Different places, different screenings. At the 10th edition of the Mumbai Film Festival held recently, the crowd was split between what locals call ‘Town’ (the other side of the Bandra-Worli sea link) and the hub of the film industry in Mumbai, Versova. Whichever side you picked, it meant losing out on one half of the crowd and the films. The adventurous few, such as Sudhish Kamath, decided to have the best of both worlds, after carefully picking the films and still ended up missing a few good ones. Here’s a glimpse of films you must look out for
1. The Great Beauty (La Grande Belleza)
This Paulo Sorrentino film is an instant classic, full of quotable quotes and spectacular cinematography. One of the best films you will see all your life, this is one hell of a trip into the mind of a writer facing an existential crisis after his 65th birthday. The ‘meaning of life’ films usually run the risk of being pretentious but this one turns the genre on its head and delivers a fully accessible film that will make you laugh and think. It’s bizarre, quirky, whimsical and the most profound film about ‘nothing’. Because that’s the only meaning of life.
2. Before Midnight
Richard Linklater’s third chapter after Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, is one of the rare films to actually better the first two. Set nine years after Before Sunset (which was set nine years after Before Sunrise), this is a perfect contrast to the first film as the action goes indoor and the exploration turns internal. Jesse and Celine are no longer interested in the sights and sounds of an exotic city and much of the conversation this time happens in personal space because it’s a lot more intimate than the first few films. Get ready to have your heart broken. Almost.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coens are back and how. While musicals usually chronicle the rise and fall of a band or the life and times of an artiste, this one chooses to dwell on the life of a struggling musician and gives us a glimpse of his life over the course of just one week but in a way that it rips your heart out and puts it back, without ever getting melodramatic. Yes, struggle without resorting to theatrics or drama. This is a sublime film, a masterclass on keeping it real even in a genre that gives you every license to sing and dance.
4. Blue Is The Warmest Colour (La Vie D’Adele)
This controversial film by Abdellatif Kechiche contains explicit lesbian sex scenes that don’t seem to end. While the merit of the length of these scenes can be debated, there is no denying that this is a coming-of-age film like none other because of the way it captures heartbreak, blow by blow, tear by tear. Despite its almost three-hour length, this is an absolutely riveting film that explores same-sex relationships without really making a big deal about the angst of acceptance from society. On the contrary, the only angst here is of heartbreak and that makes this is a significantly inclusive film.
5. The Past (Le Passe)
Asghar Farhadi’s follow up to A Separation is almost a sequel of sorts, thematically... at least, in the way it uncovers truth, layer by layer. Farhadi knows what makes relationships tick and this is yet another exposition of the nuts and bolts of the mechanisms of how things fall apart between people. From the innovative opening credits to one of the finest last shots ever, this is a fascinating film about holding on to the undead past.
6. All Is Lost
J.C. Chandor’s largely dialogue-less film (in fact, barring a couple of brief monologues, the film has no lines) given that it is one-man show. The story and adventure of a man adrift in the Indian Ocean without even a tiger for company. And that means Robert Redford’s performance, every bit Oscar-worthy, is the film. This is a masterclass for actors.
7. Mood Indigo (L’Ecume Des Jours)
Michel Gondry’s latest act of whimsy tries to tell us that form is content as it takes the usual boy-meets-girl story and makes it all about the treatment as he slowly turns tone from saturated colours to black-and-white in the course of the film even without you realising it. It maybe argued that this robs the film of a little soul as style prevails, but if you are a Gondry fan, every detail of quirk is a delight to watch.
8. Short Term 12
This little gem of an indie directed by Destin Cretton was the surprise of the festival as Brie Larson won over audiences with her role of a supervisor of a foster care centre for vulnerable minors, battling her own demons as she comes to terms with her pregnancy. With extremely well-written feel-good anecdotes bookending this coming-of-age film, this is a film that you will love for its ability to make you smile, and so often despite its inherent drama.
Certainly the most disturbing film of the festival, this Mexican film by Amat Escalante, contains at least three scenes of graphic violence that made the audience collectively go “Haww!”... Despite its tendency to shock and awe, it’s a gritty drama about the state of affairs in Mexico where perfect lives could go completely haywire, given the volatile, drug-infested environment and a lot of the telling is very smart as the director lets us figure out what’s going on with very clever shot taking.
10. Another House (L’autre Maison)
This slow indulgent Canadian film by Mathieu Roy grows on you once you settle into its laidback rhythm. Gorgeously shot, this is a story about two sons of an ageing person with Alzheimer’s, whose memory is deteriorating every passing day. Full of irony, this is one of those meaning-of-life films too and if you have the patience, you just might appreciate how subtly it makes its point.
1. Qissa (The tale of a lonely ghost)
Anup Singh’s bizarre film is full of twists and surprises. It tackles issues of identity the way very few films have, defying stereotypes associated with portrayal of LGBT in Indian cinema. The ladies — Tilllotama Shome, Tisca Chopra and Rasika Duggal — are all fantastic, supported by a completely despicable Irrfan Khan once again in a solid role.
Going into the film without reading anything about it, I assumed this was a clever entertaining fiction film shot like a documentary only to realise this was all real. All the footage, the characters, the content, the statistics and the funny quips — were all captured from life. Filmmakers Fahad Mustafa and Deepti Kakkar camped with the characters for 18 months! One of the best documentaries to come out of India, Katiyabaaz presents both sides of the story in this documentary about power theft in Kanpur.
I would have loved this film directed by Nagraj Manjule more but for its blatant one-sided black-and-white depiction of the haves and the have-nots. As always, upper caste people are all oppressors and heartless and the ‘untouchable’ class suffers endless humiliation. The entire film is an excuse for the last shot — the boy throwing a rock at the camera (us!) for being responsible for this to prevail.
4. Liar’s Dice
Geetu Mohandas’ debut film is a painstakingly shot road-film that captures the journey of a woman in search of her missing husband and her unlikely companion, a shrewd, foul-mouthed man who agrees to help her find the address she’s looking for, for money. Gitanjali Thapa, who was also in last year’s ID does a similar role (an endless futile search) and is one of the most promising actors to look out for, given how she holds her own against Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
This NRI film shot by Amit Gupta will make you really hungry. And it will make you laugh. A feel-good comedy about two brothers who have fallen out and run rival restaurants next to each other, Jadoo works till it gets melodramatic towards the end.
(The writer was in Mumbai recently on invitation from the Mumbai Film Festival organised by Mumbai Academy of Moving Images, a Reliance initiative supported by the government of Maharashtra.)