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Abhijoy-Gandhi-WG05

10 reviews in total 
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Insomnia (2002)
Nolan holds back and objectifies a compelling opportunity to dive deep into the psyche!, 27 January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

INSOMNIA/ USA 2002 (3.0 Stars) 11 Jan 2004: The first scene from Insomnia, that of a two seater plane gliding over endless glaciers perhaps sets up the mise-en-scene of cold spaces and unexpected occurrences in alien lands. The rest of the film only builds on this growing sense of alienation even as British Director Christopher Nolan takes great care to build the entire film around one single occurrence. While I haven't seen the original Norwegian film of which this namesake is a remake, I can't imagine Scandinavian cinema to be quite so literal, aka Insomnia equals the protagonist never sleeps. My guess would be that Al Pacino's physical manifestation of what might have been a hugely meta-diagetic depiction in the original renders the two films as very different, albeit with a common storyline. The part I enjoyed the most was the mood that Nolan created through the clever use of texture. A harsh key light with an extra-ordinarily high lighting ratio played out the metaphor for the charred emotional feeling the central character, an upright detective (Pacino) is experiencing. This stylistic element in stark contrast to the polar blues of the Alaskan horizon (where the film is staged) aptly sets the stage for nervous expectation. The spoiler is that Detective Pacino accidentally shoots his partner where they are investigating the murder of a teenage girl in a small Alaskan town. Pacino, who works for the LAPD has a history of disagreement with his partner, and therefore feels compelled to keep the truth to himself. The catch is that the teenage-girl killer has been witness to this mishap. The killer turns out to be Robin Williams, who surfaces only in the latter part of the movie and whom we have all but forgotten about by now (the fact that he was even a part of this film). The exploration of the relationship between a conniving killer & a seasoned detective with a dark secret leaves the film wanting in the end. Nolan, who so successfully explores Guy Pierce's amnesia in Memento fails on the encore. We are thus left with a film that continues to work on our sub conscience with its artistic mist in never-land, but one that is finally guilty of narrative triteness. Eminently watchable for the transfer of plight and mood, Pacino does a good if somewhat less intelligent job of portraying the hapless Detective, cursed to sleeplessness in a land where the sun ironically never sets.

47 out of 65 people found the following review useful:
A masterpiece of an understudy into human grief!, 23 January 2004

BLEU (TROIS COLEURS) / France/Poland 1993 (4 STARS) 23 January 2004: The thing that stands out most about Blue is the expression (or lack there of) of grief. How does a woman, seemingly fulfilled by happiness, react when that happiness is yanked away in one telling moment, in a car accident in which both her husband and her daughter pass away? That is the central understudy - a strong woman's attempts at finding purpose in the seeming absence of meaning. • Mise-en-scene: I watched an interview with Juliette Binoche, where she mentions that Kieslowski refused to make the film unless it had her in it. It's easy to see why. I can't imagine Bleu without Juliette – its not just that she lends her personality to the film…Bleu IS Binoche.

• I was thrown off by the sub-plots of the character's relationships with her mother and the striptease dancer, as I was about the seeming resolution at the end of the film. There were perhaps references that I missed but the ‘almost happy' ending left me feeling un-relinquished. Given that I had shared such an intense journey with Julie, it seemed almost improper to accept that she would settle in to a normal relationship again.

