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dipesh-parmar

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'In the Absence of the Sun' is an ode to a capital city on fast-forward, 18 March 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Indonesian writer-director Lucky Kuswandi's new film 'In the Absence of the Sun' is a drama which takes place over a single night, intertwining 3 women's experiences in the capital city of Jakarta. The three women share a night out separately, each with their own stories to tell.

Gia (Adinia Wirasti) returns to Jakarta after years of living in New York, nobody knows why she's returned. She meets her old friend Naomi (Marissa Anita), and it soon becomes apparent how alien her home city now has become. Ci Surya (Dayu Wijanto) has lost her husband, and whilst coming to terms with her loss she inadvertently finds more about her husband than she cared to know. Indri (Ina Panggabean) works in a gym and has a date, and has dreams of joining the new moneyed classes created by Jakarta's commercial growth.

Kuswandi spends the first half of the film illustrating the way Jakarta has changed so dramatically, from the smog-infused streets full of cars and motorcycles, to people spending more time glued to their mobiles phones than socialising with each other. The rampant illusion of luxury and lifestyle, where everything is imported, has swarmed on the locals. Gia is astounded how fake and empty everything around her has become, to which Naomi replies "Things get easier when we pretend to be foreigners". She's returned to a city which has quickly lost its identity and soul, the question is has she made a big mistake coming back?

As the night unfolds and things don't go according to plan for any of the women, we start to learn more about their backgrounds and insecurities. All of various ages, each has their own sadness. They want to find their place in a city which is always on the move, to share experiences with someone who loves them for who they are. Each of their stories will resonate with you, Indri's awkward night out was probably the most touching.

'In the Absence of the Sun' is an ode to a capital city on fast-forward, being the most populous city in South-east Asia may create many new opportunities but it also creates just as many new problems. Welcome to Jakarta.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'The Supreme Price' shows the power film can have in galvanising a country into social change., 15 March 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'The Supreme Price' is a powerful documentary by Joanna Lipper, chronicling the turbulent history of Nigeria since independence from the British in 1960. This film follows the evolution and struggles of the pro-democracy movement, set against successive military dictatorships which have been a repressive constant since independence.

Hafsat Abiola is the beacon for the pro-democracy movement, an activist born into the family of the revered businessman and philanthropist M.K.O. Abiola. Using archival footage over many decades, Hafsat's life is full of sadness and mistrust. In 1993, her father made history by being fairly elected as president, only to be ousted by yet another military coup. He was imprisoned, and died mysteriously in his cell a couple of years later. His wife Kudirat Abiola, became the leader of the pro-democracy movement in her husbands absence, only to be assassinated herself. The murderers have still not been brought to justice.

Hafsat's personal setbacks have only served to carry on the good work of her parents and the pro-democracy movement. She created Kudirat Initiative for Democracy (KIND), an NGO focusing on female empowerment to promote a democratic Nigeria. She states "any society that silences it's women, has no future.", a rallying cry which is more than enough to stir her emotions into actions.

'The Supreme Price' is only 75 minutes long, and is seen better as an introduction into Nigerian politics since independence. Lipper uses Abiola's family struggles as a mirror of Nigeria's problems, of outdated social practices, ignorant religious structures and beliefs passed down from generation to generation, blighting any real socio-political progress. Its an uphill task when your own brother won't accept her as a future president.

At times, it seems Hafsat has to shoulder the burden of Nigeria's problems herself, but hers is a growing movement with men and women ready to fight for real freedoms. She is a symbol of their hopes and dreams that change will happen, and 'The Supreme Price' shows the power film can have in galvanising a country into social change.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Gondry's surreal worldview craves your attention, and its hard to resist such an overflow of creativity and imagination, 15 March 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Mood Indigo' is a new Parisian love story by French director Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind, The Green Hornet). The film is based on the 1947 book "L'Écume des Jours" by Boris Vian, who was also a singer-songwriter, jazz trumpeter and all-round cool dude.

Set in Paris, France, 'Mood Indigo' travels between the 1940s, the present and a lo- fi/sci-fi future. Colin (Romain Duris) is a wealthy inventor, he lives with his friend Nicolas (Omar Sy) who is a lawyer and chef, in a converted rail carriage suspended between two buildings. His best friend Chick (Gad Emaleh) introduces him to Chloé (Audrey Tautou), a romance blossoms.

Vian provides the perfect form of inspiration, Gondry's visual flair and surreal box of tricks is irresistibly conceived. From the opening scene we see rows of typists typing away on typewriters that move along without stopping, pianos that make cocktails, a TV chef who can reach through the screen to hand you ingredients, a dance style that turns your legs to rubber, to cranes lifting spaceships around Paris to give the best views of the city.

