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Here (I) (2023)
7/10
An essay by a US sci-fi writer is the source material of this unusual love tale
18 February 2024
"Here" is an interesting film from Belgium that underscores the difference between US and European films in their style. It won the Best Film award and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2023 Berlin film festival in the Encounters section. It is based on its director Bas Devos' screenplay adapted from a 1988 essay written by the late US science fiction writer Ursula K Le Guin entitled 'The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.'

While essentially the film is a tale of love that gently grows between two persons in Brussels--a Romanian construction worker and a Belgian-Chinese doctoral-student bryologist (a scientist who studies mosses)--the film educates the viewer in science while telescoping moss as a metaphor on organic processes that rarely gain attention in the world today. To an astute viewer, "Here" offers more value than "Poor Things," another 2023 film adaptation of a sci-fi literary source. It is amusing to note the original literary work's title includes the words 'carrier bag' while the construction worker is often with a carry bag containing vessels of soup that he has cooked to give away to folks close to him.
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The Blue Bird (1976)
7/10
Russian ballet dancers in a Hollywood family-film is magical
18 February 2024
A good family film that brings in elements of two films "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," and "The Wizard of Oz," and the book 'The Pilgrims Progress.' The cinematography is by the celebrated Russian Jonas Grisius, who had mesmerized us earlier with his works using black-and-white film stock. The film should stand out as Robert Morley's major performance as a bearded Father Time. Elizabeth Taylor dominates the film in multiple roles. Ava Gardner, Cicely Tyson and Jane Fonda have too short screen time to make an impact, compared to Ms. Taylor.

The IMDB credits state that scenes with. James Coco as Tylo the Dog were deleted--but he was vey much there in so many sequences in the version I watched..
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May December (2023)
8/10
Recalls Jules Dassin's masterpiece and nearly as good as that film
2 December 2023
A film that recalls the commitment of an actress groomed in 'method' to understand the character she is playing by interacting with the real living 'evil' subject just as in the 1978 Jules Dassin masterpiece "A Dream of Passion," with Melina Mercouri and Ellen Busrtyn. Though similar in the departments of screenplay, direction and acting, the film is indeed as good as the Dassin product. Another superb performance from Julianne Moore. I hope Ms Moore gets nominated to the Oscars for it. This is Todd Hayne's fourth film to get nominated for the Golden Palm unsuccessfully. Evidently Haynes loves to explore the human psyche in depth ("May December," "Carol." "I'm Not There"). Mr Haynes will surely win at Cannes eventually.
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Apocrypha (2009)
7/10
Makes sense if one is familiar with Zvyagintsev's body of work and the Nobel Prize winner Brodsky
7 October 2023
A segment meant for the portmanteau film "New York, I Love You" was eventually never included--possibly because it was too dark compared to the other selected segments. The Russian connect with New York is established early with a lady standing outside a block of apartments in New York asking a resident if that is where the Russian Nobel Prize winner Joseph Brodsky lived and the resident doesn't seem to recognize that name. Unlike the other segments of "New York, I Love You" this proposed segment (now available separately on youtube) is about a young man with a camera stumbling on an older couple who are lovers in the city and have to break their relationship. (The other segment left out was directed by Scarlet Johannsen, "These Vagabond Shoes" also with a dark outcome.) Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman, a constant collaborator of Zvyagintsev, is very impressive here as well.
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6/10
A film giving Paul Claudel's religious views remission for his later day actions
4 October 2023
Bruno Dumont's film is best appreciated if the viewer has viewed Bruno Nuytten's 1988 film "Camille Claudel" which ends with Camille being institutionalized by her brother Paul and her mother. That act can be initially condoned as Camille needed treatment at that time. Dumont's film is based surprisingly on the letters of Paul Claudel.

In Dumont's film too, Paul does not heed the doctor's view that Camille is a docile and almost normal and could be discharged. For those who have seen Nuytten's film, there is sufficient evidence that brother and sister had been very close to each other and Paul had tried to make his sister's work famous. All these critical facts are never stated in Dumont's film. The religious fervour of Camille in Dumont's film is totally absent in Nuytten's film. The long religious soliloquys of Paul, fits in with Dumont's interest in religion. For me, Dumont's attempts at describing Camille in the asylum is merely projecting Paul's attempt at absolving his decision not to help release his sister from the asylum.

