16th December 2012 (Day #7)
All three movies I watched today competed at the Cannes Film Festival 2012, two of them winning big. But I don’t quite agree with the accolades of these movies got. Here are my reviews of IN THE FOG, AMOUR, ME AND YOU.
Director Sergei Loznitsa follows up his brilliant film MY JOY from 2010 (played at DIFF ’10 and reviewed by me) with IN THE FOG, a movie that again explores a bleak and rural territory of what was the Soviet Union. The film is set during World War II, when Germany had control of USSR, and focuses on three characters — a rebel, a coward, and a person who is neither a rebel nor a coward but is mistaken for a rebel by the Germans and for a coward by the Russians. By delving into each of the three characters’ back-story, the movie explores how war (or in a wider context, oppression) forces people to make choices. The movie shows us just one scenario of an end-result of the different choices. Like MY JOY, IN THE FOG is humorless and portrays hopelessness as a by-product of a land consumed by war. This film is more conventional and also more accessible than the experimental yet superior MY JOY, but it carries many recognizable traits of the director — effective use of flashback, revisiting one location at two different times, strong and dark visuals, long takes, and an extremely cold countryside. After MY JOY and UN THE FOG, let us hope the director completes his thematic trilogy!
It is not easy to like a Michael Haneke movie. In fact, even his best works require the viewers to go through some amount of mental torture to truly appreciate the director’s art. His latest film, AMOUR, seems to be an exercise in futility. Whether this is intentional or not on the part of Haneke, we will never know. AMOUR is quite simply about an old couple, where the woman is sick (her right-side is paralysed) and the man looks after his wife while her health steadily deteriorates. Supposedly, the movie explores tender and honest love at their advanced age. But, within the context of the film, all we see is the man caring for the woman, going about it with a business-as-usual attitude. Don’t get me wrong, this is still love, but the movie does not *explore* this love, rather just documents what any old couple would be like given the circumstances. Thrown in for shock value are two *gasp* scenes that have no business being in the movie — one turns out to be a dream (aiming for rookie points), the other is an apathetic gimmick. For a film-maker like Haneke to make a movie like AMOUR is but an abuse of his position.
A Bernardo Bertolucci movie after a nine-year gap is a cause to celebrate. The acclaimed director of LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972), THE LAST EMPEROR (1987) and THE DREAMERS (2003) returns this year with ME AND YOU, about an interesting week shared by step-siblings. Lorenzo is a 14 year old troubled boy who wants to get away from everyone. He secretly skips his school ski-trip and sets base in their apartment block’s basement for a week of solitude. His elder step-sister stumbles upon his temporary abode and, declaring she has nowhere else to go, decides to spend the week there with him. Over the course of the week, the two re-discover each other, and through them, their shared family. Bertolucci, discarding his R-rated sensibilities, instead goes for the purity of love and sense of responsibility that siblings sometimes share. They even promise each other to overcome their individual issues! Bertolucci’s nuanced approach in the intimate observation of their relationship makes MY AND YOU a tender and loving film.
The last day of the Dubai International Film Festival brings with it the burden of an emotional goodbye to the venues that were our home for over a week. And while my 51-week long wait for next year’s festival begins, my coverage of all things cinema doesn't stop here. Heck, DIFF is just one week in a whole year of movies! So while I R&R from the frenzy, it will only take until next weekend’s releases to get back on feet. Until then, happy watching!