Thursday, October 09, 2014

HAIDER: MOVIE REVIEW



Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor, Lalit Parimoo, Irrfan Khan, Narendra Jha
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Runtime: 162 min.
Verdict: A tad disappointing, but the mother-son relationship is its own film and Mr. Bharadwaj surrounds that masterpiece with stuff a hack could arrange.
Genre: Drama

In a film where the eponymous character muses over the materiality of death and how it is merely a passage not towards reincarnation but towards re-materialization, as a cup maybe, it is pretty poetic when that very character fails to find even a shred of the person’s body he loves most. I do not exactly remember, but he probably doesn’t even get blood. All there is left is sand and the debris left from the explosion. That person, made to completely vanish from any kind of material existence that could provide a sense of closure, is Haider’s (Mr. Kapoor) mother Ghazala (Ms. Tabu), and her death starkly contrasts with that of the other woman in the film, Arshi (Ms. Kapoor), who despite having shot herself in her head, arrives mostly in pristine condition (except for a mark on the right side of her temple) in that very graveyard so as to facilitate a passionate-bordering-on-the-maniacal embrace from Haider. The climax is set in, of all the places, in a graveyard, and Mr. Bharadwaj is nothing if not poetic, for although Haider might not be a treatise on death it sure as hell is surrounded by it. Or, maybe, it’s like a hallway to death, with no other exit door.  
What next after death, then? What is in store, in hell for instance? What treatment awaits to the next of kin of who have been branded terrorists, by the country and its authority? This question of post-death seems to preoccupy Mr. Bharadwaj’s mind the most, and like Dante’s trip into the depths of hell, the narrative here provides for dead people to speak their fate and for sinners to try and atone. What should then be considered Ghazala’s fate, and will she ever be able to tell her side of things? Or, has she already explained herself and maybe even justified her life when she kissed her kid? On his lips. In Mr. Bharadwaj’s universe, where women have their identity hinged on how the men around perceive them (“The girl who can steal from (betray) her own father, how can she be trusted by anyone else”, Omkara (2006)), where women either conform to the society’s norms (Arshi) or stand antithetical to the societal notions of femininity, it is interesting how Arshi dies just as the way she lives, pure and complete. As in, all in one piece. As in, her identity intact. Ghazala, on the other hand, has been defragmented into so many pieces, like T-1000, that it is probably impossible for her to be reconstructed.
But then, here is the interesting part. Unlike Nimmi (Maqbool) or Dolly (Omkara), who along with their identities also had their eventual fates hanging on that perception, Ghazala shapes her own fate and all the events about her. Which is somewhat heartening, in the same way Ishqiya was a few years back, and Dedh Ishqiya is now. Because for all the raised eyebrows that are caused by the mere mention of feminism, as Miriam Bale puts it here so simply, it is at the end of the day a movement borne out of a belief that male supremacy for thousands of years has created systems and values that must be recognized and destroyed restructured. Ghazala is the one playing the moves, or reacting to the circumstances with moves, and in her wake, every male and thereby every social structure about her seems to be lost. Of course, it could be easily argued that the manipulative femme-fatale cause-of-everything is a trope that has existed in our mythology since ever. To which one might counter, Ghazala’s moves, her intent and her emotions were always tethered to one thing and one thing only –her son.
Although I’m no good at this, here’s where I roughly sketch a mapping between the representational elements of the narrative. There is the father, Dr. Hilal Meer (Mr. Jha), who as the opening events suggest (as if Mr. Meer himself penned them from his perspective) is surely not a traitor but a humanist, understands the separatist sentiment, and doesn’t blink an eye in aiding them. There is Khurram (Mr. Menon), who is mostly about self-preservation and self-promotion and the judgmental negative shades about him are because he seems to have no significant ideological stance. Yet, he dearly loves Ghazala, and when all the men are running away from her in her final moments, he, along with Haider, is the one running towards her. He could be considered as a representation of the pro-authority (India) self-preservation elements.