Binoche is always good in any film but this performance is not her best--which I am convinced was the one in "Certified Copy."
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The Calm (1980 TV Movie)
6/10
An early work of Kieslowski where the absence of later key collaborators Piesiewicz and Preisner are obvious
30 August 2023
In 1980, Kieslowski was just emerging as filmmaker. I met him at a film festival at Bengaluru and I could have interviewed him as a film critic of a New Delhi daily. I ducked the opportunity, as I honestly considered Wajda and Zanussi to be way superior directors in Polish cinema at that point of time. What was missing in "The Calm' that was not so in later works of Kieslowski ("Dekalog," "Three Colors: Blue/White/Red," and "The Double life of Veronique")? The two collaborators who helped Kieslowski soar in those films are absent in this film: co-scriptwriter Piesiewicz and music composer Preisner.

In this film, instead of Preisner, Kieslowski's co-scriptwriter is actor Jerzy Stuhr who plays the lead role in the film. Kieslowski, who officially claimed to be an atheist, begins the movie with prisoners singing Christmas Carols in a prison cell. Nothing wrong here. Anton Grelak (Stuhr) who is supposed to be a "nice" guy caught in a bad political framework, "reforms" in the jail. He is soon fooling his prison mate on the train taking him home and is shown jumping off the train, avoiding his friend's cordial invitation. Grelak gives different versions of his real parents each time he is asked about them. Grelak gestures in a sexist way (to the camera) after meeting his future wife for the first time. His actions towards his lady householder are not honest. Kieslowski wants to present Grelak as a good guy with odds stacked against him, but any astute viewer will not buy that view easily.

The only stylistic element in the film--visions of wild horses--appear three times (anticipating his technique used in Dekalog and Red), once as a malfunctioning TV image and twice later when Grelak recalls those images when he is alone.
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Van Gogh (1991)
9/10
One of the best films of Director Pialat
13 August 2023
Warning: Spoilers
Pialat proves in this film he was equally amazing as his contemporaries: Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol, if not better. A sublime film on the painter's life during his last 67 days--without the theatrics of Vincente Minnelli's version ("Lust for Life") or the drama of Julian Schnabel's "At eternity's gate" or the weighted perspective of the Van Gogh brothers in Robert Altman's (Vincent & Theo). Pialat's original screenplay is a treat where the painter's mind is captured through minor interactions that provide you material for reflection rather than his attempt to cut off his ear or his sojourn in a mental asylum.

He had made a short film, for TV, with the same title in 1965. He must have realized the subject deserved better attention than that.
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East of Eden (1955)
5/10
James Dean was wonderful but the script reduced the full effect of the brilliant novel
12 August 2023
James Dean gives a flawless, enigmatic performance.

The film is an adaptation of the final quarter of a brilliant novel. The initial three-fourths of the novel and the key Chinese character, Lee, who brought up the boys Aaron and Cal, in the absence of the real mother are snipped off. The film transforms the character of Kay (the real the mother of Aaron and Cal), from a woman of dubious character into a likable recluse ready to part with a sizable part of her money--all differing from the book. Even the death of Aaron (representing the Biblical Abel) is not a part of the film. You will like the film, if you have not read the fascinating book. The overture, at the start of the film, served little purpose.
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8/10
The crowning performance of the late Margit Carstensen
25 July 2023
I decided to view this film a second time after nearly 50 years when I learned of Ms Margit Carstensen's passing in June 2023. RIP, Margit! You were so talented and so wonderful to watch and admire.

