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Category — Film Reviews

Teen Behenein: A Response

By The GigglingGirls

Does being astounded by the mediocrity and didacticism of a morally suffocating film on dowry deaths; mean that one is insensitive to the idea of women struggling against systems of power? Is there only one prescriptive way to respond to all films that speak of ‘social evils’?  Is there no space in political imagination where one can collide with narratives of violence against women?

Further, is there no conception of progressive politics where satire and laughter can function as modes of critique? Perhaps the only person in the Bombay film industry who was able to suggest irony and laughter as potent modes of critique was Kundan Shah whose dark comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983) remains something of a benchmark in social and political satire in Hindi films. It is therefore disappointing that he made a journey from the nuanced execution of a film like JBDY to an over-simplified film like Teen Behenein (2005).

While we were surprised by the scope of this film—which we will take up in a moment—what was more troubling was the response it generated. Teen Behenein seems to have become one in a long line of films that receive praise despite fatal flaws at nearly every level (script, dialogues, acting, direction) merely because it takes up a topical social issue. Not unlike the reviews of a prescriptive and ultimately badly made film like Taare Zameen Par (Khan 2007), some of the responses to Teen Behenein conflate the intention, the issue at hand and the final film product[1].  And any response that dares to criticize the film is quite easily branded unaware and insensitive. [Read more →]

November 5, 2011   7 Comments  

Mildred Pierce: The (Re) Making of an “Event”

By Ramna Walia

The current economic recession in the United States of America and world over has led to a literary resurgence of an odd kind as the writings of economic theorist Karl Marx started selling in record numbers. Marx has now been accorded the status of the “comeback kid” of the present financial crisis.[1] Such spacio-temporal travels of past forms testify to the retrospective view of historical narration, one that is recounted through the gap between the moment of first encounter and the moment of recounting. Revivals, adaptations, and remakes have often been seen as cultural symptoms of this echo of history. Released among a web of inter-textual as well as inter-historical articulations, Todd Haynes’s multiple Emmy award winning mini-series Mildred Pierce (2011) strategically places itself along the nodes of a faithful adaptation of James M. Cain’s 1941 depression era novel and a reflective remake of Michael Curtiz’s inventive noir adaptation (1945) of the same.  Riding on the success and cultural memory of Curtiz’s film and socio-economic resonance of Cain’s novel, Haynes builds his version of Mildred Pierce as a mega television event which uses historical memory as a means to explore and expand generic possibilities of a remake, while simultaneously foregrounding its travels through the mediums of literature, cinema and television. [Read more →]

October 11, 2011   No Comments  

Thoughts on That Girl in Yellow Boots

 Let’s get the obvious out of the way right here right now. Anurag Kashyap’s That Girl in Yellow Boots is a good looking film. This is the story of Ruth (Kalki Koechlin)—the British girl who comes to India in search of her father who left his wife and daughter unceremoniously after his step-daughter committed suicide at the age of 15. Looking for this figure who will love her unconditionally, Ruth bases herself in Bombay, working in a seedy spa where she offers handjobs (handshakes and happy endings as she calls them) to her customers for an additional sum of money. [Read more →]

September 9, 2011   5 Comments  

Review: Midnight in Paris

Paris in 2010, Paris in the 1920s, Paris by day, Paris by night. Woody Allen’s latest offering, Midnight in Paris is really about the beauty of the city. Not the picturesque, postcard beauty Paris is associated with, but the beauty of the vibrant history of this city. [Read more →]

September 6, 2011   No Comments  

The Past and Future of Film Criticism at Cinema City

The Cinema City film festival in Novi Sad, Serbia, hosted a panel discussion on the future of film criticism with director Gerald Peary, following the screening of his documentary, For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism (2009). The film offers a useful summary of the different roles of the film critic over nearly a century: plot summarizer, star rating authority, moral adjudicator, artistic assessor, layman film buff, and even, more recently, undercover promoter. Along the way, it turns a spotlight on the founders of the profession in America, names which will be strangely unfamiliar to many viewers, even to film critics. More recent stars of American film criticism are far better known: Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. The documentary keeps its talking head interviews short and entertaining, which makes the film an easy watch. It is organised chronologically at first, but as it reaches the contemporary period, the film’s final sections attempt to answer questions about the future of criticism: as the industry puts more pressure on the media to publish favourable reviews, and as traditional print publications decline in favour of web-based resources, what is the future of the professional critic as an independent film expert? [Read more →]

