I realize that I have been singularly negligent in updating the journal.So here’s my (hurried) recompense.
Reviews of films on Jaman.
(click on the title to access the movie page on Jaman )
Hypnos (2004)Hello Clarise!Awesome movie.Stylish friday night thriller.It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the end but it’s humongous fun nevertheless.
Totemo genki des
Ze Cutest hiking the roads of japan movie ever.Kintaro is the affectionate honorific given to Tyler Mcniven by the locals, in memory of a school comic book story hero . he is adopted by japan after his backpacking trip across japan gains popularity as a quest for his father’s birthplace. In a society that is forgetting/has forgotten filial piety the news story of a gai jin going to find his father’s birthplace…in japan makes him instant salable currency , strangers wave to him – “Kintaro su des” Never mind that his father was born in japan and he’s japanese (living in sanfrancisco)and only looks the blonde viking gai jin)This documetary is also nostalgia for me . how japan is really this suburban development now..at least along the roads and every place is like urban America. How you pick up he language easily after you struggle with your phrasebook back home, and are constantly surprising yourself with the complex sentences that you can string together.(which you promptly forget after you get back) And how you can get by with Kampai and sumimasen and genki des and smiling,,,and how you(sometimes) tower over everyone in the train…or japanese katakana everywhere around you…Tyler’s wife is the daughter of a guy that trekked the Americas, A boring japanese urban kid that’s thrilled to be excoticised in san francisco as this whole other oriental woman ,even as she holds on to her white collar parent Japanese school, American father british accent normalcy.
I think it’s my bias for low budget documentaries.I loved this piece.The director isn’t THAT unaffiliated either, and he makes no bones of his affiliation to people in the ABC news team.(both from a local Affiliate in Oregon and in Iraq.) That does not make him an ABC News mouthpiece. it just explains how he got access to places a civilian with a camera would never have got.There are very touching moments, when you see a schoolteacher teach his class to say “Goodbye America” in a gesture of muted nationalism, and chilling when the cameraman asks a guy in a gun show to say hello to america and the guy cocks his gun and points it at the camera and says “Hello America”.
Tarang is an incredibly meritorious film with an Identity crisis.It’s not sure if it is a cinematographer’s film, a director’s film or an actor’s film…or a radical play. It hasn’t aged well either, with the sweep of historic truth going against it. It still is a film worth studying and appreciating because of the sources it is influenced by – Ritwick Ghatak(whom Shahni worked with), Robert Bresson(Shahni was on his team that made un femme douce) , The French Left Bank (part of the Cinematheque protests of 68/69.). With a resume this impressive, how can a well executed film still turn out to look like a combination of radical theater and soviet cinema gone bad(think pudovkin, not eisenstin)? Easy. Your actors don’t have a clue.The star cast of the film is impressive too. Smita patil , Amol Palekar, rohini Hattangadi, Sriram Lagoo and Om puri. It’s just that they don’t share a vision(didn’t share the script?) in the film. Smita patil thinks she’s the earth mother(a very good earth mother, but still). Om puri , in a graphic illustration of tragicomedy makes like the guy on the left rear of a highly conceptual radical theater experimental play who stops doing whatever he is doing to look at the prompter, who says ”keep at it” so he jerks back to doing whatever he was doing….you know what I mean? Sreeram lagoo and Amol palekar are in a bollywood melodrama about family. Perhaps the times WERE as disjoint as all this, but that’s no excuse for a premier filmmaker to produce such dysfunction in an othervice beautifully shot film,I can get to the good parts now. The film is a multilayered cinematic classic. The compositions are like you’re reliving a good Rithwick Ghatak film. The acting in the good scenes is nuanced and minimal(Stanislavsky/method) .There’s much film theory in it that bears analysis(such as the Ghatak-Shahni pioneered representation of threes in the screenplay…which is a theory that dramatic interaction in a screenplay gains it’s power from interaction in the mise-en scene of the male, the female and the neutral principle.) The sheer depth in many compositions are breathtaking the use of the language of cinema, and the recurring motifs of Ritwhick Ghatak- the train, the tree, water, all indicate a fluency with the lingua of the day in a film that at 2 hours and 43 minutes is sometimes stretching the limits of the viewer’s patience.In the end it’s a worthy watch for stunning cinematographic compositions and some nuanced method acting.
