Tuesday, May 26, 2015

From Cannes: The Big Divide Between Young And Old

UMA DA CUNHA Sunday, May 24, 2015 clip_image001 CANNES: The autumn years in our lives, tragically confronting the demands of siblings or of the young around us, is a running theme connecting countries and continents at Cannes this year. Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut film “Masaan”, featured in Un Certain Regard, tests this concept with incisive insights. Other remarkable films in competition, such as Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” (Italy) and Guillaume Nicloux’s “Valley of Love” (France), look at the theme in dramatically different hues.
Neeraj Ghaywan’s debut work “Masaan” is set in the winding back lanes and the surging burning ghats of Banaras while it sets about surveying an astonishing range of life styles that characterise the city. It follows a respected, retired and long-widowed Brahmin teacher living a lonely, patterned life with his spirited, attractive and rebellious daughter. Educated and working in a computer coaching centre, she is determined to escape her hand-cuffed existence by studying further at a neighbouring university. She secretly has a boyfriend and dares to start a physical relationship with him and pays a heavy price for it. A parallel story is on the poorer lower-caste families of the Dom community who make their living through organising funeral pyres at the burning ghats. The son of one these families yearns to free himself from his labour-oriented, inherited way of earning a living. He studies hard to become an engineer. He falls in love with a higher caste girl but their relationship is short-lived.
“Masaan” goes through the twists and strains of the entangled lives of the old and the young and how they are now at opposite ends, the former sticking to age-old ideas with their off springs openly defiant of these very traditions and wanting to make their own decisions and choices. While the film is tinged with sorrow and sadness emanating from the generational divide, director Ghaywan infuses a sense of hope and optimism by suggesting that love and understanding between the two can mend and heal their differences. clip_image003 “Masaan” received a standing prolonged ovation that had the entire cast and crew close to tears as they hugged and congratulated each other. The film is a strong contender for the first film (FIPRESCI) award as well as awards related to its section.
Paolo Sorrentino already has a cult following with his distinctive and original cinematic style, so evident in his highly acclaimed, “The Great Beauty”. His latest film “Youth” is a richly mounted, elegiac soaring of the imagination on the meaning of ageing, with encounters and flashbacks that provide lessons on the several stages of man in one life span. The film is in English and set in an exquisite aristocratic Spa resort in Switzerland. Two outstanding performances enhance the film, one by Michael Caine as a retired, renowned music composer and conductor, and the other by Harvey Keitel as a known film director preparing the script of his new film. Several inmates and their families/friends add cynical insights to the central story of these two men confronting old age as life hurls a major challenge to both of them. The majestic and powerful music score by Luca Bigazzi sets the tone for the film, which in itself unfurls as a fine-tuned orchestrated piece rising to a crescendo. The film stuns the senses, leaving the viewer feeling satiated and much wiser for the experience.
The French film Guillaume Nicloux’s “Valley of Love” concentrates almost entirely on the gigantic persona of two of Europe’s most reputed actors, the larger than life Gerard Depardieu ( parading his enormous bulk with disarming, self-assured nonchalance), pitted against the equally impressive diminutive and chiseled Isabelle Huppert. Once married, they have come together to meet at a hotel on a strange mission. Their young son, who they have not been close to for long years, has committed suicide. In his last letter, he tells them to come to Death Valley where he assures them that he will meet them even after death. Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/ - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan wins two awards in Cannes!

                                                  Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan 
                                              wins two major awards in Cannes! 

These two prized  awards have come India's way after 16 years ...
 Murali Nair's  "Marana Simhasanam" won the Camera d'Or in 1999

"Masaan's" two awards for one film bestowed the same day
  • Un Certain Regard
    The most promising debut film
     (shared with Ida Panahendeh's "Nahid" (Iran)

     *   FIPRESCI Award for Best Film in Un Certain Regard section.
The FIPRESCI award is highly valued because it is given by eminent film critics chosen from all over the world.  The FIPRESCI award is not restricted to first films – it is given to all the films in the prestigious Un Certain Regard section. 

The FIPRESCI Awards are given in three sections to the Best Film in the International Competition which went to Son of Saul (Hungary) directed by Laslo Nemes; in Un Certain Regard, to Masaan directed by Neeraj Ghaywan (India): and to a first or second film in the Directors’ Fortnight or Critics Week, to Paulina directed by Santiago Mitre (Italy). 

