Browsing All Posts filed under »Firstpost Column«

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 […]

Gaya Jiji’s ‘My Favourite Fabric’, on MUBI, is about a young Syrian woman who’s fighting her own war

October 10, 2020

1 The film is inspired by Luis Buñuel’s Belle de jour. A young woman’s sexuality becomes a metaphor for a country’s desire to break free from oppressive constraints. It begins with a young woman in a cab, one of those van- or minibus-like vehicles used by many passengers at the same time. The vehicle stops […]

Vittorio De Sica’s Oscar-winning ‘The Garden of the Finzi-Continis’, about Italian Jews under the Fascists, turns 50 this year

October 4, 2020

0 If the Fascists have drawn a line between Jews and Aryans, the wealthy Finzi-Continis have similarly “discriminated” themselves from the world beyond their estate walls. It’s the late 1930s. It’s the city of Ferrara in northern Italy. The Fascist government of Benito Mussolini (Il Duce) is applying “racial laws” against Italian Jews. But you […]

Luis Estrada’s ‘The Perfect Dictatorship’, on Netflix, perfectly reflects our sensation-over-news era

September 26, 2020


Way back in 1951, Billy Wilder’s ‘Ace in the Hole’, about an opportunistic newspaper reporter, was labelled ‘satire’. Today, it would be the reality. In some countries, these days, there’s much talk about how the media — at least, the television media — are diverting the attention of citizens from real issues to sensational stories. […]

Venice Film Festival 2020 Ameen Nayfeh’s ‘200 Meters’ is a potent dramatisation of what the Wall does to Israelis and Palestinians

September 12, 2020


The Palestinian protagonist won’t get himself an Israeli ID. It’s like how some NRIs won’t get themselves an American passport because they still want to feel “Indian”. It seems like a very ordinary scene out of the very ordinary life of a very ordinary family. Mustafa (Ali Suliman) is fooling around with his wife, Salwa […]

Venice Film Festival 2020: Rodrigo Sepulveda’s Chilean drama, ‘My Tender Matador’, is about a young revolutionary and an ageing homosexual

September 11, 2020


I would have liked to know the source of Carlos’s feelings for Queen, whatever they were. But how can we hope to define something that he himself hasn’t fully grasped? A film festival is a place to discover great films, yes, but sometimes, even a not-bad (i.e. decidedly un-great) film can prove worthwhile. On the […]

Venice Classics 2020: Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s ‘The Last Supper’ is a political allegory painted in explicitly religious shades

September 5, 2020


Religion makes “slaves” of us. We are asked to silently accept suffering because “God has willed it that way,” and the more we suffer, the greater the chances of being rewarded with a place in heaven. By the time you read this, the Venice Film Festival will be underway, though not the Classics section, which […]

Venice Classics 2020: Jean-Pierre Melville’s ‘The Red Circle’ is a heist thriller with poetry between the lines

August 29, 2020


When we think of a “heist movie”, we think of carefully made plans, careful preparations. But here, things come together… by chance. Quentin Tarantino’s love for French New Wave cinema, especially the crime dramas, is well-documented. He said directors like Jean-Pierre Melville (whose Le Samourai was discussed in an earlier column) took inspiration from the […]

Jacques Audiard’s ‘Dheepan’, about Sri Lankan Tamils in France, is a story of immigration in more ways than one

August 22, 2020


Antonythasan Jesuthasan, who plays Dheepan, was actually a soldier for the Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan civil war, who fled during a ceasefire and sought political asylum in France. At first, Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan — winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival – appears to be a straightforward document of […]

Akira Kurosawa’s ‘Rhapsody in August’ is a shrine to Nagasaki, whose bombing ended World War II 75 years ago

August 15, 2020


Kurosawa questioned the American decision to drop the weapon on a city inhabited only by civilians who had nothing to do with the war, who lived far, far away from the military concentrations. Seventy-five years ago, on August 6 and 9, 1945, the US bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan surrendered on August 15 (the actual […]