Ghazala, and pardon me for this mostly eyeroll-inducing mapping, probably represents the soul/spirit/sentiment of the land, and in Haider that land sees the future. The flashbacks show moments where the mother is running behind the son, and where the son is mostly idolizing his father, via polishing his shoes. A simple enough synecdoche for a patriarchal system. The whole oedipal dynamic is hardly the stuff of subconscious here. Her running behind Haider is later mirrored in the present when he walks out of his uncle’s house in search of his father, and as I said, Mr. Bharadwaj is nothing if not poetic. So, the patriarch is always about his ideology and ego, echoing through the judgmental old-testamentesque undertones to “Allah will take care of Haider”, and one might readily and rightly assume that the patriarch would have no apprehensions if Haider would take up the arms for what he believes to be the right cause.
And here, via the mother, whose selfishness is only account of her son, and whose one true love of her life is that son, Mr. Bharadwaj brings home the whole eye-for-eye-makes-the-whole-world-blind lesson into the narrative. The twist, if I could label it thus, is that Ghazala, who all through the narrative seems inclined to do anything for personal gains, and who is provided a mostly gratuitous moment (doubling as a misdirection if you will) during Khurram’s “coronation”, is and always was all about her son and him finding an exit out of the graveyard.
And here’s where I reveal my indulgence, and pull the rug, when I say that this is exactly the kind of problem I have with these kind of narratives and their deification of the feminine form, because in a roundabout way Mr. Bharadwaj has asked of his female character to conform to her role in society and stay true to her representation (as the land). Mr. Irfan Khan has labelled the film as the modern Mother India, and rightly so, but that label to me is some kind of backhanded compliment. As if to say, and this is a classic underpinning of most of our mythology, a woman can never think of herself and still be in grace.
This kind of certainty of both intent and action, especially for an adaptation of a play whose very soul is built upon the indecisiveness of action due to the uncertainty of events, probably robs the narrative of a few pleasures and indulgences that could have been continued in the comments section of movie-boards and blogs. Haider has a brilliant monologue of the uncertainty of his predicament, and it is a remarkably moving moment. The casting of Mr. Kapoor seems a masterstroke, for we feel the confusion of a little boy thrust with the weight of patriarchal responsibility. Yet to squander all of that for reasons I am not sure of (I’m sure Mr. Bharadwaj can think beyond his leftist politics), when several (and needless) pains have been taken to include the mostly useless Salmans and the incestuous vibes from Liyaqat (Mr. Aamir Bashir) towards Arshi, is probably beyond me.
But beyond all the issues with theme, which of late I find mostly uninteresting, I’m disappointed with the overall craftsmanship at hand. I mean, isn’t the low-saturated blue the default for terrorism-prone Kashmir (Yahaan)? There sure are some striking images, but the structure of the narrative is another weak-link. We could indulge in another Bordwell-style analysis when the film is released for home-viewing, but what I felt is that there are quite simply too many scenes crammed together whereby the plot takes precedence over the emotional arc of one moment/scene. I think we might learn on another viewing that any scene that runs for less than say a minute can be edited out, like for e.g. the thing where the two Salmans stop the police van to pick up Haider, so that the dramatic arc of the stronger ones could be prolonged. Also, for a man who made Omkara, where the opening shot of the legs reminded me of the best of Sergio Leone, Mr. Bharadwaj here really seems to be unimaginative on the style-front. Roohdar (Mr. Khan) is given a thunderous introduction (like Mr. Sunny Deol was introduced to change the proceedings in Damini), and then he proceeds to fast lose that thunder by overplaying that background drum again and again, to the point where it becomes a very annoying choice/theme/cue/agent for purpose in this narrative about indecisiveness. I might be wrong here, but I suspect Mr. Bharadwaj of now is more suited for something as crazy and rip-roaring and imaginative as Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola rather than straight-faced Shakespearean adaptations, which he can probably oversee a protégé direct.  