June 22, 2011   No Comments  

In Limbo at Cinema City

Maria Sødahl has made an assured feature debut with Limbo (2010), which was previously screened at Montreal and Thessaloniki. Set in the 1970s, Limbo centres on a Norwegian woman named Sonia who, with her two children, goes to Trinidad to join her husband Joe who is working for an oil company. She receives a warm welcome from the expatriate community, especially the Swedish wife of one of Joe’s colleagues who is happy to find someone who speaks her language. [Read more →]

June 20, 2011   No Comments  

The Allegory of the ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’, 3D

When I arrived at my hotel in Berlin to cover the film festival, I was surprised to discover a default image of a wood fire quietly crackling away on the flat screen TV on the wall of my room. I wondered what our caveman relatives would have made of a civilization that has come to this point: we don’t need a fire for heat anymore, but we still enjoy seeing and hearing one, even if it’s virtual. [Read more →]

March 15, 2011   No Comments  

Review: Phas Gaye Re Obama

by Neha Bhatt

There is so much to love about Phas Gaye Re Obama that it’s a wonder there was barely a whimper about it at any of the recent award ceremonies this season that claimed to have recognised and appreciated small films like Udaan, Peepli Live, Love, Sex aur Dhoka and Band Baja Barat. For, surely, a satire as subtlety crafted and clever as this deserves to be lauded?

Debutant director Subhash Kapoor engages us with characters that are so warm and impossibly sincere that you can’t help but root for them right from the start, even though they’re unashamedly on the wrong side of the law.  Wannabe goon Anni (a fantastic Manu Rishi, as always) who is earnestly taking English speaking classes with Obama ‘s ‘Yes we can’ on his lips desperately wants to migrate to’ Amreeka’. His guru, kidnapper chief Bhaisaab (Sanjai Misra) is so utterly bankrupt that the outgoing on his phone is [Read more →]

February 11, 2011   1 Comment  

Review: No One Killed Jessica

Rajkumar’s Gupta’s last film, Aamir was deeply disturbing and politically problematic, but was crisply made and technically sound. In the world he created in that film and the characters he etched out, Gupta betrayed his inability to understand that the visuals of a film, its spaces, and its aesthetics are crucial to what the film says, often more so than even actual spoken words. In spite of all these problems, the film was well-shot and had a strong centre. With his latest film, No One Killed Jessica, Gupta has undone whatever little he achieved with Aamir.

The story (“part ‘fact’ part fiction” according to the opening disclaimer) is based on the infamous murder of the Delhi-based model, Jessica Lall. The trailers tell us that the film focuses on Sabrina, Jessica’s sister and her fight to put the accused Manu Sharma (Manish Bhardwaj in this film) behind bars. A parallel crucial character is Meera Gaitey a cussing, smoking, career-oriented reporter who suddenly remembers her duty as a journalist and decides to take up the coverage of the Jessica Lall murder case, starting the Justice  for Jessica campaign that went on to see a number of candlelight vigils. [Read more →]

January 12, 2011   No Comments  

Taming by Nidal Aldibs

by Latika Padgaonkar

You leave the cinema hall slightly unsettled after viewing Nadal Al Dibs’ latest film Taming. Like having experienced the real and the unreal. The film had its world premiere at the recently concluded Abu Dhabi Film Festival as was part of the Narrative Competition. Set in Damascus to begin with, the film moves into the desert, and you begin to wonder whether the magic of the desert haunts the senses of the characters or the viewer or of both. [Read more →]

November 17, 2010   No Comments