Month: April 2009

Cannes ‘09, Official Selection Revealed

The lineup is studded with some big heavyweights of the likes of Almodovar, Lars Von Trier, Tsai Ming-liang, Resnais, Ken Loach, Ang Lee, and Haneke. French actress Isabelle Huppert heads the feature film jury. The jury also has Nuru Bilge Ceylan, who won the best director award here last year for Three Monkeys. Interestingly the jury also features the writer Hanif Kureshi.

The festival begins May 13, and goes till May 24. And as usual and expected, no Indian entry there.

Here‘s the fesitval’s official website.


The 2009 Cannes competition lineup:

“Abrazos Rotos” (Broken Embraces), directed by Pedro Almodovar
“Antichrist,” directed by Lars Von Trier
“Bright Star,” directed by Jane Campion
“Enter The Void,” directed by Gasper Noe
“Faces,” directed by Tsai Ming-liang
“Fish Tank,” directed by Andrea Arnold
“Kinatay,” directed by directed by Brillante Mendoza
“Les Herbes folles,” directed by Alain Resnais
“In The Beginning,” directed by Xavier Giannoli
“Inglorious Basterds,” directed by Quentin Tarantino
“Looking For Eric,” directed by Ken Loach
“Map of the Sounds of Tokyo,” directed by Isabel Coixet
“A Prophet,” directed by Jacques Audiard
“Spring Fever,” directed by Lou Ye
“Taking Woodstock,” directed by Ang Lee
“The Time That Remains,” directed by Elia Suleiman
“Thirst,” directed by directed by Park Chan Wook
“Vengeance,” directed by Johnny To
“Vincere,” directed by Marco Bellocchio
“The White Ribbon,” directed by Michael Haneke

Opening Film:
“Up,” directed by Peter Docter
(out of competition)

Closing Film:
“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,” directed by Jan Kounen
(out of competition)

Out of Competition:
“Agora,” directed by Alejandro Amenabar
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” directed by Terry Gilliam
“L’Armee du Crime,” directed by Robert Guediguian

Midnight Screenings:
“A Town Called Panic,” directed by Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar
“Drag Me To Hell,” directed by Sam Raimi
“Ne Te Retourne Pas,” directed by Marina de Van

Special Screenings :
“My Neighbor, My Killer,” directed by Anne Aghion
“Martin Manila,” directed by Adolfo Alix, Jr.
“Min Ye,” directed by Souleymane Cisse
“L’Epine Dans Le Coeur,” directed by Michel Gondry
“Petition,” directed b Zhao Liang
“Kalat Hayam” (Jaffa), directed by Keren Yedaya

Un Certain Regard

“Mother,” directed by Bong Joon Ho
“Irene,” directed by Alain Cavalier
“Precious,” directed by Lee Daniels
“Demain Des L’Aube,” directed by Denis Dercourt
“Adrift,” directed by Heitor Dhalia
“Nobody Knows About the Persian Cats,” directed by Bahman Ghobadi
“Los Viajes del Viento,” directed by Ciro Guerra
“Le Pere de mes Enfants,” directed by Mia Hansen-Love
“Tales from the Golden Age,” directed by Hanno Hoefer, Ravan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu, Ioana Uricaru
“Tale in the Darkness,” directed by Nikolay Khomeriki
“Air Doll,” directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda
“Dogtooth,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
“Tzar,” directed by Pavel Lounguine
“Independence,” directed by Raya Martin
“Politist, Adjectiv,” directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
“Nymph,” directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
“Morrer Como Un Homem,” directed by Jao Pedro Rodgrigues
“Eyes Wide Open,” directed by Haim Tabakman
“Samson and Delilah,” directed by Warwick Thornton
“The Silent Army,” directed by Jean van de Velde



French New Wave is 50 now, almost

The French New Wave, 50 years old today, was the greatest criminal enterprise in cinema history. A gang of filmmakers led a raid on the Bank of Tradition. They emptied its funds with the sole purpose of closing a near-bankrupt heritage, so that a new art could begin. Drawing aid from their own fund of resources (literature, Italian neo-realism, vérité documentary, the Hollywood B-movie), they created a new syndicate in screen culture. Cinema, almost overnight, became an organised bandit art, united in sedition, steadfast in rupture, forthright in innovation, enduring in immediacy.


Well, the article is dated April 4th, not sure if that date  is actually the date. Usually Le beau Serge is recognized to be the first new wave feature. It was first featured in Locarno Film Festival around late 1958 and then officially released Jan 1959, in both France and US. Or may be the writer above referred to Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, but then it was released in Nov 1959. Anyway, pinning down to one date won’t take away anything from how it shaped the world cinema.
Guess, I should get down to watch some movies of Chabrol, Rohmer or Varda, though less famous but still the great proponents.