Also, now that I think about it, there isn’t really much difference between the two characters who commit suicide, isn’t it? So why the distinct fates? Arshi was a reasonable rebel who would ask “tough” questions about torture to the army but mostly gullible before her father, in which case, I’m not sure the purpose behind her killing herself other than guilt. But, for what? Am I missing something when I brand that act meaningless, as opposed to Ghazala’s which had a higher purpose? I started writing this with these two characters in mind, and now I’m not sure where I am. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

QUEEN: MOVIE REVIEW




Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Rajkumar Rao, Lisa Haydon, Mish Boyko
Director: Vikas Bahl
Runtime: 146 min.
Verdict: Mr. Bahl lets the ideology govern the narrative rather than the other way round. Things, i.e. the “little” moments on which he builds his narrative upon, thus feel a little pre-processed.
Genre: Drama, Comedy

                My first visit to Kuala Lumpur was couple of years back. There is not much to the city, I might be tempted to say, not much of a personality one might hold on to. It is bland. Well, mostly, you know, until one is in the city center and surrounded by the Petronas. You walk around and find it staring back at you from behind other buildings. You feel like you’re walking in circles, walking away, walking towards, covering streets, going past buildings. And yet it is there, behind two buildings. You look to the right of a building, and it is there. You look to the left of another, and it is there. Staring down at you. They are not vertical as much as they are vertiginous. For a moment you feel the path to the sky is bent. It is intimidating. Maybe even borderline scary. I don’t know why. I don’t even know why I am reminded of Godzilla, and although I sought that same fear from Empire State, I wasn’t intimidated. Mr. Bahl’s Queen has one such moment, where Rani (Ms. Ranaut) is running from and, I suppose, unwittingly running towards the Eiffel tower. The guerilla-style improvisation-filled filmmaking that Queen displays in abundance serves it best here, with the front plane harshly juxtaposed against the seemingly curved nature of the backdrop, with the frame slightly tilted, somehow reminding us of the city-bending-on-itself shot from Inception, a shot that I now interpret as an essentially literal version of this fear the vertiginous nature of the city puts into us. You see, my memory of the Petronas is not anamorphic, or shall we say widescreen. Widescreen inspires magnificence, I suppose. My memory is kinda square in its aspect ratio. Maybe even a rectangle standing on its width. I hope you get the picture. I don’t have much space neither to the left or the right, and that memory is interlocked with claustrophobia of some nature. When Rani ran shit-scared, looking back to see if the Eiffel tower disappeared, it might have been a touch melodramatic for you, I suppose. But dear reader, I had goose-bumps all over me, and it is moments such as these I seek more than anything else from the movies.
                It is only a moment though, and unfortunately for me Mr. Bahl contextualizes Rani’s fear within the memory of a promise from her fiancé (Mr. Rajkumar Rao). But that is my problem and not yours. And certainly not Mr. Bahl’s. What Godzilla is to my memory is her fiancé’s promise to Rani (my context feels a tad idiotic), and the curious bit is that they seem to evoke a similar response. What doesn’t feel like my problem though is that Mr. Bahl’s film is a tad too contextualized, not within the framework of its own memory-filled cause-effect narrative, but within the framework of its ideological response. Is it a nod, a verifiable declaration of a problem statement, when elderly women at a wedding try to learn a dance step from Cocktail that kinda heralded the moment of self-discovery of its chief female protagonist? Are there echoes of Veronica in Vijayalakshmi (Ms. Haydon)? Is the fleeting and thus strictly supporting nature of every other character a statement of intent on Mr. Bahl’s part? One that essentially states that women don’t need men to approve of their identities and one which Mr. Bahl seemingly holds on to via the resolution he provides to his narrative?  If that is the case, which I feel it is, I don’t much care for all that feminist nonsense, and my non-ideological response would be that these ideological narratives do not understand that it works both ways. As much the women need guys to approve of their identities, the men need their approval to confirm their egos, and it is just basic arithmetic – Approval – Identity = Cost of Commodity. I mean, as long as we’re living in a capitalistic society, societal approval is essential. I should leave it there then, I suppose.
                Instead, what has me rather curious is Rani’s state of mind when she decides to go on her honeymoon all by herself. Cocktail did provide its protagonist a practical reason via a throwaway piece of dialog, one based in emigration to the west, and that was probably the only moment that dealt directly with economics amidst all of its other shenanigans. Here, Rani and her father run a sweetshop. They are businessmen. Cancelling a trip and all the associated tickets and bookings would probably salvage some money, and I want to assume that I’m not entirely wrong in believing that saving this money might be somewhere close to the top on the list of priorities as far as damage control (post failed-marriage ceremony) is concerned. Still she leaves, with her father’s consent, which means there’s a bit of stubbornness in there somewhere. The same stubbornness she displays when she desperately clings on to her handbag in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. Queen celebrates this stubbornness that is probably the key to its protagonist’s self-discovery, but at the same time, much like most movies around us, steers clear of making any mention of economics. Of the financial costs that are being overrun here. We never are aware of the actual numbers, making the emotions of the narrative palatable for us audience who wouldn’t be distracted. And even though, we still might have been convinced that it was all worth it even if we were made aware of the financial conditions, it somewhat troubles me that the narrative conveniently buries the financial loss to the family and how it affected the overall proceedings. More so, when we begin to consider how essential the framework of a globalized world connected not merely by the convenience of travel but also by the existence of Facebook is to Mr. Bahl’s ideological stance.
                But that is probably a minor gripe against what is my second-favorite part of Queen­ – the present continuous DNA of the narrative, which kinda mirrors in the way the Facebook-timeline epilogue not merely summarizes the film but also highlights Mr. Bahl’s essential rule of not providing any grand closure to the proceedings. In fact, apart from the return of the ring and the obvious immediate satisfaction derived from it, there is nothing that suggests that Rani’s life has found a parking. Much like the Facebook-timeline’s northbound drive, Rani’s life is still on the move. And my favorite part? Ms. Ranaut. It is somewhat of a gimmicky performance at certain moments, I do concede, but boy does she have the devil in her.

