Welcome to the most late-to-the-party post about this year’s Mumbai Film Festival, affectionately called MAMI.
This is the first time I attended the Mumbai Film Festival. Actually it’s my first time at any film festival 🙂 I wasn’t disappointed, overall that is: watching so many movies over one week, discussing them with friends over samosa chaats and sandwiches and cups of tea, all while rushing from one auditorium to the other, is fun. So, here’s the list of movies I saw, in decreasing order of preference.
Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (Le Grande Bellezza)
It’s about the life of a writer who’s living the decadent high-life in Rome. It’s visually magnificent, humorous, and thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe the best film I’ve seen in recent times.
Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis
A gloomy film about a young folk singer in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the ’60s, who’s struggling to make it big, but can’t catch a break. Well he could be a little less miserable if only he could change the way he was a bit, but he does not.
Fahad Mustafa & Deepti Kakkar’s Powerless / Katiyabaaz
A documentary about the state of power distribution in Kanpur, and the alternate industry called Katiyabaaz this has spawned, it’s a documentary which feels like a drama-comedy-thriller crossover. The characters, played by the real people themselves, talk without help of dialogues, but they might as well have been written & bound in a script, for they evoke all the responses you’d expect from a scripted drama.
Yong-gyun Kim’s Killer Toon / Deo Web-toon: Ye- go Sal-in
Gripping, horrifying, with lots of emotional hooks to keep you glued. The latter half loses the suspense element to give way to lots of exposition, to keep up with the somewhat complicated plot. But a unique concept, and competent direction make it a favourite.
Steven Knight’s Locke
How long can one scene be? How gripping can a very long scene be? Steven Knight shows us that the rules of filmmaking can be ignored/bypassed/broken, and still a fantastic piece of cinema can be made. Locke is a construction professional, who is on his way to London to take care of a one-time mistake he made around a year ago, partly because it’s who he is, and partly because of how his father had behaved in a similar situation years ago. It raises a lot of questions, uncomfortable ones, and doesn’t answer any of them. Just like life.
Amit Masurkar’s Sulemani Keeda
Jane Bhi Do Yaaro hangover? Maybe. Except that this movie does not have any commentary on politics or the state of our country. It’s a light-hearted story of two struggling screenwriters who live in where-else-but-Versova, and their journey – to find work and meaning. Cameos by Mahesh Bhatt, Anil Sharma, and Razzaq Khan, who plays a producer father of a wannabe director son, whose cat is called, what-else-but-Fellini. Also, Aditi Vasudev looks her most stunning here.
Guillaume Brac’s Tonnerre
The only love story that I saw here, albeit an unusual one. A 30-something musician comes visit his father in the small town of Tonnerre, and starts dating a much younger reporter with a local magazine. The girl’s ex-boyfriend is a local sportsman closer to her age. The usual complications in such a situation arise, and juxtaposed with our guy’s relationship & past with his father, it makes for an interesting & gripping story.
Boris Khlebnikov’s A Long and Happy Life / Dolgaya schastlivaya zhizn
A leisurely paced story of a farmer, who’s stuck between the easy way out of giving up his farm for a huge sum of money, or standing up for workers on his farm, who eventually desert him. It’s interesting to observe his psychological condition, from uncertainty, to a sense of purpose, to betrayal and then obstinacy. The performances are good, the story touching, and the Russian countryside looks beautiful throughout the film.
Anup Singh’s Qissa
A film that uses an unbelievable premise and a supernatural twist to tell us a tale which is about a very real problem – of the state of girl children in India. Stellar performances, almost mythical storytelling, and a largely tight screenplay make it a must watch.
Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin / Tian Zhu ding
Four real stories of four different people who didn’t have much to begin with, their struggle to make a living despite that, and how sin enters their lives. It’s so good that the only time I noticed how long it was was at the end of the third story. I had expected it to be the last one.
Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry
Wow for the storytelling. It’s the story of a boy who belongs to the class of untouchables, his one-sided love for a girl way out of his reach, and his struggle to get her amidst all the hardships he faces because of his ‘identity’.
Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo
It’s Gondry. So it’s absurdism at its best. The story is a pretty simple tragedy – of a man who has everything, finds love, and then loses everything in the process of trying to save her. But it’s visually entertaining with the legs that stretch in curves while dancing, doorbells who run like arachnids when they go off, the mouse who strangely looks like a tiny man in a mouse suit, the flower that grows inside lungs, and many others, which make an otherwise simple story interesting enough to watch.
Tudor Cristian Jurgiu’s The Japanese Dog / Cainele Japonez
A sweet idyllic movie about the conflict between a father who, against everyone’s advice in his village, is holding on to his land and life in the village hoping for his son’s eventual return, and the son, who’s made a life for himself in faraway Japan with his Japanese wife & son, and how these two worlds reconcile.
J. C. Chandor’s All is Lost
Life of Pi meets Gravity meets Tree of Life? One character who is out sailing in his yacht, and faces the perils of sea. Words are spoken only twice – when the nameless character does a sort of an intro of his voyage, and later when he tries speaking to someone on the radio asking for help. Beautiful camera work. And the character’s arc is in place. But it’s tedious, very tedious. I haven’t looked at my watch so many times in any other movie.
James Gray’s The Immigrant
A thoroughly boring movie, if ever there was one. The only thing bearable was Marion Cotillard’s face, but throughout the movie even she bore the same stiff pained expression of eternal suffering. Throughout the movie I was reminded of Nolan’s The Prestige, because of the period and the palette, but sadly this movie lacks all the humour and charm of The Prestige.