Reviews written by registered user
murtaza_mma

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126 reviews in total 
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Mani Kaul's cinematic genius underlined, 1 July 2017
10/10

I wasn't aware until very recently that the great Indian filmmaker Mani Kaul made an erotic film titled 'The Cloud Door' back in 1994 with the ravishing Anu Agarwal (remember Aashiqui?) in the central role of a mysterious courtesan. Within a short run time of 20 odd minutes, Mani Kaul gives a demonstration of his cinematic mastery.

Had Kaul been born in Europe he would have been hailed as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. Nonetheless, Kaul is to Indian cinema what Andrei Tarkovsky is to the Russian cinema. One cannot really think of another Indian filmmaker who succeeded in constantly reinventing the form. Some may mention Kumar Shahani but his body of work clearly pales in comparison to Kaul's formidable oeuvre which includes masterworks like Duvidha, Uski Roti, and Siddheshwari.

Coming back to 'The Cloud Door,' I encourage you all to watch it (you can find it on YouTube) but please don't hold it against me if you can't see much beyond its breathtaking images, a voluptuous woman and her naughty parrot that keeps repeating erotic verses, and a laughing fish. And because it's Mani Kaul at work, it is quite possible that the fish may be laughing at our ignorance that compels us to find purpose in a great artist's creative imagination.

P.S. It's a real pity that when Anurag Kashyap asked Mani Kaul about his films the master told him that he himself would love to watch them again if somehow Kashyap could help locate them for him.

For more on world cinema please visit my film site "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The alternate reality envisioned by the great Philip K. Dick brought to life, 29 June 2017
9/10

Finally finished the first season of The Man in the High Castle and I must say that I am impressed! Ever imagined what would have happened had the Nazis prevailed during the Second World War? Well, here is your chance to witness the alternate reality and thank the Almighty that the Nazis were vanquished before it was too late. The Man in the High Castle presents such intriguing characters and subplots that they would blow any thinking viewer's mind. Speaking of the characters, I haven't seen so many complex caricatures in a single series. We have the wise Trade Minister Nobusuke Tagomi, the gritty Obergruppenführer John Smith, the pretty Juliana Crain and her troubled lover Frank Frink, the charming but duplicitous Joe Blake, the no-nonsense Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido, and the greedy but tenacious salesman Robert Childan, among others. If that's not enough we also have a senile and surprisingly peace-loving Adolf Hitler at our disposal. The rest of the supporting cast is no less remarkable such as the sadistic Marshall who doesn't think twice before terminating his victims in cold blood.

The attention to the period detail is striking. The series has already won a well deserved Emmy for its Title Design. The eerie tone of the series is set right from the title theme song '"Edelweiss" borrowed (but completely transformed) from The Sound Of Music. Of course, it wouldn't have been what it is today without its brilliant parallel editing that at times seems greatly inspired by the Baptism Sequence from the The Godfather. In a nutshell, The Man in the High Castle is absolutely brilliant and impossible to forget.

P.S. I must confess that after watching the pilot it was a bit difficult to decide. But the subsequent episodes have constantly improved. It is not like Game of Thrones where half of the season is spent on setting up the season's finale, for every episode takes us deeper into the alternate reality originally envisioned by the great Philip K. Dick. The reviews for the second season have been quite encouraging and we can expect the third season by the end of 2017. So there's enough time if you want to catch up on the first two seasons before the third one goes live.

For more please visit my film site "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

Elia Kazan's naked portrait of fame, 16 June 2017
9/10

Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd is a naked portrait of fame and what it can do to a man in the absence of morality. It is not just a film but a prophecy that's more relevant today then ever. Many who have watched the film would feel that Kazan predicted the rise of Donald J. Trump more than 50 years in advance. Demagoguery today sells like hot cakes and A Face In The Crowd presents a haunting take on how television serves as the perfect conduit for its propagation.