Monday, January 06, 2014

The Best Movies of 2013, and your Best Picture



The highlight of the year? King Vidor’s The Crowd.

Now with the wrap.


 17. A Teacher (Dir: Hannah Fidell)
Beyond Ms. Lindsay Burdge’s performance, which should rank amongst the best of the year, there might not be much by way of psychological insight the mean lean narrative provides as compared to the similarly austere but far more accomplished Stranger by The Lake. Both films look into fear and desire, yet it is Ms. Fidell’s narrow utterly modest scope that makes it something of a what-if scenario – like watching Hitchcock’s people unassumingly choose a table with a bomb underneath set to 5 minutes, and discuss baseball for those 5 minutes. It is like desire giving the courage to dare, and the 75 min. narrative is filled with spaces full of risk. Expectedly things do not resolve or explain themselves, but merely explode.





16. John Day (Dir: Ahishor Solomon) (Read review)
Here’s a film that seems to have almost never existed, and it makes me a little protective of it. Mr. Solomon’s narrative sure does have rough edges, but then his images, if freed, have a little life and a little weight of their own. The gun is placed within the Holy Bible, and this not a cynical and irreverent image, as movies often teach us, but one that is extreme in its beliefs. The Bible protects the gun. The man holds on to a cross as he is being mercilessly beaten by a bunch of men before he gets up and bites an ear off. But Mr. Solomon isn’t merely a dealer of images, and he seems to possess a keen understanding of how the length of an act can be used to create historicity within it, and thus lend emotion. As I said, I’m excited about him.




15. Stoker (Dir: Park Chan-Wook)
To everybody I want to sell this film, I only talk about the opening scene. It is an example of an image so carefully calibrated to manipulate our cognitive senses, and as India (Ms. Wasikowska) walks across the frame, what we notice – from her high heels, to her flowing skirt, to her svelte figure – is what we ought to be concerned with. She’s a placeholder, a piece of clay waiting to be molded, and it is a remarkably sensual shot. Mr. Chan-Wook has our attention (and desire) by the gruff of the neck, and to be brutally honest, it is so damn sexy, I might have been found clapping even if the rest of the film were about vampires and werewolves fighting each other out.    