• Cinematography: The 1st shot of the film - that of a car tire racing - shot from the bottom of the moving car establishes this as ‘not your typical movie'. The sequence-of-shots that follow eerily draw one into the compelling story-telling style of Krzysztof Kieslowski, minimalist in its approach, with a world communicated without dialogue in the first five minutes of the film. • Blue is not your typical art-house film. Its production values are up there with the best, and the cinematography by Slavomir Idziak (who's craft was recognized by Hollywood in Black Hawk Down), is nothing short of stunning. • The lighting is low key and soft, and wraps around the characters to create a mood of subtlety. A distinguishing feature is the detail in the shadows. None of the close-ups fully illuminate the protagonist, almost hinting at her vulnerability at facing the light, though the delicate use of eye-lights does well to bring alive her emotions. • The camera, an intelligently used narrative element, interacts with Julie and partakes in her emotions, respecting them and yet accentuating their intensity as she plods on in an alien world of deep personal purposelessness. The tight close-ups penetrate her soul and force us to delve into Julie's mind and share in her agony. • Editing: deftly uses match on action to create irony while forwarding the narrative. • Sound: The pace is hauntingly slow and silence has been used compellingly. It screams with meaning as it is becomes one of the more important elements as the narrative progresses. Bleu is not a film you can watch, consume and move on. Either you'll feel that you've totally wasted your time and will probably not be able to sit through (the pivotal occurrence is over within the first five minutes of the film without a single world being spoken, and the rest of the film is essentially the protagonist's psychologically subjective journey) or you'll realize by the time you've reached the end that you'll revisit this film at various points in time, explore and read about it, discuss it with people you respect, and try to get closer to the essence of Kieslowski. For there are two now well-accepted truths about the folklore surrounding Kieslowski, whose reputation continues to mount posthumously…1. that Kieslowski carefully interwove elements that were rich with meaning and social irony, and 2. that figuring those elements out and appreciating their implications is probably a lifelong learning process.

Othello (1951)
18 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Welles' indomitable spirit in the face of penury shines in yet another Wellesian Masterpiece, 10 January 2004

THE TRAGEDY OF OTHELLO: THE MOOR OF VENICE/ US/France/Italy/Morocco 1952 (3.5 STARS)

The recent restoration of Othello brings to cinematic space the magic of another masterpiece from Orson Welles. To think that a whole master negative of this film (which won the Best film at Cannes in 1952) was lying abandoned in a New Jersey warehouse, was discovered by accident and is the reason for this print that we now have access to, is enough to send shivers down the spine of any Welles-phile. . Mise-en-scene: Like with many of his other works involving especially Shakespeare, be prepared for Welles' licenses and personal interpretation of subject matter pertaining to Othello. Yet at the end, we are left with a feeling of deep tragedy and loss for Othello, played by Welles himself, and though we feel that Othello was quite an idiot, we at least feel that he was a very unfortunate idiot at that! . The problem may have been that the critical scene where Iago poisons Othello's mind and fuels his suspicion is scrappy and left unexplored. This may well have had little to do with Welles' artistic choices, and more with his monetary situation at the time. Welles' penury through his European sojourn is widely known and the passion with which he would invest into his films, every penny earned through moonlighting his booming voice and above-average acting skills is legendary, and should put this in context.

. The figure behavior of Micheál MacLiammóir is utterly convincing as the detestable Iago who is consumed by jealousy and rage at being overlooked as the second-in-command. But the person to steal our hearts is Suzanne Cloutier who portrays the fair-dame Desdemona. She is every bit as dainty as we would have imagined her to be. . The stripped down set design works wonderfully for the film and even though budgets may have been the driving force, Othello's barren palace is preceded only by the barrenness of his blinding jealousy and irrational actions. . Cinematography: As we have come to expect, Orson Welles has a unique cinematic language, through which he creates a Wellesian world of skin-burning close ups, dutched crazy world-frames and low angle shots to create a tense atmosphere of foreboding. But there is no better example of exploring and using frame depth than in Othello. Time and again Welles plays with foreground element to reveal psychologically subjective and meta-diagetic moods while cleverly using the depth in the frame to forward the narrative and plot the next progression. The title shots of the film are harrowing in their effect, with the interplay of high-contrast earth and sky contours that at once establish the mood for an intense cinematic experience. . Sound & Editing: The restored version has a brand-new soundtrack mentored by Welles' daughter, and while it enhances the experience to telling effect, it is irony to note that just the new soundtrack cost much more than what Welles assembled the whole film for. The fact that parts of the film were shot MOS and other parts used ADR is distracting due to the obvious lack of lip-sync, but in the final analysis, we watch Welles with reverence almost as if on a visit to Sunday Mass, paying homage, never once forgetting that were are witness to a filmmaker stripped of resources, devoid of many essential tools, but one with indomitable spirit who refused to be cowed-down. Othello is magical in its story telling and another worthy showcase of the genius of Orson Welles.