The film revolves around a fast talking country boy named Lonesome Rhodes who goes on to become a television sensation who is sought after by advertisers, business magnates and politicians. Rhodes, in his own words, is 'not just an entertainer, but an influence, a welder of opinion, a force'. But since it was the '50s driven by the idealistic belief that morality must ultimately triumph, Lonesome's larger than life story could not be completed without dichotomizing his meteoric rise with his great fall. Kazan's visionary direction is brilliantly complimented by Andy Griffith who delivers one of the greatest performances in all cinema only to be snubbed by The Academy. The film also features an unforgettable performance from Patricia Neal who steals almost every scene she features in. The passion that the two of them exude in the scenes they are together is something that most actors of today would struggle to achieve even after resorting to nudity.

'A Face in the Crowd' is a reminder of what Hollywood once stood for. It is really heartbreaking to see what Hollywood has been reduced to today. There was a time it focused on real stories of substance that told so much about the different sides of humanity: the virtues, the vices and the follies. Those stores served as great lessons on morality, hypocrisy and hubris. Today all Hollywood seems capable of offering are endless superhero franchises, high on style but with little substance. It is high time the creatively and emotionally bankrupt Studio Bosses revisited a film like 'A Face in the Crowd'.

For more on the world of cinema, please visit my film site "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

There is, there was, and there will always be one Marlon Brando, 16 April 2017
10/10

Before Clint Eastwood, there was Sam Peckinpah. Before Peckinpah, there was Sergio Leone. But before Leone there was Marlon Brando and One- Eyed Jacks. It is impossible to think of Unforgiven, The Wild Bunch, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, or even The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance without One-Eyed Jacks. Here is a film which Peckinpah couldn't realize and one that Kubrick abandoned. It was Brando's destiny to produce, direct and act in it. The result was a commercial disaster. It was also in many ways the end of a remarkable phase in Brando's acting career. For anyone interested in studying his stellar career, it is essential to divide it in two phases i.e. career before and career after One-Eyed Jacks.

After the failure of the film, Brando ceased to be the actor he once was. The fascination for cinematic art got replaced by cynicism and although he would go on to deliver unforgettable performances in movies like The Godfather, Last Tango in Paris and Queimada, his charming innocent side would permanently be lost.

In order to truly appreciate the complexity of One-Eyed Jacks one will probably have to watch at least a dozen other Westerns. Here is a film that marks a departure from the tenets and values established by the Classic Westerns of John Ford and Howard Hawks. The characters here aren't necessarily good or bad and perhaps that's what makes them more relatable. Take the case of Brando's Rio who is arguably one of the genre's foremost anti-heroes. He isn't beyond cheating women or shooting his adversary in his back and yet he has certain heroic qualities. He is willing to take the bullet for his partner. Similarly, Dad Longworth isn't all evil. He has his own share of virtues unlike the Classic Western villains.

On a whole, One-Eyed Jacks is one of the greatest Westerns ever made. The performances are topnotch: be it Brando, Karl Malden, Ben Johnson, Katy Jurado, or even Slim Pickens. Groundbreaking and far ahead of its time, One-Eyed Jacks is a testament to Brando's commitment to the cinematic artform before he suffered from disillusionment. Thanks to the brilliant restoration supervised by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, One-Eyed Jacks looks just as refreshing today as it would have looked in the good old days of VistaVision. If you are a Western fan or appreciate good cinema, here is a film that you just cannot afford to miss.

For more on the world of cinema, please visit my film site "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
A formidable anti-war film elevated by a sublime performance from Andrew Garfield, 19 February 2017

Hacksaw Ridge is a formidable anti-war film that's closer to popular war films like Saving Private Ryan and Platoon than anti-war masterpieces like Full Metal Jacket and Paths of Glory. The film is elevated by sublime performances from Andrew Garfield, Hugo Weaving, and the lovely Teresa Palmer. Mel Gibson is certainly back with a bang and seems to be following the footsteps of Clint Eastwood. All we need from Gibson now is a Revisionist Western. Speaking of Gibson, his choice of including the archive footage of Private Doss and other survivors from the Battle of Okinawa helps add a lot of weight to the film.