Its an overwhelming experience, especially the opening 30 minutes. Duris, Tautou and Sy do well to draw you back into reality, of sorts. Their performances are as breezy and whimsical as everything around them, but the mood isn't always so colourful, especially when Chloe's health suffers. Sy's character didn't sit too comfortably, his eager to please servant/chef and occasional lawyer is a cringeworthy throwback to outdated stereotyping.

'Mood Indigo' only just avoids the pretentious pitfalls which many films of this ilk can get sucked into, it often lapses into moments when such surreal inventiveness should be reined in, its occasionally overindulgent and a little precious. But Gondry's manifestations of Colin's experiences and feelings into physical forms is impressive, creating a surreal worldview which craves your attention, and its hard to resist such an overflow of creativity and imagination.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A good introduction to a particular genre that the Scandinavians do so well., 9 March 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Scandinavian TV, film and literature has been a remarkable phenomenon over the past decade, with the wordwide success of 'The Killing', 'Let The Right One In' and 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'. 'The Keeper of Lost Causes', based on an international bestseller written by Jussi Adler-Olsen, is a new Danish film in the same gritty noir crime thriller mould that many viewers have become accustomed to.

Nikolaj Lie Kaas plays Carl Mørck, an arrogant and cantankerous homocide detective who nobody wants to work with even though he's good at his job. After a botched raid puts himself and his partner in hospital, Carl is demoted to a desk job handling old cases which were never resolved. Carl's job was to check each file and report on each case, but to never go beyond this remit. His life might be a mess, but Carl never played by the rules so why should he start now? He chooses a curious missing persons case which was tagged as a suicide. He's ably assisted by the far more optimistic Assad (Fares Fares), and thus begins a peculiarly Nordic bromance dead set on fighting crime.

Director Mikkel Nørgaard spares no expense in showing us every crime thriller cliché available, saved not only by the two leads but the inventive means used by the captor for his victim. Far too many leaps of faith have to be taken to understand Carl's process of elimination, in what is a very straightforward thriller that lacks any real tension or plot twists. 'The Keeper of Lost Causes' often feels like a TV pilot, and the ending of the film surely means there is more to come. For anyone familiar with the Nordic Noir Wave with classic TV series such as 'The Killing', 'Wallander' and 'The Bridge', 'The Keeper of Lost Causes' will probably be a disappointment. For the rest, this film is a good introduction to a particular genre that the Scandinavians do so well.

The Rover (2014)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'The Rover' does require a lot of patience, but for those willing to persist you will be rewarded by the conundrum that is Eric., 9 March 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Australian director David Michôd returns to the screens with 'The Rover', his follow-up to the stunning debut 'Animal Kingdom'. Set "Ten Years After the Collapse", somewhere in Australia, we see the dead-eyed Eric (Guy Pearce) sitting in a road-side bar seemingly waiting for the world to end. His story collides with a group of men in a real hurry, Archie (David Field), Caleb (Tawanda Manyamo), and Henry (Scoot McNairy). They leave behind others, including Henry's brother Rey (Robert Pattinson). The barely alive and unwitting Eric soon bursts into life when the men steal his car, starting a new journey filled with violence and a good deal of soul-searching.

Left for dead, Rey tries to find his brother and gets caught up in Eric's mission to get his car back. The pair slowly become allies, you continually question their behaviour as both often behave irrationally. Why does the car mean so much to him, to go through so much just to get it back? They live in a world where little exists anymore, nurturing a dog-eat- dog existence where you get what you can by any means. But Eric has gone beyond that, you can just see in his eyes that he just doesn't care whether he finds a bottle of water or eats again. The simple-minded Rey just wants some answers from his brother. The pair make uncomfortable viewing, the world-weary Eric barely speaks and the much younger and eager to please Rey just doesn't know how to. There's a despair and finality to both men, for very different reasons which only briefly comes to the surface, but still only giving you mere crumbs of what they have done in the past.

