Rating 10/10.
Festival FilmzIdentificazione di una Donna (1982) – Yet another Italian film by Michelangelo Antonio, which too was a projected DVD, I watched at the Goethe Institute that evening/night, instead of a cinema. An erotic insight into a movie directors many female conquests, two main ones. Another romantic and aesthetically sexually explicit venture by the veteran Italian film maestro. My Rating 9/10. 

Day 3, 5th Sept
Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya (2013) – This is an interesting comical  Bollywood commercial cartoon film, made in Hindi, with song n’ dance, fantastic music and vibrant colourful animation. A great commercial venture especially for kids. Initially, the fart jokes early on, cheapened the movie a bit for me, but the story was excellent, well told and movie was worth watching, especially for the marvellous animation. A near Brilliant movie.
Again there was a Q & A, with director Shilpa Ranade. Without a mike in the balcony of the cinema hall, I had to shout my question, and asked about the inspiration behind this story (I wanted say a lot more, had I a mike up there). She mentioned that it was a story (Bengali book) she was brought up on and there was a Bengali language film made by Satyajit Ray. And I asked her if there was an English translation available of the book, which I guessed there should be,  and she confirmed it with a ‘Yes’.  I checked online and discovered, the book’s origins belong to Satyajit Ray’s own grandfather, Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, an author that existed in the 19th Century. Ray’s 1969 film was titled after his grandfathers Bengali book, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne. My Rating, for Goopi Gawaiya Bagha Bajaiya, 9/10.

Disengagement (2007) – Yet another movie starring Juliette Binoche. This time an English language French movie set in Avignon, France and the Gaza strip, an exclave region of Palestine. The film deals with a mother (Binoche) who goes looking for her daughter in Gaza, to hand in her inheritance, during the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, i.e. the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005, due to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Yet another emotional tragic French Film worth checking out. One of the highlights of the movie is seeing, veteran French actress, Jeanne Moreau, in a cameo appearance as the family attorney. My Rating 8/10.

Ajeyo (2014) – This Assamese Art film, from India, by Jahnu Barua, was slightly disappointing. Assamese films aren’t that famous, among various movies in India, that come out from various Indian languages from various states in India. The story was good, but poorly executed. Firstly it felt like a boring television soap, and it seem to waste a lot of time. But soon the movie catches up. Jahnu Barua, is a respected director in the Assamese community.
There was one last Q & A here, and I was glad to have to shout out my question from above in the balcony sans a mike, yet again. Majority of the movie being set during India’s Independence and partition from Pakistan, circa 1947, I asked him whether it was a real life account of an actual person. He said it was mostly fiction, but also had some actual human experiences as well. My Rating 6/10.  

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense

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