The Cranes are Flying (Russia, 1957) [ IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
This Russian classic is set during the Second World War. A young girl is forced to marry someone she doesn’t love when her lover is away in the battlefield. The most outstanding feature of the movie is the universally acclaimed cinematography. Some of the scenes have been shot so magnificently that they can be used to teach cinematography. Unlike many contemporary movies where beautiful images are confused for good cinematography, here the camera moves to create the right mood for the story. The story is not exceptional but holds your attention even after half a century. In addition to this some competent acting also helped the movie clinch the Palme D’or at Cannes. Must see if you want to know anything about Russian cinema.
The Wind Will Carry Us (Iran, 1999) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 96%]
An engineer moves into a rural community and it changes his outlook towards life and people. This Iranian tour de force is a reminder that Iran always punches above its weight in the world of cinema with a handful of exceptionally talented filmmakers. The film is a bit slow but like the Turkish film ‘Once Upon a Time in Anatolia’ reviewed a few weeks ago, it is not the story that matters but the setting. The landscapes are haunting and there is a wild beauty about them. For folks from the cities it is a reminder that time stands still in many places and in those places people take life as it comes.
The Constant Gardener (2005) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 84%]
A man tries to find out the reason for his wife’s murder and discovers more than what he had bargained for, in this film set in Africa. Ralph Fiennes brings his trademark intensity to his role as a man harrowed by guilt and searching for answers; in equal measure. The showstopper though, is the performance by Rachel Weisz who should be doing more of these kind of roles. She has a magnetic presence and almost carries the whole film on her shoulders. Watch this deadly concoction of politics, espionage and corporate greed.
Trainspotting (1996) [ IMDB: 8.2, Rotten Tomatoes: 94%]
One of my friends once told me that the scenes of drug abuse in ‘Trainspotting’ could only be shot by someone who has experienced it himself. I don’t know whether Danny Boyle has ‘experience’ in this category but in the process he made arguably his finest movie in ‘Trainspotting’. The protagonist and his friends are habitual drug abusers in this story set in Scotland. He wants to get out of it all and make a decent living. Ewan McGregor, a regular with Danny Boyle, is in top form and his accent and and acting are pitch perfect.It is a story about friendship and group behaviour. For all its smugness and style, the movie is a psychological study of how certain characters behave under special circumstances. Must watch.
Big Fish (2003) [IMDB: 8.0, Rotten Tomatoes: 90%]
I would love to see a movie made by Tim Burton which has a story fully set in the real world. ‘Big Fish’ suffers from Burton’s tendency to go overboard when simplicity could have helped his cause. The film’s story has a man trying to recollect his father’s life through a series of anecdotes. The colourful man that his father was, there are too many things that don’t fit in the puzzle. The movie is quite good but is not helped by some uninspired acting. Like most of Burton’s movies, it leaves a feeling of having missed the woods for the trees.
Movies I Saw This Week
42 (2013) [ IMDB: 7.5, Rotten Tomatoes: 86%]
This film is based on the life of the first ever African-American Major League Baseball player Jackie Robinson. I did not know about this true legend earlier. He was an icon of the civil rights movement and an inspiration for many. His on field behaviour was impeccable. His off field life was exceptional. The movie may not have done justice to him because it would be so difficult to capture the life of such an extraordinary man in a single film. Other wise it is a very good film to watch and one of the better ones to have come out in 2013. The deep divides in the US society during his period are exposed and it is on watching such movies that we realize how far we have come from those days of inequality. I literally had tears by the time the end credits started rolling. The movies ticks every cliche for a sports movie but then inspiration is a cliche I love.
Prisoners (2013) [ IMDB:8.1, Rotten Tomatoes: 88%]
I have only two complaints against ‘Prisoners’. One, that it is painfully slow. Second, that no matter what, everyone should be presumed innocent until proven guilty and this dictum does not justify some horrible torture scenes in the movie. These apart, the movie is one of the best to have come out in 2013. The most remarkable thing is the high quality performances put in by every single person on screen. Hugh Jackman offers a new side to his acting as the charged up American who sings the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ in the shower. Maria Bello as his wife is outstanding. I wonder how she acts with such composure when they say ‘action’. Paul Dano is an exceptional talent and his choice of movies shows that he has the right priorities. Overall, an engrossing film to watch.
Ramleela (India,2013) [ IMDB: 6.4, Rotten Tomatoes: 62%]
Imagine Sanjay Leela Bhansali in the black and white era. What would he be telling? Nothing, because without colour his movies mean nothing. After a string of flops he returns to Gujarat which had earlier saved him with ‘Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam’. He even dons the hat of the music director for RamLeela. I suggest that the next time he leave it to someone who knows the trade. Since finding new stories is tough for Indian film makers, Bhansali also relies on ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Now no one call that a bad story. Bhansali sets it in Gujarat and it is easily understandable that the movie is shot in a set than in Gujarat. The story is set in a village where people shoot at children for the fun of it. Seriously, not funny. The major selling point of the movie is that the hero bares his torso. Maybe the women like it because I thought that Deepika Padukone looked stunning. The end is a disgrace to Shakespeare. (Spoilers ahead) Lovers kissing with guns pointed at each other? Are you kidding? Put them aside. Finish the kiss and then shoot each other. Take your own time. Shakespeare must have turned in his grave.
Documentary Pick of the Week
The Island President (2011) [ IMDB: 6.9, Rotten Tomatoes:98%]
Mohammad ‘anni’ Nasheed came to power in Maldives in its first open election is 2008 dethroning Gayoom who ruled for 30 years prior to that. He recognized that the very existence of his nation would be in peril if measures to control global warming were not taken. The documentary captures his efforts in that direction. The unrestrained access that the filmmakers got gives a peek into the behind the scenes deliberations at government level. The setting is Maldives. So the images are beautiful. Too bad that Mr. Nasheed lost the reelection bid in 2013.
Eagerly Waiting for:‘Frozen’ because animation needs to wake up from the hibernation mode.
Did you know: The Golden Globes are awarded by the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.