@ Osians Cinefan Film Fest: I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone by Tsai Ming-Liang

I wasn’t planning to write a review of I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone since I was so tired I slept through a significant part of it, but the 60 percent of the film I saw still haunts me. I missed all the connections, didn’t get the storyline, but the cinematography and the treatment of the plot is disturbing.

The film is a collection of long single shots of odd behaviour – it’s dark and the lack of dialogue intensifies the sound from the movements – so much so, while walking back to the car, driving back, eating, taking a leak — every sound seemed amplified, every moment seemed lonely. This is particularly significant in light of comments made by Shefaly to this post – people with gadgets to talk into but nobody to talk to, people with more chargers than books, people with a fear of the sound of silence- and the discussion thereafter, as well as the significance of the ending to She and He by Eyles Baccar.

I Don’t Want To Sleep Alone has long dark takes of strange behaviour in an abandoned building which make the whole experience gloomy. Long shots of men carrying a discarded mattress through a street to an abandoned building, of one man struggling to help an almost lifeless man defecate. There’s a scene of foreplay between the protagonist – a man living in an abandoned building on a discarded mattress – and a waitress. The air is full of smoke and they’ve both got masks on. Every time they remove the masks to kiss, they start coughing. After several agonizing minutes of attempts and half kisses in between loud coughs – they give up. Some people found it amusing, though.

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@ Osians Cinefan Film Fest: She & He by Eyles Baccar

Note: The film is being screened again on the 29th at 10am at Siri Fort (I intend to watch it again) so spoilers after “More”(below).

She & He is a film about limits which frequently makes that leap into the surreal with the incorporation of absurdist elements. It’s clearly a writers films with short, sharp and intense dialogues, tantrums and long speechless scenes that intensify the impact of the words that follow. The film draws from several genres, including the Theatre of the Absurd, Horror, with elements of sadomasochism (tribute to Fellini?).

The Tunisian film is almost entirely focused on two main characters in an apartment – a “She” and a “He” – and took around 4 years to write, two weeks to shoot and 18 months to edit. For the filming, they rented two apartments – one for the shoot and the other for the equipment and the actors. The only people allowed outside those two rooms were the caterers.

“It’s a film about limits, shot within limits” said Director Eyles Baccar, “a limit of sets, actors, budget. It’s about the limits set upon us by religion, law, people”. The absurdist reactions, the quiet building up of emotions before outbursts, the constant switch of feelings for the other actor stems from pent up rage and sexual tension.

“Tunisia is a closed society in many ways – where half the people are regular citizens, and the other half cops. It’s a constant state of paranoia and fear. So I wanted to project that situation, and what kind of an impact it can have on people”

There were moments where the film seemed to be a horror film – with the lighting, the screams in the background. “She” almost looked dead at times, particularly in the beginning. “We wanted her to look both real and not real at the same time” said Baccar. “There were small things that we did to make the film always seem on the limit.” The dialogues sometimes just didn’t seem connected, and Baccar confirmed the absurdist influence of Beckett…

The lighting was from behind the wall, said Baccar; not a human eye, and the filming wasn’t true to the logic of the frame. There’s also the element of time – the film seems longer than the interaction between the two main characters — just 2-3 hrs, Baccar said — because of the way it is split. There were some who thought this had elements of theater because of the single set and few characters.

Baccar says that he really cant make the film like this again because though this film is not autobiographical, he was going through a troubled phase – his treatment of the concept would be different if he were to make it now.
Spoilers below

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On Devdas, The Titanic And How Films Help In Irrigation

Attended a discussion on Devdas at Cinefan (hadn’t intended to, but I was given the wrong ticket), where Meghnad Desai compared the three versions of Devdas that he has seen (the sign at the ticket counter said “Devdas is not a film, it’s a discussion). Among other things, he mentioned that Dilip Kumar was under a pressure trying to live up to the 1935 version: for a particular scene, in order to look haggard and tired enough, he ran around the set four-five times. Desai felt that 1935 version was most true to the 45 novella that inspired 11 films in multiple languages, as well as several scenes as tributes in others.

He spoke about a scene in the 1935 version where Paro offers herself to Devdas, so that they may be married, and Devdas refuses – and repents thereafter. That’s something which the subsequent versions dropped, and hence Devdas’ repentance was never as convincing.

Another interesting point – the characters of Devdas and Paro remained more or less the same, but it was Chandramukhi’s character which evolved. Anyway, I haven’t seen any of these films (apart from Bhansali’s version while on a bus between Bombay and Pune), so
I’ll just quote him on Chandramukhi living in a large house, larger than that of Devdas or Paro in Bhansali’s version: “It’s obvious that while crime doesn’t always pay, sex surely does.”

