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Jan 142015

L'il Quinquin Review
At first, the county police officers in the French countryside think the murdered woman was stuffed inside the bovine’s stomach through its anus.

Soon another dead cow surfaces on the beach with blood oozing out of its anus.

This time a Black construction worker’s body parts are found inside its belly.

Life goes on in the small village near Boulogne-sur-Mer in Northern France.

Apart from the weird funeral ceremony at the church for poor Mrs.Lebleu, the horrific crimes don’t seem to make any difference.

All seems normal.

In the picturesque countryside strewn with World War 2 era bunkers, decades-old grenades and cast off bullets, the cows amble daily to the pastures, the farmers continue to groom their White horses and the nasty kid P’tit Quinquin and his pals are still raising hell with their wild, racist, homophobic antics.

The bumbling cop duo come and go in the little blue car, convinced the area represents the Heart of Evil.

And in the freezing waters of the English Channel, just a short walk down the hill Quinquin, Eve and the other kids frolic.

Then comes the autopsy report – of the cows.

The initial conclusion of the County Sheriff was wrong.

Totally wrong!

Mon dieu, the two murder victims actually entered the cow’s stomach via its mouth.

Ass or Mouth? – Who Cares!

Now whether the poor murdered woman’s body parts entered the cow via its posterior end or from the anterior side matters little to me. Continue reading »

Jan 052015

Life’s charms, and by extension a movie’s, lie to some degree in the normal unexpected.

Now by normal unexpected, I mean events that disturb the stable rhythm of life without triggering catastrophic consequences.

These unanticipated events, often striking at most inopportune moments, create discomfort but also add zing to what’d otherwise be a banal birth-to-death tedium for most of us.

The Band’s Visit (2007) exemplifies the charms of the normal unexpected when an Egyptian police band takes the wrong bus after arriving in Israel.

Absence of the P sound in Arabic is what triggers the miscommunication at the airport, leading the police band to head off to the wrong place.

Director/Writer Eran Kolirin weaves a beautiful tale out of the simple mistake of the Alexandria police band ending up not in their intended destination of Petah Tiqva, where they’re to perform the next day, but in the tiny town of Bet Hatikva in the Negev Desert.

By the time the members of the orchestra realize their mistake, the last bus for the day has already left Bet Hatikva leaving them stranded in a strange, small town.

So begins a delightful movie that stretches from noon to mid-morning of the next day. Continue reading »

Dec 032014

On rainy wintry days, nothing like a shot of brandy and a good action-packed Korean film to rouse me from my torpor.

It must be a blessed stroke of luck that dropped the Korean film Yong-eui-ja (aka The Suspect, 2013) DVD into my hands yesterday.

Gave me the adrenalin jolt I so desperately craved.

Korean Bourne

The Suspect follows along the lines of earlier Korean hits like Berlin File and Yellow Sea in delivering a fast-paced, slick, tension-filled thriller with a solid actor helming the stunt scenes.

Set within the framework of brutal killings, torture, vengeance, betrayals, demonic greed, North Korea-South Korea tensions and featuring shadowy dirty intelligence operatives playing fiendish games, these Korean movies are not inferior in any respect to Hollywood’s Bourne franchise.

Shin-yeon Won has superbly directed The Suspect based on the story by Lim Sang-Yoon.

The life of a defector in a new country is never an easy one. More so for former North Korean elite military officer Ji Dong-Cheol (Gong Yoo), who defected to the south after troubling political changes in his native land and the murders of his wife and daughter. Continue reading »

Nov 252014

Just back from India. I had the most amazing dysentery.
– A young woman in The Great Beauty

How do you describe something for which there’s no frame of reference in the cinematic universe.

I watched the 2013 Italian film The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) the other night.

Bulging eyes, dropping jaws, utter rapture!

Never have I felt so fulfilled. Not even when impaled on the sword of lust has such an electric thrill coursed through me. ;)

The Great Beauty is everything I long for in a movie (but alas seldom get) – Novelty, bewitching visual appeal, terrific writing, insights into human behavior, top-class music, unpredictable and, above all, remarkable acting.