With as many as 6 Oscar nominations to its credit, Hacksaw Ridge is certainly one of the biggest films of the year. Apart from the brilliant screenplay and direction, it is Garfield's performance that makes Hacksaw Ridge what it is. 2016 proved to be an incredible year for Garfield who delivered not one but two great performances-- the other being his turn of a stoic Jesuit Priest in Martin Scorsese's Silence. It's an interesting coincidence that in both these films, Garfield played a Christian pacifist. A real pity is that Garfield didn't get a second nomination for his sublime performance in Silence which is even better than his brilliant turn in Hacksaw Ridge.

Hacksaw Ridge looks set to win the Best Editing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. A win in any other category would be a real bonus.

For more on the world of cinema, please visit my film blog "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

Blue Jay (2016/I)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
If you are a hopeless romantic then this film is certainly for you, 8 January 2017
7/10

Are you in love? Or, do you want to fall in love? Or, are you heart broken? Whatever the case may be, Alex Lehmann's Blue Jay is the perfect remedy. Here is a film so honestly made that it will make your heart melt. Blue Jay is essentially a two handler about two former high school lovers who bump into each other for the first time in two decades.

It is an awkward situation at first. But soon it develops into a very memorable day for the both of them. There are moments of immense joy and pain as they revisit their past through their present. It's like experiencing catharsis. Indie films, when they are really good, can really pack a punch because they are not bound by the liability to placate the Studio bosses, thereby allowing greater liberty to the filmmaker. And, Blue Jay is a very well made indie film and certainly one of the better indies that I have ever seen.

One of the greatest strengths of the film are the acting performances of Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson. The two of them look so natural (the choice monochrome of course helps... color would have drastically toned down the intensity). Both the actors demonstrate a great range of emotions. Duplass looks the more volatile of the two but it is as per the demand of the character. As for Paulson, her smile seems capable of speaking a thousand words. Together, they create magic, which, I daresay, most Hollywood A- listers fail to create these days.

The film has its share of flaws but overall it makes for a wonderful movie viewing experience. If you are a hopeless romantic then this film is certainly for you

For more on the world of cinema, please visit my film blog "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

Arrival (2016/II)
5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Boring and inconsequential film that tries to look down on its viewers, 28 November 2016
4/10

I wish Arrival was half as good as critics around the world are projecting it to be. Hailing a movie as a masterpiece just because it is different is pretty much the worst thing that art connoisseurs can do.

Apparently, the critics are raving about the Sci-Fi film because it takes a departure from Hollywood style of filmmaking. But departure alone is not enough. A movie should first and foremost succeed in elucidating the subject at hand for the audiences to the last detail. Arrival, for example, talks about certain symbols that the aliens seem to use and the protagonist who is a language expert slowly learns them but the viewers are never afforded that luxury. Right from the onset film assumes that the viewers are incapable of understanding such intellectual stuff. I mean our two protagonists are supposed to be two of the most intelligent professionals on the planet earth. One is a world renowned language expert and the other is a theoretical physicist. What is the probability in the world that an average viewer would be able to match that intellect? Well, for your kind information, that same average viewer has paid for the ticket. Some of the most intellectual characters ever created, including Sherlock Holmes, never let things unexplained for the lesser mortals.

I don't claim to be as intelligent as Robert Langdon or Hannibal Lector, but I like to see myself as an intelligent film viewer and so I would like a filmmaker who tries to indulge me and not a filmmaker who doesn't think me capable enough to understand at least as much as his superintelligent characters. If Tarkovsky or Kubrick never thought lowly of their audiences, what makes Denis Villeneuve to look down upon the viewers? Besides, the film doesn't really offer anything that hasn't been done before in cinema.To make matters worse, it is boring and inconsequential.

The strongest aspect of Arrival is Amy Adams. But she has delivered much stronger and dynamic performances over the years. Hollywood loves to make movies about female characters who look nervous and fidgety to begin with but end up showing remarkable courage in the face of adversities. Can there be an easier way of wooing half the human race? Well, to tell the truth, the female audiences are not gullible and filmmakers cannot fool them. He had attempted something similar in Sicario and he has done it again in Arrival. Hope Denis Villeneuve would be more careful with the Blade Runner sequel.