Cannes Classics 2020: Bertrand Blier’s ‘Get Out Your Handkerchiefs’ is anchored by a woman who isn’t easy to read

August 9, 2020


Bertrand Blier might be another of those lionised male artistes whose art is ‘problematic’… I am reminded of Márquez’s ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’, where a woman wants to ‘die of love’ in her rapist’s arms Bertrand Blier knows luck had a part to play in fetching him the Academy Award for Best International […]

Cannes Classics 2020: Martin Scorsese has restored ‘The Hourglass Sanatorium’, by Polish filmmaker Wojciech Jerzy Has, to its hallucinatory glory

August 1, 2020


All this hallucinatory imagery is rooted in tragedy. The book’s author was shot dead by a Gestapo officer in 1942, for venturing outside the Jewish ghetto and into the Aryan quarter. A bird flies towards the gnarled branches of a leafless tree. It appears oddly lifeless. It doesn’t seem to be flying so much as […]

Cannes Classics 2020: Federico Fellini’s ‘La strada’, The Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the concept of “existential time”

July 25, 2020


If you wanted to break the film down along the lines of motive and meaning, then you could say that the title (Italian for “the road”) refers to the road of life. We are all wanderers, and the point is to have some purpose… This is the centenary year of Federico Fellini’s birth, and film […]

Diao Yinan’s Berlinale Golden Bear winner, ‘Black Coal, Thin Ice’, smuggles fascinating layers into a genre film

July 18, 2020


Genre films can express an attitude towards society, towards reality. In other words, instead of expressing his views on society through a “social” drama, the director is opting to say what he wants to say through stories of crime. The plot of Black Coal, Thin Ice (in Mandarin, and released in 2014) is the stuff […]

Jean Eustache’s ‘The Mother and the Whore’ is a time capsule of French youth post the civil unrest of May 1968

July 11, 2020


Veronika’s sexual attitudes seem liberated, even though she doesn’t appear to have heard of “Women’s Lib” when Alexandre brings the topic up. When he explains what it is, she doesn’t seem impressed. “I like bringing a man I love breakfast in bed,” she says. When the French filmmaker Olivier Assayas made a Top 10 list […]

In these COVID times, the mind has begun to seek lighter fare over heavy-duty, “difficult” cinema

July 4, 2020


The pandemic has made us seek optimism and joy, which is not usually a quality you find with “difficult” films. When life has become The Seventh Seal, with many of us playing games with Death each time we step out, the last thing we may want is more gloom and doom on screen. Sight & […]

Cannes Classics 2020: The ravishing poetry of Wong Kar-wai’s ‘In the Mood for Love’, which turns 20 this year

June 27, 2020


Part of this mood is created through Su’s wardrobe. Like unhappy, unfulfilled women in the movies — think of Sridevi in ‘English Vinglish’, in Sabyasachi saris — Su’s not-a-hair-out-of-place look is a facade for the turmoil inside. One of my favourite film anecdotes has Orson Welles and Peter Bogdanovich talking about Greta Garbo. The younger […]

Federico Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ depicts the suicide of an intellectual and the death of everything he stands for

June 20, 2020


How prescient this film seems from today, from this world around us where sensationalism is everything. Fittingly, ‘La Dolce Vita’ also gave us the word “paparazzi” in the intrusive, invasive sense we recognise it today. … Ingmar Bergman died the best possible way, in 2007: peacefully, in his sleep. But seven years earlier, a report […]

JK Rowling’s tweets, and Polish filmmaker Małgorzata Szumowska’s ‘In the Name Of’, a gay drama on MUBI

June 13, 2020


He craves human contact. He asks his sister if she has someone to hug. She replies, “My children.” But that word reminds him of something that’s even more forbidden than his desires… As if to coincide with PRIDE month, June, a startling irony has been unfolding. You must have heard about JK Rowling’s “transphobic tweets”, […]