Browsing All Posts filed under »Firstpost Column«

Céline Sciamma, Jacqueline Lentzou, and the other women with films at the Berlinale

March 6, 2021

0 Five of the eighteen titles that will compete for the Golden Bear, are directed or co-directed by women. A look at ‘Petite Maman’, ‘Moon, 66 Questions’, ‘Ballad of a White Cow’. Spoilers ahead… I’ll begin with a shout-out to the web site It was founded in 2007, and it “educates, advocates, and agitates […]

Luiz Bolognesi’s ‘The Last Forest’, playing at the Berlinale, takes us to the Yanomami tribe in the Amazon basin

March 5, 2021

0 This is a record of a rapidly vanishing home. In 1986, the discovery of gold deposits led to an invasion by 45000 prospectors and the death of 1500-1800 natives. Spoilers ahead… In Ex Pajé (2018), filmmaker and anthropologist Luiz Bolognesi captured the spirit, the essence, the modern-day conflicts of the Paiter Suruí, an indigenous […]

Dekel Berenson’s superb short film ‘Anna’ sheds light on the “love tours” industry in Ukraine

February 27, 2021

0 This 15-minute film is about: meat. Rather, women treated as meat, ready to be picked up by American men who want someone to cook and clean. Spoilers ahead… The first scene of Anna, a 2019 short film written and directed by Dekel Berenson, is about two people inside a meat fridge. One’s a man, a […]

Martin Scorsese’s recent essay on Federico Fellini makes a very important point about what cinema is

February 22, 2021

5 When you see certain films, you sense the presence of a director. And to me, that is the crux of defining “cinema”: whether it’s been made by a “director”. Spoilers ahead… Given his essays for mainstream publications, Martin Scorsese hasn’t been a happy man for a while. In 2019, in the New York Times, […]

Uberto Pasolini’s ‘Nowhere Special’ is having its Indian premiere at the International Film Festival of Kerala

February 13, 2021

1 This tale of a dying father trying to get his little boy adopted is moving without being melodramatic. Spoilers ahead… At some level, John (James Norton) is the bestest dad ever. That’s what his four-year-old, Michael (Daniel Lamont), might say. John combs Michael’s hair for lice. John reads Michael a bedtime story, very patiently, […]

Rotterdam 2021: ‘Dear Comrades!’, Andrei Konchalovsky’s record of the Novocherkassk massacre

February 6, 2021

0 The movie is based on a true story that happened on June 2nd, 1962, and kept secret until the Nineties. Culprits have never been convicted. Spoilers ahead… Andrei Konchalovsky has had one of the odder careers in world cinema. He began by writing a couple of Tarkovsky classics (Ivan’s Childhood, Andrei Rublev) in the […]

Dea Kulumbegashvili’s Beginning, on mubi, studies a suffering woman with a static camera

January 29, 2021

2 When we talk of single-take shots, we think back to “how did they do that?” marvels like Martin Scorsese’s nightclub-entry shot in Good Fellas. It’s different here. Spoilers ahead… Some films, like Blue is the Warmest Colour or The Brown Bunny, become notorious for sex scenes. Some films, like Irréversible, becoming controversial talking points […]

Massoud Bakhshi’s ‘Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness’, which screened at IFFI, is an “eye for an eye” drama set in a TV studio

January 23, 2021

0 The premise of this Iranian drama is almost farcical. A matter of life and death is being decided on a reality show with a garishly lit set. Spoilers ahead… The International Film Festival of India went virtual this year. One of the films I watched is Massoud Bakhshi’s Yalda, a Night for Forgiveness (2019). […]

Mads Matthiesen’s Sundance-winner ‘Teddy Bear’, now on mubi, is a gently told male-emancipation story

January 16, 2021

1 Despite the “finding love” premise, this is not a rom-com. It’s more about a man trying to break free of psychological shackles, both self-imposed and mother-instilled. Spoilers ahead… The first image of Mads Matthiesen’s Danish short film, Dennis (2007), is that of a big man, a really big man, a hulk of a man […]

Pradeepan Raveendran’s ‘Soundless Dance’ dives into the war-torn mind of a Sri Lankan Tamil in Paris

