Browsing All Posts filed under »Firstpost Column«

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

35 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 […]

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 […]