Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DIFF 6 – Day 6 Roundup

15th December 2009 (Day #6)

What a day of extremes! I watched four movies, none of which were on the moderate middle-ground. They were alternatively quite bad and quite good. Keep reading for the low-down.

At The End Of Daybreak (Sham Moh)
Yuhang Ho | Malaysia/Hong Kong/South Korea | 2009
94 mins

This confused movie sets up an interesting enough premise, but then forgets who it is about. The narrative follows one character, then without rhyme or reason, shifts to another one, and then similarly to a third character. This could have been a good technique, but the way the movie progresses, it comes across as if the character in-focus becomes too boring, and hence the need to focus on someone else. Eventually, ends up being pointless.

Prophet (Un Prophete)
Jacques Audiard | France | 2009
150 mins

Malik, a young Arab-French man lands in prison. We learn early on that he does not have a family, and he has been in a juvenile centre before. Before long, the Corsicans, who enforce their control within the prison, bring the raw and uncomplicated Malik under their “protection” in return for their dirty work. As time goes by, Malik uses his experience and intelligence to elevate his position and become his own boss. The movie delves into details of Malik’s prison-life over a six-year period, its brilliance being the scrutiny of the power-play within the prison-walls. As meticulous as a good game of chess, each clever scene leads to another smart scene. We see Malik grow wiser as the movie unfolds – thankfully without voice-over, narration or blurbs of text explaining what is happening. The movie also makes powerful use of race and religion to a great effect rarely seen in cinema. Prophet is easily the best of this year’s DIFF yet (superseding any such comments made earlier).

The Man Who Sold The World
Imad & Swel Noury | Morocco | 2009
108 mins

With The Man Who Sold The World, the Noury brothers have taken early Aronofsky and hacked it up with an axe. Although it is based on a popular book, the movie is incoherent and unintelligible. Broken into 15 haphazard chapters, even the individual chapters within themselves follow little logic. One of the directors was kind enough to explain the inspirations behind the visuals and themes to give some meaning to the movie. However, a movie that requires the director to explain it to you in order to understand it is either not meant for you, or simply not a good movie. Like a badly told joke.

Broken Embraces (Los Abrazos Rotos)
Pedro Almodóvar | Spain | 2009
128 mins

Broken Embraces is a wonderfully crafted movie of two men and their passion for one woman. The story starts with a blinded and retired film-director, Mateo Blanco (Lluís Homar), who now writes scripts under the pseudonym Harry Caine. As the movie dissolves into flashback, we discover his love for Lena (Penelope Cruz), who was also the object of desire for a rich and powerful businessman. Flawlessly moving the story along, Pedro Almodóvar crafts the movie with such beautiful imagery and visual cues that watching the movie becomes a delight on numerous levels simultaneously. The rich use of the colour red, beautiful steady shots and Penelope Cruz’s love-affair with the cinema-screen balance the powerful performance of Lluís Homar and the passionate story of the movie. It is understood that fans of Almodóvar’s body of work will be rewarded with a references to his cinematic world. On my part, not having indulged his work before is a lapse that I am willing to remedy.

Three more movies to go to complete my participation at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival. The last day, tomorrow, will bring with it bitter-sweet emotions of accomplishment and farewell. Prior to the close, I can safely say I have discovered enough new talent, or that which was alien to me, to keep spread into the next year. But there’s more to come yet from this year’s festival experience. Wait for tomorrow to learn more!

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