Anurag Kashyap Interview

Q: Is there a method to the madness then?
AK: No, I do not like to storyboard at all. Mostly, my method of directing a scene is to tell my actors what their basic actions within the scene are. And then, I mostly call the steadicam operator, let the camera roll, and let the actors move within the environment, as I follow them. For instance, in a scene between Abhay and Mahie for Dev D., I merely followed Mahie around, till she reached Abhay, thus allowing the camera to include both of them within the frame. As the dialogue progressed, Abhay walked out of the frame, and then, as a director, I am not concerned with what he is doing. Mahie, who is left alone in the frame, leaves it too, and just as she does, Abhay enters it. So it is all very instinctive. Also, I sometimes like to keep my actors unaware of the exact spot where the camera has been positioned, thus allowing them to be completely at ease.

Complete interview here.

Flight of the Red Balloon

flight_of_the_red_balloon_ver2Hou Hsiao-hsien’ Flight of the Red Balloon starts with a kid named Simon trying to coax a red balloon to come to him. The balloon’s up there on a tree, away from his reach. After failing in his attempt, the kid boards a train back his place. Then curiously enough the balloon starts following him, which it keeps on doing the entire length of the movie. Simon, the kid, lives in a bohemian home with his blond, gusty mom Suzzane, who is a voice over actor at a Puppetry Troupe. As the movie begins Simone meets Song, his new Babysitter, who is a foreign student in a Film school and is currently making a movie on red balloons.
The movie meanders through the day to day life of these characters without probe, almost free flowingly as does the balloon. The tangential brisk distractions of life that seem to fill the space keep the movie as a humming song that anytime may turn into a magnanimous sonata. There are moments of sadness and loss, as subject of Simone’s Dad or irritating Tenant comes up but they all are kept at bay, somehow giving them a tone of sudden uprising in a sonata. These moments go quite nimbly just as they come.

imageSong is quite and unassuming, like a spectator of this medley of life. In one scene she points out to Juliet that the green man in her movies carrying the balloon all the time is there in green so that he could be easily filtered out later. It almost as a metaphor suggests that the seemingly free flowing life that this movie looks has its underpinnings in something else, the elusiveness of which is what is giving this all that quality. The role of Juliette Binoche as Suzanne comes as a breath of fresh air, as she walks in and out of the frame as a butterfly may tease a child following her. Her emotional upturns, the frizzy makeup, the virtuoso dazzling performances and the voice over artist just make a delight to watch.

In one of the interesting scene Juliet is appreciating Song’s film Origin and then starts narrating how it reminded her of her childhood, the old home, parents and other things. Curiously as there had been no hint or knowledge of it in the  movie, the scene becomes immensely interesting as, as a viewer you try to get an idea what the movie was ac04balloon-600tually about. In another scene towards the end Simone is in his class which is on a trip to a exhibition where the teacher is asking students what they see in the painting, if it’s dark or light painting. All children come up with different answers thinking of all possible explanation. At the same time Simone is shown elusive to all that discussion busy watching the balloon which as usual shows up in the ceiling glass pane of the center, telling the viewers that no matter what we may interpret of the movie the lyrical quality, the profused hum, the brisk lightness that’s there is not going to vanish.

The movie is actually a tribute to 1956 children classic short film by Albert Lamorisse, The Red Balloon.  The director makes use of glasses and shadows extensively. Things move in reflections. There’s one scene where you gaze outside a moving train onto vast open lands, which fuses with a sunset which is partially reflected in the window pane. This mirroring effect even goes further as we see the balloon standing along with a painted image of another red balloon. The music, the everyday hum of things around, the tinkering of a piano repairman all add to the free flowing austere quality of life.

Few reviews: here n here. Below is the theatrical trailer of the movie.