Disha (1990)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Insightful sights and sounds from India in the truest tradition of the Indian New Wave, 9 January 2004

DISHA (THE UPROOTED) - Sai Paranjpe / India 1990 (3.5 STARS) 25 December 2003: It is not often that there is a film from India that furthers a western audience's understanding of the Indian ethos. Disha does so, and does it well. In a tale of alienation and pathos, Sai Paranjpe compellingly interweaves the lives of members of two families from the same village, even as some of them migrate to for the city of Bombay to find their treasure, and improve their tribe's stock. . Mise-en-scene: Disha belongs to the Parallel Cinema movement of the 1970s and 80s and in the true tradition of the movement goes into painstaking depth to establish and introduce each character to us, sometimes at the cost of exposition. Yet that introduction is rewarding for we start empathizing for them, as we root for their aspirations and feel for their disappointments. . The typage-like feel of the characters is carefully controlled by Paranjpe who takes great care to set up conflicts of desire for issues which we in the western world would have no resource-tradeoffs for. Yet this is what furthers our understanding of the pathos of Indian rural-existence. Method-actors such as Om Puri, Shabana Azmi, Nana Patekar and Raghuvir Yadav, all icons in India Theatre and Film, lend themselves to the screen. Yet the discomfort in chemistry is there to see at the beginning of the film, but soon eases off as the characters get comfortable with each other and we get drawn in, layer by layer, absorbed by the narrative. . Cinematography: The camera has always been the conservative eye in Indian cinema. Filmmakers have been reluctant to experiment with angles, camera height or lenses, often sticking to the 50mm lens. Disha is no exception. Yet this artistic choice works, to give the film an almost documentary feel, augmenting the narration. . The brown washed out outdoor colors of India are complimented well by the saturated colors of ethnic Indian life. The emphasis on medium shots helps move away from the staged feel and allows Paranjpe to interact with the protagonists in three-dimensional space. . The Editing literally serves the purpose of joining shots. There is minimal experimentation, an absence of a role beyond matches on action. The editing remains linear throughout and the use of off-screen space is restricted. . Sound: India is a high decibel country, especially in the cities, and any good filmmaker knows the importance of playing with soundtrack. Paranjpe goes a step further and integrates the soundtrack as a narrative element, often using it to establish scenes through sound-bridges and change moods within scenes. Yet she does so with subtlety, and without the harsh overkill that we have come to expect from sound in Indian Cinema.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Kudos to Guisseppe Tornatore - for the brand new experience!, 7 January 2004

CINEMA PARADISO: THE NEW VERSION / Italia 2002 (3.5 STARS)

November 2003: While I agree that the New version does bring about the closure that the original lacked I feel that some of the magic of the film is lost with the telling of the whole story - I therefore prefer the original version for the way it tugged at the heartstrings in the face of an unknown and lost world. . Mise-en-scene: It was delightful to watch Toto in scenes that were new - I had grown so fond of him that watching him in new situations was like bringing alive a now dead character and seeing him do things he hadn't ever done. . I didn't enjoy the sex scenes - they took away from the nostalgia and the innocence of the flashback - may be this is cultural but I thought the original suggestions/subtlety was better than the explicit display. . It was heart-wrenching to see Toto's girl as an old lady - the irony of how they missed each other was very moving. However the old lady didn't quite have the charm of the young girl - and her character lacked the same conviction - though her lovemaking was a bold move given her place in life. . The part where the narrative was furthered compellingly was in the director's revealing to us just what an impact Alfredo had had on Toto, when he chose to separate the two lovers - the impact of that decision ultimately made the difference to Toto's life . I preferred the Old version for Toto's old character - he spoke less, was more reflective, had more aura. While the latest version makes him more human, and we can better understand his character, I feel that in sharing his vulnerabilities the director also makes him more common-place - the old guy was almost mystical.

