Must watch films from the film fest
MAMI, the premiere Mumbai Film Festival entered its 20th year in 2018. Like every year, it had cinephiles from all over country hooked up. The line-up from this year had all of them even more hyped. From Alfonso Cuarón to Hirokazu Koreeda, from Nuri Bilge Ceylan to Lav Diaz, from Spike Lee to Coen brothers, from Pawel Pawlikowski to Hong-Sang-Soo, it was filled with almost everything a film-buff would ask for. It was a complete treat indeed.
This was my 3rd year attending the festival. This year, they reduced the amount of registration from 2000 to 500 bucks which gathered much bigger crowd. I was happy as it would increase the reach of the kind of cinema, film festivals provide. But, it also resulted in all the booking mishaps that the attendees had to go through. From my experience, I had a problem like that just for a day or two in the last two years. And I ended up watching almost everything that I wanted to, initially. But the schedule was so poorly arranged this year, that one had to miss at least a few from what they wanted.
Despite of all of this, I was able to catch 27 films from the festival. Here are those which caught my attention and lingered in me for quite a while afterwards. These are just the quick afterthoughts and not the complete reviews.
I still can’t get over what last year’s Call Me by Your Name had took me through. That sensual experience made me even more hyped for the director’s this year’s release. It was the remake of Dario Argento’s horror classic- ‘Suspiria’. The remake wasn’t at the festival this year, so I went to watch the original one, just to get an idea of what might have inspired him to recreate it. The first frame of the film is from an airport which looks from our own world and creates a familiarity. But later, the moment she steps in a cab, it takes us through the frightening imagery which looks so dreamy and dreary at the same time. The actress playing the lead speaks volumes through her eyes and expresses the world of paranoia through them. All her fear, anger, frustration or a moment of joy are evident in those. The so-called psychedelia from today’s age seems like a manifestation of these films and what came with it. That’s how visually and sonically powerful it was.
Pawel Pawlikowski’s follow-up after his Palme d’Or and Oscar winning film Ida- ‘Cold War’ was set in 1950s Cold War in Poland. Just like the last film, this was shot in the academy ratio and in monochrome and also had a romance amidst the political backdrop. But this film focuses more on the romance, the central relationship and how their decisions affected the parts of their lives. It was shot so gorgeously with immaculate blocking and the lighting that you wouldn’t want to miss even a single frame. The female lead played by Joanna Kulig had this astonishing charm that she commands every scene she is in. The music oozes with every ounce of beauty that the performances deliver. That stinging sense of melancholy is not just realised but felt. The shifts in their relationships due to their political circumstances or their personal differences reflect in the music being delivered. And the framing is always a thing to admire in his films, especially how he isolates the characters in certain frames and still makes them stand out with the surroundings.
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, this was his first film, not being shot by his constant collaborator Lubezki. But that didn’t make this film any less masterful visually. Shot in black & white, this was a trip to his own childhood, memories from the past with his parents and caretaker, who takes the lead later. At first, it seemed like a nostalgic dose with an obvious choice of monochrome. But later, as the plot unravelled, it became an ode on array of emotions. There was this one shot of the nanny cleaning out the dog shit, pouring water over it. If he can make this type of scene serene, he can master any other scene and hook us to the screen. The feeling of loss, pain, grief, remorse or a fleeting moment of joy, every one of those was handled with utmost care. No matter how brilliant Children of Men or Gravity was, this film had the intimacy of Y Tu Mamá También, even if it was not raw and somewhat gritty as that one. The stylistic shift is something to truly admire for, which didn’t take away any of that emotion and still showing much cleaner imagery and the wiser him.
The film that the people went nuts for, to watch it on the big screen, that they didn’t mind standing in the queues for hours, this was it! This was undoubtedly the most hyped film from the festival. Even if it might not be as wild as his previous films, this was a beast in its own right. Calling it an LSD trip would be an understatement. Noe, through his ingenious camerawork or infusion of exhilarating music, does the most to make us go through that rollercoaster of emotions. Better to go completely unaware of this. Even I wouldn’t want to spoil anything else.
Burning, that we will find being used metaphorically, through the course of time; has to do so much on what the film is based on. Taking this from Murakami’s pen to the big screen was not an easy task. But the director Lee-Chang Dong does it so masterfully that we just can’t get out the atmosphere he’s building around this protagonist. The sounds were so dense that it could depict the paranoia of the character so vividly. It’s a slow-burner which requires our constant attention. We get to know about the character’s past, not for the sake of plot, but to understand more about the character and what affects on how he thinks. Here, the suspense is not how the character would seek the revenge. Suspense is not even the point the film wants to present. It rather takes us through the frame of mind of the character and how he slowly gets to know everything. The breathlessness is felt throughout the stretch of the film and that’s where the film succeeds.
Jaoon Kahan Bata Ae Dil
From the director of much-lauded Kaul-A Calling, here was the second feature film. Unlike his previous films, this one had romance at its core. But it works more as an Anti-Romantic film in that sense. As said by the director Aadish himself, this was his reaction to all the ‘romantic’ films he had seen. You get uncomfortable, angry or nauseous at the kind of language being used or by a supposed male-gaze that you see all over the film. But that was how it was intended to be. Like the male lead verbally harasses the female one, and calls it love, it makes us questions ourselves, our idea of ‘love’ and makes us look at the harsh or gritty, real us. None of it was beautified for the sake of filming, not even the camera work. The long takes of seemingly endless conversations about Gender norms, Identity, Beliefs or even Politics were all very unsettling and presented raw stylistically. Like me, probably you would be able to appreciate it even more, when you can’t take out of your mind even after hours.
Namdev Bhau: In Search of Silence
This might be the sweetest and most human film to come out of the festival, this year. The film was about character based on the actor himself- Namdev Bhau, and his urge to leave the urban landscapes filled with loneliness, to find peace and silence. On his journey, he meets a kid, who’s on his own journey of solitude and peace. Their interactions feel like something that you would expect from a Wes Anderson film. The colour pallets and compositions reflected that too. The world that was presented through the lenses and the sounds felt like a comic book being re-imagined for the screen, but it never takes away the soul of the film. None of it felt forced even after being intentional. The central idea re-emerges at many points and we see that through the blocking, their small gestures or even from the eyes of Namdev Bhau himself. And we cry through the sweet, little moments of humanity.
Long Day’s Journey into Night
Probably my most favourite film from the festival, it is difficult to put my experience into words, for the very nature of how dreamy and hallucinative it was. I can say about the character though, who was a man, a detective in search of a woman, that he had spent time with, a while ago. The film is told in two parts from which the first part gives the audience only bits and pieces about his voyage. The second part is basically a part of his imagination, the nocturnal dreamy 59-minute long take, which was getting raved for that as well as its inventive use of 3D. We get to know about the time he had spent with the woman, how they liked to go the movies together, how that was the way they would connect with each other, and how that’s how we, as the audience, connect with them.
Sorry to Bother You
From the conversations I had, this was rather a film that is not ideally made for a festival. A fairly mainstream choice, although, was extremely imaginative and entirely original. This was the wholesome entertainment I had in the festival. The jokes and gags were fairly intelligent. It examines the slavery in today’s age and presents a bizarre, quite surreal look into the way our values change in the times of increasing classism, the need for productivity in the times of capitalism. It mocks the trends that we have; laughing at our own misery for the extent of being loved and on what is getting popular and its worth. It’s a no-bullshit entertainer which demands the viewing in cinema-halls.