High honours indeed for Neeraj Ghaywan and for India!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Asif Kapadia’s ‘AMY’ Hits Bulls-eye


UMA DA CUNHA Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Asif Kapadia’s Amy makes waves at the Cannes film festival

CANNES: For a midnight screening, it seemed that the thousands strong delegates at Cannes stayed awake to queue up for “AMY”. The serpentine lines stretched on all sides for hours together. Although the charged screening started close to 20 minutes late no-one minded. The film itself more than lived up to its promise. Every review one could lay hands on was full of heart-felt praise. Set to release next week in the UK, “AMY” is guaranteed a jackpot box-office.
“AMY” is about a soul jazz singer, Amy Winehouse, who became a pop icon later with her breakthrough album, Back to Black, becoming the biggest selling album of the past 20 years. And all this in her early 20s. But the media-blare of success, her alcohol and drug excesses and her self-destructiveness led to her death at age 27 of alcohol abuse.
Kapadia’s film is infused with an electric energy and probing as he uses real-life archival material and some 100 interviews plus generous live portrayals of Amy’s concerts to bring her tragic story to life. He does so with a caring diligence and the audience weeps with her and for her. There is a waif-like look to this highly talented and charismatic young girl. Her childish vulnerability comes across through her saucer eyes and giant pout, but alongside is a searching insight and awareness that lends her a Mona Lisa ambiguity. Her father Mitch Winehouse left the family when she was nine-years-old and she too left home very early. She took on a jailbird drug-driven loser as her boyfriend and later husband. Her father invaded her disjointed life even when she craved privacy to exploit her fame. Looking at her and listening to the emotionally wrenching quality of her voice, Amy seems to belong to old days of jazz when it was all personal, and audiences were small, intimate and responsive. The film shows that her downfall was inevitable and heartbreakingly tragic.


Director Asif Kapadia
A women-centric festival
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has arrived in Cannes, this year in more ways than the glamour presence as ambassador for a main festival sponsor, L’Oreal. She participated in a Variety-hosted event on gender inequality in Hollywood and elsewhere, in a high-powered all women panel of actors of the silver screen (Salma Hayek, Parker Posey) and producers (Elizabeth Carlson and Christine Vachon who worked on the competitive entry “Carol”). They revealed that out of the 250 grossing films made last year, only 7 were directed by women, and that top-listed women actors were paid less than their male counterparts. Aishwarya endorsed the highly vocal panelists, saying that women starring in a film are considered as a niche product, adding “It’s pretty much the same all over the world. We keep coming back to reiterating pre-conceived notions”. Actor Posey said, “We’re in very masculine times. We’re at war. The culture is eating nature, its overpowering storytelling”. Rai is to unveil her first film in some years, “Jazbaa” at a yacht event being held tomorrow along with the cast, director Sanjay Gupta and from Essel Vision, Bussines Head Akash Chawla and Girish Johar.
Several films in the festival look at unconventional women struggling to gain a foothold in a hostile world. The Iranian film, Ida Panahandeh’s “Nahid” talks of a divorced woman with a small son trying to re-shape her emotions and life in a society where nuptial laws dictate a temporary marriage before living with a man. Todd Hayne’s competition entry “Carol”, based on Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel, is on an unhappily married woman with lesbian leanings (played by Kate Blanchett) and a young sales girl whose attraction develops into an affair. They work out how to overcome the social whiplash against them. The Argentine film “Paulina” directed by Santiago Mitre is on the aftershock of a sexual assault on a young woman teacher in a rural town who refuses to press charges for complicated reasons of her own.
Finally, popular Italian filmmaker Nanni Moretti latest film, “Mia Madre” (My Mother), is a tender, emotionally insightful look into a driven, authoritative woman facing a host of troubles while directing her film on labour unrest and a difficult American actor in the lead. She is divorced with a young teenaged daughter who needs help with her Latin lessons. She has also just left her caring lover. But what is tearing her and her brother (played by Nanni Moretti) apart is the approaching death of their loveable and accomplished ageing mother. The film is amusing, revealing and shows the inevitable sorrow of ageing and the effect it has a closely bonded family.

Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/ - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cannes: Gurvinder Singh Film Screens with Woody Allen and Gus van Sant

CANNES: On day three, our own lion from Punjab, Gurvinder Singh was placed in line with a Woody Allen film in the morning and American Gus van Sant in the evening. India’s avant-garde filmmaker joins hands with two of the world’s iconic cult figures in cinema.

Woody Allen’s latest film “Irrational Man” is in keeping with his quirky, witty and laconic world view of life and its bumbling characters. He takes on academia here and incisively parodies their pretentious sense of being superior and sophisticated when in fact they use their sense of learning as smug manipulation.