January 7, 2021

0 The director stages war as a sort of terrible virtual-reality “game”, if you will. Or maybe you could consider it a “performance” of some kind. Spoilers ahead… Pradeepan Raveendran was born in Jaffna, and he now lives in Paris. You might say he identifies with Siva (Patrick Balaraj Yogarajan), the protagonist of his debut […]

Ekwa Msangi’s ‘Farewell Amor’ is an immigrant drama about coming to terms with a father/husband who’s now a stranger

December 19, 2020

3 The protagonist’s situation is not very different from that of the Indians who go to the Gulf to work. They don’t have a “family life”, as such. It’s the waiting area at John F Kennedy International Airport, and our eyes are drawn to a man holding a white name card. There are others, of […]

Maurice Pialat’s ‘The Mouth Agape’ looks at death in the eye without sentimentality or embellishment

December 12, 2020

1 Pialat is asking: “Why should I — and by extension, my characters — be kind to Monique? Just because she is dying? But people die all the time, don’t they?” What is death? To the dying, it’s the end of a protracted period of physical pain and mental agony. To the people around, it’s […]

Hannes Stöhr’s ‘Berlin is in Germany’ is about a former ‘East German’ adjusting to life in a unified nation

December 5, 2020

0 Martin was imprisoned before the fall of the Wall. When he is released in 2001, everything has changed. Mr. Brooks is perhaps modern cinema’s most well-known instance of a prisoner attempting to rebuild a life after release. The character appears in The Shawshank Redemption (1994). He’s an old man when he gets out. He’s […]

Jan Komasa’s ‘The Hater’, on Netflix, is a quietly chilling story about the virtual world’s revenge on the real world

November 28, 2020

0 Way back in 1999, ‘The Matrix’ felt like sci-fi fantasy. But today, the machines are indeed shaping us, controlling us, brainwashing us. We are all living in the Matrix. In 2010, Polish filmmaker Jan Komasa forayed into the virtual world with Suicide Room. The title refers to a chat room for people with suicidal […]

Soorarai Pottru, The Motorcycle Diaries, and the truth-versus-fiction issue in biopics

November 21, 2020

39 If you want the “truth” about Captain Gopinath or Che Guevara, go read books about them, or go watch documentaries. Soorarai Pottru — the “loosely inspired by” biopic of Air Deccan founder Captain GR Gopinath  — is the season’s hottest, most talked-about film, so let’s talk about a biopic about another socialist hero from […]

Sophia Loren transformed from glam star to great actor in Vittorio De Sica’s ‘Two Women’

November 15, 2020

2 You could say the reason glamorous stars de-glam themselves is because, otherwise, nobody takes them seriously. It’s only when Sophia Loren plays a working mother that we sit up and say, “Oh wow, what a performance!” It’s Rome. It’s World War II. The film is Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women. Cesira (Sophia Loren) runs […]

Fernanda Valadez’s ‘Identifying Features’, playing at Dharamsala, is a poignant drama about would-be illegal migrants

November 7, 2020

0 This is neither about the issue (would-be illegal immigrants) nor the mystery (what happened to the protagonist’s son who tried to cross over from Mexico to the US?). It’s more about a mother… When you think of illegal (would-be) immigrants crossing over, you think of barbed-wire fences, helicopters throwing spotlights on the ground, difficult […]

Jan Komasa’s ‘Corpus Christi’, playing at Dharamsala, makes you think about faith and prayer, sinners and saints

October 31, 2020

0 There is no point in praying mechanically. There is no point in attending church just to get it done with. You don’t even have to be in church to be with God. If you want to step out and play football, God will follow you. In Christian terms, Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is a sinner. […]

Isamu Hirabayashi’s ‘Shell and Joint’, playing at Dharamsala, is a fascinatingly eccentric dissertation on life, death, shit, sex…

October 24, 2020

3 What is the shape or condition of life? And conversely, of death? Maybe death is the more natural and common condition, while life is a short trip that ends with death. What if suicide doesn’t arise from the desire to not live anymore? What if the impulse to kill oneself isn’t something existential, but […]

David and Àlex Pastor’s ‘The Occupant’, on Netflix, is a solid psycho-thriller about a man who loses his job and decides to fight back

October 17, 2020

3 Perhaps my connect with the protagonist was also due to the fact that I am middle-aged, too, and in a profession increasingly populated by youngsters who’d cost far less to hire. It can be tough for middle-aged men in job interviews, especially one where your potential employers are probably younger than the length of your […]