Monday, October 31, 2005
The Asian Film Festival Pune, 2005 – Day 4Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 7:18 AM
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Day Four was the only day of the festival which might be considered something of a waste. The films were mostly fine, but there was nothing new to be experienced, expect for 19 wonderful minutes which I will talk about.
The films I saw were: Slit Eyes (Malaysia – Yasmin Ahmad), A Sigh (China – Feng Xiaogang), and four short films – G-23 (Singapore – Anthony Chen), Evacuation Order (Israel – Shoshi Greenfield), A Little Bit Different (Israel – Rachel Scheinfeld-Gadot) and A Woman Laughed (Israel – Zohar Asher, Ella Waterman, Tzipi Churi).
Slit Eyes is a fun, but ultimately slight, romantic movie about interracial love. Orked (a Malaysian girl) and Jason (a Chinese boy) love each other, but Jason’s past comes back to haunt him. The two things that set this movie apart from other inter[fill in difference here] romantic films are: (1) That their parents aren’t against them and (2) The lovely and very funny relationship between Orked’s parents (wholly three of them – her actual parents and the long-time servant). The female lead is a real find, and if I lived in Malaysia, I’d certainly look out for her future movies. The male lead is surprisingly uneven, and nothing to write home about. The ending blows, but the rest of the movie’s pretty good, and rather well observed. I certainly want to watch Ahmad’s future movies. PS: Not very surprisingly, she has a blog. You can visit it here.
A Sigh is a very well-observed, but overall unsatisfying, movie about marital infidelity. Yazhou, a writer, has an affair with his assistant, Li, and, after a time, his wife gets to know about it. The dynamics of relationships have been detailed very well, and the nuances of a married life are captured in an interesting and different manner. But the film runs too long, and many portions are empty of both narrative and observation. And the voice-over uses metaphors that are either silly, or which lose a lot in translation. If it had been around 60-70 minutes long, I would have liked it much better. But it is fine anyway. (As an aside, both this movie and Slit Eyes use the sensationalist ‘surprise’/‘shock’ endings that are becoming increasingly, and irritatingly, popular. They would have been alright if they didn’t go so much against the grain of the movies. As it is, they seem rather pathetic.)
Among the short films, two of the three Israeli films are mostly pointless, but one of them, Evacuation Order, about soldiers come to evacuate settlers, while being extremely silly, has a very funny ending. The other one (A Little Bit Different), about a woman who refuses to marry a guy for the sole reason that he is crippled, is not very good, but, in the course of twenty minutes, gives us a lot of information about Israeli life in general. The third one (A Woman Laughed) is exceedingly experimental – it is made up of two images, one above the other, telling a composite story about something in the bible. I probably would have loved it, if not for the fact that I could only see the lower image and about half of the upper image because of the crap projection. I liked what I did manage to see, though. But the film that was worth all the seven hours I spent in the theatre that day was, undoubtedly, Anthony Chen’s G-23. A ticket-tearer in a local Indian cinema (local meaning one in Singapore) observes three regulars, and we see snippets of their lives. This is simply a wonderful film, detailed, thoughtful, quirky, and lovingly filmed. I cannot possibly think of a better way of spending 19 minutes. And I loved the way the credits registered the Indian women as ‘d/o’ (Chitra d/o Muthayya, etc.). That was hilarious. Read more about the movie here.
By now you must be bored with my projection grouses, so I’ll just say that the film projection was perfectly fine, while the DVD projection (meaning the short films) was perfectly atrocious. The projectionist didn’t even have all the films with him, so we had to wait almost thirty minutes for the first movie, and about twenty minutes each for the second and third movie. Just a question: is this how one manages a film festival? I asked this question to one of the organisers. He simply shrugged. Peas in a pod, is what they are.