I then went for “Comrades in Dreams”, which was a documentary on cinemas in various parts of the world – Burkina Faso, Maharashtra (India), USA and North Korea. It was interesting in parts – about people whose entire lives revolve around the theatres they run — the wives of the men who run the theatre in Burkina Faso complain about lack of sex because the men are too busy running the theatre, the man from Maharashtra says that one major attribute that he wants in a wife is that she should be willing to accept that he is away from home for five months in a year, with his travelling Cinema in a tent.

The high point of the film are the comments around the Titanic – chappie from Maharashtra says “People here want to see people like themselves on the screen, not a movie about a sinking ship! It hardly ever rains here, so who would want to watch a movie with so much water?” Also amusing (unintentionally this time) were comments on the “true love story – Rose didnt want to leave Jack frozen” etc. I couldn’t get connection because, well, I haven’t seen the Titanic.

The film technician from North Korea said “Films help farmers in irrigation and increase crop production”. Then she explained that they choose films depending on what they perceive as peoples needs – when they show films on farming and irrigation, it’s educational for farmers. You didn’t see that coming, didja?

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@Cinefan: Day 3, five more movies

I decided NOT sit in the front row if I intended to watch five films in the day. I did, so I didn’t.

Important to note that if you’re buying tickets, you MUST check them. I’ve had problems each time I’ve bought tickets – first time, I wasn’t given a ticket for one particular show, and the second time, I was given two tickets for a particular show, and charged extra. they returned the money, of course, but others were heard complaining about their misadventures with ticket purchases. Prashant and Jeetu had paid for tickets for The Birds, and but realized next day that they hadn’t been given those.

So, I watched the Yacoubian Building – a 160 minute, beautifully crafted film, Crossing the Dust, Desert Dream, Falafel and Vanaja. I dont think I’ll have the energy for reviews, but will try.

Today I intend to watch Rekados and Comrades in Dreams. From tomorrow onwards, am at he fest morning to night, five movies. Yay!

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@Cinefan: Osian’s database, and impressions of Day 2

New year, same old problems. I walked into Siri Fort 1to watch Mizoguchi’s Sansho the Bailiff, to find someone arguing with the organizers about being allowed to take a bottle of water inside. It’s entirely random – they allow water in for some shows, not for others.

Later, when I went to buy tickets for a second time, they asked for my “registrations slip”, without which, one isn’t allowed to purchase tickets. This is a new Cinefan irritant, and they’ve brought it in to break the monotony of the usual irritants.

So, now that I’ve been covering the businesses for a year, I know what they’re trying to do. Businesses are about consumer databases, and Osian’s is collecting profile information on their visitors – name, address, email address (strangely, not phone number). Once you have a database, you monetize it. Given the thousands of people who attend this, and the general upper middle class-upper class attendees, that’s quite a useful database to have.
Anyway – I watched 5 films yesterday (will watch 5 more today): Sansho the Bailiff by Mizoguchi, Times and Winds by Reha Erdem, Days of Glory by Rachid Bouchareb, Taki no Shiraito by Mizoguchi (note: the “no” in that name is probably a recommendation) and Night Shadows by Nasser Bakhti.

Met a few friends: Udatta of CanvasM, Prashant and Jeetu, and the world famous Jai Arjun Singh (with wife) who was mobbed by fans who remembered posts that he has forgotten. (Rumor has it they’re rolling out a separate red carpet for Jai today, and putting up an entire section with printouts of some of his posts and doing a re-enactment of a Dharam-Veer song in his honour) Incidentally, there was a board carefully hidden away from regular public view that had the tagline for a movie “It’s gay, it’s crazy”. Old film, with a now politically incorrect tagline.

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Cinefan Ahoy!

Really looking forward to the Cinefan film fest (21st – 29th). This year, films are also being screened at two PVRs – Rivoli and Plaza, so that’s tempting since they’re just a metro ride from home for me. However, most films are being screened at Siri Fort, so I’m probably just going to hang out there. If you’re there, let me know…

I was at Siri Fort for most of the 10 days last year (skipped a few to help out with the Blogger Block). I saw 4-6 films on a few days and I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone. Similar plans this year – I’ve planned my vacation in such a manner that it coincides with Cinefan, and I’m likely to be there throughout, except for a couple of days that I’ll be working during the day.
Download the schedule here (MS Excel file)
Some tips for noobs:

1. No phones allowed inside Siri Fort, unless you’re a delegate or a journalist. They might have some arrangement for keeping the phones, but the process takes quite a lot of time. I usually keep the phone in the car…this year, it’ll ensure a work-free few days for me 🙂
2. The weekend movies are sold out the quickest, as are the Hindi films. Tickets aren’t expensive (Rs. 20 per movie last year) so quite a few people buy ’em “just in case”. That sucks, but that’s the way it is. I couldn’t get tickets for Offside last year, but found someone with an extra ticket.
3. The Indian films are the usually avoidable…and difficult to get tickets for anyway, so no problem. Arab and Asian films are usually the best, unless it’s the first film ever made in Oman (which was Bollywood-ish).

