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341 reviews in total 
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Taxi (2015/III)
Interesting and yet intriguing cinema, 11 June 2016

Very interesting and intriguing. Let me explain why so.

The difficult Kafkaesque conditions in Iran are very real. I have visited Iran and therefore I have seen it all firsthand. Everything in the movie is real. My heart goes out to the people of Iran where the best works of Iranian cinema are banned. My favourite Iranian film "Bitter Dreams," a debut film by Mohsen Amiryoussefi, was banned within months of it being shown in the Cannes film festival and most cineastes are not even aware of its existence.

Panahi is different. He makes good films. He claims he is hounded by the authorities but yet makes films, one after the other, openly in the streets of Teheran. It cannot be that he has done it without people noticing his filming.

Now "Taxi" is a laudable work--including the discussion of males wearing ties in public (I have not spotted a single Iranian male wearing a necktie in Teheran, but two people in "Taxi' wear ties, Panahi's friend and the bridegroom), a top human rights lawyer Nasrin Satoudeh (the flower woman) talking of prisons as "Paradise" after she herself endured time in the notorious Evin prison, mention of public hangings for petty offences by financially stressed folks, pirated film CDs sold in the streets, mention of Panahi being interrogated in prison blindfolded and his search for that man by trying to identify him by his voice--all laudable, realistic cinema.

Or is it? Panahi is afraid two women with a fishbowl will wet his backseat. When the fishbowl breaks, he is not concerned about the water or the broken glass. The camera angles of the sequence with him helping the ladies save the fish could not have been taken from the dashboard camera. Evidently there were more cameras used than we are expected to believe.

I have actually shook hands with the director in my city when he was chairing a film jury. He appeared sullen and unfriendly. In the movie "Taxi" you see a charming, smiling and friendly Panahi. Which is the real Panahi? In my view, the film deserved the Best Actor award at Berlin rather than Best Film.

As in Panahi's "The circle", the subject of his cinema is totally laudable in "Taxi." Is there an implicit collusion between Panahi and the Iranian authorities? How much of "Taxi" is spontaneous? Probably very little.

Delightful cinematography, music and restrained performances, 9 June 2016

The filmmaking style of the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien is amazing. Here is a film sold worldwide as a martial-arts film but made with incredible restraint from its performers and a delightfully managed soundtrack that raises its level to a sophisticated work of cinema that well-deserved its Best Director Award at Cannes.

The film's cinematography is a delight. The sequence where the assassin meets the Governor of Weibo is remarkable with the sheer curtains camouflaging the assassin. Elsewhere, the film's cinematography is aided by superb choices of external locations carefully chosen in mainland China.

The next highlight of the film are performances of two supporting actresses Zhou Yun (as the Governor's wife) and Fang-Yi Sheu (in the double role as Princess Jiacheng and her twin sister the nun). They are adorable in this movie as they have to convey feelings with extreme subtlety. Ms Fang-Yi Sheu's choreography seemed too western and reminiscent of the Martha Graham school, of which the actress I found is indeed a product. The dance I found was close to modern dance mixed with Sufi music. Probably, I am too picky.

The music and soundtrack are equally delightful as the performances. The management of the soundtrack from silence to light footsteps to a few plucked string notes of a zither to full blown music at the end of the film present a rainbow of musical/aural pleasures for a keen viewer of cinema. However, the final musical piece during the end credits, was possibly less Oriental and more European to my ears. It almost sounded like bagpipes were playing in China.

All in all, the film was a delight. A major film of 2015 that I saw in 2016. This film was superior to "Dheepan", which ultimately won the top prize at Cannes.

Macbeth (2015/I)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
An important Shakespeare film, 26 May 2016

An important Shakespeare film.

My best "Macbeth" still remains the Orson Welles version, followed by Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood."