The film is based on an original script written by Fassbinder on a 12-hour flight from Berlin to Los Angeles. Other co-scriptwriters were roped in to improve it. The film is one of the memorable works of Fassbinder because of several factors. The main reason is the exquisite casting Ms Carstensen in the title role and all the other ladies. The second reason is the cinematography of Michael Ballhaus (with the guidance of Fassbinder) with sequences of ladies just showing their feet in shoes, dancing on a furry carpet--leaving the viewer to imagine what was happening 5 feet above. The camera does capture and focus on Marlene (Irm Hermann) at some crucial moments. The perspective of the actions of the camera eye with and without the bed from the carpet-level, when used, are simply stunning. The third reason is the production design of Kurt Raab, with entire action captured in a small space with one large bed, mannequins and dolls, a typewriter and most importantly the gigantic blow-up of the Nicolas Poussin's 1629 painting "Midas and Bacchus" that rarely goes out of the camera's eye. The fourth trivial but allegorical bit comes early in the film--the lead character excusing herself from her commitment to provide funds to Hollywood filmmaker Joseph Mankiewicz (alluding to the role of money that plays a pivotal role in the entire film and the gold of the Midas touch that brought Midas down to earth, begging that the gift of Bacchus be taken away). Thank you, Messrs. Fassbinder, Ballhaus, Raab; and Ms Carstensen, Hermann, and Schygulla for such well thought-out film completed in merely 10 days of shooting.
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The Joke (1969)
7/10
Milan Kundera, actor Josef Somr and director Jiromil Jires contribute to a significant film
17 July 2023
Finally got to watch the film, based on Milan Kundera's wonderful novel--a film banned in the former Czechoslovakia for some 20 years after its initial release in theatres...thanks to a kind soul for uploading it on utube. The tale is a scathing indictment of Communists and Leftist totalitarian regimes worldwide, some existing to this day. Director Jiromil Jires and Kundera who was the co-scriptwriter, left out some minor details from the book relating to the actions of offspring the protagonist Ludwig's main tormentor and classmate. The film is aided by an amazing performance by the lead actor Josef Somr (who died last year), perhaps more famous for his turn in Jiri Menzel's "Closely Watched Trains" (Oscar winning film for Best Foreign Language film). The film belongs to Kundera, Somr and Jires, in that order.
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8/10
A male director's empathetic view of a woman's difficult life in a male dominated world
24 June 2023
The film won the Best Actress Silver Bear award at the Berlin Film Festival. The film is most notable for chronological episodes, carefully edited in the script, to minimize unnecessary footage. While the film is centered around the life of Tome, her parents' life take up the early part (pre-World War II Japan) of the film which is lovingly made by Imamura. The tale might be of the life of Tome but the tale encapsulates the world of Japan pre-WWII where peasants were bonded laborers of the rich, WWII, post-WWII and the behavior of Americans in Japan towards women, American's war in Korea which the common Japanese can't comprehend, the relationship of one Japanese woman (not Tome) with an American man and later with a Korean man, jail life for a woman in Japan, farm cooperatives in latter day Japan that improves the rice served in trains, etc. The link between the episodes is with a song sung by Tome/her mother. The opening visuals of the insect is very well-integrated with the human tale that follows.

The development of the Tome's father--a simpleton with a good heart--may be short but well presented.

The film is also important as it is made by a man presenting the life of women with empathy, just as John Ford did with his swansong "7 Women."

I had the honor of interviewing the director Imamura in 1984 in Mumbai for the All India Radio.
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8/10
The last third of the film, especially the ending, is exceptional and technically breaks new ground
8 June 2023
My first film from the Republic of Ossetia (within the Russian Federation). The first two-thirds of the film is a slow, seemingly un-impressive build-up for the final third which is truly memorable. Memorable because the film is based on an original script written/conceived by the director. More memorable because the end-sequence is possibly one of the best I have ever seen. It utilizes forgotten facets of cinema projection of earlier decades, as though the film was getting repeatedly stuck in the projector and the film had finally stopped rolling to complete the tale. The film then appears to end with a dark screen. One would assume a negative ending, but it is actually a very positive ending. You need to see the film to appreciate how it all makes sense. Richly deserved the Cannes "Un Certain Regard'' section's best film award. (The section's jury was headed by British director Ms Andrea Arnold, the director of Cannes award winning film "Fish Tank".) The Ossetian director Kira Kovalenko studied under the maestro Russian director Aleksander Sokurov. It is a pity that this film offered by Russia to the Oscar's foreign language category was not even nominated. It merely shows the artistic knowledge of the people or the process that make the Oscar selections, being unable to distinguish any art that is unusual just because they have never encountered it before. Tip of my hat to the young director Kira Kovalenko! Mr Sokurov, you have mentored a promising new director!
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Touch Me Not (I) (2018)
8/10
A product of research on intimacy that is admirable and very different from most films
28 May 2023
An admirable debut film from Romanian director Adina Pintilie, who wrote, acted and edited this Golden Bear winner at the Berlin Film Festival. I admit that there were times I felt I should stop watching the film but I did not as the film made me introspect on my own views. The well-researched script, and the elegant and stylish cinematography by Romanian cinematographer George Chiper contribute value to the film that marries documentary and fiction. Kudos to the Jury headed by German director Tom Tykwer for awarding this unusual work that requires a mature mind to appreciate the subtle studies on intimacy. The long journey to complete the film is evident from the time stamp of some included videos that indicate the year 2010--some 8 years before it made it to Berlin.
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World War III (2022)
7/10
Odd subjects (for an Iranian film) with humane touches that eventually turn nihilistic
12 May 2023
The opening quote that explains the film is attributed to Mark Twain: "History doesn't repeat itself but it often rhymes."

