Thursday, August 02, 2007

Cinefan: a summing up

Films watched at this edition of the festival: 14 features (four of them seen before) + one short

Highlights among new films seen: My Father My Lord (post here), Lonesome Trees, Driving to Zigzigland (post here), Crossing the Dust, Falafel

Disappointments (apart from The Quest, which I wrote about here): Tender is the Wolf, A Few Days Later (Both in the Asian-Arab competition, but neither did anything for me. Except for one scene in A Few Days Later where the protagonist, a down-on-her-luck Iranian lady, takes out a crowbar and vents her accumulated frustrations on a neighbour’s car that has been blocking her parking space. Totally identified with that bit. Much vicarious satisfaction was had.)

Highlights among films previously seen

- Ozu’s spellbinding Tokyo Story, which, unlike some of the other Japanese classics at the fest, was screened in a perfect print. Have seen it twice before but was once again completely engrossed by the story, the restrained emotions (the manner in which the disappointed parents continue to say all the right things and gloss over their children’s neglect reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro’s understated narratives, where there’s always plenty going on beneath a quiet surface) and the performances – especially by Chishu Ryu as the father and the lovely Setsuko Hara as the widowed daughter-in-law. And of course, Ozu’s austere moviemaking style and careful shot-composition. Shamya writes here about the lack of stylisation in Ingmar Bergman’s films, but compared to Ozu even Bergman is like Godard at his most avant-garde. (At any rate, it’s a superficial, one-dimensional definition of “stylisation” that we’re using here.) In Tokyo Story the camera moves only twice in the entire film, and one of those is easy to miss because it’s a brief shot that pans in the same direction, and at the same slow speed, as two characters who are walking across the screen.

- Hitchcock’s The Birds: more on this later, but for now enough to say that introducing this great film to my wife helped me realise a long-awaited goal: to see firsthand the effect a Hitchcock movie can still have on a viewer who doesn’t already know everything there is to know about the story, the plot twists and the setpieces (as I did when I first saw much of his work). It was also a reminder – as if I needed reminding – of how much more there is to his art than the title “Master of Suspense” (or the more condescending “clever craftsman”) can suggest. The character development, the conversations and the build-ups in this film are every bit as compelling as any of the actual setpieces (more compelling if you’re watching it for the third or fourth time).

Movies missed: too many to list, but had in particular been looking forward to Shame, Maati Maay and Desert Dream (which won best film in the Asian-Arab competition section). Pity.

Biggest gripe: the poor prints of some of the older Japanese films, especially Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu and Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. In both cases the print was just too dark, which made it very frustrating (though one could still appreciate the beauty of such shots as the boat scene in Ugetsu and the joyful dog with the human hand in its mouth in Yojimbo).


  1. So much of movie watching, followed by writing, editing and then posting reviews... Jai, marriage has failed to spoil you. Or maybe you are proving to be an unkind husband (to rub it, you poke fun at the 'untrained viewer')

  2. Funny I managed to miss out on all the prize-winners too. Feeling too lazy to list what I thought of the 15-odd movies I watched at Osian's. Maybe this week.

  3. Okay Pankaj, have removed the "untrained" in deference to your sentiments. But yes, all the rest stands. Jai 1, Marriage 0.

    Toe Knee: if it's any consolation, the one year I happened to watch the eventual prize-winner (in the Indian comptt section), it was dreadful.

  4. talking of hitchcock and untrained viewing, I actually saw gus van sant's psycho(which I liked a lot) before hitchcock's. But even that didnt prepare me for the original.
    And its funny although I saw many many films at cinefan, I missed almost all the films you list. My favourites were: Paruthiveeran, I don't want to sleep alone, Bird Cage Inn, Time, Sansho the Bailiff, Woman of Rumour, Late Chrysanthemums, Ugetsu, Manorama Six Feet Under, Still Life, Tokyo Story, Lawrence of arabia, Opera jawa. Other worth a watch ones included Hana, Mithya, Yacoubian Building, Ploy.

  5. In Floating Weeds, the camera moves not once.


  6. BMR: "the camera moves not once"? You sound like a subtitle from a Ray film.

    Anuj: had wanted to see many of those but there just wasn't enough time.

  7. Shame was good. I'm not the greatest judge of the visual media, but felt that it was a story of an extraordinary woman, well told.

    Thanks for your review of Zigzigland...that was one film that I really wanted to see but was unable to.

  8. I missed the entire thing, due to a film studies module I had to make up which I'd missed in March. Shame, considering we'd planned to postpone it for a week and catch the entire festival as a precursor to the actual class.

  9. You didn't miss much with Desert Dream. So did you finally watch She and He?

  10. Have you seen McCarey's Make Way for Tomorrow? I thought it to be a better film than Ozu's rightly celebrated Tokyo Story.

    Tokyo Story is probably the more emotional of the two films. It is very sincere in its empathy for the old couple. The film acknowledges that children do drift away from their parents. Yet, it doesn't quite elaborate on why the drift is inevitable.

    I thought McCarey's masterpiece is the more ambitious film. It manages to articulate exactly why several old people may not fit into modern nuclear families.
    Eg: Check out the scene where Bondi disturbs the bridge class of the daughter-in-law.

    There's nothing quite like it in Ozu's film. The children in it are plain mean and selfish without rhyme or reason.

  11. shrikanth: no I haven't - been wanting to for some time but haven't been able to find the Criterion DVD (glad it's out on Criterion though).

    I'm not so sure that the children in Tokyo Story are "plain mean and selfish without rhyme or reason". More to the point, our vantage point is mainly that of the parents, and the reason for the children's behaviour isn't especially relevant to the film's purpose.