14. Thou Gild’st the Even (Dir: Onur Ünlü)
Deeply cynical yet full of heart, Mr. Ünlü’s film infuses the tired and beaten “patriarchy is hell” truism with more than a ton of fresh air. All this by taking a society of super-humans, or mutants, or whatever you might want to call them. Like Mr. Ki-Duk’s film he understands that it is all borne out of an innate weakness. But the real deal here is the infinitely imaginative sequences rendered with a dollop of droll. It is one of the most beautiful and sensual things I saw this past year, and Cemal (Mr. Ali Atay) rolling along unassumingly, like Buster Keaton would, is the kind of image that makes you smile and like every time you think about it. I hear that Mr. Ünlü has refused to release his film theatrically. I don’t know his reasons, but it sure does make it the perfect antidote to the superhero win-against-the-odds franchises that are littered by the studios every year.   



  

13. Side Effects (Dir: Steven Soderbergh)
At the risk of sounding contrarian, I would wager that Side Effects is a craftier narration than Michael Haneke’s “this-is-not-cinema-this-is-life” Amour, where the first half completely lulls us into the weariness of a domestic drama only to perform a Hitchcockian about-turn. This is Soderbergh in superb form and at the command of his skills, several camera angles only sub-consciously suggesting Emily’s (Ms. Rooney Mara) charm. It could be interpreted that Mr. Soderbergh is operating in super-cynical mode, with Emily’s purity and vulnerability exploited to maximum effect, and where a single sideways shot of her casually sitting on the couch is probably the sexiest shot we might have had this past year. The thing is, Side Effects knows it, remembers it, and is intelligent enough to use it to realize its narrative. In a year where Jacques Kallis signed off with a century, and Sachin Tendulkar with something of a half-century, one might argue that it is Mr. Soderbergh who knocks us down with his one-two punch – this and Behind the Candelabra.  





12. Moebius (Dir: Kim Ki-Duk)
Do not kill the messenger here, but Mr. Ki-Duk seems having a dialogue on rape – a crime that is considered an absolute evil; a crime where the “otherification” occurs almost unanimously – and suggests that it might not be as much a crime that involves display of power and control, but one that is where the ego and the superego are overcome by the weakness of the id. It is a moment where the criminal, maybe more than the victim, finds himself helpless in the face of his instinct. He is neither condoning nor condemning, and instead proposes a world where penetration (the tool and the act of power) is reversed and instead is “suffered” by the criminal. There is a knife pierced into the shoulder of a man whose genital has been severed not too long ago, and yet he finds sexual comfort and pleasure by the same woman he raped when she slowly rotates that knife. There is such humanity to this whole context that it might be about time, especially after this and Pieta, that we stop dismissing Mr. Ki-Duk as merely a provocateur.  





11. Raanjhanaa (Dir: Aanand Rai)
We have something of a divisive narrative here, what with everybody either branding Zoya (Ms. Kapoor) as some kind of manipulative villain to taking offence to her being portrayed as some kind of manipulative villain. Mr. Rai in his turn never glorifies his protagonist Kundan (Dhanush), and his drama is built upon the essential wrong-headedness (read: loss of control) of first love. It is something of a tragedy for Kundan for he runs into Zoya even when he doesn’t want to, but it is even worse for her – he is like the ghost of the past on her back, snatching everything from her and not leaving her even in death. I think of Zoya, and I think of a painting drawn essentially in black, with a hunchbacked old woman carrying a body on her back. Forever. 





10. Captain Phillips (Dir: Paul Greengrass)
For about an hour, the narrative is all about a chase, of a Mersk vessel running from a tiny motor boat. It is like a mouse chasing a cat, or even a lion for that matter, and it all makes up for one of the most thrilling times at the movies this past year. And then, strangely and in hindsight inevitably, the film becomes a spectacle of scale. Hulky military vessels surrounding a little escape pod, the pace considerably slowed down, and the dynamic drastically changed. From a fistfight between a set of employees, it becomes a bullying session from one of the bosses, and Mr. Greengrass’ frame feels heavy with this weight. The weight of an employee feeling for his counterpart as his boss lays down on him. The narrative changes from one of movement to one of stasis, from a chase to a matter of inevitability, and from us v/s them to one of understanding. A case could be made that this is Mr. Greengrass’ most accomplished film.   