This winner of Best Film and Best Actor awards at the Venice film festival's Horizon section, and the Special Jury Prize at the Tokyo International film festival has bagged 13 awards world-wide to-date. It is an unusual film from Iran; yet, if you stay to the end, it could be rewarding. It is a film about love of a widower for a prostitute in Iran. How the conservative Iranian censors allowed the film with such a subject to be made is surprising. The script involves the shooting of a film within the film that deals with Hitler and the Holocaust (again an unusual subject for an Iranian to make in Iran)!
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The Outsider (1981)
6/10
Allegorical opening and ending of a tale about an affable, non-conforming violinist
6 May 2023
The begins with a handsome young man immersed in playing a violin solo in a hospital ward for mental patients, who find the music calming. The film ends with a small group of classical musicians playing Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, at the request of a classical music enthusiast, who thinks and lives in the world of composers. The situations, where both these musical sequences are played, are allegorical views of Hungary's social and political reality in the early Eighties. I had visited Hungary at that time. Tarr's movie has the philosophical line "Music can't be bought, it is not like a painting." There are sequences where the audience can easily miss the satirical undercurrents--a joke about a chicken thief who insists his bag contains crows, and when discovered, says he doesn't want them.

"The Outsider" is an unusual Tarr film because it is in shot in colour; usually his films on equally bleak, reflective subjects are best captured in black-and-white. It is also unusual because all actors are non-professional (according to the IMdB trivia). But the lead actor Andras Szabo playing the role of Andras is a delight to watch as a happy-go-lucky man, refusing responsibility of having fathered a child, getting fired from jobs, and eventually getting married (the actual marriage is never shown, except for a post-marriage dance and merry-making and a bus trip with wedding attire.) Andras is "The Outsider"-- an affable, talented violinist who is rejected from orchestras as he has not graduated from music schools and has a history of being fired from many jobs. He is an outsider also because he rejects social responsibilities that most others would accept.

Tarr's wife Agnes is also the film's editor. Not a major Tarr film but the non-professionals are by and large agreeable on screen.
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8/10
Two, not one, real-life mysterious killings while making a film on one
30 April 2023
Interesting feature film that combines two, not one, real life mysteries. The main tale is about emergence of Enrico Mattei and his growing clout in Italy and the world, after propagating the underground methane reserves in Italy to alleviate poverty in Italy, post-Word War II. Though Mattei was a member of ths Christian Democrats Party during the war he was appointed after the war to dismantle AGIP, a petroleum agency set up by the Fascists. He found scientific studies already conducted but shelved about methane reserves and subsequently converted AGIP which he was supposed to dismantle into a major state-owned powerful petroleum company called ANI. Rosi's film presents both the negative and the positive sides of Mattei, who was by all accounts killed in a plane crash in 1962, possibly with a bomb placed on board the aircraft.

The secondary tale (also real) is of Rosi employing an investigative journalist, Mauro de Mauro, to figure out the last days of Mattei. Mauro, too, is killed before he can provide all the details of his investigation to filmmaker Rosi for making this film. Two separate but possibly linked killings. The viewer is left to guess the killers. The second tale lifts up the quality of the film even further than the first. Rosi is admirable for presenting all views of both the killings.

A film that won a deserving Golden Palm at Cannes Festival. The real heroes of the film are Mauro, the journalist who was killed while helping Rosi, the scriptwriters. Tonino Guerra, Rosi and Tito di Stefano.
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Friday Night (2002)
8/10
Slow burn but keeps you interested to the end
23 April 2023
A lyrical, almost wordless film on a one-night stand involving two strangers in Paris. The artistically made film is almost as beautiful as Aleksandr Sokurov's "Mother and Son," which in stark contrast, did not involve sex.

The best aspects of the film "Friday Night" are: (1) the screenplay adaptation of the novel (which included collaboration of the novelist Emmanuelle Bernheim herself) ; (2) the magical opening roof-top cinematography sequences of Agnes Godard (a regular Denis collaborator); (3) Dickon Hincliffe's original musical composition (a debut for him for films before he stunned us with his music in "Leave No Trace" and "Locke" and possibly his sole collaboration with Denis); (4) the performance of the lead actors (Valerie Lemercier, who plays Laure, is a film director of repute): and (5) last but not least, the fascinating direction of Denis, which included imaginary thoughts of Laure imagining Jeane (Vincent Lindon) with another pizzeria customer, spliced between real visuals. The film is slow but well-made and will be well appreciated only by knowledgeable cineastes.

