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Apr 032014

While you schmucks are deep-throating crappy Tamil trash like Jilla and reveling in stolen Bollywood bilge like Highway, here I’m watching The Past (French, 2013) from acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi.

You know why I picked up The Past from the RedBox kiosk a short while ago?

Simple, kiddo!

Because I loved Asghar Farhadi’s Oscar winner A Separation. A gem of a movie!

Farhadi wrote and directed The Past!

I have started watching The Past and will update this review once I finish the movie ($1.22 at RedBox and available at Netflix on monthly subscription in the U.S.).

In the meantime you can feast your eyes on the trailer of The Past.

The Past – Divine

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s latest work Le Passé (English: The Past) is a riveting film with highly realistic performances by the three lead characters.

Like Farhadi’s previous film (the Oscar winning A Separation), The Past too is an intense family drama.

The present serves as the stage for the brilliant Farhadi to build a dramatic scaffolding on the unshakeable foundation of past conflicts and relationships.

All the key events that serve as foundation for the Past – breakdown of the two marriages, the suicide, and the affair – are firmly rooted in the past and are never shown, not even in flashback. Merely discussed to support the ‘present’ narrative.

When Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) returns to France to finalize his divorce with Marie Brisson (Bérénice Bejo of The Artist fame), the stage is set for tensions to rise to the surface within the family. Continue reading »

Mar 142014

Those who don’t know how to make love make war.
- The suffering wife in Patience Stone (Dari language, 2012)

My months-long patient wait for The Patience Stone yielded a bountiful harvest of joy when I finally got to see the film last night (via Amazon Instant, $3.99).

To hail Patience Stone as a tour de force would not do adequate justice to the film.

Directed by French-Afghan writer Atiq Rahimi based on his eponymous 2008 novel, the Dari language movie is a glorious triumph of an unusual story garnished with superb acting by the gorgeous Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani.

In an age when many directors rehash plots with minor embellishments, Patience Stone’s theme is so unique it left me in a trance.

Set in war-plagued Afghanistan (?), the movie starts off with a nameless woman (Golshifteh Farahani) tending to her severely injured husband during a time of daily violent clashes outside.

The woman, mother of two young daughters, is 27 while the injured husband, a former Mujaheddin fighter, looks much older.

Shot in the neck, you see her husband in a speechless, comatose state with a saline drip over him.

Women in Islamic Lands

But Patience Stone is not just about a Muslim woman tending to a seriously injured spouse.

That is merely a peg, a starting point for a moving tale about a woman’s place in male-dominated Islamic societies.

To walk us through the past and present of this young woman, and all women, in Islamic societies, director Atiq Rahimi resorts to a novel technique – He has the wife soliloquize her life story to an unmoving, unresponsive husband.

From the cruel experiences of her childhood to the insensitive boorish husband and her recent rape by a young Mujaheddin fighter, she leaves nothing out in her soliloquy to her husband. Continue reading »

Mar 102014

One reason and one reason alone prompted me to watch The Big Picture (2010, director Eric Lartigau) when I stumbled upon the French movie in the Netflix Instant cornucopia.

After I spotted Romain Duris’s name in the cast, the decision about seeing the film was no longer “Should I?”

My mouse cursor hit the “Play” button of its own accord and the movie started streaming.

Duris is a first class actor whose work I’ve enjoyed in movies like Paris, Heartbreaker etc.

In The Big Picture, Duris is again in tremendous form carrying the film almost entirely on his shoulders.

Thriller? – Partly

Now no man (yes, not even a French guy) likes to be made a cuckold of, particularly when he’s a devoted husband dearly in love with his wife.

So it’s easy to grasp Paul’s intense distress and anger when he discovers his wife Sarah has been unfaithful to him through her adulterous fling with a less than successful photographer.

When his wife leaves home with the kids and her lover Grégoire Kremer keeps taunting him, Paul (Romain Duris) snaps.

As the taunts and mocking get unbearable, Paul flies into a wild rage and, mon dieu, ends up accidentally killing the man.

At this point, you think, aha, the movie is going to be a fine thriller.

