As one-and-a-half of the two-and-three-quarters people reading this might know, I used to have a review site. It’s temporarily been deleted, as I am trying to streamline it into a better one. On this site, I reviewed the films I saw in the Pune Film Festival, January 2005. I didn’t know where to put these reviews in the new site, because they didn’t fit into any of the categories. Salil convinced me to put them here.
I am presenting them in two sets, and I am not presenting all of them. I will explain more about that in the next set. (I can’t say any more right now – I have to leave for Mumbai in twenty minutes.) The ratings are out of five.
Note: There will be no new posts till the 10th. I’ll be in Mumbai, and nowhere near a computer.
The Officers’ Ward (France) : I really wanted to watch this film, because I’d read about it in Film Review and Sight & Sound, and both magazines were practically raving about it. I didn’t find it that good, but maybe that’s because my sight and sound aren’t as developed as theirs. Anyway, the story is that Adrien (Eric Caravaca), an officer in WW2, gets injured at the beginning of his participation in the war. He gets sent to an Officer’s Ward, where there are no mirrors. His face has been hideously deformed, and he keeps wanting to see it. And he does. Most of the film takes place in the ward. The film is beautifully shot and extremely well-acted. The story itself is slight, but the visuals usually make up for it, and the cinematography and the colour-schemes used are quite wonderful. The characters are rather good as well. The tone of the film is mostly sombre, but there are moments of levity, which are appreciated. It is a very good film. A must-watch for anyone interested in cinema. (***½)
Kontroll (Hungary) : This was fun, which might actually be the only real word for it. This is a sort of alternate world (as the Hungarian Railway representative was kind enough to tell us at the beginning of the film) where Ticket-Checkers rule the Underground (sort of – it’s not very clear how exactly it differs from the real world). One small group of these (misfits all) is our focus, as they deal with stuff like Bootsie, a race from one station to another before the train hits you, and the sinister semi-supernatural killer who pushes people in front of trains for fun. This film is basically at pains to establish its world as a possible alternative, which it is. Every one of these peoples’ ‘games’ is tinged with danger and darkness, and the escape to the world above seems more and more difficult yet desirable. And the humour of the film is almost wonderful. Dark, depressing, yet with many moments to make you laugh out loud. For example, the scene where different characters visit the psychiatrist is very clichéd, but I definitely wouldn’t say it wasn’t funny. And the actors are all accomplished, bringing the characters to life. And the very fact and style of the life the characters are living is very well-portrayed. The problem with the film is that it is a bit slow. Also, it unconsciously posits itself as a thriller, which doesn’t really deliver in the end. For all that, it was a lot of fun to watch, and the writer’s imagination has to be lauded. I think that this film could have been rewritten to make it a little more absurd, while keeping the rawness. I liked it. (***½)
Ring of Fire (Lebanon/France) : This film is about the effect of war on common people. Chafic (Nida Wakin) is a literature teacher at the University who falls for a girl whose face he has never seen. As he tries to find out who she is, a family move into his house, and his apartment building is turned into a fortress, and he recedes into his thoughts. The film is actually very slow, but more-or-less worth a watch, if only for the darkly funny ending. The mood is that of soft melancholy, and this is carried throughout the film. The film has some stock eccentrics, but they work for the most part, and this means that the film is basically successful in what it sets out to do. Worth one watch. (***)
Chlorox, Ammonia and Coffee (Norway) : This, I admit, is not actually a great film, but I absolutely loved it. Yes, it’s a bit underdone, yes, it is inspired by many other films, and yes, the ending is clichéd and a bit overworked. But, for all that, I still loved it. There is no real plot. Maria is expecting a child with Erik, but he steals their money and forsakes them and does not tell her that. Iris, a midwife, deals with her work and her daughter Elin’s drug addiction while ogling the neighbourhood cop Odd from afar, and a man called Jesus runs his shop rather well, but is still derided as an outsider. The stories of all these characters, and some more, come together slowly but surely. The characters in this movie are rather well-done, and even though the film is basically a Mike Leigh imitation set in Norway, they work very well together, especially due to the talents of the actors, which aren’t trivial. And the director Mona Hoel knows all her angles and POVs, and while there isn’t anything innovative about the film, all the components work very well together, and the cohesive whole is very, very good, and extremely funny too. The very ending (that is, the scene with Maria’s marriage) doesn’t quite fit with the overall tone and is a bit overdone, but I wholeheartedly forgive that. (****)