Reviews of films I’ve seen at Cinefan (i liked the ones in bold):

Faltu,
Time Far Past,
Paradise Now,
It Could Be You,
When Fish Fall in Love
,
Everlasting Regret
,
Cilmates (Lklimler),

The Scream of the Ants
,
Grain in Ear
,
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring

There were a couple of other Stanley Kwan films that I liked, but didn’t review. Also really like Offside as well.

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Rock ‘n Roll Is Dead: RIP James Brown; BMW Movie Series

Like Adi said, looks like the deal with the devil didn’t work out. Which deal? This one:
[youtube]nQcnTbFDVIM[/youtube]

(if the movie doesn’t load, try this)

RIP James Brown.

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(This is one of the BMW short movies, a series which apparently saw over a million downloads. How’s that for creating a buzz? The movie also stars Clive Owen and Gary Oldman, and has a guest appearance by Marilyn Manson. It was directed by Tony Scott. The critical aspect is that the content is high quality, even though it is branded. There is no BMW flashing in your face – it’s a part of the plot. High quality branded content…does such a thing even exist in India? Or even high quality content, for that matter…)

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Chasing Angelina Jolie

No, I’m not.

An FTII based team of filmmakers is making a documentary on how to get within three feet of Jolie and speak to her for three minutes. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are in Pune, staying, it seems, at Le Meridien. The paparazzi of the world are on a stake-out in Pune.

So, how is this FTII team different from the reporters and the paparazzi? Well, they’re going to try to reach her by ethical means, and document the entire process.

I’m going to be blogging for them, so if you have any questions – let me know.

Update: I’ve set up a blog for this, since, erm, it’s not really a Mixed Bag kind of thing. It could be, but its not. Whatever. See http://chasingangelinajolie.wordpress.com

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Omkara

Wonderful cinematic experience. Apart from a couple of songs, not a boring moment in the movie. Both Saif Ali Khan and Konkana Sen Sharma are brilliant…the chap who played Roderigo, the one whom Saif’s Langda Tyagi (Iago) manipulates was also very believable. Can’t get enough of Konkana Sen Sharma – she had even made Mixed Doubles watchable. She’s hot. Echoing Jai’s words – is there nothing she can’t do?

I didn’t like:
1. Omkara/Othello’s character was not allowed to develop. He’s their leader and exercises hierarchical dominance. Apart from that, he’s no different from the rest.
2. Omkara’s half-caste (moor) reality could have been exploited in the UP context, but sadly, is hardly touched upon.
3. Keshu/Cassio does very little to justify his position as bahubali. He seems too naiive/confused a kid, and perhaps some element of gallantry would have helped make him believable. A miscast? Was he scripted an impotent character…cause Cassio wasn’t one.
4. The snake-in-yellow-stuff was the only scene that felt over the top. Omen’s are a part of Indian culture, but it didn’t have to be as explicit as this. Omkara stepping out was good enough.
5. Bipasha Basu as ‘Billo Chamanbahar’ could have been more believable if she had excess, badly put make-up…she looked like a prim and proper star straight out of Bollywood, and didn’t do justice to the rural setting.

I loved the final shot, and the silent rolling of the credits. Catharsis was made believable, so kudos to the director for a splendid job. Possibly the most memorable scene is where Saif puts the kamarbandh around his head- he looks powerful and consumed with evil…a snake. The devil. Then there’s a scene where Konkana Sen Sharma looks mad with rage, like Kali.

This is definite must must watch…at least twice.

A complete review here. Jai’s is here.

P.s.:
PVR Naraina Rant:
What spoilt the last 30 odd minutes of the movie for me was incessant wailing from two ends of PVR Naraina. I hate that theater and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. Every time I go there (and only because a friend of mine books tickets for that useless theater only), there’s some dumb f**k who’s brought in the kids for a serious movie, and then spends half the f**king movie placating the kid or ignoring it. This woman, two rows ahead of me, kept pacing up and down the hall with the wailing and jumping kid, obviously distracting the audience. I mean, if your kid is crying non-stop and you can’t manage it – get out!!! Why spoil the fun for the rest of us?
This was an adult movie, so how come PVR let in (at least) 4 kids?
Frankly, I think these theaters should have a no-kids policy, or separate timings. If my cousin sis is reading this (she’s started reading blogs, heh), she’ll say – once you have kids, you’ll get to know.
*sigh* I guess I’ll have bear with idiots in cinema halls until I can afford a big screen TV with a home theater system, and a kid-disintegrator at the entrance.

