Browsing All Posts filed under »Firstpost Column«

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

August 1, 2020

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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”, […]

The question of race permeates every pore of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s magnificent German melodrama, ‘Ali: Fear Eats the Soul’

June 6, 2020

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The older generation will slowly pass on and equality will (hopefully) simply be something we take for granted, not something to be “grappled with”. But then, Twitter and Whatsapp tell us otherwise. An inter-racial romance seems apt to talk about in these #GeorgeFloyd times, especially when race colours every aspect of the “romance” in question. […]

The late Michel Piccoli in the role of his lifetime, as an artist in Jacques Rivette’s ‘La Belle Noiseuse’

May 28, 2020

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It’s not about the product. It’s about the process. If you romanticise art, this film is a kid-in-a-candy store experience. The French actor Michel Piccoli died on May 12, and when I looked at his filmography — filled with great works like Godard’s Contempt and Buñuel’s Belle de Jour — one film stood out. It’s […]

Alexander Zolotukhin’s ‘A Russian Youth’, set during WWI and now on mubi, is a perfect contrast to Sam Mendes’ ‘1917’

May 21, 2020

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The most fascinating aspect of this “war movie” is the parallel narrative set in the present day, where a conductor is rehearsing with his orchestra. After a century of cinema, when nearly every genre has been twisted in every possible direction, it’s inevitable that filmmakers seek refuge in experiments. If the “World War I movie” […]

Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’ versus the Steven Soderbergh version, plus a diss about Kubrick

May 14, 2020

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Solaris is a planet capable of reaching into the recesses of your mind, the places where you’ve tucked away your most painful memories. In the case of the protagonist, these memories are of his wife… One of my favourite disses in cinema history is Andrei Tarkovsky calling 2001: A Space Odyssey a “comic book”. It […]

Through the story of a poet, Jean Cocteau’s ‘Orpheus’ transcends biological death to ponder on artistic death

May 9, 2020

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Death takes many forms in Orpheus… A plagiarism charge is as good as death. It can kill a career… Another facet of Death is present in Orpheus’ marriage… Death is still in the air, and in this column. Last time, I spoke about Hirokazu Kore-eda’s After Life, where the recently deceased are asked to choose […]

After a week of grief, remembering Hirokazu Kore-eda’s ‘After Life’, which promises a happy eternity

May 4, 2020

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Imagine spending all of eternity with the memory of eating ice-cream with your closest friends from school, or the memory of your spouse’s ecstatic face when you proposed. At a time we are surrounded by mortal fear (and we’ve just lost two of our most beloved actors), it’s perhaps natural that the mind drifts towards […]

Like ‘Parasite’ and ‘Get Out’ and ‘The Platform’, the Brazilian quasi-Western ‘Bacurau’ uses genre constructs for social commentary

April 24, 2020

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These films aren’t structured like “message movies”. They use very traditional genre constructs (on the surface ‘Bacurau’ is a Western) for social commentary. There’s a killer on the loose. He has cohorts. Gun in hand, he begins to talk to them. “So right after my divorce, I kinda lost my mind, y’know? One day, I […]

The gay-themed Israeli drama ‘15 Years’ has bypassed the theatrical window, but that’s not necessarily bad news

April 16, 2020

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The gayness is incidental. This could just as well be a hetero couple, with one of them wanting children and the other resisting parenthood. There were many films set for a theatrical release, and which are now going directly to the streaming space. In a Forbes article that came with a rather dramatic title, ‘Movie […]

Revisiting Euripides’ Greek tragedy Medea through the lens of Lars von Trier, Pasolini and Sholay

April 9, 2020

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That’s what Medea wants Jason to discover: the feeling of losing your children when you are still alive, a feeling that will intensify as you grow older, lonelier. Being alone with your loved ones is awesome — until it isn’t. And many of us, I’m sure, are finally beginning to understand what the Jack Nicholson […]

‘Red Beard’, the last Kurosawa-Mifune collaboration, is a film for these times, because it’s about healing and hope

April 3, 2020

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When Kurosawa asked Márquez if he had seen ‘Red Beard’, the writer replied, “I have seen it six times in 20 years and I talked about it to my children almost every day until they were able to see it…” Could there be a better time to talk about Red Beard? It was the great […]

Vittorio De Sica’s Italian classic Shoeshine shows rare instance when children slip into adulthood too soon

March 26, 2020

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Though there is a “story” and a “screenplay” that’s been worked out, these scaffoldings of “narrative cinema” are near-invisible. The protagonists don’t seem guided by a screenwriter so much as destiny. I’ve always wondered about the title of Vittorio De Sica’s Shoeshine (1946). Yes, it is about two boys who earn a living by shining […]

Kim Ki-duk’s animal (and human) torture in provocative films like ‘Moebius’ and ‘Pietà”

March 20, 2020

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Why does Medea kill her children? Why does the mother in ‘Moebius’ castrate her son? It is fascinating to ponder on these situations through the medium of cinema, which offers us the safety of distance… In the small pool of filmmakers known for being provocative, Kim Ki-duk is the oddest of ducks. I first encountered […]