DEC 5, 2009 – IF IT ISN’T THE EASIEST OF THINGS to involve the attention of an audience with the happenings around one loner, imagine having to direct a story with two. In Patrice Leconte’s Man on the Train, a lonely teacher of poetry crosses paths with a lonely gangster, and as is always the case in such films, aspects of each one’s personality cross over to the other – the kind of empathetic osmosis we’ve seen over and over. Yes, they’re very different and, at the same, time, very similar. And yet, as is also the case in such films, it’s the performances (by Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hallyday) that bring the narrative back from the brink of cliché. It also helps that Leconte directs with a bitingly wry sense of humour – taken too seriously, this moth-eaten material would have been laughed right off the screen.
THE DUTCH ENTRY, BLOOD BROTHERS, by Arno Dierickx, revolved around a true story, an infamous murder case that shook the Netherlands in the early sixties. The film begins as some sort of Dutch Stand by Me, with the account of an idyllic summer spent in the company of youngsters. It, then, makes a stop at Brideshead Revisited territory, showing us how easy it is for a plebian to be attracted to an aristocratic family. And finally, it turns into Patricia Highsmith fodder, showing the extent (or depths, really) to which we will go in order to belong, in order to rise above our stations in life. This cool segue of moods is achieved most beguilingly, and the horrors arise out of such happy places that you’ll reminded, all over again, of what a dark place our wonder years can be.
I MISSED ROLAND REBER AND MIRA GITTNER’S Angels with Dirty Wings the first time it was screened, when it caused a near-stampede for tickets. (The picture on the programme booklet, of a willowy woman wearing only a Viking helmet, along with the tagline, “Three women, no morals,” must have done its bit to fan the curiosity.) This being the last day of the festival, I thought there’d be fewer takers for this “anthem of immorality: a song of egoism and a study of our time” revealed through the actions of three “angels of vice,” one of whom has to prove herself worthy of paradise. (She has to, in other words, earn her wings, through human endeavors like, uh, having lots and lots of sex.) Was I mistaken! This time, too, there was a full house, with snaking lines of people waiting to hear of empty seats – proof that, even in this age of downloadable porn, big-screen sex still sells.
THE CLOSING CEREMONY HAD SPEECH after numbing speech, and even Chief Guest Mammooty – after an initial stretch of charm, where he declared himself an actor from God’s own country as well as an actor from India – rambled on with no apparent sign of coming either to the point or to the end. Thankfully the film that followed was worth it. Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces had everything – glorious production values, ripe glamour, spectacular performances, outrageous entertainment, layers upon layers of storytelling, and above all, the unmistakable signature of an auteur. Whether it’s the sight of a teardrop on a tomato or the vision of disembodied hands crawling all over a television screen containing images of a long-lost love, here’s proof that a minor movie from a master is still a major event.
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