Arimpara is a very difficult film to watch. Talk about strange! krishnanunni’s face has a wart(warts always remind me of the Austin powers movie- Dr evil’s son with a mole …) that grows out of control, inspite of krishnanunni pretending that life is normal and it’s only a wart.There’s a metaphor in it somewhere , but there’s a MOLEMOLEMOLEMOLEGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASeriously. the mole is just the filmmaker’s surrealization of something that begins as a quirk, and becuse one wouldn’t change, takes over the person’s life completely as if it had an independant existance…but it’s very difficult to see wart his mole point is ….for the way the film is shot…
There’s a history from Homer.. maybe before…gilgamesh… of Mediterranean stories about strong (single) affectionate men that take to the road and meet strangers with whom they from strong temporary bonds and reaffirm cultural motifs.Tenja (Testament) is full of Old testement images that it captures from the land and people of islamic morrocco. Its literate cinematography attempts the holy grail of camera – deep picture post card compositions and detailed realism in the same movie . It works very well for this script.The film is about Nordeen(Roschdy Zem) a Second generation Moroccan Immigrant to France, who on impulse takes his father’s body back to his village in morocco (south of Casablanca) for interment. He runs into a list of oddball characters who make his journey worth his while.The stunner in this film is the “Travel Channel” Cinematography which paints widescreen images of Morrocco from the coast in Tangiers to the road to Casablanca, (which often looks like wine country, Sonoma Valley) and the dusty souks of small town North Africa.Aure Atika(plays a hiker whom Noreen picks up) gives a spectacular and restrained performance as a beautiful ,easy woman(they’re called easy if they have sex , in North Africa) on the crossroads of her life. (She: Aren’t you married He: Why are you shopping for a husband? He: Oh my god I’m sorry (awkward silence) He: I’m a jerk. (Silence) She: You couldn’t afford me. (they giggle) ).I’m usually somewhat irritated by the preachiness of the “find your roots luke” movies. Tenja is a well informed exception.It also features a smidgen of beber music.Four stars!
Bashing is a Mashahiro Kobuyashi (no relative of Masasaki, (Kwaidan, harakiri) ) film based on real events, shot in uncompromising verite about a very Japanese societal response to a global issue.This is a phenomenon common in Japan , that the society closes ranks around itself and punishes an outsider…outcaste harshly, for non conformity but the film shot starkly without editorial comment from the director is very difficult to watch , also because we recognize the same streak of externalizing our frustrations ,in our own societies, where ,sometimes, people become symbols of something bigger than their individual selves, and they have little control over their own happiness because the story for the societal subculture they live in, is bigger than the individual’s truth.
Think Jessica Lynch.
Rivette’s Cinema Adaptation of the Gothic novel.
This is a 1985 Jacques Rivette adoptation of the Emily Bronte Gothic english novel (The de goticized French cinema version is named Hurlevent) . Wuthering heights has been a popular source for adoptation into cinema and other languages. Luis Bunuel did his version (as Abismos de Passion a mexican adaptation of the heathcliff catherine story) in 1954 and Yoshishige Yoshida one in 1987 called Arashi ga oka.This version adapts really well to the french passion – english gentility frission as Heathcliff (now a rustic french natural, played effectively by Lucas Bevalaux as counterpoint to Fabianne Bebe’s Catherine) becomes Roch , a child of nature in an old french(instead of gothic english) estate,who is consumed for life,on the inside by the love potions brewed by his adopted sister (catharine).
The Cinema version is less verbose and more nuanced in it’s mise and Jacques Rivette demonstrates how a cross channel adoptation of literature can produce a work that contextualizes effectively, English Gothic to French Rustic. While I have seen Edgar Allen Poe adopted into french cinema , I have only heard of one or two attempts to reshoot the victorian novel into french cinema(the Merchant Ivory version of henry James was only a transliteration, and not a cinema adoptation in my opinion). It’s interesting how that might work.
Wonder if someone would do F Scott Fitzgerald into french cinema or if that would be too much of a comedown for the cinema du cahiers crowd …
Shyam benegal’s Courageous film Mammo(1994), the companion piece to his more elaborate, bigger movie , Zubeida(2000), is a Shyam Benegal film that in Hollywood would be called a courageous movie . This 1994 film features a (then) fifty year old Farida Jalal and an at least fifty year old sulekha sikri as dramatic leads along with a 13 year old Amit phalke(a fantastic dramatic performance as Riyaz) in a film whose script(Khalid Mehmood) reads like required reading for an South Asian Studies course in a major American university.
There’s none of that postcolonial studies outrage or sanctimony.
Shyam Benegal makes Mammo a celebration of the never say die spirit of it’s lead character. The magic is in the casting. Farida Jalal is the bubbly overweight fifty year old , whom you cannot deny, plays Mammo, who emigrated to Pakistan from India during the subcontinent’s partition with her husband to a family who abandoned her when he died.
Mammo (which is short for Mehmooda Begum Anwar Ali), pulls up her cleats and returns to her sister , Fayyazi(a restrained essay , Sulekha Sikri) who now lives in Mumbai with her grandson Riyaz to resume life as she left it when she went away to Pakistan. (, Riyaz is zubeida’s son…the Zubeida that left her mar riage and her child to star in Bollywood films, before falling in love and marriage with a prince as his Second concurrent wife…in the movie Zubeida(Shyam Benegal,2000)…)
Mammo gets deported a couple of times from India, but not before She reconnects Riyaz with his Punjabi muslim (Faiz Ahmed Faiz , Taaleem and Biryani) roots, without once appearing to be the mammy she is a hair’s breath from being. Farida Jalal’s Mammo is optimistic without being Prozac hysterical , as if she understands a greater wisdom about family and affection that partition and nuclearization of Muslim Indian families made them forget.…and she doesn’t die or ride out into the sunset in the end of the film neither…
The film is a well built dramatic piece that is tone perfect and never boring enough to pause for bathroom breaks, although you catch yourself wondering often, just how you are able to keep focused on a film whose protagonists are greying indian muslim ladies whom the fashionable world has passed by, with nothing more than their stories of old age to share with you.