For more on the world of cinema, please visit my film blog "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

Dog Eat Dog (2016/I)
17 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
Cage and Dafoe are a sight to behold, 19 November 2016
8/10

Nicolas Cage's best performance in a long long time and who better can Paul Schrader to make it happen. After the disaster surrounding their previous collaboration Dying of the Light, a film that was tempered by the studio without Schrader's approval, Dog Eat Dog proves to be the perfect foil for both the men to showcase their talents.

Schrader limns a colorful world inhabited by cranky criminals who prefer death to living a choked up life. Crime comedy is a zone where the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Coens and Guy Ritchie thrive but Schrader here provided something completely unique.

Yes, it's a film revolving around guns, girls, money, drugs, and thugs but its hyperrealistic treatment makes it a fascinating watch. To watch Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe wreck havoc together in front of the motion picture camera is a sight to behold. Dafoe gets to play the crazier character but Cage is never the one to hold back. The scene in which his character beats a lady cop senseless is a major highlight of Cage's portrayal. While Dafoe's character takes the definition of wacko to a whole new level, Cage's calm and composed character is like a time bomb waiting to explode.

If you are a fan of Cage and/or Dafoe and/or Schrader, you simply cannot afford to miss Dog Eat Dog.

For more on the world of cinema, please visit my film blog "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

Nicolas Cage at top of the game, 15 November 2016
9/10

One wouldn't see a better portrayal of a dipsomaniac in all cinema. Nicolas Cage plays an alcoholic screenwriter who travels to Las Vegas to drink himself to death. Cage clearly is at the height of his acting abilities as he lays bare the wounded soul of a perturbed individual. One seldom gets to witness such honesty in a cinematic portrayal. As a matter of fact, Cage doesn't just portray the character but he actually lives it.

Elizabeth Shue complements Cage brilliantly while playing with great dignity the part of a hooker without making it look vulgar at any point in time. To watch Cage and Shue play two outcasts who find solace in each other is an absolute treat.

Leaving Las Vegas is a rare film about loneliness that actually celebrates life. The film both reject and embraces love. Roger Ebert summed up the film perfectly: "Few films are more despairing and yet, curiously, so hopeful as this one, which argues that even at the very end of the road, at the final extremity, we can find some solace in the offer and acceptance of love."

For more on the world of cinema, please visit my film blog "A Potpourri of Vestiges".

Inferno (2016/I)
0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The weakest film in the 'Robert Langdon' movie series, 14 October 2016
6/10

Despite being the weakest film in the 'Robert Langdon' movie series, Inferno succeeds in keeping the viewer engaged throughout its run- time. However, the elements of thrill and suspense significantly wane out towards its climax. Dan Brown is known for seamlessly blending history and fiction and there are truckloads of both in Inferno but perhaps what's missing are the bad guys. Also, the film is lacking in terms of carnage. There is too much talk but little action.

Speaking of the bad guys, Tom Hanks' Langdon thrives on a chilling nemesis like the one played by Ewan McGregor or Ian McKellar in Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, respectively. Alas, Inferno has little to offer in this department! All it offers are minor antagonists who do little more than serve the purpose of a McGuffin.

Although, Hanks is not at his best, he stills delivers a solid performance. We all love those moments when Hanks' Langdon beguiles us with his knowledge of history with almost Sherlock Holmes-like reassurance. One wishes Inferno had more of those quintessential Langdon moments. Felicity Jones yet again justifies her casting as to why intelligent men (Dickens, Hawking, etc.) would want to fall for a woman like her. Irrfan Khan's charismatic presence can be felt throughout the movie. The thespian continues to make India proud in the global arena.

In a nutshell, watching Inferno is a must if you have watched The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons. As for the rest, you can skip it if History or Literature bores you to death.

For more on the world of cinema, please visit my film blog "A Potpourri of Vestiges".


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