48 Reviews
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Choose Life
22 April 2011
No big drama, no intense car chase, no sex-laden imagery. Yet the film tugs. It has a compelling draw. It has all the simplicity of making a living, raising kids, living life. And then there are moments which confront complexity, where dreams and desires crash against life's harshness. Letting go an easy but corrupt deal which could pay for the daughter's hearing aid, being able to break into a song after the kids have witnessed their long-cherished plan choke on itself. The camera captures some poetry – of blue doors, sweeping vistas with ostriches, and landscapes which come alive from a kid's loving scrawl to full bloom. Did you know the pleasure of being on a breezy rooftop with your wife while the kids watch TV late in the evening? For such and many other life's precious moments, this film is a must watch.
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Kwaidan (1964)
Must Watch!
16 August 2009
Kwaidan is hard to write about. Words and language don't have the brevity and impact as the film media, specially the way it is experienced in Kwaidan. I can list a lot of adjectives about how glorious the movie is, but its beauty is in its felt experience, which will be different for different people. Its horror for some and spiritual for others. Its motivating and frightening, its beautiful and stark, its achingly slow and some moments are threateningly fast. The colors are magical. The expressions of the actors is other-worldly. The silence in the movie gets to be really loud sometimes. There is poetry in the script, with themes of love, faith, betrayal, kept and broken promises, beauty, honor, devotion to art, and much more. It's a must watch!
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Visual Delight
15 August 2009
Like most Fellini movies, Juliet of the Spirits is also a visual delight. There is a blast of colors and craziness on the screen, and its all very tasteful. In all this extravagance is Juliet, with her less than ordinary beauty but extraordinary visualization. She is caught between her love for her husband and his affair with someone else. She attends exotic clairvoyant parties and even more exotic sexual temptation parties. The magic of the movie is how Fellini brings to life Juliet's struggle with conflicts within her. Giulietta Masina is flawless in her role of the depicting the torn wife – with her trembling smile and questioning eyes. Sandra Milo, her polar opposite as the indulging temptress, is deliciously competent as well.
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Honoring Things Beautiful
31 July 2009
Blue Umbrella is beautiful. The umbrella, the concept of the story, the background of the movie, the people, the symbolic values – they're all beautifully presented. Pankaj Kapoor says in the movie that one shouldn't measure the profit loss behind watching a sunrise. In the same way, there's really no evaluation of this movie because of its intangible beauty. It also showcases the culture of mountain people, how they deal with crime and punishment. It gets quite intense and still doesn't let go of its simplicity. Its joy to watch the kids dance along the streets and also the adults in a marriage ceremony. Pankaj Kapoor and the director have both done a great job!
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Aparajito (1956)
Tug of Life
25 July 2009
Aparajito is a very simple story of a small boy growing up till he finishes his college graduation. Its really an extremely simple story. There are no dramatic twists in the plot. Its classic humdrum. And that's where the movie becomes magical and beautiful – capturing and showcasing those precious humdrum moments of life, because they come and go so rapidly one fails to have the opportunity to soak in them expansively to fully live and experience them. That is Ray's brilliance, to use film to underscore the subtle and the ethereal. The spark of childhood, the vigor of youth, the care of motherhood, the contemplation of old age, all flow through like the river. Every life has its ups and downs, some have more downs that the other. Life however, finds a way to tug along and then sometimes it doesn't.
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Coming of Age Story
17 July 2009
What starts out as generational conflict in this movie, ends in understanding, solemnity and grace. The movie meanders through Europe with the father and the young son cramped in a car over 3000 miles. The cramping forces lifestyles, beliefs and life skills to collide. There's really no clear winner. It all adds up in the end as experience, experience of multiple layers of life. For those interested in understanding Islam, this movie offers a generous and gentle outlook, without being pushy about the agenda. It's a coming of age story for the young son, his dismissive and rebellious nature turning to openness for receiving more ways of life.
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Chakra (1981)
Gut-level bleakness
16 July 2009
Chakra depicts a toxic life, representing hell on earth. It follows a vicious cycle of destruction of hope and faith in life. The movie shows how poverty extracts its toll in multiple ways, with very little scope for the silver lining. Life becomes tenuous, self-destruction being as a big a threat to continuation of life as other demons. The story weaves through the ups and downs, mostly downs, of life in the sub-altern. Naseer has a dialog in the movie that all torment comes from the need of stomach and the organ below it – from the need for survival and sex.It showcases the nakedness of how raw emotions are lived out in public. Privacy of grief and shame is not a privilege available to the poor. Everything plays out in the open, magnifying its bleakness. In some ways, similar rules apply to lives of the very rich also. The ending is seems squished, in its eagerness to dramatize the treachery of Chakra of life.