Co-written and directed by Paolo Sorrentino, the movie follows 65-year-old journalist Jep Gambardella as he goes about Rome partying, meeting pretty girls and old friends, walking on quiet streets and occasionally interviewing artistes.

An easy going charming fellow, Jep’s claim to fame rests on an award winning book, The Human Apparatus, he authored four decades earlier.

Endless Highs

Art, religion, youth, beauty, sex, lust, love, bizarre stuff, despair, daily pettiness, regret, mortality and what have you make their appearances and exits, all with a grandeur rarely seen on the screen. Continue reading »

Aug 212014

Each time I watch a Bollywood movie, an urgent need to rinse my mouth with two good foreign films overwhelms me.

Having recently inflicted upon myself the masochistic trauma of sitting through Ajay Devgan’s latest emetic Singham Returns, I was besides myself in agony.

How in Heaven’s name can this Rohit Shetty mis-directed turdpile Singham Returns even be called a movie except by a large pack of Neanderthals for whom the sight of one adult ape battering another’s skull is a trigger for screaming howls of ecstasy (yielding Rs 100-crore to the producers in five days).

So as a purgatory exercise, I fell back upon my routine of seeking solace in a couple of fine films.

This time I discovered Sergei Loznitsa, a little known maker of Russian films.

Loznitsa is, of course, a name familiar to discerning moviegoers in Europe and North America but in India he’s unknown material.

A documentary maker from Ukraine, Sergei Loznitsa is a relative newcomer to the feature film business.

Loznitsa toiled as a documentary filmmaker for 15 years before venturing into feature films.

His first feature film was Schaste moe (My Joy), which came out in 2010.

After a warm reception from critics, Loznitsa followed with V tumane (In the Fog) in 2012. This film too attracted accolades from connoiseurs of classy films.

Thanks to Netflix, I watched both Russian films (with English subtitles) recently.

Impressive Films

To say I was delighted with both films would be an understatement.

Set in different eras, the two films are united in their dark gaze on humanity and remarkable for the brilliant craftsmanship Loznitsa brings to the screen.

The stories, centering around everyday violence, corruption and callousness that place little value on human life, are powerful and a telling social commentary on Russia/Ukraine, and by extension on the world itself.

I sat back and delighted in the acting, photography and screenplay of both films.

Neither of the films is in a hurry (even the shots are drawn out).

They take their own sweet time to get to the end but not for one moment did I feel bored.

As I’ve said often, there are only good films and bad films. Not long or short films.

My Joy

Of the two movies, Schaste moe (My Joy) is the more complex and compelling one.

Unless you pay careful attention, you’re inclined to be quickly adrift with this film.

At first glance, it would appear as if the movie was merely a collection of different disconnected incidents.

Actually, No. Continue reading »

Jul 212014

Thanks to Brokeback Mountain (2005), depictions of sexual and romantic relationships between macho adult men is no longer a novelty on the big screen.

Or as some angry grandmas in America would complain, gay porn went mainstream in 2005. ;)

Ang Lee explored the doomed relationship between two cowboys so beautifully that no one was surprised when Brokeback Mountain picked up multiple Oscars and Golden Globes in 2006.

Since Freier Fall (German, 2013) has been touted as the “German answer to Brokeback Mountain,” comparisons between the two films are inevitable.

Freier Fall

While German film Freier Fall (English title: Free Fall) traipses down the same ‘gay’ road, this time the rugged, macho men are two young beefy police officers Marc Borgmann (Hanno Koffler) and Kay Engel (Max Riemelt).

Stephan Lacant directed the film based on the screenplay he co-wrote with Karsten Dahlem.

Brokeback Mountain was set in 1960s America while Freier Fall plays out in present day Germany.

Marc’s girlfriend is pregnant and the couple is expecting their first child when Kay initiates an initially reluctant Marc into a relationship that quickly turns sexual.

As the title of the movie suggests, Marc’s life soon starts to unravel, first at home and eventually at the police station as well, once he embarks on a secret liaison with Kay.

Several Issues

Freier Fall is not a bad movie overall but falls way short of Brokeback Mountain in several respects. Continue reading »