Saturday, July 4, 2015

Timbuktu 2014

Timbuktu is a town in Mali, a West African country jutting into the desert. The country experienced a brief interregnum of religious extremism in the very recent past. Music and football were banned,  women had to wear gloves and socks. Armed and hooded extremists blared orders as they moved around the streets on motorcycles. The life of a cattle herder and his wife and daughter is caught in the vice of this ludicrous fanatical dispensation, culminating in tragedy. The common people react with disgust and indignation to the ugliness of the period. People are much the same anywhere, and it is easy to identify with these inhabitants of an exotic country. It is fact that nobility, humanity and courage is more often to be found among common folk than those in high places. Not least of the charms is the graceful tempo of the film as it gently takes hold of our senses with its images of men, women, children, animals and the dust blown structures of the fringes of the Sahara desert. A highly informative film.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Salaam Bombay(92), Mississipi Masala(94), Monsoon Wedding(2001)

Mira Nair is a gifted auteur, rich in cinematic vision, the joy of life and natural empathy.  Of these three films I have seen in a row and the above mentioned sequence, the latest is the best, with a special appeal for a North Indian audience. She has captured to near perfection the cultural foibles, absurdities and mores which can no where better come into distillation than the vast canvas of a traditional wedding in a well to do Punjabi family. This being her own milieu, her ear and eye are microcopically attuned. This is a heady blend which reminds me, of all things, of Breughal's earthy and sublime painting of a peasant wedding in 16th century Holland. The rumbustious marathon celebration with much ribaldry presided by the throated voice of Sukhwinder's Punjabi pop (the ultimate spice of the setting) is fittingly and miraculously crowned with a monsoon downpour just as the groom's procession arrives, trooping and tripping (and whooping) into the tarpaulin's in a mood of  abandonment. This is a slice of life! Presciently, Mira Nair shares with Ray the honor as one of two Indian origin directors to win the Golden Lion. One looks forward to more.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Grapes of Wrath 1940 (John Ford)

Three quarters down the film, I recalled (disappointingly) having seen it before. The movie, set in a different place and time, and so acclaimed, did not move me half as much, its elemental force notwithstanding.

Frank Nugent Review
Roger Ebert Review

Friday, June 12, 2015

Aleksandr Nevsky 1938

This is a film made during the Stalin era in the USSR. It was a time when the Nazi threat was looming. The film relates to a historic 13th century battle in which invading Germans were defeated under the leadership of Prince Aleksandr, whose name has passed into national legend. The film has the epic style resembling David Lean, in its capture of the historic battle faught on a frozen river. The review linked below is a gem in its own genre. Director: Sergei Eisenstein.

Frank Nugent Review

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Don Kikhot 1957..Kozhintsev

This is a nostalgic gem from the Soviet Era. Don Quixote is a book I miss having read, but so beautifully has the knight been evoked, I feel familiar with this grand persona. The pathetically noble Don persists with great courage in his quest to right wrongs and help the downtrodden. The earthy story populated by rustic folk understandably finds resonance with the ideals of social justice which made the movement tick for nearly a century. The film in the hands of a great director evokes compassion, pathos and idealism, and sublime humor. Whether heroic or ridiculous, the Don is a one man brigade against the jeers of society. Perhaps more ridiculous are the ways of the court, in their coldheartedness and desire to extract amusement at the expense of an innocent old man, even if slightly demented. He is unfazed in confronting criticism: "What can you know, monk,of matters outside your chapel? Step out into the world and look about you.Those who seek power climb upover dead bodies,like over stairs.The greedy kill for a farthing.The slanderers sting their kindred like vipers. I wanted only one thing:To do good to everybody and wrong no one. And it is me whom you're reviling. For shame, monk!" Courage and compassion are two qualities the Don certainty possesses abundantly, in his actions that invariably entail great personal risk. It is not often one experiences this feeling of having come in contact with the sublime, in this film based on a novel I will never read.