Friday, December 19, 2008

DIFF 5 – Day 7 Roundup

18th December 2008

The grand finale of the Festival, the final movie in my schedule was also the movie I enjoyed the most. But it was preceded by two interesting movies such that over the last day of DIFF I had traveled from Japan to Italy and finally, back home.

Michael Winterbottom | UK | 2008
108 mins

After a car-crash results in a death, the widower and his two daughters move to the city of Genova in Italy to escape the sorrow that haunts their life. As each of them comes to terms with the loss and the new beginning in their own way, the director of the movie takes a turn to show us how the three-way relationship adjusts rather than concentrating on each character's development. The younger daughter's night-time crying becomes something for the father to handle. The new sense of rebellious freedom in the elder daughter is more seen from the younger sister and her dad's POVs. But without getting too dramatic or philosophical, or without even getting too close to the characters, the movie remains an outside view of the small family in somewhat distant, documenting way.

Tokyo Sonata
Kiyoshi Kurosawa | Japan | 2008
119 mins

Tokyo Sonata resonates such simplicity in its telling that it's difficult to not like the movie. But in doing so, it also becomes victim of over-simplifying many of the issues its main characters face. The story is of a family of four: The husband has just been downsized, the wife is stuck in mundane mediocrity, the elder son doesn't have any sense of identity and the youngest is a rebel (he wants to play the Piano!). In an attempt to retain his honor and respect at home, the husband hides his jobless status from his family. He dresses up every morning for work, but instead spends the day in the queue for jobless for free food, or job placement. While the first act sets the characters and their dilemmas quite well, it's the second act where the movie really fails to connect. The younger son's fascination with his piano teacher and the elder's change-in-career weakens the story-telling before picking up again for a fascinating (and weird) third act, when the situations of the characters open up for all. Some bizarre turn-of-events brings the movie to a close that could be worthy of a rousing applause, but gets an awed gaze of amazement instead.

Slumdog Millionaire
Danny Boyle | United Kingdom | 2008
120 mins

Once in a while you get to watch a movie like Slumdog Millionaire. A well-crafted, well-written tale of destiny and triumph, Danny Boyle and Laveena Tandon take us through three timelines simultaneously in Jamal Malik's journey from Dharavi's slums to the Hot Seat of the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?". Encountering a wave of colorful characters along the way and events that leave lasting imprints on his mind, Jamal eventually plays the game with one purpose - and it's not winning.

Laced with a wonderful engaging soundtrack by A R Rehman, many scenes of young Jamal are presented with such charm and down-to-earth honesty that you start rooting for the protagonist early on. A few Bollywood actors fill in some of the supporting roles, notable Anil Kapoor, Irfan Khan and Mahesh Manjrekar, to bring added vibrancy to a movie set against and for the undying spirit of a city that's seen it all.

Unfortunately, and in a bad choice by the makers, they have made the movie predominantly in the English language. Those familiar with the city, country or the culture will find it absurd that a boy from the slums speaks with a British accent, let alone that most of the other characters are conversing in English (the cop & his "havaldar" or the "bhai"). This glaring issue aside, the movie succeeds on all accounts as a wonderful celebration of hope, destiny and definitely of Cinema.


After months of preparation, "the week" started. And now, finally 7 days & 27 movies later, DIFF 5 comes to an end. Luckily, very few of the movies I saw were absolute duds. And although I was lucky enough to see some movies that only helped further my passion for cinema, the year did not bring many surprises - I was not awed by a movie I had not heard much about. But as the year draws to a close, I am glad to say that some of these will make my Top-10 list for 2008.

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