Why is director Justin Kurzel's version important? This version's visuals (cinematographer Adam Arkapaw) and music/soundtrack are fascinating (though at a few times in the film, the music goes overboard by increasing its volume). The overhead shots of the kings on the throne, the near final sequences of Macbeth's end in red fire and smoke are Kurzel's masterstrokes. The screenplay's variation of the three witches, complete with the young child, is another first. In fact, all children, specially Fleance, in this version acquire a major space that no other version of Macbeth allowed.

Marion Cotillard is amazing always. Fassbender is not the best Macbeth--others have been a lot better. The music of Jed Kurzel is notable, more so the sound management most of the time, though not always. Now, is the music composer Kurzel related to the director Kurzel? Both are Australians with the same surname.

The lack of bagpipes in the music was odd. So also the several Christian crosses that one does not often see in Shakespeare, unless it is essential, as in "Romeo and Juliet." This Macbeth is different in more ways than obvious. The Special Effects department needs to take a bow as major contributors. Methinks, the Australian element surfaced in this British/US/French production.

Zelig (1983)
One of the only two Woody Allen films to impress me, 3 March 2016

I am not a Woody Allen fan--yet two films he made are remarkably good--"Match Point" and "Zelig."

"Zelig" is quasi-documentary at its best. When you are watching Allen and Mia Farrow, you realize you are also watching "the real Dr Fletcher in color," who does resemble Ms Farrow. Much later you realize the "Real Dr Fletcher" was also an actress. The question is not whether you like Zelig, the real question is when can the viewer be fooled into believing what Allen wants you to believe. Color or B/W do not provide clues here. Great stuff.

Watching the real Saul Bellow interview recording was a bonus--a clever bonus from Allen.

And for me the best part of the film was the real Susan Sontag interview recordings--she was more attractive than Ms Farrow any day! She could have been a great actress as well as the great thinker we know her as.

Kontroll (2003)
Well-meaning, ambitious debut feature that just does not fall into place, 1 March 2016

The young director attempts a metaphoric tale using the darkened world of Budapest's metro/underground rail system. The only non-humans are an owl and a dog on a leash (which is not allowed) on the metro. The characters are essentially ticket checkers, who in turn are monitored by psychiatrists, the metro's bureaucrats and the police above ground (who you never see on screen but are referred to).

The director Antal attempts to populate the metro with ticket- checkers who are all requiring psychiatric attention of one sort or the other.

The two normal people are exiled to the underworld--Bela the metro train driver and his daughter in a bizarre costume. The underground has subtle tones of a prison with all the ticket checkers with blood and ketchup covered faces that everyone assumes is normal and healthy. If someone suggests otherwise, it is not taken kindly.

Unfortunately, the film is not anywhere near the class of Istvan Szabo's "Budapest Tales", which revolved around Budapest's above-ground tramlines decades ago. Hungarian film enthusiasts will be pleased to see actor Gyorgy Cserhalmi, who was featured in prominent works of Zoltan Fabri ("The Fifth Seal"), Karoly Makk ("Hungarian Requiem"), Miklos Jansco's ("Hungarian Rhapsody"), and Istvan Szabo ("Mephisto") decades ago, in a minor role. He steals the show when he appears on screen!

Laura (1944)
Preminger could have stolen a march on Kurosawa but lost the opportunity, 28 February 2016

Had Otto Preminger chosen to film "Laura" as author Vera Caspary had written it, he would have stolen a march on Kurosawa's "Rashomon" made 6 years later. But Preminger chose to start the film with that Rashomon concept of narration and lost it after the introductory scenes without carrying the author's idea through. Preminger has a muddled script of a good story.

Preminger's script let's you know the clocks are important within minutes of the film for an astute viewer. Then you wait endlessly until the last few minutes to find out the importance of the two clocks. Then you scratch your head to wonder why two lovers would have identical clocks in their respective houses. Unless they gifted identical memorabilia to each other--a trend never shown in the movie!