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16 July 2009
This is an epic movie. The movie plays out intensely, gripping attention right from the first frame. It affirms life in its story of death. Its complex in its simplicity, its comic in its seriousness, its subtle in its gravity. It depicts a life lived well and fully. It questions norms and it glorifies personal values. It gives the heart the mandate to lead the way. It may jerk people to take a fresh new look at their way of living their life. It may seem feminist or iconoclastic, but at the same time its very traditional and conservative in its message of family togetherness and social interdependence. I loved it!
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Gaav (1969)
4 July 2009
This movie is about as far as one can get from Hollywood blockbusters. Its about a cow. About a cow and a very loving owner. And what happens to them ultimately. There's melancholy and madness in the tragic ending. But the movie also scales new heights in the bonding between human and animals, in this case, a cow. The camera has been used is a surreal way. Shadows and people mix creating a spookiness which adds to the oddity of the general environment depicted. There's very palpable tension in the movie, created by the elements related to the cow and the three shadowy thieves who perhaps symbolize lawlessness. What also struck me was the looming silence of the black burkah-clad women and occasion glimpses of their crinkly faces. All very surreal. There are some very interesting personalities which come alive through the script, other than the cow of course!
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Vietnamese showcase
28 June 2009
The storyline of this movie is pretty basic – its follows the coming of age of a girl, who serves as a househelp. What makes the movie really attractive is the whats in the background- the audio and the visuals. Its feels like walking through a Vietnamese museum. I loved the slow languid mellow tones. The roundness of the ceramic pottery, blackness of long strands of hair, chirping of crickets, warmth of wood, ornate carvings, slowness of movement – it all melds in really well. It creates the effect of being in some scented magical tropical garden where there is an occasional cool breeze. It's a very sensuous movie – without having to resort to sexuality for displaying sensuousness.
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Solino (2002)
Passion and Ardour
7 June 2009
Such a delightful movie! Very heart warming. One can't help falling in love with the character of Gigi. He's adorable as a child and grows into a sensitive artist. The whole movie revolves around him. He lives in a wonderful world – living all life – curiosity, desire and anticipation. There is an elder brother who tries to steal his glory but really remains in the shadow all his life. The father is very stereotypically Italian and so is the mother. I wanted the father to come and reunite with the mother in the last scene – and have them cry and laugh. I also wish that there was at least something redeeming about the elder brother. His personality seems to have been trashed entirely. Passion and ardour – that's the key to life. And looking through the camera – focusing on small details and savoring the delicate details of life.
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Half Moon (2006)
A touch of of mystery and madness
2 June 2009
This movie is poetry in action. It has elements of the humorous, dark, ridiculous, sublime, mysterious, evocative all rolled in. The actual events shown somehow faded from the overall sense of poetic experience at the end of the movie. The music ranges from tragic to enchanting and it's a primary component of the movie. It is shown to have powers to bring back the dead. The landscapes shown are also stunning and stark. Its almost like the natural environment is designed for expression of grief – which reflects the political situation in the region. The final product is powerful. I would like to watch more from this Director – he definitely has a keen eye for the subtle. He has intelligently showcased optimism for life with its incumbent struggles and sometimes futility.
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Tribute to the past
25 May 2009
The movie is a reflection on the impact of the bombing of Nagasaki. By virtue of that, its reminiscent, its melancholy in parts, its a tribute to those who died and those who continue to live in grief of those who died. There are some other-worldly aspects to it - the eye of the nuclear mushroom, the imp in the waterfall, the defiant walk of the grandma in the last scene. She steps out in torrential rain and walks – walks compelled by her past memories, towards her past memories. Its defiant and also tragic. The scene with her entire family running after her is maybe too theatrical but it makes a lasting impact. Richard Gere does a cameo as the second generation bridge with America. Perhaps his character creates both the continuity and the break from the grandma's past. The respect for the past he conveys perhaps provides validation and closure which had been pending for her.
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Caché (2005)
Silent Eerie Impact
25 May 2009
The movie is wrapped within layers of hushed tones. There is silence, stillness and shadows. It creates a very slow-moving but nevertheless compelling environment. I kept wondering what is going on. Is there something really going on? Guilt is the underlying emotion that is ultimately revealed. Not knowing how severe the impact was of what was done long back. Its easy to block it out cause it was decades ago and can easily be minimized. But it comes back. All truths are not revealed. Such is life. What matters is how one deals with one's own conscience knowing what one knows and believes. As as I watched, "Cache" I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. After it ended, I was surprised how much it stuck with me. I couldn't stop thinking about it.