The final sequence reminded me of the end-sequence of Paul Mazursky's "An Unmarried Woman."

Trivia--(1) The "for sale" notice of the car pasted on the rear window disappears halfway into the film. (2) The shots of the pizzzeria being swept did not serve any purpose.

One of the very sophisticated films of Ms Denis, who is one of my favourite active directors.
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Ludwig (1973)
8/10
Helmut Berger's crowning performance.
18 April 2023
Helmut Berger's finest performance. He is supported by Romy Schneider (who is a treat to watch as she was in Visconti's segment in Boccaccio '70), Silvana Mangano, Helmut Griem and Gert Froebe. A long film with gorgeous palaces and intricate production design and breathtaking indoor cinematography by Armando Nannuzzi (who worked in two other Visconti films). The screenplay trio comprising director Visconti, Suso Cecchi d'Amico and Enrico Medioli have worked wonders in this and other Visconti films. Visconti is a maestro indeed as a director. The only flaw in the film was the casting of Trevor Howard as Wagner, who never impressed as he did in other films. This version of Ludwig needs to be compared with the version by Hans Jurgen Syberberg, made a year before this one.
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No Bears (2022)
7/10
Illusion and reality, in the world of Jafar Panahi
15 April 2023
Telling the truth is difficult for Iranian filmmakers. You have Government control on one hand (the real tale of Panahi remotely directing a film being shot in Turkey while stationed on the borders of Iran as he is not allowed to leave the country) and you have quaint traditions on the other (in the Iranian villages on the border) that often lead to tragedy. However good your intent, the road is bumpy and leads you to a sad, nihilistic end. Intelligent filmmaking that captures the difficulty of renowned filmmakers to capture the Kafkesque ground reality in Iran and the frustrations of Iranian nationals today. Deserved the Special Jury Prize at Venice.
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8/10
The complex world of the lover and the be-loved, created by Carson McCullers, captured on the screen
13 April 2023
A fascinating story by Carson McCullers, which was made into a play by playwright Edward Albee. An unusual performance from Vanessa Redgrave with supporting roles from Rod Steiger as the priest. The key element in the film are the shots of the chain gang that begins and ends the film as are camera shots of the fields green and fruitful that moves on the adjacent fields harvested and ready to be cultivated and the reversal of the sequence at the end. Very realistic production design. Sometimes while watching the film, you get the feeling you are watching a play on stage. Rather than a film. But the director changes that view if you watch the film closely and absorb the opening and sequences I mentioned. Walter Lassaly's cinematography, which includes arresting close-ups, is another noteworthy aspect of the film rarely discussed. Thank you, producer Ismael Merchant for doggedly pursuing the idea of bringing the tale and play to the screen. I had interviewed Merchant in 1982 in New Delhi and at that time he had not made this film. How I wish I had chance to ask him so many questions on this film! One question would have been why director James Ivory and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Merchant's trusted collaborators on so many films, opted out of this one.
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Iron Island (2005)
8/10
A brave second feature from a filmmaker who made 9 critical feature films of life in Iran and is now imprisoned there
30 March 2023
This is the second feature film of the brave young director Mohammad Rasoulof, who after winning so many international awards for 9 feature films he directed and wrote, depicting veiled criticism of life in Iran, is currently imprisoned in the notorious Evin prison in Iran. "Iron Island" won the Golden Peacock for the best film at the Indian International Film Festival. His subsequent 8 films have won major awards at Cannes (twice), Berlin (Golden Bear for Best film), Chicago (Best Screenplay), Denver (Best Film), Dubai (Best Film), Durban (Best Feature Film), Hamburg (Political Film Award), Milwaukee (Best Director), Sydney (Sydney Film Prize), and Telluride (Silver Medallion Award).

