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Loong Boonmee raleuk chat (2010)
Not a movie, an experience.
This is one of the finest films I have seen all year and I am certain that this film will stay with you for a long, long time.
Uncle Boonmee belongs to a category of films that harks back to the days of the invention of the moving image; when audience members were stunned in disbelief to see pictures and images in motion. The dawn of cinema came about as an experience and a work of art, much like a painting that people could experience and interpret how they liked. It is great to see film makers in todays commercial age still holding on to that vision and delivering the same.
The story, if there is one, is about the protagonist Boonmee who, close to the end of his current life, recollects how this one went by, with the help of ghosts and spirits of the forest where he lives. He has the ability to go back and forth into his past and future lives and relate his memories.
The movie, like other mood-pieces, can be fairly divisive with its audience. People who are not prepared for it will be left confounded whereas a small minority for whom the movie is made will leave the cinema stunned at the experience of it all. Therefore, this movie should rather be called an experience instead of a movie.
It is a little surprising that it won the Palm D'Or at Cannes, but not because it does not deserve it, but because it surprises me that the judges actually saw the beauty behind it. I say this one deserves the award more than the others did.
Inside Job (2010)
A wake-up call of macroeconomic proportions
Inside Job belongs to a genre of new documentaries, like The Cove, Dear Zachary and Bowling For Columbine, that are not only made to document the background of a phenomenon but also to encourage people to do something about it. Dividing itself into five sections of a 'report', the film looks at the background and effect of the recession and its effect on politics, the world, society, the economy, public welfare, education, the present and the near and distant future.
Inside Job is undeniably motivational and does well to extract the hypocrisies and selfishness of the main perpetrators and other persons linked with the crisis. Indside Job depicts the global financial from only one perspective and does not give due weighting to the alternate point of view. Of course, it does not help that the main protagonists involved in the entire affair are obviously missing from this documentary, a fact that is rubbed on to the audience time and again.
On the flip side, economics, being a head scratcher for several budding commerce students by nature, the spoken narrative of figures and key personnel could perhaps have been better explained with a clearer use of graphics. However since the film makers are not lecturers it would be too much to expect them to be aware of the concepts of pedagogy.
Well crafted and edited, Inside Job is a good introduction to the cause and effect of the financial crisis, it falls just short of being the definitive version. It is a good watch nevertheless and provides sufficient food for thought and plenty of opportunity for future cocktail party discussion.
Reasonably good Hindi movie
Pyaasa is a fairly unique Hindi movie. The story is reasonably complex and the direction and acting grounded in reality. However, calling this film a classic is an over-exaggeration.
One of the biggest problems with the movie is that it is difficult for the audience members to identify with the lead character. It is clear that the protagonist is chronically depressed; however the story indicates that this depression is rooted beyond his circumstances. However it does not investigate much in this direction.
Secondly. the story employs some cheap tactics to get out of tricky situations. Particular cases in point are the escape from the asylum, and his self-announcement through poetry on arrival. This shows a lack of imagination on the part of the story writer.
The story indicates female repression, through the characters of the mother, and the past girlfriend who accept the decisions of the male members of their family without question. This thread is also left hanging and is not investigated further.
The last big problem with the movie is that of hypocrisy. The film preaches human values of non-materialism and places them at a higher pedestal than others; however the film itself is designed to make money for the makers. This is clear in hindsight with the following development: when the director's next movie did not make money, he stopped directing movies completely.
Other than the direction and the story, the music and poetry in the film are very good. However poetry lovers would probably be better off reading a good book of poetry instead of looking for high quality literature in this movie. The songs, on the other hand, are considered to be all time classics in Indian cinema.
Lastly, the cinematography is excellent and there is beautiful use of light and shadows. So overall, it is a reasonably good film but certainly not a classic.
Project Kashmir (2008)
Not that great.
I went for the movie with high expectations; however other than fantastic visuals of the Kashmir valley, this documentary doesn't offer much else. It is very clear how little the film makers understand about the Kashmir issue. Their sense of film making is also very naive. Several of their comments are hilariously ignorant. The locals, however, are excellent and their honesty is genuine. The Hindu lady whom they contacted in the film is enigmatic.
On the positive side, the visuals are astounding and will probably make you wish to visit the place as soon as possible. The film makers have also chosen a 'safe' topic which will arouse the interest of people; however they haven't done justice to it. The movie is marketed as an Indian and a Pakistani perspective on Kashmir; however the film is completely based on the Indian side of Kashmir with no reference to the Pakistani side; and the film makers have chosen to completely ignore the Chinese side (including the map).
So my overall verdict is that this movie is great to watch for the scenery but is shallow and one should not expect much insight.
I watched this movie because everyone I knew had been raving about it. I haven't watched Shahrukh Khan's version; but did watch the one with Dilip Kumar and thought that it was superlative. Unfortunately, Dev D left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
The film has very poor direction. However to counteract it, the film makers have included copious amount of gratuitous sex to attract the attention of Indian audiences. The music is very good; however unfortunately it does not offer much else. It is really upsetting to watch the poor directorial effort. The acting of Abhay Deol and Paro is OK. Chanda is played very poorly. Forget about this one unless you wish to watch off screen lovemaking and dialogues with double entendre (to skirt around the censors).
