Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Highway (2014)

In the 2012 German film Barbara, André tells a story of a book to Barbara: how a young consumptive girl of 17 or 18 is dying, has never loved, and decides to live life before doing so: by taking the old, ugly district doctor as she is dying in a lonely night. Highway is this story in a different guise and in the format of a road movie, a highway movie: a love that is born of need and strategy for survival (of the spirit, not the body), and not of mutual attraction. A love that is for this world and its purity, its different ways and stops, its crooks and brooks, and its ability to throw a surprise where you only wanted death. This is what Veera decides: to go on, without thinking of the end. And later on this is what Mahabir will accept: he knows his end is nigh, but he knows his role as the healer, who must give his life for the young girl, like the doctor did before returning to his family, and as Mahabir will return to the home of all.

Wonderfully, simply wonderfully shot, and with a genuine itinerary, the film also peeks into several aspects of society and Indian culture. Hooda's dialect is a pleasure to listen to, for both accent and choice of words: unfortunately, this will be lost on those who do not understand Hindi - and yet, language is a key part of the charm of the film. The film touches many personal chords, of course, so is dearer to me: I have travelled on some of these ways, I have seen the majesty of the Himalayan mountains - and if you know that, you will know why Veera was laughing madly, wildly, freely when the river was roaring past her, in a wild, seething storm - and I come from a stock where many will use the vocabulary that Hooda or his associates use. It is also another feature of the film that how weaved in is the music: there are few songs, but you feel them kneaded inside, nothing patched onto the story.

The one major weakness that the film has, in common with many other Hindi movies: they think the audience doesn't grasp things. What was the need to put all those child actors to represent child Veera and child Mahabir? It is better to leave things half unsaid, to be guessed at (which was easy here): like what Mani Ratnam did in Dil Se with Meghna (Koirala). I wonder how much of such shit happens in postprocessing.

There is plenty of great humour in the film: some of it may not be understandable easily for those who don't know India so well, but some of it is universal. Alia Bhatt has still long way to go to become a real good actress, but in this film she suits her part and plays sufficiently well. It is Randeep Hooda though who lights up the screen, especially the angry Hooda: his confrontation with the gang leader early on in the film after the wrong kidnapping is great in terms of both acting and dialogues. Imtiaz Ali has often given us good films, but none so good as this one: for the first time he has had the courage to not give us a feel-good film, and that is a rare victory won in Hindi cinema.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Invention of Love (2010) / Luminaris

Many animated shorts deal with the subject of man's increasing mechanization: like did Berni's Doll. Some agitate you with stark, depressing realism; some others weave a story of romance in it, as does here Invention of Love; and some give it a happy varnish, a possibility of escape, like does Luminaris. However, each of such films provokes thought, even more so in an age where people are hooked to social networking and smartphones. It seems that people have forgotten their own selves: they are too much of automatons run by "society," no longer an abstract term.

Luminaris is a film with real (flesh-and-blood) characters and animated effects: so not out and out animation. And this turns out to be the strength of the film. The choice of Gustavo Cornillón as the Man is particularly excellent: he's got that old-fashioned Clark Gable-kind suave, roguish looks (or say like those of Jean Dujardin in The Artist), which goes along harmoniously with the music of the film: that pretends to project the story as an old-fashioned tale, even though the setting is futuristic. However, the film climaxes in the birth of a beautiful romance: which permits this old-fashioned-ness to permeate the film. After all, love itself is out of sync with the modern times, so the Man not only rebels through his stealing but also through his loving. It's a film that all those modern slaves called "officegoers" should see.

Andrey Shushkov's traditional animation short, Invention of Love, is a much longer, much more profound film: with allegories also to love and marriage, to the cycle of life and to our attempts to own what or whom we love, attempts that always fail. On the outside, though, the film again deals with obsession with technology: and its tragic consequences. The film begins beautifully, poetically, set to some lovely music and atmospherics reminding one of the English countryside to some extent; thereafter, the film moves to some scenes quite heavily inspired in admiration of Jasper Morello; and finally the disillusion, the heartbreak and the living ever after with the knowledge, the guilt of an irrevocable mistake.

As of the time of writing, Luminaris can be seen here and Invention of Love here.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Solitudes (2012)

She is a woman. She is a Romanian. She does not speak French. She is a prostitute. She is raped.

A stunning, minimalist film by Liova Jedlicki about the walls we have created around us, around others. She trusts those from back home. But they rape her. Later, the interpreter lies to her about the helmet. Instead of sympathy, he feels being stuck. Maybe it's one more charge against him: he is also Romanian. They will tell him how his people are dirty: pigs and prostitutes. They will taunt him when they need to, and order him when they need to, and fling him out of the country like they may do with her whenever they want to.

Rape is deconstructed into the number of penetrations. Sex encounters into locations and modus operandi. Identity into nationality, gender and language. Human experience into love, indifference and hate.

Except that there is no love in this stark, haunting, beautiful film.