Archive | May, 2014

MANAM (2014) – TELUGU

27 May
I liked this film and it was wonderful to see a legend, ANR for the last time on silver screen.
The screenplay, though inspired is well written to adapt to the nativity of Telugu audiences. Thankfully, I did not take my brain inside the movie theater, so I just went with the flow and reacted for whatever was happening, without thinking anything. So I could appreciate some genuine feelings which made me feel for the characters.
Produced by Akkineni Family, this films uses many things about them, from their names to fitting whole of the family in a frame. Nagarjuna as a surprise acted well and was the best among the lot. He showcased his skills very effortlessly and he just went along with the flow. I cannot remember even one dialogue which I thought was out of place or uncalled for. Dialogues between ANR and Naga Chaitanya were a bit overboard I felt.
The film is not devoid of flaws, it has some huge and big holes. But, all those can be forgiven if the sheer effort of writing down this piece and putting all the pieces together are considered. Nagarjuna again proved to be a good producer who wishes to take challenges and it was heartening to see this script having such a huge cast. It’s an experiment in Telugu Film Industry and I am happy it has paid off. 
It involves multiple flashbacks and the same people wearing different characters. It would have been really tough had this been complicated. This was a very simplified and spoon-fed screenplay and that’s the reason I believe it worked. 
Of all the stories that were put in, I liked the story of Seeta (Nagarjuna) and Rama (Shriya) in the village. That was a real treat in the film. A 3/5 for a film that I liked and I hope to see such endeavors being enocuraged in Telugu Film Industry.
Just a spoiler, please watch the film “Back To The Future” which I believe is a huge inspiration for this film.

BASIC INSTINCT (1992) – ENGLISH

26 May
A taut, erotic thriller and indeed one of the finest murder mysteries ever made.
Sharon Stone steals the show by seduction and eroticism. The film is known for the erotic scenes above everything else. It has the most paused moment in cinematic history, which is the the leg crossing scene of Sharon Stone.
There is lot of eroticism which I suppose was needed for the plot, as the protagonist Catherine Tramell seduces men into her plot and uses them as tools for her own written plot. So no qualms, with the nakedness of characters in this. It never seemed that it was over the top or it could have been avoided. This marks the ingenuity of the writer. It is called smart writing by embedding some real erotic scenes to make it more interesting.
Murder mysteries if written well are generally interesting, but this was had the oomph factor with Sharon Stone as protagonist. She did go the full throttle and dug deep into the character. She made the enigmatic writer into a well balanced and a reasonable character. That enigma which she carried on screen transpires even in the viewers mind. At least it did drive my mind, so I rate her acting in this very film highly. Never before and never after did I see such a composed performance from Sharon Stone and probably I never will again. But what she did in this film alone is enough for her lifetime. She made Catherine Tramell one of the most memorable characters in Cinema History. 
I am surprised that Sharon Stone overshadowed a star like Michael Douglas in the film. If written well and acted with complete submission, the roles becomes supreme and raises above the script. Taking the script itself to greater heights.
The credit for this film must go to the writer Joe Eszterhas and the director Paul Verhoeven. every dialogue is terrific and the choice of words is meticulous and apt. 
Technically, I loved the editing and it’s cut at the right moments with right space between each scenes. The transpiration of emotions is well conveyed and the acting indeed by all is great. Just that Sharon is above others in this means she is just greater by an inch above others. The production values are good and it makes a film stand long and I suppose, even 20 years later, people will watch it with same reverence as they did 20 years earlier (from now, 2014) when it was initially released.
A 4/5 for this, undoubtedly for the lines and Sharon Stone.

DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978) – ENGLISH

26 May
A terrific work of camera that takes an ordinary story to extra-ordinary level of story telling.
This is a Terrence Malick film, that shows with the cinematography. The passion exudes in ever frame, in ever shot. In detailing of the backdrop, the period, the artifacts. Malick certainly can be called a visual poet. This is the second film I watched of his, the first one being “The Thin Red Line”. Both have exemplary camera work and are exquisitely detailed in composition of each frame. You can pause at any moment in these two films and you can say, hey wow, what a painting that is.
Days of Heaven came early that is 1978. Yet, the work is contemporary and long standing. It has a story that is universal. It’s about love, betrayal and murder. These things flow like poetry and all is said from the eyes of a child. The voice over adds a perspective that makes the film interesting. 
Apart from technical brilliance, the film has to be known as one of the earliest Richard Gere films. He showed in this film, what he was made of. He is a tough and long running horse and he proved it with time. Also, Linda Manz as Linda did a terrific job as a child.
Most of the praise most surely go to the men who used camera very nicely. Nestor Almendros and Haskell Wexler did a stupendous job in creating paintings through camera. Thanks to them and a big thanks to Malick in knowing the perfect use of camera. 
The editing and sound, considering the period this film was set in, were pitch perfect. The editing gave fluidity to the story and the sound which I suppose was remastered by Criterion was great. From the starting scenes of huge burning down, to the horses in chase, to a gun shot. They were crystal clear and gave a thorough surround stereo feel.
I loved the camerawork above all else. It shows the diligence and prudence of Malick and salutations to him. A 4/5 for this visual poetry.

DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) – ENGLISH

19 May
A terrific film by a terrific director. 
Setup mostly in a single apartment with lot many details of apartment and characters explored in very little time, this is a very good detailed film about murder. There is a lot of conversation, for the most part of it. Most of it is planning the murder, and the rest of conversation is about covering up by culprit, then the culprit being brought to justice. 
The best part is in the first 10-15 minutes itself we know of what would come. Who has planned whose murder that is setup very clearly. Now the rest of it is for the police to bring the murderer or the planned murderer to justice. To categorise this as a mere thriller might not be apt for this. This has a lot of drama, it’s cold blooded drama and a meticulously planned murder. It’s not mystery either coz there are many things that are clear. We know who plans it, what is his motive and how he wants it. What happens perhaps is different but, the person who has planned needs to be brought to justice. The only driving point from then is how is he brought to justice. 
Ray Milland does a terrific job, less of emotion and so much of cold-bloodedness in him. Damn, that is very tough to pull off and he does it with considerable ease. 
The master throws up a masterful film in this. Also, there is a significance in the title “Dial M” though shown very briefly, it has it’s place. 
Without much to say about this film any further, I am going with 4/5 for a film by my favourite director. Hitchcock rocks again in this film.

BARTON FINK (1991) – ENGLISH

19 May
Perhaps, this is the only film that does complete justice to Coen Brothers as they are.
Symbolism is just supreme in this film. There can be many interpretations of a dialogue, a scene, a character and his actions. Barton Fink is a writer who abhors the Hollywood System and wants to create space in theatre for common man. When such a guy asks a girl “Are you into movies?” She replies “Are you silly?”. Just for this dialogue I can derive many interpretations. Are movies Silly? Is it foolish of him to be thinking of movies? And likewise many more.
So a film, that’s highly symbolic would be an understatement to this, there should be a better statement. Coz, this has a great treatment and wonderful acting in a story that’s minimal in content and yet humongous in exploring the little content in the story.
John Turturro is a revelation in this film and John Goodman shows why is so good at. These are two underrated actors I believe in the last 20 years. John Goodman was superb in a few films, though he did actually act in very few than his contemporaries, his choice was good in terms of script. John Turturro is a terrific actor whose potential was unleashed in very few films, mostly by Coen Brothers though.
From the poster of this film, till the last scene, there is an intrigue that’s typical only to a Coen Brothers film. if anyone is thinking, what is a mosquito doing in the poster? I recommend them to see this film to know it for yourself. 
I am happy to have seen this now fully in one ago, though earlier I tried to see it in parts, but could not finish. Indeed, it was a rewarding experience that threw many challenges in terms of narrative and treatment.
I love this film and will watch it again soon. A 4/5 for this film. Perhaps, the best of Coen Brothers till date.

NAKED LUNCH (1991) – ENGLISH

6 May
This is a film that jolted me in my sleep and made me awake, days after I saw this. Some scenes are terribly brilliant in this surreal drama.
Thanks to Criterion, because of which I got to know of this film, and picked it up from their collection. David Cronenberg is one of the outrageous directors existing today. He does not seem to compromise with his vision and tries to be so true to the material that it frightens the viewers very much. I wonder if I can ever see this on a big screen, in theater somewhere. Will they dare to put it up, will there be audience in the first place? I really doubt. yet, this is one of the finest surreal dramas that was made in 1990’s.
A week after I watched it, I just woke up as I got a scene from this film in a dream. Damn, even today (which is a month after I watched it) as I type the review, the hairs strands are standing on forearms. Creepy it is and totally insane too. I wonder how such a subject was chosen to be presented.
This is an adaptation of the novel by the same name, written by William S. Burroughs. I wonder whether those who have read it imaging the details presented in the book, also have been through nightmares as I did watching this film.
Nevertheless, this is a very important aspect of art and film making and indeed it is needed. I appreciate the courage of the director and more so the producers. Obviously, this is not a film for everyone, even for the generally weird people, but it’s for those who have a liking for aesthetics of weird, nightmarish, disgusting things.
I cannot reveal characters or the plot points coz that would make any reader of this review miss the fun, given that he chooses to see the film. It’s definitely worth a one time watch and that perhaps is enough for a lifetime as it would not be easy to erase from memory either. It has tremendous impact undoubtedly. 
A 4/5 for one of the terrific and even terrible surreal movies.

HAIRSHCHANDRACHI FACTORY (2009) – MARATHI

6 May
A well intended story mashed up with fabricated emotions.
Indeed, as film lovers we deserve to the story of the first film made in India “Satya Harishchandra” and also the story of the man behind making it “Dadasaheb Phalke”. Yes, that is well presented and documented through this film. Yet, I believe many emotions were overblown or uncalled for in this film which is made into a melodrama intentionally. Though funny in parts, and entertaining too, the pain which Dadasaheb went through to make the first indigenous film was trivialized and that’s the only qualm I have with respect to this film. Otherwise, it was a job well done.
Directed by debutante, Paresh Mokashi he touches all the right chords in screenplay and script. Firstly, to make a film on this subject is in itself a brave attempt and I appreciate his courage. The writing was well intended and it tried to touch the nuances and the finer aspects of film making, be it correcting the film stock or manually editing the negative. Considering that this film was done a modest budget, I can appreciate the effort that was put in to bring the product the way it is.
Acting is indeed fine by Nandu Madhav who plays the role of Dadasaheb Phalke. Indeed his kids do a fine job and are fun to watch more than anyone else. All others have done a commendable job too. But had they controlled their emotions in the last half an hour and did not dramatize it, I believe this would have been a greater film. The director should take the responsibility of that.
The production values are OK considering the budget, but I wish such an important film that has history in it, could have been produced well and it deserved better sets and artifacts. The cinematography is just fine. There is no greatness and there is no flaw either. It does it’s expected job and that’s good. I was disappointed by the editing though, wish some moments were cut to mellow down the drama and stick to showing the real work done by Dadasaheb. Especially, in the last hour where he talks with Englishmen, about distribution of the film, there were some dialogues that were kept only to make Dadasaheb a great human being, which I thought were not so needed. He had done a great job by giving us the first film itself, now that needed to be reiterated is what I felt.
I am going with 3/5 for a film that’s historically important. I wish it could have been much more in terms of production values and editing.