A slice of world cinema at Chennai International Film Festival
Here’s a peek at films screened in various cinemas.
Cosomopolis is a difficult movie to watch. It has an elliptical narrative mostly consisting of bursts of abstract dialogue between a billionaire (Robert Pattinson) and his employees. Like Patrick Bateman, Eric Parker epitomises the soulless blood sucking vapidity of corporate America. Eric is aware of this. Cosmopolis is set in some near future version of Manhattan. Eric needs to get a haircut for which he has to travel all the way across town. One way of understanding Cosmopolis is to consider Eric an alien. The limo in which he travels is his spaceship. In this future Manhattan the bulk of the world’s wealth is concentrated in the hands of a very tiny minority. The vast majority of people is poor and angry. The public have taken to the streets in an Occupy-Wall Street-like demonstration. Money is literally and symbolically likened to rats many times throughout the movie. The protestors dress up as rats and draw rat graffiti all over Eric’s limo. Eric himself christens the new currency “the rat”. Currency is the filth breeding vermin plague of the capitalist world. As Eric’s limo inches through traffic, Eric seemingly travels through time — each pit stop marking a stage of development. Meanwhile the peoples’ protest outside just keeps escalating in violence and intensity, threatening to burst through the walls of isolation that the likes of Eric have built around themselves.
Rengaine examines the familiar theme of love that crosses traditional cultural boundaries. A young Algerian woman (Sabrina) falls in love with a struggling African actor (Dorcy).When Sabrina becomes pregnant they decide to marry and a backlash begins from both sides as neither society is racially tolerant. Dorcy’s mother refuses to attend his wedding if he marries Sabrina and his friends discourage his decision. Sabrina’s brother Slimane is disgusted that his Arab Muslim sister has chosen an African Christian mate. As the eldest brother and the patriarch of the family Slimane feels morally obliged to interfere and disrupt their marriage at all cost. He is the last vanguard of a set of values that are no longer relevant. Slimane goes around enlisting the help of as many of his brothers as he can. It is a tough exercise because there are 40 of them. Slimane himself is dating a Jew who he wants to marry. The hypocrisy of Parisian society is explicitly revealed. One of Slimane’s close friends, an African counsels Sabrina against marrying without her brother’s permission. Dorcy is working with an independent art house filmmaker. One of the scenes in the shooting requires him to be stripped naked and painted in white. The filming of a scene in which his naked body gets objectified and dehumanised borders on racism. We also meet Slimane’s elder brother who was abandoned and disowned by the family for being gay. The film could have so easily sunk into tackiness but Rachid Djaidani’s handling of the material is superb ultimately leaving Slimane to choose whether to honour tradition or his sister’s happiness.
The movie opens with the declaration that it is based on a true story. The protagonist of the film is an embittered and weary shopkeeper called Roberto. Roberto orders a stack of newspapers from all over the world every day. He likes clipping and collecting articles that seem too outrageous or absurd to be true. He seeks the validation of the meaninglessness of life in his collection of articles. The story that unfolds from here on is no less marvellous than one of Roberto’s clippings. Roberto is the sort of man who counts each nail in a packet of five hundred nails to see if he has been cheated. One day he sees a Chinese man being kicked out of a taxi. Since the Chinese man has nowhere else to go and cannot seem to find his uncle, Roberto takes him in temporarily till he does. While Roberto is a brooding loner too severely set in his ways, Jun is affable and passive. He adapts easily and without much trouble. What follows is not a clichéd comedy of opposite habits as is common. Instead Sebastian Borensztein allows their lives to spill over and seep into each other until Roberto learns the vital lesson that life is meaningful after all.