Manhattan Murder Mystery wasn’t a top-notch Woody. Yet, despite this light-hearted fare being a lesser work vis-à-vis his masterpieces, it still was an immensely enjoyable, witty and funny film where he made smart use of an overtly cinematic murder mystery tale for his distinctive musings on urban relationships, neuroses, dysfunctions and foibles. That he could make such an effortlessly funny movie while in a huge tabloid scandal involving Mia Farrow speaks volumes about the natural abilities of this prolific filmmaker and humorist. The marriage of middle-aged New York couple Larry (Allen) and Carol (Diane Keaton, last-minute replacement for Farrow) is slowly moving into a state of stasis and ennui as she finds him boring. They are jerked out of their routines when she starts believing that their friendly elderly neighbour (Jerry Adler) has killed his wife. Larry, who is anything but an adventurous person, is convinced that his wife is hunting for straws in the air, and to further compound his sense of frustrations and insecurity, the still-gorgeous Carol gets a willing partner in her investigations in the form of their flirtatious and dashing long-time friend (Alan Alda). The tightly-plotted tale of twists and turns was balanced by the typically whimsical tone, rambling conversations and quirky character dynamics. There were enough self-deprecatory humour, intelligent one-liners, terrific chemistry between the leads, and references to classic noirs – shots of Double Indemnity highlighting the motif, and the iconic finale of The Lady from Shanghai complementing the climax – to help one ignore the plot holes, and kept it at an arm’s length from his more serious ventures involving crime and morality like Crimes and Misdemeanors, Match Point, etc.
Director: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy/Mystery/Urban Comedy/Marriage Comedy
Friday, 6 December 2013
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Lights in the Dusk, the final installment in Kaurismaki’s ‘Finland Trilogy’ aka ‘Loser Trilogy’ (a number of his other films too could easily be clubbed with it), was a typically dour, droll and deadpan portrayal of the heartbreak and loneliness, particularly for the working class, in a cold and heartless metropolis. Though filled with decidedly dark tone, bleak plot developments, deadpan humour and bitter ironies that the protagonist is nearly always at the receiving end of, the director’s deep-set humanism and empathy cannot be missed; consequently, like The Man Without A Past, which was the best of the lot, even though this relentlessly tragic film didn’t really end on a happy note, the final shot, through its fleeting indication at hopefulness and optimism, is sure to leave one with a smile. Kostinen (Janne Hyytiäinen) is a lonely and introverted night security-guard at a sprawling shopping complex in Helsinki with an infinite hope for a better future, despite the seemingly inescapable hole he’s stuck in. Consequently when, inexplicably, an attractive blonde lady (Maria Järvenhelmi) approaches him with the offer of love, he gets into it with no questions asked, oblivious of the fact that she’s the moll of a gangster (Ilkka Koivula) and intends to use him and then discard him like an empty cigarette pack. All this while he never realizes that an equally lonely vendor of hot dogs (Maria Heiskanen) might just be holding a flame for him. Though forever at the receiving end of unfairness, Aki managed to strike a delicate balance between pathos and cruelty, with the soft colour palettes and melancholic musical interludes making this wry black comedy quietly affecting.
Director: Aki Kaurismaki
Genre: Drama/Black Comedy/Social Satire
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
In We Won’t Grow Old Together, Pialat provided a detailed and captivating look into the final few months of a relationship that had already grown stale by the time the film begins, even though the couple is still very much in love with each other, albeit in their own ways. And this final and total disintegration was shown in a style that was rigorous, unflinching and unsentimental. Jean (Jean Yanne) is a gruff, possessive, irascible, brutish and domineering filmmaker in his 40s, and he is in a 6-year old extra-marital relationship with Catherine (Marlène Jobert), a soft, frail, fragile, emotional and directionless 24-year old girl; interestingly, his wife Françoise (Macha Méril) is aware of his affair and is still amiable to him even though their marriage, for all practical purposes, has been long over. Jean’s unpredictability, his sudden displays of boorishness and his non-committal nature have long alienated Catherine, and she is vocal about his intent to leave him; yet, she can’t seem to stay away from him for long and keeps returning despite his callous attitude towards her. However, only when she finally decides to move on for good, he realizes that he can’t live without her company – and so, by having pushed away the two women who have loved him, only to have realized too late, he’s ensured of his destiny to grow old alone and lonely. The serene-looking surface nicely encapsulated strong underlying emotions and provided a peek into a painful and scarring love. Yanne gave an excellent turn that was a less explosive variant of his abrasive role in Chabrol’s Que la Bête Meure, and with the capacity for remorse, regret and being nostalgic about fond memories.