Greg’s body has to be taken care of and then there’s the crucial task of keeping the dead man’s friends from getting suspicious over his absence.

You also wonder if Paul can get away with the killing?

To my great surprise and eventual delight, the movie headed off in a most unexpected direction, returning to the ‘action’ phase only in the last 10-minutes. Continue reading »

Feb 192014

As the vast army of Indian movie directors extend their long-standing love affair with raw sewage, the tiny crop of Korean film-makers continue to make great strides.

My uncontainable passion for all things Korean led me recently to two gangster movies, New World (original title: Sin-se-gae, 2013) and A Company Man (original title: Hoi-sa-won, 2012).

I’m happy to report that both are gripping crime dramas, well worth your time.

New World is easily the better of the two with a more riveting story, a better cast and a superior director.

Now if you believe media reports, a Hollywood version of New World is in the works with Sony having purchased remake rights for the English version.

New World – Bloody Triumph

When the Goldmoon crime syndicate’s top boss Seok Dong-Chul meets his end in a car crash while returning from his young mistress, the group is thrown into a succession struggle.

Seok’s two key chieftains, Jung Chung (Hwang Jung-min) and Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong), who loath each other are vying for the top job.

Unbeknownst to either Jung Chung or Lee Joong-gu, an undercover police officer has infiltrated the Goldmoon criminal gang for the last eight years.

Trapped between the insanely violent devil (gangsters) and the deceptively smooth waves of the deep sea (police), the undercover cop finds his balls in a vice.

Fearful of being exposed and completely stressed out, the undercover agent finds himself unable to get out of his dangerous assignment despite earlier promises by his police bosses.

For those who still fantasize that the law is always on the right side, New World should be an eyeopener.

The movie ends with a brilliant twist after a series of violent battles and betrayals.

New World is an extremely well crafted movie with remarkable acting, a script that keeps you glued to the screen and twists that jolt you upright.

Easily one of the finest, classiest crime dramas I’ve seen in recent years. Continue reading »

Jan 202014

Do your kids have headaches or nightmares?
Question posed to all parents at a kindergarten school meeting in a small Danish community after one child alleges inappropriate behavior by a school worker in the Danish film The Hunt

Much as we are loath to admit it, a lot of kids wear the devil’s cloak and wreak havoc even at a tender age.

Whether their harm is intended or unintended is beside the point.

That’s why in my country we sometimes fling kids into prison and throw away the keys.

Of course, I’ve never been one so naive as to believe in the innocence of children. For I’ve spotted the gleam of evil in many a young eye, Brown, White and Black, on several occasions.

Last night I watched the Danish film The Hunt (2012) on DVD (with English subtitles).

The film confirmed my opinion on Satan working his fiendish tricks inside the minds of small kids.

Level 8 Earthquake

When a young child with a vivid imagination lies about inappropriate behavior by an adult, the life of Lucas (played with enormous elan by Mads Mikkelsen) who works in the kindergarten of a small Danish town is torn asunder.

A divorcé with a teenage son, a difficult ex-wife and a budding new relationship, Lucas is already walking on a rough road in life.

The child’s unthinking, ‘stupid’ act hits Lucas like a Level 8 earthquake in the small close-knit rural community. Continue reading »

Jan 072014

(For SI Blog readers Kreacher, Unknown Virus, Boopalan  etc)

I am not a big believer in love or its cathartic effects on the human soul!

Insufferable romances churned out by Bollywood and its shittier regional siblings have only intensified my apathy to all things lovey-dovey.

Still, I greatly enjoyed the Iranian film Baran (2001), which has love at its core, because it’s a beautiful work.

Despite Baran’s implausible story line, if I had my way I’d make it mandatory for all Indian film makers to watch director Majid Majidi’s movies so that the bozos get a badly needed crash course in the art and craft of putting out quality movies.

Baran was my second Majidi film. I watched it a few day after seeing after his Oscar nominated Children of Heaven.

Like Children of Heaven, Baran is both written and directed by Majidi.

Baran – Unlikely Love

Baran too is set in Tehran, again within the framework of bitter poverty. Continue reading »