9. Shield of Straw (Dir: Takashi Miike)
The latest film from Mr. Miike poses an impossible moral experiment – a minor has been raped and killed by a psychopath, and the grandfather of the victim, who happens to be a billionaire, announces an award of 1 billion Yen as bounty to kill the guy. Shield of Straw is that rare film that not merely presents a what-if scenario but realizes it to its extreme, where social structures and dynamics crumble in the face of money, and yet Mr. Miike ensures, much like Mr. Nolan did with the boat experiment in The Dark Knight, the humanity of the situation is never lost. This is a far trickier situation than the Joker’s act though for it is not about survival but prosperity, and everyone in the frame is a potential suspect. The more the people, the higher the danger. The narrative here is relentless, never leaving any shed of doubt about the evil within the psychopath. And just to make, in the words of Pvt. Reiben, the math of the situation worse, people die. 





8. Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola (Dir: Vishal Bharadwaj)
Here is a filmmaker who understands the system, makes fun of it too, but has the heart to desire change. This is Mr. Bharadwaj free from the constraints of his Shakespearean escapades, working in a mish-mash of fairy-tale, slapstick and Maoist politics that is uniquely his. There’s great pleasure to be had when a filmmaker realizes his voice, and Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola is an absolute romp. It is hilarious and heart-warming, and full of unbridled energy. It is a cliché of a praise, I admit, but this is probably the most fun I had at the movies all year.




 

7. Grzeli Nateli Dgeebi (In Bloom) (Dir: Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Groß)
Unlike the two one-note utterly worthless performances that won the Palme D’Or, fifteen year-old Mariam Bokeria and fourteen year-old Lika Babluani deliver arguably the two of the finest performances of this year. I know I am being something of a prick by bringing the Palme D’Or winner into discussion for no particular reason other than to compare and contrast (I tend to be one when I hate something), but inspite of Mr. Kechiche incessantly serving us close-ups for 179 min. it is the faces of these two girls here that provide for a tableaux of varying emotions, all not thrown up in a melodramatic hissy fit (again, like the Palme D’Or winner), but by using the tableaux for what it is – a layer to try and conceal (not reveal) inner turmoil – and the best of performances reflect the inability of this effort. There is a moment, as weighed down by emotion as Anna Karina’s dance in Vivre Sa View was free and joyous, where Eka (Ms. Babluani) dances in a single uninterrupted take of close to 5 minutes as the camera holds Natia (Ms. Bokeria) in background, and it is heart-wrenching. This is about a generation willing to fight finding its feet, and I hope I get to see more of these two little gems.   





6. Stranger by the Lake (Dir: Alain Guiraudie)
I used to think that I get David Cronenberg’s Crash, but I don’t. I don’t get death-drive, and I don’t understand fear driving/fuelling desire. Yet, merely as a documentary of desexualized bodies and desire as something of a ritualistic practice, Mr. Guiraudie’s film is one of the year’s major accomplishments. Cars park, bodies walk, clothes are removed, bodies lay down on the beach, shoes are removed, bodies swim, and then the bodies lay down again. Until they pick somebody to walk into the woods and have sex. Repeat. Realizing desire, it seems, is an exercise, and not the wild act we often imagine it to be. Mr. Guiraudie, in what’s a masterstroke, puts this discussion within the context of a gay-cruising area, and thus unlike Crash, where Ms. Holly Hunter and Ms. Deborah Unger did successfully distract us from the issue at hand, our attention and our gaze is secure. Nevertheless, Mr. Guiraudie has a dull pupil in me, and I shall come around to wrap my head around in due time.   






5. Jeune & Jolie (Young and Beautiful) (Dir: François Ozon)
The late Roger Ebert, in his essay on Belle De Jour, wrote – “For a woman like Severine, walking into a room to have sex, the erotic charge comes not from who is waiting in the room, but from the fact that she is walking into it. Sex is about herself.” Mr. Ozon seems to have made a film about these corridors and doors, and his young and beautiful Isabelle is not turned by the sex but the anticipation of it. It is the idea of boundaries being crossed that makes her present herself as a prostitute, and Mr. Ozon fills his film with innumerable doors, and the narrative with the question of her age (17). Often movies confuse sex with love. Especially in the case of women, where the latter becomes some kind of essential prerequisite. Isabelle, for a while, does that too. Until she doesn’t. That is where it becomes close to irresistible.     