Director: Maurice Pialat
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Romantic Drama
Anik Dutta’s linguistic prowess was proven in his hilarious debut film Bhuter Bhabishyat, and his adroitness at using humour through wordplays, innuendoes, puns, wisecracks and ironies, for the purpose of socio-political satires, was in full display here in Ashchorjyo Prodeep. Though one might find the script and dialogues too loaded and over-indulgent at times, with a slight overdose of double entendres, the film succeeded in inducing belly-laughs as well as somber introspection on account of the lacerating commentary on rabid consumerism. Based on a short story by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, this covered a couple of days in the life of a typical middle-class Bengali man (Saswata Chatterjee), who is not particularly fond of his job, lives in a cramped place at an Old Calcutta locale, is married to a buxom and openly unsatisfied lady (Sreelekha Mitra), has very few material possessions and demands, and secretly fantasizes on a Bollywood sexpot (Mumtaz Sorcar),. His unspectacular life of conveniences and compromises, however, takes a U-turn when he stumbles upon an antique magic lamp and makes the acquaintance of a dark-suited genie (Rajatava Dutta) who is ready to make all his latent desires come true. His incredible joy at this fortuitous development, unfortunately, transforms into despair over the course of the day as he ends up experiencing more than he bargained for. The insipid music videos and a few weak moments apart (which ought to have been edited out), this tacit morality play, with the simple fun of the previous film replaced by darker humour and hues, managed to be an engaging watch. Saswata and Rajatava were excellent as were the cinematography and production designs.
Director: Anik Dutta
Genre: Comedy/Black Comedy/Social Satire
Monday, 2 December 2013
British critics were so appalled, reviled and shocked by Peeping Tom that it nearly destroyed the career of Michael Powell of the celebrated Powell- Pressburger duo – such was the devastating power of its theme and content. The Hitchcockian film was an audacious, disturbing and challenging examination of perversion, voyeurism and sexual fetishism, and like Rear Window, provided powerful self-reflexive commentary on the medium of cinema and the act of watching movies. Mark Lewis (Karl-Heinz Boehm), the film’s shy young loner protagonist who works in the movie industry and takes photographs for a pornographic magazine in the evenings, is the titular ‘Peeping Tom’. He also indulges in a grotesque obsession – that of filming people with his 16mm camera while in the act of killing them and leaving a trail of inexplicable murders in the process, and then secretly getting high on them in his personal studio. His life, however, takes an unanticipated turn when he starts falling for his sweet-natured tenant Helen (Anna Massey) whose blind mother develops an increasingly bad feeling about him. Powell, in a fascinating decision, sympathetically portrayed this scarred and sociopathic sexual deviant but an otherwise likeable character whose moral compass is way outside the margins of socially accepted behavior – the fact that his deceased father (played by Powell himself) used him as a ‘live’ guinea pig when he was a kid for his experimentation on the reaction of human psychosis to fear, added deeply poignant undercurrents to his grisly addiction. Boehm gave an astonishingly effective turn, while the superb photography, which made terrific use of expressionistic angles, flamboyant colours and POV shots, made this an even more darkly memorable and visceral experience.
Director: Michael Powell
Genre: Thriller/Psychological Thriller