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Chillingly honest
11 May 2009
I had heard about Joan of Arc but I hadn't ever given her story close attention. She emerges as a very bold person, with courage and conviction, rooted in her faith. Being branded a state criminal, a witch, she still had courage in her to keep her sanity and not crumble. She is shown to have great clarity of thought. Her strength comes from her sense of purpose and her desire to be true to her beliefs. Its an amazing story. She must have felt very lonely, specially when she is faced with the consequence of death. Abandonment is scary. Fear of death contorts most people's beliefs and faith. Should she betray her faith or betray herself and live dishonored? And would life be worthy after that betrayal? She is burnt at the stake at in the same moment becomes immortal. What does it take to have such conviction? Perhaps it comes from strong attraction to a clear goal and knowing one's priorities. The movie is chilling in its accuracy of depicting the brutality of the trial and the intensity of the tribulations Joan goes through.
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Dah (2002)
Very compelling
9 May 2009
You have to see this movie to realize how to create a compelling movie by filming conversations between people sitting in a car! The simplicity of the style underscores the complexity of the themes addressed in Ten. The story meanders through big philosophies of like – marriage, parenthood, faith, sex, love – with amazing ease and grace. It starts with an angry scene between a mother and her young son. The protagonist talks to several different people in her car, but interestingly no adult men. Towards the last scene, the son gets angrier and more aggressive and dismissive. The mother, through all the conversations, seems to reach a point of acceptance with her sense of loss. The dialog and faces used in the movie are captivating.
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Searching one's past
26 April 2009
The last scene of the movie is where this old demented woman races to keep up with a bus. It tugs. It defines the movie. Its what stays. Most of the movie is in most ways preparing for the last 15 minutes. There's dust and mountains and old withered people. And there's this beautiful woman looking for her mother. The mountains were paradise in her dreams but she dislikes the reality she sees. There's anger from unknown unresolved past. The visual is compelling – desert life and wrinkled humanity. But again, it's the last scene – the spirited run, trying to keep up with the bus, madness, umbilical bonds, intensity of life, unconstrained emotion – that's what stays as the memory.
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Compelling Craziness
12 April 2009
I started watching this movie with great expectations of deep philosophy. Twenty minutes into it, all I got out of it were discontinuous episodes. But very compelling episodes. They were bizarre but still believable, bordering on insanity.

Abnormal becomes the norm and no one raises an eyebrow. Is that the world we live in? Is that our reality? Is the human experience crazy? There's one episode in the film which showcases Margaret Mead's work on intercultural relativity. Maybe that's the deep philosophy in this movie. Crazy is what you want to believe as crazy. Its all relative. Life can have very different manifestations, not all of them need to be congruous and meaningful to everyone.

It could as well be a statement on the unreality of life, when people lose touch with reality of self and other. It's a surreal movie which reflects on the hypocritical nature of life in a very symbolic way.

The movie anyway holds together, its irrationality and disconnectedness does not reduce its attraction. Each vignette in itself is compelling. There is fascination in watching the craziness. Perhaps that's another way in which it mirrors life.
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Tokyo Story (1953)
Genius in its simplicity
5 April 2009
Tokyo Story is not Tokyo's story. It is the story of ageing, old age and letting go. The director's genius is in how he uses the media of film to narrate life, without diluting or manipulating it. Life is depicted as is. The movie has a slow start and the first half an hour goes by without really making much of an impression. It shows daily life – chop wood, fetch water – an old couple visiting their children in big city. Everyone has busy lives, though of course, busy is how one chooses to be. Time goes where one wants it go. At the surface, the grown-up children are concerned, but it remains at the surface. There's contrasting dialog where one person says "you can serve your parents only till the grave" and another says "children have their own needs". There's really no wrong or right. Its what is. For the mother, getting the chance to sleep in the bed of her long assumed-dead son was bigger than being shown around Tokyo city. Priorities are different and keep changing. Life has a unique way of tying different threads together. Sometime, they are left untied. There's comment on how clothes take centerstage instead of the lived/shared experience. Sense of consumption and objectifying life takes away from the deeper connection and being with the experience of living life. The daughter-in-law inherits the goodwill, while the daughter takes the goods. The movie reflects on the isolation and increasing loneliness of ageing. It ends with a sense of loss, stillness and depth – all signifying old age.