Guy Pearce is excellent as usual, he must now be one of the most reliable and adept actors working in film today. Pattinson will get all the headlines, and rightly so because he can act. Many may be annoyed by his mumbling and barely audible southern accent, but he's made this character his own and comfortably sits beside the far more experienced Pearce. Antony Partos creates another blisteringly eerie score, peppering the silences with shrieks, wails and tribal drumbeats to enhance the the post- apocalyptic nightmare that 'The Rover' is. Perhaps not as good as his debut, this film will only enhance Michôd's burgeoning reputation. 'The Rover' does require a lot of patience, but for those willing to persist you will be rewarded by the conundrum that is Eric.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Its a shame the geiger counter often remains in the middle for 'Grand Central', 9 March 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Rebecca Zlotowski's French drama 'Grand Central' stars Tahar Rahim as Gary, unemployed and desperate for work. He finds well-paid but dangerous work as a decontaminator of nuclear reactors across France. Gary is based at a plant near Lyon, living on a site with fellow co-workers. They all work, live and play as one.

Spending so much time together, its inevitable that troubles follow. Gary complicates things further, by starting an affair with Karole (Lea Seydoux), the fiancée of a fellow worker who also works at the plant. Not only is his work life hazardous, but so too is his private life. Gary's desire to be close to Karole leads him to take more risks so that he can keep on working, risking his own life in the process.

Gary and Karole's relationship is occasionally more of a backstory to the more interesting drama in the nuclear plant itself. Zlotowski illustrates how ingrained nuclear power is in France, where human contamination is not only inevitable but ongoing for its workers. The human cost is high, mass unemployment means a big queue of people waiting to be exploited, with no real security or prospects. Everyone is affected, so its vital that everyone works together, publicly and privately.

All the actors play their parts well, the leads Rahim and Seydoux don't put a foot wrong but still you care less for Gary and Karole's relationship, and more for the plight of the workers. Its a shame the geiger counter often remains in the middle for 'Grand Central', where certain parts of the film needed to be fleshed out more to provide a more compelling story.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Two days, one night' is another fine film from the Dardenne brothers, skilfully and subtly playing with your preconceptions right to the end., 9 March 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

How far would you go to keep your job? This is the dilemma facing Sandra (Marion Cotillard) in 'Two days, one night', the new film by Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

The company is struggling, and Sandra's foreman Jean-Marc (Olivier Gourmet) has been trying everything to sack her to cut costs. He's engineered a vote where the staff either relieve Sandra of her duties but in return receive a €1000 bonus or she can stay on the payroll and they get nothing. Sandra has only a weekend to convince her colleagues to keep her in employment. She's been on leave for depression, so this new situation is not good for her rehabilitation. Aided by her doting husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione), Sandra sets out to save her self-respect, her family and her sanity.

'Two days, one night' is a sociological study on how we conduct ourselves individually and as part of society. Sandra's situation represents a stark judgement of whats important to us all, and how its different for everyone. Sandra is forced to confront her own selfishness, but fully aware that few would just give up in her situation. Manu cannot support the whole family on his wages, Sandra is put under immense pressure, as are her colleagues who know full well that their decision will affect her life. But the wrong decision will affect theirs, and we see people reacting very differently when confronted by the sorrowful Sandra.

Sandra's colleagues have different circumstances, some are single, some are older, some have families, some are the sole bread-winners, some have just bought a house. Its also interesting to witness the social and ethnic diversity of Sandra's colleagues, and interestingly, it's the minorities who tend to be more compassionate towards her plight. The tension is shown through Sandra's state of mind, not only does she need to speak to all 16 colleagues within a weekend but you know that one more rejection could lead to her lapsing again.

'Two days, one night' is a compelling study of depression, with yet another excellent performance from Cotillard. Sandra's depression is a more internalised and melancholic state of low self-esteem, her fight to save her job becomes a fight to overcome her illness. Financial instability doesn't just affect Sandra, we see how damaging financial insecurity is for anyone whether they are working or not. Circumstances may change, but for the majority of people the situation is still the same. 'Two days, one night' is another fine film from the Dardenne brothers, skilfully and subtly playing with your preconceptions right to the end. The film casts a balanced view of everyone, nobody is judged, and the ending couldn't be anymore dignified.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Child's Pose' is gritty and occasionally heavy-handed but you have to admire its intelligence and single-mindedness., 9 March 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Romanian director Calin Peter Netzer's 'Child's Pose' is a drama about a rich, dysfunctional family in Bucharest, where one incident unravels the very fabric that holds them together.

Cornelia (Luminita Gheorghiu) is the controlling mother who dominates this film, an architect with the right connections thanks to her businessman husband Aurelian (Florin Zamfirescu). She is estranged from her son Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache), and blames Barbu's girlfriend Carmen (Ilinca Goia) for this separation. In fact, she spends most of her time bemoaning everyone in her family, completely blinkered to the fact that she's probably most at fault for creating such a hideous family structure.