Is "Laura" a great film noir? In my assessment it is good--not great. Clifton Webb steals the show when he is on screen, helped by great spoken lines. Dame Judith Anderson does not come through as a great actress in this film.

Shame (2011)
Rarely praised for the departments in which it stood out--sound and choice of musical compositions, 26 February 2016

An average movie with above average sound editing/management, intelligent editing, and above average acting by the main actors. Even the choice of Bach's compositions was well considered.

The moot question is did Fassbender deserve the Best Actor award at Venice? If I were on the jury that bestowed it, two better performers ought to have shared the award instead--Christoph Waltz in Polanski's "Carnage" and Johannes Zeiler in Sokurov's "Faust".

But why is sex addiction a moot subject to make a film on? McQueen seems to choose subjects that would make the box office jingle rather than make truly remarkable films. But the same McQueen has an evident flair to manage soundtracks with a felicity rarely seen in Hollywood.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Not the best of Ray, if you compare it with similar international films, 16 January 2016

I had a lot expectations from this film and I was disappointed. I guess if I had viewed this film in 1966, my reaction would have been different. It is definitely a creditable work for Indian cinema in its day. Not much more.

For me, Ray's top works remain "Jalsagar (The Music Room)" and "Pikoo's Diary."

Compare "Nayak" with two considerably similar train films--Jerzy Kawalerowicz' "Night Train" (1959) made six years before the Bengali film, and the 2005 cinematic triptych "Tickets" (Olmi/Loach/Kairostami) and "Nayak" pales in comparison. Ray's characters are all believable and real. Their range in age and dispensation are laudable. The cinematography is laudable. But I prefer the two non-Indian train journey films that I mentioned any day to "Nayak".

Sicario (2015)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Del Toro, Roger Deakins and Johann Johannsson lift up the film's quality, 8 January 2016

Sicario would appeal to any ethical and sensitive viewer but falls short of being a masterpiece.

Bernicio Del Toro's performance in the movie in the first appearance (shots in the aircraft) was stagey. As the movie progresses, you begin to admire him. It is definitely Del Toro's best role to date.

Villeneuve as a director is above average but never raises stuns you. But I will continue to view his films in the firm hope that he will deliver a masterpiece down the line. You admire his ability to use visuals and music to build the mood with a certain maturity that is rarely encountered in Hollywood. But then he is a Canadian filmmaker first--and in Canada they use restraint with music and camera-work. Roger Deakins (cinematographer) and Johann Johannsson (composer of the music) contribute so much to raise the quality of the product.

Made in Hollywood, on a US subject, "Sicario" for me is closer to Canadian cinema in style and production tastes. Cinephiles will note the parallels between this film and a real Canadian film, Larysa Kondracki's "The Whistleblower" (2010) that exhibit in the screenplay and development of characters.

Chronic (2015)
14 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
This would have been my favorite 2015 film--had it not liberally copied ideas from "Still Life", 8 December 2015

I went to see this movie because of the Cannes Film Festival best screenplay award that the film had won. It was indeed a good film, with good acting by Tim Roth.

The screenplay is good but it has liberally borrowed ideas, without acknowledging it, from Uberto Pasolini's 2013 film,"Still Life," a winner at theVenice film festival. All the director/screenplay writerhas done is that he transformed a bachelor bureaucrat to a divorced male nurse and passed it off as "original" writing.

And to think this plagiarism leads to a Cannes top award! Shame on the director! It also brings down the prestige of Cannes' awards. Recently another Cannes Jury conferred the Golden Palm to Haneke's "Amour,"which in turn had copied chunks of sequences/ideas from Runnarson's 2011 Icelandic film "Volcano."

Obviously, the Cannes jury had never seen "Still Life." The jury could instead have conferred the best actor award to Tim Roth-who would have deserved it. It underscores the lack of knowledge of current cinema by juries at Cannes in recent years.

For those who have not viewed either, please view "Still Life" first.

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