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Paradise Now (2005)
Living on the edge
4 April 2009
This is a very interesting drama. Perhaps drama is not the right word though – its reality in parts of our world. Dramatic, intense, gripping – all fit well for this movie. Paradise Now describes life on the edge of human existence – power struggle with establishment, exploitation, weakness turning into grief and betrayal and revenge, reckoning one's past and present, value of existence, protecting and defining identity, retribution, attraction of life and finality of death, complexities of relationships and friendships, sacrifice Vs revenge. There's more. The movie debates different approaches to handling grief and injustice from the past, contrasting what could be done knowing that there will always be uncertainty. There's some very compelling dialog about lack of dignity on earth but finding equality in death, about oppressor managing to pose as the victim and completely marginalizing the real victim. There are subtle moments and also raw exposure, for example, when Said talks about how his death may not make any big change but at least it will continue the resistance. The ending is intense.
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Spiritual quest
1 April 2009
There's a brief scene in the movie where the camera focuses on sunflowers between transitioning from one important scene to another. That's the visual which remained with me – that of sunflowers. And the flowing river water. Water brings peace. This movie is about the honesty and expression of sunflowers. Its about the flow of emotions like the flow of river water. Experimenting with lipstick, trying a night out with the boys, are signs of tasting life, hanging out in a café, finding room to be in the strict environment portrayed in the movie. There are several controversial themes the movie touches upon, without taking a hard stance on any. Messaging is subtle – open for multiple interpretations. The father, a priest, is shown bearing down on his family and in the process weighing himself down. There are underlying themes of tensions between father and daughter. There is dialog between kindred spirits about finding one's own God – a God which lets one be without extracting forgiveness for existence, finding space away from authoritarianism. The movie ends with the girl finding herself on a wide open road, her hair open, her heart open. Its all very symbolic.
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Slow suspended poetry
29 March 2009
The movie flows. It has an ease about itself. The background music ebbs and flows. The camera weaves a compelling visual. The colors and expressions and movements – all come alive together to create a great movie. The movie moves at a slow pace – like a hot drowsy afternoon. A story which spans over years unravels in a couple of hours, but it seems slow, appropriately slow. Nothing is rushed, even the movements and the dialog delivery. Every emotion is expressed and suspended briefly before the next one appears. The suspension is subtle. Desire, relationships, drama, intrigue, conflict, hope – all appear intertwined.
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Water (I) (2005)
Oppressed are their own worst suppressors
13 January 2009
In the trilogy, Earth/Fire/Water, Water seems to be the weakest. It lacks the solidity and primal emotions of Earth. It lacks the pizazz and snappiness of Fire. The movie has some great scenes and themes but it appeared jilted, more like icebergs floating rather than flowing river water. The broad message of the movie seems to be to keep your inner voice alive and listen to it. Corruption and atrophied culture can suck away and drain positive life energy. Social systems cannot always be believed in and relied upon.

The movie showcases the conflict faced by the near-dead widows with their desire. Their world becomes this constant inner struggle of life force Vs hopelessness, temptation Vs enforced chastity. This is contrasted with the wasted indulgence of curators of culture, who prey on their victims and consequently hollow their inner self. There is hope and new energy in youth. Desire to make a difference, to shed old meaningless ways of living.

John and Lisa were not the best choice for the roles. They bring in dead-pan expressions/delivery and add unnecessary glamour which takes away from the solemnity of the movie. Seema Biswas delivers.
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Transamerica (2005)
Got Acceptance?
26 December 2008
Gender non-conformance, because it doesn't fit the narrow norm. Sexual non-conformance, because its perceived deviant from the majority. Desire for fluidity to break the rigidity. Physicality in experimentation instead of concealment. Desire for belonging instead of shame, guilt and rejection. Alternative families instead of destructive failed relationships. Moulding new identities with creativity, curiosity and mindfulness. Strengthening your emotional muscle. Having Acceptance of Self and of Other. Being OK with ambiguity. And Sensitivity and also Openness. Thats what this movie is about. And some great acting.
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ABCD (1999)
Cuts too deep
25 December 2008
This movie is too real for most people. Its not politically correct, its not meant to please, it doesn't showcase happily-ever-after. Its shows a slice of life for a certain subgroup of immigrants who are trapped between cultures. Its not that they are confused about which side they belong. Whats more true is that they know they don't belong anywhere, except to each other. They belong to the no-man's land, where there are no clearly defined cultural norms. And that creates confusion. Their life is perceived by others as a yo-yo. Some deal with that with externalized anger, others disengage and lose it. Life seems like an attempt to put together a broken mirror, while each broken part is still a whole mirror and the integration seems impossible.
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