"Iron Island" is a contemporary Noah's ark, where a disused oil tanker, awaiting shipbreaking, provides refuge for homeless poor Iranians, young and old, under a seemingly benevolent "Captain" who is able to provide food and medicines for the refugees by selling metal parts and oil in the ship. The Captain is a veiled representation of the Iranian Government, which is dictatorial and brutal to those who step out of line while appearing to be benevolent. The motley refugee group represents the innocent who accept their fate without being able to question their benefactor. This film may not be as sophisticated as Rasoulof's later films but it makes you think beyond the obvious tale. Rasoulof is definitely one of the finest filmmakers in Iran, now languishing in prison. His crime--he made movies critical of life in Iran in the recent decades--films that won so many major awards and acclaim that few other filmmakers worlwide can equal.
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7/10
Rich cinematography, music and sound make film different from most other crime films
29 March 2023
Mesmeric cinematography, music and sound. Tarr and his co-director colleague/collaborator Agnes Haranitsky make this film very interesting in spite of the awful dubbing and Tilda Swinton's below-par, theatrical over-the-top acting with a quivering lower jaw, further pronounced by the bad dubbing. The mood of the film and its alienated characters are top-notch as are the lighting effects employed. Tarr brings a new unusual dimension to Belgian Georges Simenon's tale on crime and murders with an unusual cop. A tale of innocent ordinary folks, whose peaceful lives are disturbed by strangers with evil plans.
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7/10
One of two prominent surrealist films from Iran
26 March 2023
This is the second Iranian feature film that I found employing facets of surrealism--the first being my all time favourite Iranian film: Mohsen Amir Youseffi's "Bitter Dreams" (2004). In "Iran is My Land," the protagonist is a young man trying to publish his thesis on the works of five eminent centuries-old Farsi poets--namely, Hafez, Ferdowsi, Rumi, Omar Khayyam, and Saadi. To publish it, he has to get the approval of the present day Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance--an attempt which proves to be a leaf out of Franz Kafka's or Joseph Heller's novels. In the film, the five medieval poets as guiding angels) constantly provide advise out of their written works to the protoganist to get past the red tape. The debates between the young writer and the difficult bureaucrat are punctuated by visuals of trees with pages of poetry replacing leaves and of widows being chosen by villagers to become "canal brides'' to sit at the mouth of dry canals to make water flow again. When the water does flow out, with it comes books of poetry and musical instruments! The film also satirizes the mention of women and wine in the poetry of the five poets, set off against the present day intolerant views on those very subjects in Iran. The performance of the seemingly benevolent Kafkaesque bureaucrat (superbly played by Saeed Poursamimi) is a notable part of this film.
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The Verdict (1982)
8/10
A film where the adapted screeplay rules the roost
25 March 2023
A superb screenplay from David Mamet, to which Sidney Lumet adds an evocative final sequence that was not in the Mamet script. The liquor-addicted lawyer (played by Paul Newman) stops drinking liquor and prefers coffee instead, while his recent flame (Charlotte Rampling) who was not an alcoholic takes to liquor in that sequence. Lumet stated that he had not read the book when he made the film but was attracted to Mamet script that adapted the book and that the book, when he read it after the film was made, would have been difficult to convert into a film. In other words, Mamet made the big difference. Robert Redford opted out at the early stages because he was not comfortable playing a floozy lawyer, eventually played by Newman. Julie Christie opted out of the role played by Rampling.

Analyzed in 2023, there are comparisons of this film with "Tar." Both were Best Picture nominees at the Oscars and didn't win any of the bagfull of nominations. Both had strong screenplays. Both had a woman who proves to have a negative streak.
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Robe of Gems (2022)
7/10
A noteworthy debut effort
20 March 2023
This is the debut feature film of Natalia Lopez (wife of director Carlos Reygadas, actress in Reygadas' "Our Times" as its lead character Esther, and editor of several works of Reygadas). It is not surprising that this work has the stamp of Reygadas' style all over it, from the opening sequence onwards (ref. "Silent Light"). As Ms Lopez is a woman, she captures the life of Mexico's underworld of drug cartels, the corrrupt police, abductions, killings, divorces, and the effect of all this on the children in a sensitive, realistic manner, unlike the brutal, coarse work of director Amat Escalante in "Heli" in which also Ms Lopez was the editor. As in all Reygadas films, the race relationships within Mexico are prominent. This is critical, as this film dwells on the reactions and actions of three "connected Mexican women," following the disappearance of a fourth woman. During the Berlinale Press Conference . Ms Lopez said she saw the three women as three faces of a single woman, like a Hindu goddess. The three women are a wealthy woman separating/divorcing from her husband; a corrupt police officer; and a family maid of the wealthy woman.

A noteworthy debut effort, which deservedly won the Berlin Silver Bear. (P. S. The film includes a bizarre sequence of a man being burnt to death in front of scores of mute spectators, including women, as though some illegal justice/punishment is being carried out.)
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