Wednesday, December 15, 2010

DIFF 7 – Day 3 Roundup

14th December 2010 (Day #3)

Thick into the film festival by day 3, today was for movies from Asia and Africa. Three of the four movies I watched were testing and one was downright bizarre. Read more about each of these four movies below.

Autumn (Harud)
Aamir Bashir | India | 2010
99 min
Autumn is the story of one disillusioned youth's aimless days during one autumn season in violence-ravaged Kashmir. The movie takes its time with the subject, perhaps too much time, but thankfully does not digress. With few dialogs and just incidental sounds, this quiet brooding film has some interesting subtle moments that make for a patient watch. The story is mostly by observation of and by the protagonist. Unfortunately, it suffers from a lack of good performances that make the movie difficult to accept as anything but an effort. The protagonist is correctly referred to by one of his friends as a zombie - he hardly emotes or speaks, waiting to be challenged to release his pent up frustrations. Aamir Bashir's debut movie proves he may have an eye and feel for film, but he needs a more fluent cinematic language.

An Unfinished Letter (Iti Mrinalini)
Aparna Sen | India | 2010
130 min
Coming from an acclaimed director, Aparna Sen’s An Unfinished Letter is a letdown. The movie takes a look at an actress’ unrequited love from the start to the end of her career. Aparna Sen herself plays Mrinalini, the ageing actress while her daughter, Konkona Sen Sharma, plays a younger Mrinalini in the flashbacks that tell the bulk of the story. While providing an ample scope to perform for the two actresses who portray the central role, the movie tells a generic tale that seems worn-out, and has a conclusion that is at tangents to the rest of the story. At 130 minutes and lacking a strong narrative, An Unfinished Letter is too long to hold the interest of the viewer through to the end.

Confessions (Kokuhaku)
Tetsuya Nakashima | Japan | 2010
106 min
Made in a way that probably only the Japanese and Koreans can, Confessions is a revenge movie that leans towards the macabre. A teacher announces to her class that she knows the identity of the two killers who murdered her daughter – both students of the very same class. She gives out enough clues to make the identities of the killers obvious, and thus starts her cold and elaborate revenge. Skipping back and forth between ultra-violence and humor in a heartbeat, Confessions is an amusing yet chilling watch. Combining mesmerizing visuals with convoluted story-telling, director Tetsuya Nakashima makes Confessions fantastical – a movie that has to be watched for its face value only. Yet, after the movie, one cannot help but wonder at how desensitized today’s children (and adults) have become.

A Screaming Man (Un Homme Qui Crie)
Mahamat Saleh-Haroun | Chad | 2010
92 min
In setting and tone, A Screaming Man is quite similar to director Mahamat Saleh-Haroun’s acclaimed previous film Dry Season. Also starring the same lead actor, Youssouf Djaoro, this movie is equally bleak and melancholic. Djaoro stars as Adam, who along with his son Abdel, works as a swimming-pool attendant at a hotel. Under new management, the hotel decides to keep just one attendant and Adam is shifted to gate-keeping duties. Distraught, Adam takes a decision that bears down on him as guilt. Djaoro, in his performance, broods his way through the story that may not be easy to identify with, but is realistic enough to sympathize with. Although the deliberate pace of the movie is required as a narrative tool, it can be a test of patience for many. Having watched Dry Season, it is not easy to appreciate A Screaming Man, for this movie is just more of the same.

Day#4 brings us to the mid-point of the festival. My schedule for tomorrow starts with the Golden Bear winner of Berlin, continues with a Korean post-apocalyptic movie and the Turkish Silver Bear winner of Berlin, finally ending with the winner of the Palm d'Or at Cannes. Could anticipation of a day at DIFF be more than for tomorrow?

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