The Spirit of Beehive

There’s something mystical about The Spirit of Beehive, something fragmentary that never confronts you directly but leaves a desolatory feeling. The film brings out to reel, rather marvelously, the inner subjectivity of a kid whose trying to come in terms with the outside world. It’s a tale of growing up where the facts, fiction and fantasy all form a seamless reality. To bring home this difficult subject matter Victor Erice uses the story of Frankenstein, with it being a parry of the story line as well as adverting towards it in several parallels. The story begins with Ana and her elder sister Issabel watching the movie Frankenstein in the village’s makeshift cinema hall, along with other kids and adults. The younger sister Ana is immediately stuck with the haunting premise of the story. Not that she’s scared but a lot more beehiverev01mystified and allured. Of some scenes shown, there was one where Frankenstein is shown playing with the girl. What she doesn’t understand is why Frankenstein kills the girl in the movie and why then further he himself is killed by the people. She asks her elder sister Isabel (elder only by a year or two) about this. Isabel beguiles her by saying that the monster is actually a spirit and meets only his friends, on being called. Isabel being elder and having past that tender age which Ana is in, understand the difference between fact and fiction. Ana is stuck with Frankenstein and Isabel still playing with her, points her towards a deserted house in a barren open as Frankenstein’s living place. Ana still hold with the whole idea visits the place several times and one day confronts a runaway fugitive there and immediately takes him for Frankenstein. She visits him once or twice with food but then later as reality clashes with her convoluted reality, the fugitive is killed by the local police. And as she visits the place next he’s not there but only few drops of blood. Startled and unable to comprehend and also as her father comes to realise her curious endeavors as he receives his timepiece and shoes from police as retrieved from the fugitive, she runs away. As she’s on her own at night, while the whole village searches for her, she had a mystical experience, having parallels to the Frankenstein’s story. Later she is found by the father along with police, and spends next few days without sleeping, talking or eating. The movie ends as she wakes up from her sleep and remembers what her sister told her about summoning Frankenstein, but she returns without calling for him. The ending in a way notes towards the end of age of innocence for her.

Though Ana takes the centre stage, the character of Isabel is also explored. Though bit elder than Ana, I610xsabel is still a child, though her feet are in firm grounds of reality, she’s still coming in terms with her sexuality. There’s one scene where she, while playing with a cat, accidently cuts her finger and then playfully, though consciously she smears the blood on the lips and looks at herself in a mirror.  Isabel mischievous doesn’t ends with her fueling the innocent curiosity of Ana, but there’s also a scene where she plays dead in order to frighten Ana.

The movie is set in the post war era where the town is shown reeling under the after effects of the war. The place is unassumingly quite. Ana’s father who’s a beekeeper is also shown writing something, fragments of which are spoken in a voice over.
“Someone to whom I recently showed my glass beehive, with its movement like the main gear wheel of a clock, someone who saw the constant agitation of the honeycomb, the mysterious, maddened commotion of the nurse bees over the nests, the teeming bridges and stairways of wax, the invading spirals of the queen, the endless varied and repetitive labours of the swarm, the relentless yet ineffectual toil, the fevered comings and goings the call to sleep always ignored, undermining the next day’s work, the repose to death far from a place that tolerates neither sickness nor tombs. Someone who observed these things, after the initial astonishment has passed, quickly looked away with an expression of indescribable sadness and horror. . . ”img_current_295_035

The voice over above interestingly appears twice in the movie, once in the beginning and then towards the end. At one level it seems to point out towards the monotone monotonous aspect of life, where we humans keep on performing the seemingly same activities all over again without having any cue about the higher plan.  The title The Spirit of Beehive also seems to point towards this inconsequential aspect of human life. Though the war is not shown in the movie but  in its after effects, the need of moving on after it and also the  elusive meaning of it as its over now, is what the spirit of beehive is all about. On another level the voice over points towards the loss of ‘innocence of childhood’ as the end of any fascination whatsoever towards life that one could have had.

Apart from the arresting world of facts, fantasy and realization, what makes this movie exceedingly special is the  austere cinematography, the scenes are often long and almost empty with two or three characters filling the space, even the landscape seems to follow that rule. All the village seems to be painted with that dusty beehive like color. Even the window furnishings have a beehive like structure. Also the flute based music seems to rhyme with the background. All this add a sad, melancholic hue to everything.

The performance by Ana (by Ana Torrent) has to be the one of the greatest performance ever by any child actor. The great performance also stems from the fact that she was playing her age at that time. As per the director the questions that Ana asks about Frankenstein are actually the ones that Ana Torrent asked during the movie production as she watched the movie for the first time. Other comparable performances that I can think of come from Pan’s Laybrinth, 400 Blows and Where’s My Friends Hose?.

Here’s an informative review about the historical background and overtures about the background of the movie.


Remembrance of Things from Past

2110Ah, its no Proust post, and you already know it seeing the book cover on the left, anyhhow am just reading Bill Bryson’s A short History of Nearly Everything. It’s been two days and am more than halfway through and its been a pleasure till now. Every second page you turn and some name from the past tumbles up. One page you are reading about John Dalton and the next there’s Ludwig Boltzman, and then next Rutherford, followed by JJ Thompson and so on. Its such a delight to read about these men, their background and their eccentricities who filled all those elementary school days. The near misses they had or how simple plain luck paved their way to greater discoveries. The sudden delight learning actual names, sample this Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro, Count of Quarequa & Cerreto, remember Avogadro’s Number or Avagadros Laws. Or even Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, reading whom you are suddenly wondering about  The Karmazovs, then The Last French Open and finally the Periodic Table. Ok I made that this one up. Anyhow the writing style is smooth and its a ride down the memory lanes. Am enjoying it.