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Osian’s Cinefan Film Fest: The Scream of the Ants by Mohsen Makhmalbaf

The basic message of Makhmalbaf‘s latest, The Scream of the Ants (Shaere Zobale-Ha) is as follows:

The Scream of the Ants starts promisingly enough: An Iranian couple wait, with the wife sitting on a chair and the husband loitering about, in the middle of a railway track. The wife has a glove stuck to her face (attached to her sunglasses, we later find out), to keep the sun out: a quirky beginning. They stop a train, get on, and sitting by the window, argue about God and religion. A seemingly lecherous journalist butts in and starts a conversation with the wife about tourists in India. All tourists who come to India are stupid, he says prudently.

The journalist informs the couple that the train is headed straight for a baba, a holy man, who can supposedly stop the train with his eyes. Sure enough, the journalist and the couple hang out of the train, and spot a half naked sadhu with his hands raised, The train slows to a halt near him, and to celebrate the baba’s miracle, a few thousand beggars converge on the train to accept alms from the passengers.


His secret: none. One day, disillusioned, he had squatted on the track to commit suicide, and the driver stopped the train himself. The beggars caught on, and proclaimed it a miracle to collect alms. Since then, the poor old man is a hostage to the beggars’ greed, and the drivers don’t take a risk and stop the train. The couple then try to rescue him, but are powerless against the crowd. A remarkable beginning. This is going to be fun, I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The scene shifts to Rajasthan where the wife and husband quarrel over religious beliefs, and the want of a child. He doesn’t want to bring a child into this miserable world, he says, and walks out,straight into the arms of a prostitute with a call center accent.

What follows then should go down in history as the weirdest scene ever (you’re free so disagree and tell me about weirder scenes) where our man talks weird religious mumbo jumbo to the prostitute, makes her his table (no, seriously). He drinks alcohol from a glass kept on her naked back, and then talks about the cow god. Now drunk or mentally retarded (or both, for his sake), he proceeds to pour alcohol on a statue of the cow god and drinks it. Don’t believe me? See this:

Click to enlarge

No prizes for guessing who this fascination with cows reminded me of?

We suddenly switch to a scene in the desert. The wife is in search of the Perfect Man, and it seems, everyone has heard of him.

Wife: Do you know where the Perfect Man lives?
Random Person: He lives there. (points)

Wife: Do you know where the Perfect Man lives?
He-Man: By the power of GraySkull. There (points)

(Note:I made the last one up, but I wouldn’t have put it beyond Makhmalbaf to add that scene to this movie. Probably cut it in the editing)

The taxi driver is willing to forgo a fare tells them that they ought to walk to him. How often have you seen the perfect man? they ask the Cow Man, a buddhist by the looks of it, as he takes them to the Perfect Man. Very few times, he tells them. When they reach the cottage, it seems that The Cow Man = The Perfect Man, and he only has seen the perfect man very few times because he doesn’t keep a mirror. Right. Mr. Perfect Man, as the wife calls him, writes something on a piece of paper and tells the wife to heat it in the holy city, over fire, after three days.

In the Holy City, they meet the Shit Man, who thinks everything is shit. We’re subjected to images of burning bodies, and decayed corpses flowing in the Ganga, as people take dips to purify themselves. There’s lots of philosophical, psychotic gyan, and the Shit man keeps saying that everything is shit, with a German accent. The two thirds of the film (post the baba stopping the train) is full of religious mumbo jumbo about life, sex, birth, rebirth and possibly the result of reading too many Osho magzines. Some old woman says that she wants freedom from the birth-rebirth cycle, and the audience goes – What shit? in a German accent. Everything is shit anyway.

Somewhere, the wife remembers that she’s got a letter to read, and with some more philosophical religious couplet, the movie ends.

Is it just a co-incidence that the direct tranlsation of the movie’s title in arabic is ‘Poet of the waste’?

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P.s.:
One of many reasons for the Congress government to protest the screening of this movie: There’s talk about Gandhi’s sex life, that he had sex with his wife all night long the day his father died. How anti-national. One of many reasons for the BJP to protest the screening of this movie: The cow god and the alcohol. What an insult to our Hindu Gods! Secondly, it’s Nandhi the bull, and not a ‘cow god’. Malkmalbaf got his facts wrong.

P.s.2:
During the scene with the nude prostitute as a table, several cops came into the theatre. Others noisily went to call the rest, repeatedly disturbing those who sat close to the exits. No probs. After all, cops also have a right to watch sex scenes while on duty.

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