Barbu gets into serious trouble which will most certainly change his life, but how much depends on him and his family. He seems set on doing the right thing and pleading his guilt, as we would all hope. But Cornelia railroads her way to the front to play the devoted mother, closely followed by her sister-in-law, Olga (Natasa Raab). We see Cornelia the operator, manipulating the situation and dictating the lives of all concerned. She struts around in her fur coat, telling the police what should be done, namedropping others within her elite circle of Bucharest society, so that she gets what she thinks she's entitled to.

Our distaste for Cornelia grows exponentially, such is her lack of remorse and disregard for all around her as long as "my baby" is not harmed. Everything she does has an ulterior motive, even her maid is wary of any communication she has with her. To witness the presence of Cornelia involves being undermined by her, with hidden meanings and veiled threats, all to illustrate who is in charge. Such is her need for control and maintaining standards, she even dictates the novels that Barbu should be reading. Of course, her sole aim is to get Barbu back for herself, she's not remotely interested in his life and his partner and couldn't care less about his predicament. Barbu knows the more his mother is involved the harder she will make her life. He probably prefers a life in jail just to get away from his scheming mother!

As with other recent Romanian films such as 'Beyond the Hills', '4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days', and 'The Death of Mr. Lazarescu', 'Child's Pose' poses difficult questions in a Romanian society finally free from the Ceaușescu regime. This film is all about class, entitlement, and how one tyrannical system has been replaced by one thats just as bad for the majority. Gheorghiu is superb as the monstrous Cornelia, joining an ever- increasing list of mothers from hell in film. Just like the aforementioned films, 'Child's Pose' is gritty and occasionally heavy-handed but you have to admire its intelligence and single-mindedness.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Darcy-Smith does a fine job in knitting together a quite straightforward drama into something watchable and insightful., 9 March 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

'Wish You Were Here' is the debut feature from Australian director Kieran Darcy-Smith. A group of Australians visit Cambodia for a holiday, where under mysterious circumstances only three of the original four tourists come back home.

Steph (Teresa Palmer) was invited by her new boyfriend Jeremy (Antony Starr) to come with him to Cambodia where he often travels to for business. Still only a few weeks into their romance, Steph wanted to be certain of her safety so she asks her sister Alice (Felicity Price) and husband Dave (Joel Edgerton) to accompany them.

Rushing backwards and forwards in time, 'Wish You Were Here' slowly pieces together the mystery surrounding Jeremy's disappearance. Just as fascinating is the reasons why everyone else has not been totally honest with each other. Alice and Dave's relationship suffers, all in plain sight of their young children. Their unabashed abandon on holiday is shown in a quite different form at home, we're intrigued as to why certain actions were necessary by each when only harm was the outcome.

Part thriller and part domestic drama, 'Wish You Were Here' is an ambiguous story which keeps you interested until the inevitable conclusion. Sometimes uncomfortable to watch, Price and Edgerton play their parts perfectly, a typically normal couple with huge unwanted responsibilities on their shoulders. Darcy-Smith does a fine job in knitting together a quite straightforward drama into something watchable and insightful.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'The Lunchbox' is a delicate, charming drama showing the positive effects food can have on people, 9 March 2015
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ritesh Batra's debut 'The Lunchbox' is a delightful film set in Mumbai, India. Saajan (Irrfan Khan) is a grieving widower who is counting down the days before his retirement as a government pen-pusher. His favourite time of day is when he receives his lunchtime lunchbox, courtesy of the legendary Dabbawala service which delivers millions of lunch boxes every day.

One day, the food delivered is far superior to the food he normally receives. It turns out that this delicious lunchbox was made by a bored housewife called Ila (Nimrat Kaur), who is trying to win back her disinterested husband. When they both realise whats happened, they strike up an unlikely relationship through letters. Initially venting the frustrations in their lives, the letters become increasingly personal and they decide to meet.

Batra explores this friendship through these letters, unearthing the insecurities in both characters, especially Saajans alienation from life since his wife's death. They both use these letters to expose their failings, and perhaps to demystify them too. The letters help to engage and disengage themselves from each other, allowing them to make life- changing decisions which they may not have been able to do otherwise.

Saajan also unravels a fondness for the person who will eventually take over his job, Shaikh (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). His pained demeanour hides for the most part his sadness, with Shaikh and Ila aiding his rehabilitation back to some sort of normality. Some great performances are led by Irrfan Khan, giving yet another excellent character study. 'The Lunchbox' is a delicate, charming drama showing the positive effects food can have on people, and how anyone of any age has something to offer others in those moments of loneliness. In these fast-paced times, these simplest of pleasures still provide the most nourishment.


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