Catch the best of world cinema. The 11th edition of the Chennai International Film Festival to be held from December 12 to 19 will showcase 180 films from 58 countries. Sudhish Kamath reports

Kamal Haasan didn’t go to film school. But he went to film festivals. Or maybe they are the same thing. Possibly, the cheapest film school ever.

For just Rs. 500 (Rs. 300 if you are a student with a valid ID or if you are affiliated to a film union), the 11th edition of the Chennai International Film Festival, organised by the Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation and supported by celebrity volunteers from the film industry led by Suhasini Maniratnam, will showcase 180 films from 58 countries between December 12 and 19 at Woodlands, INOX, Abhirami, Casino and Rani Seethai Hall.

The best films from around the world, official Oscar entries and the best from Cannes will be screened.

How many of these films can you catch in eight days? Here are a few recommendations to help you with your homework.

There are half-a-dozen films from the international competition at Cannes that have made their way to Chennai but the one you must not miss is Paulo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty(which is also Italy’s official Oscar entry).

Imagine Woody Allenesque’s wit meeting Baz Luhrmann’s visual flair and exploring Terrence Malik’s meaning-of-life depth.

Film critic Peter Bradshaw gave it four stars on first viewing it at Cannes and then re-reviewed it after catching it again at the Toronto film festival and gave it five stars. Having caught it at the Mumbai Film Festival, one can vouch that The Great Beauty is simply one of the best films you will watch all your life.

Abdellatif Kechiche’s heartbreakingly beautiful Blue Is The Warmest Colour (also known as Adele: Chapters 1 & 2) won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. This coming-of-age French film has made prudes around the world uncomfortable with staggeringly long explicit lesbian sex scenes, and the related controversies have left many festival programmers nervous. Beware of the three-hour running time though.

Another celebrated French film is Young and Beautiful, directed by François Ozon, also a Palme d’Or nominee. Here’s your chance to catch up with this coming-of-age story about a young girl who takes to prostitution and gets into serious trouble.

Curious about what Asghar Farhadi did after A Separation? He followed it up with another brilliant exploration of modern relationships. The Past almost feels like a sequel in spirit to his highly acclaimed Oscar-winning film. It has one of the best opening credits sequence and the most haunting last shot in recent times.

If coming-of-age or relationship films don’t interest you, Zhangke Jia’s blood bath and stylised graphic violence may get your attention. A Touch of Sin also won the Best Screenplay at Cannes.

Also from Cannes, is the Japanese film Like Father, Like Son directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, that won the Jury prize and impressed Steven Spielberg enough for Dreamworks to acquire remake rights.

Oscar Entries

Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo, Singapore’s Oscar entry, recently won the international competition at Mumbai Film Festival.

If you haven’t seen Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt yet (it played at the Mumbai Film Festival last year), here’s another chance to see how the most innocent of children could do the most dangerous things.

The other Oscar entries include Hany Abu-Assad’s Omar (Palestine), Walesa: Man of Hope directed by Andrzej Wajda (Poland), Ermek Tursunov’s The Old Man (Kazhakhstan), Janis Nord’s Mother I Love You (Latvia) and The Cleaner directed by Adrian Saba (Peru).

From the Americans

Hollywood may never bring these films here. So don’t miss the opportunity to see Richard Linklater’s third instalment of Jessie and Celine’s romance, Before Midnight on the big screen. Set 18 years after Before Sunrise and nine years after Before Sunset, this has to be the best of the three films, so starkly different in tone from the first two films and probably the most real. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. Just like love.

The Coens are back with Inside Llewyn Davis, a musical that gives you a peek into one week in the life of a struggling musician, subverting the genre completely. This does not chronicle ‘the rise and the fall’ or ‘life and the times’ of a celebrated artiste/band. It is a realistic account of struggle and survival of an unsung musician. It could be anyone’s story.

Joseph Gordon Levitt makes his directorial debut with Don Jon, a romantic comedy with Scarlett Johansson, just the kind of film to watch when you need a break from the hardcore world cinema overdose.

If you want to watch one Indian film, catch Lucia, the Kannada film by Pawan Kumar, that was made with a budget of Rs. 50 lakh and went on to gross five times the amount and is all set for remakes in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. It will blow your mind.