Thursday, December 13, 2012

9th Dubai International Film Festival (2012) – Day 4

12th December 2012 (Day #4)

Midway through the week-long festival, I've discovered some true gems and some not so precious ones. Today I caught four screenings, and one of them blew my socks off!

HERE AND THERE (AQUI Y ALLA)/ Spain, U.S.A., Mexico/ 110min/ 2012/ In Spanish
HERE AND THERE is a non-engaging slice-of-life film. Set in the present day in a small village in Mexico, Pedro returns to his family after a few years in New York doing small jobs. His plan to earn a living is to start a band to perform at occasions. Over a few years, we watch Pedro make ends meet and adjust to life with fewer and fewer opportunities to earn a daily living. HERE AND THERE offers an insight on the “immigrant worker” life and back-story, but although it is observatory in nature, never forms and emotional bond with Pedro. Thus, the movie is episodic and distant – it serves the purpose of a documentary, but by being a work of fiction.

A FEW HOURS OF SPRING is a movie that will have sensitive viewers weeping at the end. When Alain is released from prison after completing an 18-month sentence, he heads to his elderly mother’s house. Although Alain and his mother don’t get along well, he realized that his mother has a condition and requires him to be by her side. Without resorting to exaggerated emotions, A FEW HOURS OF SPRING manages to keep it all real – mainly because the movie is told from the perspective of Alain, and not the mother. Most of us have or had ageing parents, and though cultural differences mean many of us will react differently to the situation Alain faces, it is easy to identify with what he goes through. Unfortunately, the movie establishes a sour (and even deteriorating) relationship between mother and son. Even during and after their arguments, neither of them reason with the other. This becomes detrimental to the movie, since it serves no purpose. Also, the languid pace and deliberation lead to no pay-off. Therefore, aside from the performances of the two lead actors, there is not much to admire here.

HYDE PARK ON HUDSON/ United Kingdom/ 95min/ 2012/ In English
While World War II loomed over mainland Europe, The King and Queen of England make the first ever visit by a reigning monarch to the United States of America. Their agenda: to convince Franklin D Roosevelt to lend American support to Britain if the need arises. While this would make for a fascinating political drama, HYDE PARK ON HUDSON is an absurd drama-comedy that walks dangerously close to becoming a spoof. FDR, his mother, his wife, his mistress, the King, the Queen and other bit players all become targets for mockery and derision in this complete misfire of a movie. Bill Murray, who seems to be in on the joke, provides for some amusing moments though. He makes the movie barely watchable. Much required in a movie where the King and Queen can’t stop discussing Hot Dogs!

CLOUD ATLAS/ Germany, U.S.A., Hong Kong, Singapore/ 172min/ 2012/ In English
An ambitious project spanning multiple timelines, CLOUD ATLAS is a crowning glory of achievement for directors Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. The movie is told in six distinct timelines, ranging from the 19th Century to the present day, the future, and even an ambiguous period that, in this intricate jigsaw puzzle of a movie, becomes the last piece that brings the entire picture into perspective. Things become more surreal as the same set of actors play different roles in the six different threads, not even strictly sticking to protagonist/antagonist roles. Adapted from a book of the same name, CLOUD ATLAS does a phenomenal job of presenting intertwining storylines yet never losing out to over-complication. Over the course of this 171 minute epic, a little bit of patience can be a highly rewarding experience. It is difficult to even start explaining what the plot is about, especially as each of the six storylines follows different goals. The movie gets confusing before things start to make sense, but the reward of experiencing it whole is cinematic wonder.

On Day 5, I will be exiting the festival venue early to catch one of the BIGGEST releases of the year. SO while my daily update tomorrow will be shorter, look forward to a full-length review close on its heels!

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