4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Great eg. of psychologically subjective storytelling, 7 January 2004

THE AVIATOR'S WIFE - Eric Rohmer / France 1981 (3.5 STARS) 15 December 2003: It is always difficult to get overtly excited about an Eric Rohmer film or make any relative comparisons with conviction - Eric Rohmer's works are almost like Jazz music, delicate in their appeal and full of irony, yet not given to the charts. The Aviator's Wife, the 1st in Rohmer's series of Comedies & Proverbs is subtle like poetry by full of the irony of urban existence. Set in his hometown Paris (as most of his films are), this is a film about a young woman's insecurity about growing old lonely, and a young man's obsession with the slightly older woman. Artfully made with a color palette that seems to reflect the hues of the lives of the characters, the film is talkative yet reflective and insecure with a certain confidence. . Mise-en-scene: The character's motivations are developed with painstaking detail in an attempt to build characters that we may grow to either love or loath, but irrespective respect as real people. I was drawn to the young man's character in particular and to his singularly obsessive personality even though he was gentle and carefree at first sight.

. The older woman was so typically stereo cast as idiosyncratic, intense and detached in a manner only the French can be. In the final scene one feel for the boy when he discovers that the young girl he meets on the bus has been feeding him all along, but before we have time to react, Rohmer makes a comic joke of the situation by spinning the movie into a loop so that we end up almost where we started, except that we've got a different man that the protagonist is trailing this time around. . The Cinematography, is bland, almost dogma like (way before the birth of Dogma- this is 1981), and there is almost no emphasis at technique beyond functionality. Yet sound is used to haunting effect, with ambient sound playing a potent character. Whether this was because of poor on location sound or whether this has been used as a stylistic element to enhance the narrative is however difficult to tell.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Great eg. of psychologically subjective storytelling, 7 January 2004

THE AVIATOR'S WIFE - Eric Rohmer / France 1981 (3.5 STARS) 15 December 2003: It is always difficult to get overtly excited about an Eric Rohmer film or make any relative comparisons with conviction - Eric Rohmer's works are almost like Jazz music, delicate in their appeal and full of irony, yet not given to the charts. The Aviator's Wife, the 1st in Rohmer's series of Comedies & Proverbs is subtle like poetry by full of the irony of urban existence. Set in his hometown Paris (as most of his films are), this is a film about a young woman's insecurity about growing old lonely, and a young man's obsession with the slightly older woman. Artfully made with a color palette that seems to reflect the hues of the lives of the characters, the film is talkative yet reflective and insecure with a certain confidence. . Mise-en-scene: The character's motivations are developed with painstaking detail in an attempt to build characters that we may grow to either love or loath, but irrespective respect as real people. I was drawn to the young man's character in particular and to his singularly obsessive personality even though he was gentle and carefree at first sight.

. The older woman was so typically stereo cast as idiosyncratic, intense and detached in a manner only the French can be. In the final scene one feel for the boy when he discovers that the young girl he meets on the bus has been feeding him all along, but before we have time to react, Rohmer makes a comic joke of the situation by spinning the movie into a loop so that we end up almost where we started, except that we've got a different man that the protagonist is trailing this time around. . The Cinematography, is bland, almost dogma like (way before the birth of Dogma- this is 1981), and there is almost no emphasis at technique beyond functionality. Yet sound is used to haunting effect, with ambient sound playing a potent character. Whether this was because of poor on location sound or whether this has been used as a stylistic element to enhance the narrative is however difficult to tell.

15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
The Magic of Cinema Recreated!, 7 January 2004