This is a keenly observant movie shot on a digital camera, in south eastern Iran, on the Afghan border. Khan runs a truckstop where Keim, an afghan illegal immigrant boy works, avoiding battles back home and trouble with authorities in his adopted country.Khan’s one legged wife and Khan watch keenly as the nature of traffic on the road changes from commercial and everyday, to ominous, and take action to protect their turf from war.As the camera watches with a national geographic clarity, everyday banalities of life in Iran(a chicken plucked , a dog drinking water from a pond, lined faces of the local people, smoke emitting from a waterpump..) , we get drawn into the stark beautiful world of keim and his adopted family
NancyAnd ah mean it in a good way too.
Like As If
Inspiracion is a hormonal Mexican chick flick badly in need of a good top forties soundtrack and a scriptwriter that will make Barbara Mori more interesting and Arath del Torrre less pathetic. (I loved the film. it was so true to life!). There’s no kissing until the last scene, and all the club med – cabo st lucas glossiness only serves to reinforce the impression(er…imprescion) that it’s a film made as a teen, spring break flic, that extends its romance for life.
A film made for watching in High definition and surround sound(remember when they used to call them movie theaters?) this half travelogue half David lynch film about the stories in a small town in the Nevarra –Pamplona region(and I’m guessing) is well worth a serious watch.
Chin ping, Lily Ho and Cheng pipi are cute as three sisters trying to rescue their musical talent from their exploiting father , as they dance every american musical genre from the chorus line to go go and twist, ballroom and jazz club to production numbers that are colorful and big hearted if somewhat lacking in dancing chops.
Shekar kapur acts (models) in this Mani Kaul’s 1991 cinema adaptation of Dostoevsky’s “The Meek One” that is both challenging and rewarding to watch.Zia Moinudden Dagar’s rudra veena is minimalist and very effective in this exercise in pure cinema from one of India’s earliest exponents of the genre made famous by such varied styles as Tarkovski, Antonioni , Robert Bresson and Tsai Ming Ling.Mani Kaul’s Narrative takes on a life of it’s own as the actors (models) convey nuances and half complete thoughts under the observant gaze of some very taut cinematography (Piyush Shah) in a mood piece about how the dominant partner in a relationship stifles the other.While Kaul’s leniar, focused effort lacks the semiotic spirituality and compelling energy of Robert Bresson’s Janzenist manifesto, it is an interesting experiment that uses Freudian psychology as substitute. Maybe the lesson here is that the pure cinema form is slightly less suited to dialectical narratives than to spiritual ones.This is a slow and difficult movie to watch for people used to Bollywood(or most Hollywood) pacing. Be warned. Do not complain. I told you so
Antareen (with Spoilers)Mrinal sen demonstrates his mastery over the medium with this Short two person tele drama which is a study about loneliness. He takes his gregarious author protagonist and puts him in an empty shell of an old Bengali home(the ancestral house of a friend ,whose mother fought the British in court) ostensibly to search for stories among the hungry stones (a reference to a Rabindranath Tagore Short story about a chanteuse’s ghost inhabiting the ruins of an aristocratic manor), and lets him interact with a random caller who lives in the penthouse of one of Calcutta’s high rises.As layer after layer peels away from the voice at the other end of the telephone, the Author comes to care much, as we do, for the person, who is revealed to be in an unhappy marriage/relationship with a rich person who seems to have acquired her from her everyman family.The lesson learned is less about the mysterious caller at the other end, and more about the person she’s talking to, who goes from a self involved private person who needs space to write to a man in need for daily interaction with the person, he’s now curious about. Sen’s protagonist never jumps the gun, never once asking for more details about the woman than she’d care to reveal, while she demonstrates, daily , her need to tell her story. They become in their little telephone world,for a brief while, the pour soi and the en soi of a nascent relationship.Sen is in complete control over all the cinematic elements , as we progressively go through a chill when he speaks of ghosts and cheer quietly when a little child tells us how he copes with (the fear of) them. This film can also be characterized as the more mature predecessor to Raincoat (Ritupurno Ghosh).
The documentary style presents Odette Lara’s Lifestory as a biopic, just that little short of insightful or informative. Why did Lara leave behind a Showbiz life as the biggest sex symbol in brazilian television and film to take up zen buddhism (and why zen buddhism?). What happenned to her various lovers? Why was she the sex symbol- was there a bridgette bardot / Marylin Monroe- blonde goddess dynamic?The film leaves us guessing/ doing internet research to find answers for all these questions.It’s positives are the camera work, some excellent art and costume design good performances from seasoned professional actors and it’s coherently leniar direction.There is much material here to take it into soap opera melodramatics and it’s credit to the film that it doesn’t do that.