Woody Allen's films in his later years (he is to be 80 in 2015) have been somewhat more esoteric than the down-to-earth, whimsical earlier ones.. Now he brings us his 50th film. It follows Abe Lucas, played by Joaquin Phoenix, a charismatic philosophy professor whose good looks and self-deprecating sense of doom is something women find devastatingly attractive. An alcoholic who cares little about his appearance, he seduces those who make a play for him, including a fellow professor and a student. He derides his own profession or any kind of cerebral activity. His deep depression makes him impotent. All this changes when he and the student in awe of him overhear a conversation in a restaurant of a judge in court harassing a woman. Abe decides that the world would be better without such an evil man. This objective injects vitality, optimism and a purpose into the professor. But then a series of events brings about an ironic sense of justice that life itself plays on the man.

Woody Allen is always original and interesting but in this film his wild sense of humour seems to be missing. Most of all, the main character is not well drawn and seems an odd ball caricature.

Gurvinder Singh’s “Chauthi Koot” (Fourth Direction) played to a riveted full house at the Debussy Theatre. The film is set at the time of the Golden Temple massacre in the Punjab. It follows two main sequences, each one filled with tearing, inner tension and a sense of fear and unease. One is of four persons desperate to get to Amritsar. They force their way into a midnight train which has been ordered to reach its destination empty of passengers. Their anxiety and concern is palpably evident in their taut body language as they make the journey. The other and the main story is of a family of a farmer living with his wife, two children, his mother and the dog, Tommy. The carefree, caring Tommy is the main character in the way the humanism or lack of it contained in the events that follow. The hapless family live in fear of the prowling underground militants on one side, and on the other, an unrelenting army bent on unearthing insurgency.

The film excels in the minimal devices it uses for dramatising what it says, relying on facial expressions, individual responses and a simple unveiling of events to convey its harrowing story. The technical skills in every aspect of the film is what hits the viewer. The visuals impress and linger, the clarity of sound enhances every moment, and the striking music track resounds in the silence attached to the visuals. All these elements step by step accentuate the menacing mood of what the simple folk in the film experience. The film received a ten-minute standing ovation.

Gus van Sant’s film “The Sea of Trees” disappointed audiences. The film presents a sermon on personal loss and grieving that cause a yearning for death and how cross-cultural influences turn around the willingness to return to life and its essence.

Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/ - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Women Directors Steal the Show at Cannes


UMA DA CUNHA Thursday, May 14, 2015

CANNES: May 13, opening day of the Cannes International Film Festival, made it clear that the festival is presenting itself in a new mould.
The stress on glamour is much reduced. The dependence on big Hollywood studio films is not evident. French and European films are the main focus. And women filmmakers are centre stage. The symbol of this years Cannes dominating at all vantage points is in nostalgic black and white is the ravishing face and bewitching smile of Ingrid Bergman.

To show that art is for art’s sake, Cannes has forbidden selfies being taken on their august red carpet’s ascending steps.
In recent years Cannes has opened with leading Hollywood blockbusters that brought in spectacle, stars and sponsors, such as “The Great Gatsby”, “Robin Hood” and the “The Da Vinci Code”, culminating in last year’s debacle “Princess of Monaco”, labeled the Turkey film of the year, starring Nicole Kidman as a dolled-up Princess Grace.
This year’s opening film is the more subdued, issue driven , “Le Tete Haute” (Standing Tal), a highly contemporary study of family dysfunction wreaking havoc with today’s violent, rudderless, unloved teenagers. The film brought in mixed reviews but a more respectful overall response. Moreover the film is directed by a relatively unknown woman director, Emmanuelle Bercot. This marks a second time in Cannes history that a woman director has been given the honour of launching the festival.

There are a bumper lot of five French films in the 19 films in Competition, with only one that listed as premiere league “Dheepan” from director Jacques Audiard (who has made lauded films such as “Rust and Bone” and “The Prophet”. Thierry Frémaux responds saying that this is a good year for French films, so naturally they are more in number He adds that there are five American films as well and three Italian films in competition..
After enjoying major laurels in the past, Britain has come out poorly, with its sole entry being Asif Kapadia’s feature-length documentary “Amy” being shown in the Midnight section. But Britain does well in the festival’s other sections of Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week.
Cannes was severely criticised for its 2012 edition when there was a close to total absence of women directors in its programming. Besides giving Bercot the honour of presenting the opening film, Cannes is giving another unusual honour to yet another French woman director. It is presenting its rarely awarded Palme d’Or tribute to the veteran director Agnès Varda for her lifelong work.
It is mainly the women, of course, who dominate the famous Cannes red carpet. It is here that the well-known European flair for haute couture paraded by the famous stars. Katrina Kaif was India’s beacon here doing the country proud with her assured deportment and looking gorgeous in a black strapless Oscar de la Renta gown.



Courtesy: http://thecitizen.in/ - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column