FOREIGN LAND / Brazil-Portugal 1995 (4 STARS) 13 December 2003 The best part of this film is how much it surprises. It's a B&W film from Brazil and deflates expectation as it starts out almost like a student film - slow, awkward and seemingly uninteresting, with so much of gritty grain that it is initially annoying. Yet the change of pace and the transition into a gripping tale of innocence, love and adventure is so seamless, that only in the end do we realize what sheer cinematic delight we have been privy to. . Mise-en-scene: Even though it was made in 1995, this film belongs to the highest traditions of 50s Film Noir. Though reminiscent of Welles' Touch of Evil in its narrative style, you've probably never seen a grittier tale, and feel for the characters and their innocence as the plot thickens and the feeling of foreboding grips you. . The fact that the lead pair comprises unknown faces works for the film, and makes it believable. After all, the feeling of alienation and desperation is easier to ascribe to, to a nobody who has no-where to go. . Foreign Land communicates a deep underlying political message to Brazilians who were migrating to Europe in the 1980s and the film does a successful job of portraying life outside of Brazil as mean-spirited and dangerous. . The character development of the boy from struggling artist to bold young man is thoroughly convincing as is the unlikely romance between two desperate people in a strange land. I particularly enjoyed the change in pace of the narrative where it midway meanders off the beaten track and becomes a road-film. . Cinematography: In the final analysis, the low-brow high chiaroscuro grainy photography works for the film and successfully builds a dark mood that establishes the feeling of evil lurking just around the corner in a foreign land. . Sound design is effective in creating a nostalgic mood which begs us to ask the protagonists what on earth they are doing in a foreign land when they could have been safely tucked away in beloved Brazil.

I highly recommend this film to any lover of international cinema and particularly to those who feel inspired by gritty, small-time, content driven films with a powerful vision, that dare to challenge the goliaths of our filmmaking factories.

Pi (1998)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Vintage Noir with the Hip Hop Twist, 7 January 2004

PI - Darren Aronofsky's 1ST Feature Film / U.S. 1998 (4 STARS)

November 2003: I truly enjoyed this B&W film - symbolic of Film Noir from the 50's (Touch of Evil and The Trial), but more technically savvy. It is a masterpiece in control, and a director's ability to create mood - in the true spirit of independent cinema style, in display with all it glory (and gratuitousness). . Mise-en-scene: The figure behavior of Max Cohen appealed to me - strange, erratic and inconsistent - it furthered the narrative to establish a man truly on the edge. . While I did not feel personally for Cohen's character, I enjoyed being a voyeur and following his track to see where he would end up. My goal was very narrative driven and I don't think the director's aim was for us to empathize with the character - it was more to get us interested in him -which we do quite acutely. . I did not particularly care for the gangster angle, but I guess it was important to keep the less-artsy crowd hooked on and to drive the narrative forward in a linear fashion. . Cinematography: The mood was built both by the choice of wide angled lenses used at very close distances to distort the images and give the 'crazy world' feel. Camera height is used effectively to convey an impending feeling of something waiting to happen or lurking around the corner. . Sound & Editing: The director's total skill and control on these two stylistic elements is what makes this film an imperfect masterpiece. I so enjoyed the complimenting of the sound bridges to give the impending feeling of foreboding. Yet the sound was hip and a departure from earlier noir works where it created only mood. The editing was totally maverick and the mixing of superimpositions with quick and flash cuts gave a more music-video feel which was fast and slick - thoroughly enjoyable in the end.

June Night (1940)
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
This slice of Stockholm in the 40's will surprise, 7 January 2004

JUNE NIGHT / Sweden 1940 (2.5 STARS) 16 December 2003: Through the divine Ingrid Bergman is at her prettiest best (we can see why she was lured away to Hollywood very soon after this her last film in Sweden), I could not understand her character's motivations in this film. . Mise-en-scene: The film starts dramatically with a shoot-out and the rehabilitation that follows. There is intensity in the character's motivations and her crisis is real. I was amazed at how modern Stockholm was way back in 1940. . The Stockholm community, though lovable has been created more with an eye to theatrical platitudes than to portray real people. Despite this we enjoy their little shenanigans and feel for their individual wants. But by the time we get to the end, we no longer feel the connect with any of the lead characters. It is not so much the fact that we despise Bergman's character for the choices she make as it is a lack of the director's ability to build a real person with real motivations - good or bad. . Cinematography, Editing & Sound: In contrast with Casablanca made only two years later, the technical finesse is lacking and the sound and editing look more rookie, though none of that stopped me from wondering at how modern Swedish cinematic language was at that time when few other nations were ready to experiment with morality quite in the same way as were the Swedish, way back in the 1930s.