So without further ado let us begin.
Closed Curtain (Pardé)
Director:- Jafar Panahi & Kambuzia Partovi
What starts out as a film seemingly about a man spending time alone at his beach house with his dog for peace of mind soon turns into a film about the invasion of privacy & the travails of living under exile with the arrival of new characters. And then mid-way through the film, director Jafar Panahi enters the movie as a character. He is playing himself. From this point on the difference between what's happening in 'reality' & what's occurring in the director's mind becomes paper thin. It fondles with this interesting idea of how a creation views it's creator. Though heavy with subtext & surrealism it is handled deftly. There are long stretches of scenes that required patience to watch especially as the film incorporates no music whatsoever. By the end the film leaves the audience to unravel the sequence of events that may or may not have taken place, the good thing though is each viewer may find his/her own conclusions.
Director: James Gray
But with Joaquin Phoenix in the mix & a Palme d'Or nomination at Cannes I expected a first rate feature. Well, I was wrong.
'The Immigrant' is bland & boring. Apart from the splendid art deco & costumes which recreate the 1920's there's very little to keep you hooked here. Joaquin Phoenix overacts with aplomb as the oleaginous pimp, Marion Cotillard is not bad as the conflicted central character but her 'victim-of-circumstance' act borders on monotony. The only bright spot is Jeremy Renner who shines in his performance as a sprightly magician but unfortunately does not have enough screen time. Treatment wise there is a sense of lethargy all through. A plot like this sounds Oscar bait on paper but it just doesn't convert on screen.
Watch 'The Immigrant' when it's playing on TV someday on a lazy afternoon & you have nothing better to do. Actually don't, take an afternoon nap instead.
Director: Nagraj Manjule
Social evils are alive & thriving in our country no matter how much we try & put a blanket over them, & to a greater extent in our villages where more than 70% of our population still lives. 'Fandry' is the story of an adolescent boy called 'Jabya' belonging to a lower caste in a Maharashtrian village. A story of his lofty aspirations as well his crushing reality.
There have been numerous films about the horrors of the caste system but none quite like this one. There's never a dull moment here, Through the story of the boy we are more or less coming face to face with our hypocrisy and ignorance. This does not mean that the film is deeply depressing. The subplots about Jabya trying to woo a classmate (belonging to a higher caste) with the help of his friend & having a boyish obsession with catching a black sparrow (which is his means of fanciful escapism) provide enough occasions for hearty laughter. Really though the film addresses the core issue without being preachy & to say that that is commendable is putting it mildly.
The acting all around is top notch & a special mention to the wonderful soundtrack by Aloknanda Das Gupta. I had the privilege to hear the director speak post the screening where he said it's a personal film for him as most of the things are based from his real life experiences and it shows.
Picasso's Gang (La Banda Picasso)
Director: Fernando Colomo
It is shot excellently with a brisk & bouncy screenplay & fantastic performances by all the actors. If you're an art & literature connoisseur of the early 1900's there's even more for you to love here as you might be able to spot the references & "in" jokes better. The 'gang' here refers to a group of artists which went on to revolutionize the world with their art but before that they were but youngsters trying to make ends meet, sometimes by not very healthy means and how they get embroiled in a theft at the Louvre museum.
A heavy handed topic like early 19th century art is lovingly repainted with a comical brush and it's much fun while it lasts. Time well spent.