Go for the original instead.
Bijitâ Q (2001)
After years of hunting this movie down I finally got a chance to watch it in my university library (the movie is still banned in New Zealand and can only be watched for study purposes). I left the library in awe and dismayed that a movie as brilliant as this has been branded as unsuitable for the general public. In all honesty, I don't believe that anyone not interested in Miike would be interested in watching the whole movie; and those courageous (or perverse) enough to do so will never forget it for the rest of their lives.
The premise of the movie is relatively simple(!) and numerous movies have been made with this concept - a family is breaking up and is helped by a stranger/angel to come together. Using this as the blue print, Miike has then taken the poetic and artistic license to demonstrate their dysfunction and their consequently dysfunctional reunion. The results are hilarious and not all that shocking for Miike fans.
The brilliance and class of Miike is evident in each scene and characters. Even though Visitor Q does not belong to the category of Audition, Ichi The Killer and Gozu, it is easily one of the best black comedies I have seen and sits comfortably on the premier tier with the likes of Solondz's Happiness.
I for one believe that the ban should be lifted, particularly in free speech societies like New Zealand. There are movies aplenty that have ventured into the areas that this movie has been out-casted for e.g.: Salo, Gozu, The War Zone, Gojitmal. All of these are freely available. Visitor Q is seriously not all that bad.
Ai no mukidashi (2008)
Doing to religious beliefs that few men have done before
Just finished watching this backside-numbing four hour epic and I leave the cinema house encouraged to have a go at story-telling myself. Not that I can tell a story better than these guys, but rather out of admiration for the film-makers for having the guts for bringing out the recessive emotions and male guilt out onto the mainstream. And what an exciting and hilarious journey it is! The story revolves around teenage love and lust. Using this as the basic premise, the film maker has then taken a left turn and constructed a movie that derives inspiration from Japanese porn and hentai. There is plenty of references to elements that make hentai a perverted delight to watch: incest, teenage love, upskirts, school life, kung-fu, religion and also bukkake! And only since In The Realm Of The Senses (Ai No Corrida) has the phallus become such an important element of the story. Don't worry I'm not letting out any spoilers here. All of this is evident at the start of the movie itself. On the flip side, the movie also contains plenty of Deus Ex Machinas; but then a movie of this type is probably not intended for the movie critic.
However the movie does not stop in this glory, and the story does become complicated and develop twists similar to classic Japanese manga. This movie certainly is recommended to all those not easily offended by the subject. To sum it all up, only a Japanese 'man' could have made this movie. This movie rightfully deserves a rare 10/10 from me.
The Cove (2009)
A call to arms.
Something tells me that this heartbreaking documentary is going to stay with me for a long, long time. This movie depicts in painful detail the horrors of dolphin fishing (yes, you heard me right) which has been occurring for a long time in a secretive place called Taiji in Japan. How secretive? Even the common Japanese do not know that it is taking place in their country. The film takes its time in unfolding the horrors and conspiracy layer by layer and ends with a bang. It plays out like a suspense thriller but is far more effective than any suspense thrillers because this takes place in real life. I certainly will do my best to promote it to the others and support the cause. The direction is fantastic and several underwater shots seem to be taken right off Earth or National Geographic, which looks great on the big screen. This documentary has been made by activists that have been crying out loud to deaf ears for the past three decades. I am certain that this is not the last we will hear of it. This film should certainly make an impact and change a few things in the world.
Fun to watch with friends and a couple of beers.
I just returned from having watched this lovely film and I feel bad for having watched it without my friends. That's right, this is one of those films that young people should go to watch with their friends. However, it is not trashy Hollywood fare, rather the film moves from genre to genre with ease. It covers comedy, slapstick, drama, excruciating torture, gore, erotica and a plot so twisted it sometimes feel like a complete figment of the protagonist's imagination. Its a simple story of an accomplished author who tries his hand at writing erotic stories as an sport since it was banned in Korea at the time. In the process of writing these stories he uses people for inspiration. And then, there is also the plot where the king and queen get involved (you should get a fair idea where I'm coming from). So all in all, its total entertainment and an lovely film to watch with buddies. However it may not have lasting power and you may not remember it the following day, but you certainly will have fun watching it.
PS: The other person who's commented on this film has mistakenly identified the queen as the king's favourite concubine, which is incorrect since the film clearly indicates that the character is the queen's.
Vals Im Bashir (2008)
A great blend of the real and the unreal.
Waltz With Bashir is amongst the finest animation films I've seen. It is a very disturbing comment on war and its consequences both on countries and on people of both sides. No doubt this approach has been taken by numerous other film makers; however what sets Waltz With Bashir apart is that it takes a documentary approach and compares Israel's activities in Lebanon with atrocities in the past wars.
Other than documenting events, the film also consists of surreal dream sequences and real life incidents. Thus the film emerges as a unique combination of the real and the unreal. The hand drawn animation also makes it a delight to watch. The colour gave it the right atmosphere of claustrophobia in open spaces and the background score is fabulous.
It is certainly not, as the Director of NZ Film Festival announced before the screening, a 'feel-good film'. It should appeal to people who have an interest in animation, documentaries, war and current affairs. 10 out of 10.