4. Le Passe (Dir: Asghar Farhadi)
And once again, I do not intend to come across as a contrarian, but Mr. Farhadi’s is a significantly better piece of narration than A Separation (review here). There he cut through a highly anxious moment, essentially lying to us that all’s well, only to reveal that it is not. That kind of choice, in my book, is disrespectful of the cut. There’re no such issues here, in this tender tale of people wanting to be loved, of people wanting to be freed of their loneliness, each carving a small little circle around themselves. The narration is an exercise in peeling the layers, again asking us to be judge and jury, and again asking us to arrive at the moral truth of a situation where probably none exists.





3. The Lone Ranger (Dir: Gore Verbinski)
Unlike the Pirates of the Caribbean films that were bluntly anti-capitalist, and thus limited in their worth, The Lone Ranger seems to be shaping an argument rooted in the representation of history as a carnival, this representation caused both by and for capitalism, where events and people collide like the tracks the railroad company is building, and where history and myth are rendered interchangeable and even mutable. This sounds much like The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, and Mr. Verbinski pays tribute to The General, amongst other things, providing for one hell of a train-chase. This is one of our best filmmakers at the top of his game, gleefully jumping tones, and vigorously mixing tragedy with slapstick. That it has been dismissed universally, for reasons beyond me, makes me a touch protective towards it.





2. The Grandmaster (Dir: Wong Kar Wai)
The way Mr. Kar Wai’s film deals with time is something of a refinement (ouch, this might come back to hurt me) the multi-decade-narrative of Goodfellas, dividing it into several epochs, epochs into events, and events into a series of moments. There’s little by way of continuity, i.e. an overarching narrative, other than the feeling of events and epochs unfolding along with the passage of time. This divorces narrative from time, hence freeing up the latter as a causative agent, and rendering the characters in the former as hermetically sealed within their own environments and ideologies and fights. That is until time punctures that seal, the world changes, and the events seem minor footnotes. This narrative style makes us feel the immediacy of the situation and then proceeds to diminish it, and thus it becomes at once a narrative of now and a narrative of memory. An epic blockbuster this is.





1. Upstream Color (Dir: Shane Carruth)
Mr. Carruth’s film views the world as a stream. We’re all connected by the matter that makes us, and this diaphysical view is what so clearly differentiates it from the aesthetic of a Terence Malick picture, to which the comparisons have been made. Mr. Malick is transcendental, believing in something external, and thus providing a sense of hope. Mr. Carruth, on the other hand, sees us and our lives dictated by the matter that binds us all. He presents anxiety as the result of this contradiction in our understanding of our world – as dictated by the demarcation between it and the boundaries of our body – when the materiality of our selves exists and operates from beyond our bodies. That is the tragedy, of us feeling in control or wanting to be in control when we’re actually not even aware of the limits of our selves. It is hard to believe that what we have here is only a second film from a director, for Mr. Carruth seems to be a born filmmaker with an innate grasp of not merely composition but editing. His narrative seems to exist between events, and Upstream Color, if not anything else, is a masterwork of montage, all its meaning created out of cross-cutting and association.      


So yes, the Grumbach goes to Mr. Carruth’s masterwork. And only two films old, we might have a master on our hand.




Men and women and pigs and birds, Applause!!!!!



Movies to be Watched:
The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese), The Strange Little Cat (Ramon Zürcher), Jealousy (Philippe Garrel), The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh), Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan), Inside Llewyn Davis (The Coen Brothers), A Spell to Ward of the Darkness (Ben Rivers, Ben Russell), Mood Indigo (Michel Gondry), Hard to be a God (Aleksei German, Aleksei German Jr.), Onaayum Aattukkuttiyum (Myshkin)

Wish you all a lovely 2014.